It’s no secret to any avid Packers fan that the team needs to add some pass rush talent on the outside to make the defensive jump they hope for under new defensive coordinator Mike Pettine. The team tallied 37 sacks in 2017, putting them in a 3 way tie for 17th in that statistical category. At times in 2017, the Packers defense would rack up games with outstanding sack numbers, but most of the time the pass rush was near nonexistent especially considering they were a team that blitzed a good amount.
There is a lot of uncertainty for the Packers at outside linebacker. No one can really say for sure that Clay Matthews will play out the final year of his contract without being cut. Some would suggest Nick Perry could be a surprise cut prior to next season. Young players like Kyler Fackrell, Reggie Gilbert, Chris Odom, and Vince Biegel haven’t shown anything to suggest they are a long term solution at the position.
While free agency is an option to fill need at outside linebacker, free agent edge rushers are generally over priced because of the intense need for pass rush in the NFL. The best option I can see is getting some real talent at the position through the draft. You may even see the Packers take a couple swings at the position much like they did in the 2015 draft with cornerbacks or this past draft with running backs.
Lets take a quick look at 10 edge rushers primed to be picked in the first 3 rounds of this years NFL draft. I will be doing more detailed scouting reports on each one of these guys prior to the draft, so watch out for that!
1. Bradley Chubb – NC State
6’4″ 272 Lbs.
2017 Stat Line: 72 Tackles, 10 Sacks
The most talented EDGE guy in the draft this year is Bradley Chubb, nearly every draft expert will tell you the same thing. Will he be there at 14? I tend to think not, but there is a lot of time between now and the draft. While Chubb is extremely talented, I am not so sure he fits the mold of how Green Bay uses their outside linebackers. Despite Mike Pettine never having named the base defense 3-4 or 4-3, I would expect usage of guys out on the edge to be more like 3-4 outside backers than 4-3 defensive ends. With that being said Chubb is more of a 4-3 end, so maybe he isn’t the best fit on this team even despite all this talent. If Mike Pettine’s defense is multiple as he had indicated, I am sure Chubb could carve out a role.
Bradley Chubb is expected to run a 40 of about 4.8 seconds at the combine, a solid time for a man of his size. He just does not quit on plays all game long. This is a guy who the Packers are probably somewhat familiar with having watch plenty of tape on his former teammate Josh Jones last year. Relies on good technique more so than speed, and can beat you inside and out with his pass rush. He’s no slouch against the run either, displaying outstanding pursuit to the ball carrier. Not great when asked to cover. Can sometimes overrun plays with too much energy.
2. Arden Key – LSU
6’6″ 265 Lbs.
2017 Stat Line: 33 Tackles 4 Sacks
Do not let Key’s stat line fool you, he missed a sizeable chunk of the 2017 season due to injury after only starting 8 games. In 2016 Key was able to accumulate 56 tackles, 12 sacks, 14.5 tackles for loss and 3 forced fumbles in a full season with the tigers. I am more hyped for this guy than any other prospect at this point in time, but it comes with some concern. Key stepping away from the program last spring for a while for “personal reasons” is a definite red flag. He has had issues with weight. He came into this past season heavier than usual and it hurt his play, he cut some weight by the end of the season and his play would later improve. I do not expect him to weigh 265 at the combine.
The first thing you’ll notice about Key’s game is his length. He stands at 6’6″ and has very long arms and legs which he uses well. Athleticism could allow Key to become that pass rusher that offenses have to game plan around in the NFL. He can beat you with an inside or an outside rush. His initial jump off the ball is outstanding at times. Although he has lots of pass rush talent, he certainly has a lot to learn as a run defender and in coverage.
Harold Landry – Boston College
6’3″ 250 Lbs.
2017 Stat Line: 38 Tackles 5 Sacks 8.5 T4L
Landry Regressed in his final season statistically partially due to injury much like Arden Key, playing in just 9 games. Landry had a monster season in 2016 however racking up 16.5 sacks, 22 tackles for loss, and 7 forces fumbles each of which he rank top 5 in the nation in statistically. He was a surprise to return for his senior year at Boston College. He will likely be in the mix for the Packers at 14.
Landry lacks big time size, but makes up for it with athleticism. He has outstanding burst off the line coupled with good bend and flexibility allowing him to beat linemen around the edge. Known for getting strip sacks. Speed and agility make for good pursuit. Willing to drop into coverage. He needs to diversify his rush technique in the NFL. Not overly strong. Effort seemed to drop off a bit in his senior season.
4. Marcus Davenport – UTSA
6’6″ 255 Lbs.
