Green Bay Packers Outside Linebacker Prospects in the NFL Draft

Excluding Kyler Fackrell, who had a career season with 10 ½ sacks, the Green Bay Packers outside linebackers had a total of seven and a half sacks. For a team that runs a 3-4 defense as the Packers do, that number is too low. If it wasn’t for Fackrell, the Packers outside linebacker sack output would have been embarrassing. Luckily for Fackrell, and defensive coordinator Mike Pettine’s creative mind, the total sack output by the Packers defense wasn’t as embarrassing as it could have been. The outside linebacker position for the Packers is in need of an infusion of talent. This is something they are hoping to do through this year’s NFL draft.

Green Bay Packers Outside Linebackers Expected to Upgrade Through the NFL Draft

The Packers outside linebackers not only need talent but might just need some bodies as well. Clay Matthews is a free agent this off-season. Although there is a small chance that he might return, many are expecting him to depart. Fellow outside linebacker Nick Perry also might depart, although not by his choice.

Perry once again dealt with injuries this past season. That has been a common occurrence with Perry throughout his career. In the nine games, he was healthy enough to play in last season, he only registered one and a half sacks. Perry is in line to make $5.2 million in base salary next season. Because of that, and his constant injury issues, he might be a salary cap casualty.

If both Matthews and Perry depart, that would leave Fackrell and Reggie Gilbert as the only Packers outside linebackers who have seen extensive playing time on the roster. Finding depth will be vital, but the Packers outside linebacker group also needs some talent.

It wouldn’t be surprising if Packers top personnel man Brian Gutekunst utilizes both free agency and the draft to upgrade the Packers outside linebackers. There are options in free agency, but there seems to be a lot of quality prospects at this position in this year’s draft as well. Gutekunst and the Packers can’t ignore the position as they did in last year’s draft. It is crucial that the Packers find some help for the position in this year’s draft.

Possible Prospects at Number 12

Luckily for the Packers and Gutekunst, this year’s draft, in the first round, is deep with quality outside linebacker prospects. With the Packers owning the number 12 overall pick, they should be able to land a prospect who can contribute in his rookie season.

With the help of Daniel Parlegreco of DTP Draft Scout and his draft guide, LWOPF has highlighted two prospects that might be available at 12 and that would help upgrade the Packers outside linebacker group.

Montez Sweat, Mississippi State University

Sweat is listed as the number three outside linebacker/EDGE pass rusher in Parlegreco’s draft guide.

He is a mammoth man, standing 6’6” and weight over 250 lbs.  His physical stature reminds us a lot of former Packers pass rusher Julius Peppers, except lighter. He is coming off a strong senior season for the Bulldogs.

He registered 12 sacks and had 14 ½ tackles for loss this past season. If his play this season wasn’t enough to draw the attention of NFL scouts, his play at this year’s Senior Bowl certainly was.  He was one of the best players at the Senior Bowl. He stood out in practice and had a strong game. He was able to show NFL scouts he is an exceptional pass rusher and has the size and speed to play at the next level.

Sweat has the ability and size to be productive at the next level, but he does have some red flags. He started his college career at Michigan State. But was suspended for a season for violating team rules. That led to him transferring to Mississippi State. Some will question his character because of the season-long suspension.

Along with the character question, some question if Sweat can play outside linebacker in a 3-4 defensive alignment. He is a pure pass rusher and wasn’t asked to drop back into coverage at Mississippi State too often. In fact, Parlegreco believes that his best position would be at a defensive end in a 4-3 defense.

Jachai Polite, University of Florida

If you follow possible Packers draft choices to join the Packers outside linebacker group, then you know Jachai Polite quite well. Polite is quite often the Packers number 12 draft pick in mock drafts.

Rated as Parlegreco’s number six outside linebacker/edge pass rusher, Polite seems to have a lot of upside. He only had one productive season at Florida. This past season, he had 11 sacks and 19 ½ tackles for loss. He showed a lot of burst coming off the edge as a pass rusher.

He is smaller than Sweat, 6’2” 242 lbs., but is more athletic. Although he doesn’t have the experience in dropping back into coverage, he does have the athletic ability to do so if needed.

Although he has the athletic ability to be a productive pass rusher, he doesn’t have the track record. He only had the one productive season at Florida. Because of that, some teams might be reluctant to spend a high pick on a player that only has stood out in just one season.

Late First Round Possibilities

While Gutekunst shouldn’t ignore upgrading the Packers outside linebackers through the draft, he could wait to address the position. When we say wait, we mean until they are on the clock at number 30.

The Packers might find it hard to pass up on an upper echelon tight end or offensive tackle at number 12, so they could push selecting an outside linebacker until number 30. If that turns out to be a reality, there are a couple of possible outside linebacker prospects the Packers could look at.

Brian Burns, Florida State

Parlegreco rates Burns as his number seven rated outside linebacker/EDGE pass rusher.

Burns played three years at Florida State. In his three seasons, he totaled 23 sacks and had 38 ½ tackles for loss. This past season, his most productive, he had 10 sacks and 15 ½ tackles for loss.  He has shown that he is capable at getting to the quarterback, something that NFL teams are looking for.

While you can’t question Burns pass rushing ability, there are some questions to Burns play. He is very thin for an edge pass rusher, 235 lbs., which makes some scouts believe he would struggle against the run. Because of his lack of girth, a defensive coordinator wouldn’t be able to line him up inside in certain packages. Pettine likes to move around his pass rushers, something he might not be able to do with Burns.

Oshane Ximines, Old Dominion

Parlegreco has Ximines ranked 11th on his outside linebacker/EDGE pass rusher list. A ranking we believe is too low for somebody of Ximines ability.

Although he played in a less talented conference at Old Dominion, all Ximines did was produce. Last season, he had 11 ½ sacks, 18 tackles for loss, one interception and forced four fumbles. In his college career, he totaled 32 ½ sacks, had 51 tackles for loss, and forced an incredible 11 fumbles. The Packers outside linebackers haven’t had an outside linebacker that has forced turnovers since Matthews was in his prime. If they were to select Ximines, they would be getting a player who has the track record of forcing turnovers.

Because he played at Old Dominion, some NFL teams will question if Ximines can do it at the NFL level. He also struggled at times against the run, something he will need to learn to do if he is going to be a full time outside linebacker.

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