This off season saw the Packers lose two edge rushers in Julius Peppers and Datone Jones to free agency. After these losses, the main fixtures at outside linebacker are Matthews, Perry, Fackrell, and Elliot. The starters at the position are likely to be Matthews and Perry. Perry is looking to build on his best season in 2016 after signing a lucrative deal just a few weeks ago. Clay Matthews, on the other hand, is looking to bounce back after an injury plagued season showcased some of the worst stats of his pro career. With the Packers pass rush already somewhat questionable in 2016, the front office must look to solidify the position via the draft. In this post I will look to continue exploring the Packers early round draft needs with 6 more quality prospects, this time at the outside linebacker position.
Derek Barnett 6’3″ 259Lbs. -Tennessee
Vertical Jump: 31 Inches
3 Cone Drill: 6.96 Sec.
20 Yard Shuttle: 4.44 Sec.
Background: Derek Barnett had an long successful career at Tennessee. He was the very first freshman ever to start at defensive linemen for the Vols. Speaking of his freshman year, he also led the SEC with 20 tackles for loss and added 10 sacks. This past year Barnett earned first team honors as an All-American and in the SEC. He finished his final season with 12 sacks, which was top 10 in D1 college football. As a 3 year starter in the SEC, he’s by far the most experienced player on this list.
Scouting Analysis: Barnett stands out on this list because of his size, he’s nearly 260 pounds at 6’3. While he does have size, his speed is not all that great compared to other prospects in the first round. What really sets the Vol’s standout apart is his skill at the position, he is a very pro ready guy. He is a very productive pass rusher. Barnett boasts a 20% pressures per rush attempt rating, exactly double the NCAA average of 10%. He will jump the snap successfully in his pass rush. Fantastic technique on his spin move. He doesn’t limit his game to only pass rushing, he is also exceptional against the run. He plays with good pad level against the run, wins the battle for position, and is strong enough to overpower tight ends on a consistent basis.
How he fits with Green Bay: Barnett is ready to come in and play snaps at outside linebacker week one for the Packers. He might not have the athletic traits others do, but he knows how to be a productive pass rusher and stop the run. He’s drawn comparisons to Nick Perry in the past. I like the comparison, but he has more upside in my opinion. Perhaps he could be the next Barnett wearing the number 56 (which just so happens to be my favorite number) for the packers with the departure of Julius Peppers. My knowledge of his stock tells me he may not be there at 29, but best believe Ted takes a hard look at him if he is.
TJ Watt 6’4″ 252Lbs. -Wisconsin
40 Yard Dash Time: 4.69 Sec.
Vertical Jump: 37 Inches
3 Cone Drill: 6.79 Sec.
20 Yard Shuttle: 4.13 Sec.
Background: You guys ever heard of JJ Watt? Of course you have. In fact, I’m fairly certain you’ve all heard of TJ Watt as well. TJ played offense up until his last two seasons at Wisconsin. He won a starting job this past year and really excelled. His tape shows improvement throughout the year in his first season as a starter.
Scouting Analysis: All bias aside, I actually really do like TJ Watt as a player. I’m not going to let JJ influence my point of view, or the fact that he played for Wisconsin. Watt showed good athleticism at the combine. His violent play reminds me of Clay Matthews. Plays bigger than he looks. More agile than quick. Boasts a wide variety of developed pass rushing moves. Plays passing lanes well. Consistent tackler. A big knock on him is that he only started one year, but that’s the route many good players have taken. You will see him get locked onto in run support at times. Needs to play with a wider base.
How he fits in Green Bay: Watt has indicated he’d most like to play for the Packers. I always love a guy who’s willing to put some extra passion into his play because of a hometown aspect. Do I think he’s going to be as good as his brother JJ? No. He is a good prospect, and I expect him to be taken before the end of the first round. Depending on how the board falls, I wouldn’t have a problem with Green Bay picking him in the first round. If he slips into the mid second, I think ted should be calling around trying to trade up to get him. Watt would help the pass rush and provide valuable depth next season, more importantly he has real upside.
Charles Harris 6’3″ 253Lbs. -Missouri
Vertical Jump: 32 Inches
3 Cone Drill: 7.47 Sec.
20 Yard Shuttle: 4.42 Sec.
Background: Charles Harris is one of those guys who never played football until later on in high school, and really made a career out of it. He had a great 2015 with 18.5 tackles for loss and 7 sacks. His 2016 season was less productive with 9 sacks and 12 tackles for loss in a 4-8 season for the Tigers.
Scouting Analysis: To put my scouting take on Harris simply ill say this: Harris is a less talented/experienced version of Derek Barnett. Look at his size and combine numbers, and you’ll see the correlation. With that being said, is he a poor prospect? Absolutely not! Per Pro Football Focus, Harris averaged a hurry once out of every 6 times he rushed the quarterback. Many people like his spin move, just like Mr. Barnett. He rarely has a “down game” as a pass rusher. He showed good tape against Arkansas in a battle against a quality offensive tackle. Loose hips. Good lateral quickness. Showed some ability to zone cover when needed. He will get overpowered at times. Not great against the run. Can be caught over pursuing against the run. He showed a drop in productivity when the defensive scheme changed.
