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By CHRIS HAVEL
GM Ted Thompson finds welcome additions to team’s defensive front 7
Ted Thompson’s talent haul in the 2016 NFL Draft has terrific potential to upgrade the Packers’ defense, solidify the offensive line depth and to perhaps fill a few gaps.
Talk about working for the (draft) weekend. After an entire college football calendar’s worth of watching, analyzing, reporting and repeating the Packers’ scouts sat back and watched as Thompson plucked the fruits of their labor.
It’s crazy that after an intense 12-month stretch of incalculable contemplation, the Packers’ 2016 class is forged in three days. In many ways it’s like being proclaimed “an overnight sensation” after pulling a year-long stint at hard labor.
Obviously, not every draft class is a sensation, overnight or otherwise. Even more obvious, however, is the reality that NFL teams and their fans don’t want to hear about it. It’s like being innocent until proven guilty. Today, every draft pick is an all-pro, and every undrafted free agent is the next Willie Wood.
Each prospect’s NFL potential isn’t unrealized. Not yet. Not by a long shot. It’s merely untapped. So let the tapping begin.
The Packers’ top pick, UCLA’s Kenny Clark at No. 27, was a strong selection to kick off the weekend. As sure as anyone can be in this inexact science called the NFL Draft, Clark appears to be a pick that’s smart, safe and blends immediate help with a considerable upside.
So what’s not to like? Clark, at 6-3 ½ and 314 pounds, is just a pup.
He’s only 20 years old and most definitely still growing in his No. 97 jersey.
What’s significant is Clark’s room for growth that’s wrapped around an already NFL-sized body that can play now. Now that’s impressive.
What’s more he’s been a leader at UCLA who has managed to avoid anything negative off the field. He hasn’t been seen in a bad light on social media for a reason. If there’s nothing to post – fingers crossed – there’s nothing to explain, nothing to be remorseful for, nothing to regret. Clark should contribute 20-plus snaps immediately. If training camp goes as expected he’ll be competing for and quite probably winning the starting job at nose tackle.
In the second round, Thompson traded up to acquire University of Indiana offensive lineman Jason Spriggs. Clearly, Thompson believes Spriggs is versatile enough to play both guard and tackle, which he did for the Hoosiers.
Spriggs, at 6-6, 301, has room to gain size and strength. He also has the feet to play tackle. He allowed just two sacks in 689 snaps at left tackle as a junior. He surrendered only two sacks in 475 pass plays at right guard as a senior.
Spriggs, who wears No. 78, is similar to Clark in that he is ready to play while also bringing the real potential to develop into something special. The Packers may have landed a starting-caliber left tackle – a necessity for every NFL team – in the second round.
Meantime, Spriggs will provide depth along the interior line. Thompson surely factored in the upcoming expiring contracts of David Bakhtiari, Josh Sitton and T.J. Lang into the mix.
With the 88th overall selection, the Packers chose outside linebacker Kyler Fackrell of Utah State. Fackrell (6-5, 245) led the nation with five fumble recovers. He also led the Aggies with 15 tackles for loss, 12 quarterback hurries and four sacks.
Several of his best games came against the top competition. For instance, against Boise State he had 11 tackles, 2 ½ for loss, two fumble recoveries, two QB hurries and a forced fumble.Fackrell, 24, needs to add weight and strength, which should come with being exposed to the Packers’ strength and conditioning program.
Meantime, Fackrell (No. 51) should vie for time on the special teams’ units.
Blake Martinez (6-2, 237), an inside linebacker from Stanford, was chosen with the 131st pick overall. Martinez, who will wear No. 50, led the Pac-12 with 10.1 tackles per game as a senior. He also had 75 solo tackles. A sure run stopper, Martinez is a rugged player who relishes contact and defends the run well.
He was available in the fourth round because of perceived limitations in pass coverage. The Packers didn’t stress over it because they needed an inside linebacker who can stuff the run. Martinez fits that bill.
The Packers then selected Dean Lowry, a 6-6, 296-pound defensive end from Northwestern.
Lowry, who will wear No. 94, ranked second among Wildcats with 13 ½ tackles for loss. He was a consensus all-second team Big Ten honoree.
Trevor Davis, 6-1, 188, was taken with the 163rd pick in round five. The Cal receiver had seven touchdown receptions among his 64 catches during his career. A cynic could suggest those are awful low numbers for a fifth-round receiver.
On the contrary, seven of 64 is a pretty good TD-to-catch ratio. In addition, Davis is considered to be among the top kick-punt return men in the nation. If Ty Montgomery is slow to return from his ankle injury, Davis offers depth in the return game.
Kyle Murphy, 6-6, 305, was chosen with the 200th pick overall in the sixth round.
Murphy started all 14 games at left tackle for Stanford in 2015 and finished as a Phil Steele third-team All America player. He was first-team Pac-12 and figures to be a starting-caliber tackle of the future.
Chris Havel is a national best-selling author and his latest book is Lombardi: An Illustrated Life. Havel can be heard Monday through Friday from 4-6 p.m. CDT on WDUZ FM 107.5 The Fan, or on AM-1400, as well as Fan Internet Radio (www.thefan1075.com). Havel also hosts Event USA’s MVP Parties the evening before home games.