2017 Stat Line: 68 Tackles 6.5 Sacks 10 T4L
Marcus Davenport put himself on the map with a big game against Texas A&M. He is a smaller school prospect who is expected to be picked prior to the end of round 2. He is a lengthy guy who can continue to add weight in the NFL. He didn’t flash crazy numbers in college, but he showed up in the games that really counted. Davenport also made a name for himself with some aggressive hits on ball carriers in his time in San Antonio.
Davenports game features solid athleticism. He is a solid tackler. Potential could be sky high learning from some more high profile coaching at the next level. He plays a bit too high of leverage. Bites on play action at times. Not ready to drop into coverage successfully at the next level yet.
5. Dorance Armstrong – Kansas
6’4″ 246 Lbs.
2017 Stat Line: 63 Tackles 1.5 Sacks 9 T4L
I wouldn’t get too caught up in Armstrong’s stat line from this season. He was able to get 10 sacks in 2016 as a sophomore, his dip in production was in part because of how he was used at Kansas. He showed he is a well rounded player racking up 4 pass break ups and 3 forced fumbles in his final season.
Armstrong is a very explosive player whose game also features some agility. Sees downfield past the man who is blocking him. Good punch at the point of attack. Bend and flexibility is definitely there. Utilizes inside spin well. Smaller framed guy, probably a better fit in a 3-4 system than the 4-3 he played in college. Will need to learn to play coverage at the next level. Beats opposition with athleticism more than technique.
6. Sam Hubbard – Ohio State
6’5″ 265 Lbs.
2017 Stat Line: 42 tackles 7 sacks 13.5 T4L
Sam Hubbard packed on 70 pounds since playing safety in high school to become the player we see today. Hubbard was a 2 year starter at Ohio State after a spot became open with the departure of Joey Bosa. Hubbard is a sound fundamental player. Leverage and bend are good. Maybe the most football smart guy on this list. You won’t find a play that he quit on. Active hands as a pass rusher. Possesses good counter moves. More of an effort guy than an athlete. Has trouble finding the quarterback when getting off blocks. More of a 4-3 end than an outside backer, he would likely need to shed some weight in the Packers system. Hubbard would be more of a safe pick than a big time potential pick.
7. Jeff Holland – Auburn
6’2″ 249 Lbs.
2017 Stat Line: 45 tackles 10 sacks 13 T4L
Holland was backup to Carl Lawson up until this past season. In his first season as a starter he put up some respectable numbers, and it is for that reason that he decided to declare rather than sick around for his senior season at Auburn. Holland displays a strong lower body capable of moving offensive linemen around, with upper body strength to match. High motor guy with a fierce and physical demeanor. Big hitter. Carries unnecessary weight that will need to be shed at the next level. Not flexible. Agility in open field is somewhat lacking. Liability in coverage.
8. Kemoko Turay – Rutgers
6’5″ 252 Lbs.
2017 Stat Line: 65 tackles 4 sacks 7 T4L
Kemoko Turay is a really good fit in a 3-4 scheme. Shoulder injuries cost him time in both his sophomore and junior seasons. He has a good combo of length and athleticism. Good closing speed and agility. Doesn’t whiff on tackles. Adequate coverage ability for an outside linebacker. Relentless in pass rush. High potential guy because of length and athletic traits. Tight hips and lacking bend. Needs to develop more pass rush moves at the next level. Shoulder injury concerns will hurt his draft stock.
9. Jalyn Holmes – Ohio State
6’5″ 270 Lbs.
2017 Stat Line: 33 tackles 2 sacks 8.5 T4L
Holmes has been over shadowed by a slew of great defensive ends in his time at Ohio State. He showed a little something in his 1 year as a starter, and will likely go somewhere between rounds 2 and 4 because of his potential. Holmes has good length that could translate to putting on more muscle. Plays strong. Solid Spin move and good bull rush. Strength allows him to be solid against the run. Not quick or a guy I would label as an athlete. Not a ton of pass rush talent as a 4-3 end or 3-4 outside linebacker, a 3-4 team may draft him to convert to end. Plays tight with poor hand usage.
10. Ogbonnia Okoronkwo – Oklahoma
6’1″ 242 Lbs.
2017 Stat Line: 76 tackles 8 sacks 17.5 T4L
Okoronkwo really offered some good production at Oklahoma. Some scouts are really hard on him for lack of height and weight, which could be an issue in the NFL. The bottom line is he was productive in college, and there has been other undersized guys productive at the next level. He was a 2 year starter in college and productive both seasons. Good jump off the ball. solid pass rush instincts. Impressive strength to size ratio. Has the closing speed needed for good pursuit. Gets pushed around against the run. Needs to develop technique to keep blockers off his small frame. Will have some coverage issues.
Be sure to watch out for my more detailed scouting reports on each on of these guys coming soon! There is also many more scouting reports coming out of Pack to the Future by the rest of our draft team for you to check out. Thanks for reading and as always, Go Pack Go!