How he fits in Green Bay: Harris has a lot better chance to be an option for the Packers at 29 than Barnett, but I don’t like his game near as much. Had he built on his 2015 tape I think he’d be a much more coveted prospect. If picked by the Packers he would provide good depth on the edge right away, and they would look to develop him into a quality starter over time. He has the ability to be a good player, but he’s more of a risk in the first round than others on this list.
Tim Williams 6’4″ 244Lbs. -Alabama
40 Yard Dash Time: 4.68 Sec.
Vertical Jump: 33.5 Inches
3 Cone Drill: 7.36 Sec.
20 Yard Shuttle: 4.57 Sec.
Background: Williams started only 2 games in 2016 for a stout defense, playing primarily as a pass rusher. Despite his lack of starts, he did get in the game enough to be named a second team All-American and All-SEC pick with a season featuring 16 tackles for loss and 9 sacks. Williams has had his fair share of character issues. It was reported that he failed multiple drug tests, although he was not suspended. There was also another incident this past year where he was arrested for a misdemeanor gun charge, he sat out only one half for that. Williams was expected to build on a good 2015 season and climb up draft boards, but that never happened.
Scouting Analysis: Williams game features one of the better combos of size and speed on this list. He has a great burst in his pass rush. Shows production at getting after then quarterback when in the game. His speed has proven too much for many offensive tackles. Stronger than given credit for. While he was used primarily as a rusher, he has shown improvement against the run. Saw twice as many snaps in 2016 as 2015, but was unable to produce much better stats. Despite this, most scouts view his 2016 tape as his best. He’s not overly experienced. There is concern that he could do poorly against superior offensive tackles who he cant beat with speed at the next level.
How he fits in Green Bay: Williams is a risk in more ways than one. You begin with the risk of his playing ability, and add the risk of off the field issues. I personally would prefer the Packers stayed away in round 1. As a round two prospect, he is very intriguing. Next season he would likely be limited to a situational pass rusher if playing for the Packers. He has a lot to offer as a pass rusher, and could be great if he can continue to improve as a run stopper.
Jordan Willis 6’4″ 255Lbs. -Kansas State
Vertical Jump: 39 Inches
3 Cone Drill: 6.85 Sec.
20 Yard Shuttle: 4.28 Sec.
Background: Big 12 defensive player of the year this past season, AP All-American with 11.5 sacks and 17.5 tackles for loss. Willis was a 3 year starter with a 4 year career at K State who improved each and every year. He drew high praise from Bill Snyder in his time at Kansas State as well.
Scouting Analysis: Jordan Willis is the best athlete on this list, with only Haason Reddick coming close. What’s really remarkable about him is that he is also almost as big as anyone on this list as well. Willis really helped his draft stock at the combine. He is a quick decision maker. Good hand work. Great pursuit. Plays strong. He had the second most pressures in the nation, per Pro Football Focus. Wide variety of rushing moves. Too finesse at times. Not good in space. Most agree he’s best suited to play 3-4 outside backer. Not overly good against the run at the point of attack. Had a hard time against quality talent at the senior bowl.
How he fits in Green Bay: Willis’s draft stock is generally viewed as mid second round from what I have seen. Some value him in the late first, others the last second as well. This is another guy I would love in the second round even if we needed to trade up, but not so much in the first round. He will need to be coached up some before he’s ready to be a starter, but the potential value is there with such great athleticism. For the Packers, Willis would not have trouble getting on the field in pass rushing situations early, but he would likely be limited to that for the time being.
Haason Reddick 6’1″ 237Lbs -Temple
Vertical Jump: 36.5 Inches
3 Cone Drill: 7.01 Sec.
20 Yard Shuttle: 4.37 Sec.
Background. Reddick is a small school prospect with a smaller frame than most of the big school prospects on this list. That witty first sentence was a reward for all of you who stuck around for the end of this post. You’re all much appreciated. But in all seriousness, Reddick did go up against some easier offensive linemen in his time at Temple. This doesn’t mean he’s a bad player. He finished his redshirt senior year with 22.5 tackles for loss and 10.5 sacks on his way to All-Conference honors. He and his teammate Dion Dawkins (who is an offensive tackle I am very high on bringing in to play guard) we’re arrested for assault outside a nightclub in 2015. So there may be a slight character concern.
Scouting Analysis: He is a very good athlete, but he definitely needs to put on some weight to be successful at the next level. Good agility. Gets into the backfield. Can fit in small gaps to make plays. Can cover when needed. He misses tackles somewhat consistently. Needs more moves as an NFL pass rusher.
How he fits in Green Bay: Reddick is a project. He’s going to need to put on weight for sure. He’s got great athleticism but I worry very much about him being pushed around at the next level. Draft stock suggests he his a late first to early second rounder. My preference would be to pass on him in round 1. While I think he is a good pick for a team looking for a great pass rusher down the road, the Packers need a little more from first rounder next year.
Look out for these 6 names come draft day, you may just hear one called. Be sure to check out all of our other scouting reports and mock drafts on Pack to the Future to learn more about potential Packer draft picks. Let us know your opinion on these or any other prospects in the comments section or on twitter (@PTTF_Podcast), you can also interact with us on Facebook. Tweet directly at me (Thane) @TrackOnPack. Thanks for reading!