For as long as I have been covering the draft for the Green Bay Packers, I have never been as intrigued as I am heading into this year’s draft. The need for certain positions defensively and offensively hasn’t really changed much in the past three years, but the personnel drafting them and coaching them has changed dramatically. And that’s what makes this year’s draft so intriguing. We don’t quite know what new GM Brian Gutekunst is all about. Will he transfer some of the same principles and values that his mentor Ted Thompson shared? Will he focus primarily on defense like the Packers have in the first round the past six years? What will new DC Mike Pettine request from Gutekunst. What will “new” OC Joe Philbin want? More importantly, what does Aaron Rodgers want? Is it time to bring in some fresh new blood on the outside for #12 or do we lock in a counterpart for second year player Kevin King at cornerback to shut down the passing attacks of the newly designed NFL? Either way, I have got you covered with a few names at both positions to keep an eye on.
Cortland Sutton – Southern Methodist University
The 2018 NFL Draft class of wide receivers is a big one. Maybe not in showcase names, but in size for sure. Cortland Sutton is definitely one of those big guys. Standing at 6’4 and weighing in at 216 pounds, Sutton has the size, speed, and toughness to be a big play guy both down the field and in the red zone. In three full seasons with SMU, Sutton was able to find the end zone 31 times, gain 3,193 yards and average over 15 yards per catch. I know the American Conference is no SEC, but he still battled against the likes of TCU, Houston, UCF, and Memphis who all were contending teams. Davante is the present. Could Sutton be the future?
Simmie Cobbs Jr. – Indiana University
Before we get into the numbers for Cobbs Jr., lets discuss how great it would be to have a Cobb and a Cobb Jr lined up at wideout? Yeah, I didn’t think so either. But when it comes to the most intriguing of receivers in this class, I think he takes it. A breakout star as a sophomore in 2015, Cobbs Jr. had 60 receptions for 1,035 yards and 4 touchdowns. That quickly ended with a season ending injury that kept him out for his junior season. He came back in 2017 with 72 receptions, 841 yards, and 8 touchdowns. Most notably against the Ohio State. In a thoroughly impressive performance, Cobbs had his way with the highly acclaimed Ohio State defense. He got the better of every corner the Buckeyes matched up against him as he totaled 149 yards and a touchdown on 11 receptions.
Michael Gallup – Colorado State
Cobbs Jr. may be the most intriguing of receivers in this class, but Michael Gallup is the most exciting. At 6’1, 200 pounds, Gallup fits the mold of what a star receiver should look like. But it’s much more than looks for this kid. A junior college transfer (Butler Community College), Gallup found himself at Colorado State as a Junior putting up big time numbers. In his first season he played in all 13 games, recording 76 receptions for 1,272 yards and 14 touchdowns. As a senior, Gallup had 100 receptions for 1,413 yards, seven touchdowns, and was a semifinalist for the Fred Biletnikoff award for the nation’s top receiver. This kid could be the mid-round steal that every team looks for.
Equanimeous St. Brown – Notre Dame
Another tall receiver, Brown stands at 6’4 and weighs in at 205 pounds. He is also another very intriguing player in this year’s draft because of the unknown. During his final season at Notre Dame, St. Brown battled various injuries that forced him to miss a few games. However, he still finished with 33 receptions for 515 yards and four touchdowns. And this was while being double teamed for nearly the entire season and playing with a mediocre QB. His more productive season was in 2016 (with a first round QB), in which he posted 58 receptions for 961 yards and nine touchdowns. Terrific route running. Strong hands. A sure-fire hit for the Packer offense who relies strongly on good, clean route running and timing.
Braxton Berrios – Miami
With all of the success we have seen in the past few years surrounding the “scatback” and undersized receivers, this pick could be a slam dunk. We have seen it the past decade with New England and their use of guys like Danny Amendola, Julian Edelman, and now James White. Green Bay has a slot guy in Cobb and a mismatch guy in Montgomery, but Berrios could bring a new dynamic to this offense. And anything new that a defense has to be honest with while #12 is under center is terrifying for opposing teams. An incredibly smart kid (Finalist for “Academic Heisman”) and hard worker, Berrios knows the limitations his size (5’9, 188 pounds) brings. This isn’t news to him. In his senior season Berrios had 51 receptions for 625 yards and 9 touchdowns against teams like Florida State, Wisconsin, Clemson, Virginia Tech, Notre Dame, and others. Like my coach used to always say: Big time players make big time plays in big time games. This kid is a big time player.
