We are officially less than one month away from the NFL Draft, and even that feels like too long! The Packers already have had an eventful off-season and now all I want to see is how they top it off during the draft.
The Packers went big this year in free agency for the first time in what seems like decades, signing four starters, all to big contracts. Their biggest focus was clearly on defense, with the signings of LB Za’darius Smith, LB Preston Smith and SS Adrian Amos. They also fortified the O-line with the versatile Billy Turner, formerly with the Broncos.
To make room for all these free agent additions, the Packers had to say goodbye to some longtime veterans, most notably WR Randall Cobb and LB Clay Matthews. While it’s definitely hard to see them go I can’t say I’m surprised, it’s a new era of Packers football. With that being said there is still A LOT of work to be done both on offense and defense. Here I will list my top 3 remaining needs on defense. You can check out my top offensive needs right here.
While the Packers were very active in free agency this year, they still did overlook a couple of key positions, none more important than middle linebacker. In today’s NFL you need someone who can rush the QB, cover a RB out the backfield and even cover slot WR’s at times. As of now, Blake Martinez and Oren Burks are presumed to be the starters in the middle of this defense, I think we need more speed at the position. Martinez has obviously shown great tackling ability, being amongst the league leaders each of the last 2 seasons, but he has struggled in pass coverage and play recognition at times. On the other side, there is Burks, who was nearly irrelevant in his rookie season, seeing only 11.47% of the defensive snaps. I am not giving up on Burks just yet, but he was only a 3rd round pick to begin with. I think the Packers need to aggressively pursue both Devin White and Devin Bush with their first pick in the draft.
3 Realistic Options: Devin White – LSU, Devin Bush- Michigan, Mack Wilson – Alabama
The Packers turned heads this off-season with the signing of SS Adrian Amos, formerly with their division rival Chicago Bears. Amos is a hard-hitting, in the box type of safety that can set a physical tone for the entire defense. Meanwhile, the free safety position is still a bit of a question mark. Veteran CB Tramon Williams filled in last year, but rumors are that he will be back at his natural CB position in 2019. The only other real option currently on the roster, would be 3rd year man Josh Jones, who hasn’t really proven himself to be a reliable starter just yet. With their lack of depth and experience, I think the Packers are going to be looking to fill the FS position early in the draft. Lucky for them, this year’s draft class is full of talent at safety, giving them plenty of options to choose from.
3 Realistic Options: Johnathan Abram – Mississippi State, Juan Thornhill – Virginia, Nasir Adderley – Delaware
A lot of people seem to think that after the signings of both Za’darius Smith and Preston Smith, the Packers no longer have a serious need at edge rush, I disagree. Za’darius Smith has shown an elite ability to rush the passer from the middle while Preston Smith is a much stronger run defender than straight up pass rusher. With that being said, I think targeting a top end edge rusher is key for the defense’s success. Outside of the two Smith’s, the only outside linebackers left on the roster are Kyler Fackrell and Reggie Gilbert. Both have potential, but neither of them are game changers.
With the NFL becoming more and more of a passing league, teams need multiple pass rushers that can rotate on and off the field on a consistent basis. Having only 2 really reliable guys on the outside is not a recipe for success. Teams need a lot more depth to keep guys fresh, remember the 2017 Super Bowl Champion Eagles? They had 8 different starting caliber players up front, keeping everyone fresh and healthy all year-long. With a draft class this loaded at OLB, the Packers would be foolish not to take advantage.
3 Realistic Options: Brian Burns – Florida State, Clelin Ferrell – Clemson, Chase Winovich – Michigan
If you don’t see your top prospects listed here, please drop them in the comments box and I’ll get back to you. Thanks!