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By CHRIS HAVEL
Green Bay GM Ted Thompson’s flexibility may be its NFL draft salvation in 2 ½ weeks
If NFL scouting departments and myriad experts are correct in their assessment of the 2017 draft, the Packers’ needs coincide with the best, deepest position groups.
This draft appears to be replete with talented prospects at pass rusher, linebacker, defensive back and running back. The Packers have significant needs at each position.
So what is GM Ted Thompson going to do?
While it is folly to try to predict the Packers’ draft moves, especially given when (still 17 days away) and where (the 29th pick), here are some likely scenarios given Thompson’s history.
The first, best option is to sit tight, let picks come off the board and pounce at No. 29. Given this draft’s composition, odds are a player Thompson truly covets will be available.
As scenarios go, I believe it is the best, if not the sexiest, in terms of landing an immediate impact player on defense.
A year ago, UCLA defensive tackle Kenny Clark was the Packers’ first-round pick. I liked the pick immediately. I also was in the minority.
Many fans preferred a pass rusher, an inside linebacker or a cornerback last year. They would’ve been wrong for two reasons:
- There is no defensive tackle as good as Clark likely to be available at No. 29 in this draft;
- The pool of pass rushers and cornerbacks is much better, and deeper, at No. 29 this draft than last.
Iowa’s Desmond King and USC’s Adoree’ Jackson are just two of the cornerback prospects that should be there. Wisconsin’s T.J. Watt and Temple’s Hassan Reddick are intriguing rushers.
In a perfect world, Michigan defensive end Taco Charlton will somehow fall to the Packers. Charlton is a 6-foot-6, 278-pound pass rusher who can make plays in the backfield. He would look might good next to Clark.
In fact, Clark proved to be durable and productive while slowly but surely elevating his level of play. Furthermore, Clark played a position of great need (defensive tackle) that would be a barren, unmitigated disaster as a position group without him.
Mike Daniels, Dean Lowry, Christian Ringo, the recently acquired Ricky Jean-Francoise and Letroy Guion (who is suspended the first four games) are all there is besides Clark.
Datone Jones is a Viking and defensive tackle Ego Ferguson, the Bears’ 51st pick in the 2015 draft, failed his physical last week.
Ultimately, I believe Thompson will sit tight at No. 29 and select either a pass rusher or cornerback.
Thompson sits tight until he gets the right offer to move down into the second round and acquire more picks in a deep draft.
The 29th pick has at least one advantage: First-round picks are on the hook for five years, rather than four, with the team option. If a team desperately needs a quarterback, for example, it would prefer to trade up for two reasons – they get the QB and they get him for five years.
If Thompson could snag another third-round pick in return for agreeing to drop 15 spots, it would make sense.
The first round is set for Thursday, April 27. Fans tend to get cranky if they watch through 28 selections, only to discover that their team then trades out at No. 29.
It’s understandable, but shortsighted. In this draft, the more picks in the top four rounds, the better.
Everyone wanted the Packers to select Eddie Lacy in the first round of the 2013 draft. They waited until the second round and got him with the 61st pick. Lacy dominated in his first two seasons, rushing for almost 2,300 yards and 20 touchdowns.
That type of running back, plus multiple defenders, could be had with the flexibility that even more selections would provide.
Thompson gets crazy aggressive, packages picks and players, and trades up to land a bona fide, top-notch stud outside linebacker.
The problem is the Packers lack the firepower to go high enough. Furthermore, it’s risky and it’s impractical. Another words, it’s totally un-Ted like.
I expect Thompson to select the best (defensive) player at No. 29, retool his draft board and turn in for a restful night’s sleep.
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.