Joshua Jackson – Iowa
Arguably the top corner in this year’s draft, Jackson is the ultimate package and would be a beautiful fit opposite Kevin King. At 6’1, 192 pounds, Green bay goes away from the typical 5’11 corner that Ted stuck with and gets back to what is right. As a first year starter his junior year in 2017, Jackson was named Big Ten Defensive Back of the Year and a finalist for the Jim Thorpe Award with 48 tackles, 18 passes defended, and 8 interceptions. Jackson put an exclamation point on 2017 with a three-interception game against Ohio State. The Iowa coaching staff wanted Jackson to turn more tips and batted passes into interceptions, and he responded by doing that against Ohio State with those three picks. To me, a secondary of Kevin King, Joshua Jackson, Ha-Ha Clinton Dix, and Josh Jones/Morgan Burnett sounds exciting. Real Exciting.
Donte Jackson – LSU
An undersized corner who has the potential to become a star in the NFL. Jackson, only 5’11 and 175 pounds had a terrific career at LSU breaking up 18 passes over the past two season alone. Jackson also ran track and field for LSU and it shows on the field with his speed, acceleration, and fluidity moving in and out. This will be a name that you will hear during the Combine as I am sure he will post terrific numbers in the 40 yard dash. His frame is his only real concern at this point and I am positive a few cheese curds and butter burgers can help change that. Also learned under former LSU defensive backs Jalen Mills, Tre-davious White, and Jamal Adams.
D.J. Reed – Kansas State
Another undersized corner (after I said we needed to move on), Reed played much bigger than his listed size of 5’9, 188 pounds. A JUCO transfer, Reed played his final two seasons at Kansas State. Prior to the 2017 season, Reed was named to the Chuck Bednarik Award watch list, the Jim Thorpe Award watch list and the Bronko Nagurski Award watch list. During his final season in Manhattan he made 47 total tackles along with four interceptions, nine pass deflections and one forced fumble along with returning 17 kickoffs for 253 yards and one touchdown. A deep corner class could push him down the board, but he could be a huge steal if he’s still available on the draft’s final day.
Jaylen Dunlap – Illinois
Not known for being a star at Illinois, Dunlap carries all the tools and skills to be coached into a starting position. He has good size at 6’1, 195 pounds and is expected to put in good numbers at the combine which could sky-rocket his name up the boards. Dunlap totaled 25 tackles with five passes broken up and an interception in 2017. He had a quality game covering Indiana’s Simmie Cobbs Jr. (4-54) and an interception. In 2016, Dunlap totaled 63 tackles with 11 breakups, including turning in a good tape with his matchup against Western Michigan’s Corey Davis.
Isaiah Oliver – Colorado
One of my favorite prospects in this years draft, Oliver comes from a strong bloodline (both Father and Uncle played in NFL) and possesses some of the best measurables among this deep corner class. At 6’1, 190 pounds, Oliver has incredible speed and arms that go on for days. Oliver became a star in his own right in his junior year, garnering first-team All-Pac-12 honors with 27 tackles, two interceptions, and 13 pass breakups despite missing time with a leg injury. Much like the other corners in this list, expect his name to sky-rocket during the combine as he brings his world-class track and field abilities to Indianapolis.
Like I said in the beginning, we are all pretty much clueless as to where new GM Brian Gutekunst is going in this years draft. Don’t be surprised if he makes his own splash, much like Ted Thompson did his first year in (Aaron Rodgers) as well as Ron Wolf during his first year (Brett Favre). No, it probably will not be a QB, but it may be something we are not expecting. As the weeks move on keep an eye out for more in-depth profiles on each one of these potential prospects.