You know yours is a hopeless case when you get almost as excited about the National Football League’s player selection exercise as you do about an actual NFL game. Thankfully, the recently staged 2016 NFL Draft fell on a holiday weekend here in Japan. This meant that I had the distinct pleasure of cozying up at home and taking in all of the ‘action’. Of course, I kept a particularly keen eye on all the moves made by my favourite Green Bay Packers. Here’s a recap of what Ted Thompson and team did when Green Bay was on the clock.
Round 1 (#27): Kenny Clark (DT – UCLA)
All indications pointed to GB’s first pick being spent on either a defensive tackle or a linebacker. Health-related concerns created a situation where the highly rated linebacking trio of Myles Jack, Jaylon Smith, and Reggie Ragland were all sitting there when the Pack’s first turn came. I was really hoping that GB would nab one of them. However, as Packers fans well know, there’s might just be the most risk-averse organization in the NFL.
Thompson and crew ultimately went with Clark, who they’ll be hoping will be able to plug the massive hole vacated by the possibly retired B.J. Raji. Filling this positional need definitely makes sense for a defense that surrendered 4.5 yards per carry – well above the league average of 4.1 yards per tote – last regular season. However, with the likes of A’Shawn Robinson, Chris Jones, Jarran Reed, and Vernon Butler also on the board, only time will tell if the former Bruin was the right pick.
Round 2 (#48 overall): Jason Spriggs (OT – Indiana)
When Green Bay moves up to get you, you know that you’re a truly highly coveted commodity. Spriggs, the super-athletic 300-pounder, was snagged midway through the second round when the Packers swapped their original 57th pick with the Colts. (The deal was sweetened with the 125th and 248th selections.)
This pick also makes a lot of sense. Age and injuries have seemingly started to catch up to a number of GB’s current linemen. The patchwork lines trotted out for large portions of the season proved quite porous. Aaron Rodgers paid a heavy price. A high volume of sacks, hits, and hurries impacted his effectiveness. (At least, that’s what his lowest passer rating since he became a starter would suggest.)
Spriggs may have a larger than expected role to play if injuries wreak havoc again this year. He’s definitely primed to become a centrepiece if the potential free agent exodus along the offensive line materializes during the next off-season.
Round 3 (#88 overall): Kyler Fackrell (OLB – Utah State)
You just can’t have enough guys who can get to the opposing quarterback in the increasingly pass-happy NFL. The fact that Fackrell is seemingly athletic enough to also hold his own when saddled with pass coverage responsibilities can only bode well for his chances of sticking in Green Bay.
Round 4 (#131 overall): Blake Martinez (LB – Stanford)
A poor man’s Reggie Ragland? Martinez fills a glaring positional need. However, like Ragland, there are some who suggest that his particular skill set might not best complement the weaknesses of the ILB options already on Green Bay’s roster.
Round 4 (#137 overall): Dean Lowry (DE – Northwestern)
Lowry is another seemingly solid piece to add to the defensive line rotation.
Round 5 (#163 overall): Trevor Davis (WR – California)
A kick return specialist who could bring additional value as a situational deep threat. As a track and field fanatic, I was kinda hoping for the 10.04-man TCU trackster Kolby Listenbee. However, Davis has that ‘easy speed’ you love to see in a deep threat.
Round 6 (#200 overall): Kyle Murphy (OT – Stanford)
Murphy is another addition to the offensive line stocks for the future.
Super Bowl LI bound?
With the exception of Kenny Clark, none of this year’s draftees will likely be expected to slot in and contribute significantly right away. Thankfully, GB just doesn’t have that many holes in its roster. The fact that no tight end was selected suggests that the team feels it did enough to improve in this area with the signing of former Rams TE Jared Cook. Meanwhile, the non-selection of a defensive back confirms the organization’s confidence in its current secondary crop.
Both reigning NFC North champs Minnesota and historical archrival Chicago seem to have improved with their additions through free agency and the draft. In fact, it could be legitimately argued that both did more to better themselves through these twin player acquisition exercises than GB. However, the Pro Bowl presence of the returning Jordy Nelson could once again elevate the pass offense to the next level. A leaner, meaner Eddie Lacy could also make a big difference.
Having the talismanic Clay Matthews back as a full-time outside linebacker will also be huge. There’s no doubt that this is the position at which the dynamic playmaker can most profoundly impact Green Bay’s Super Bowl fortunes.