A Pre-Draft Look At Our Linebackers

Part 7 in a position-by-position analysis of where the Packers stand going into the draft.

 

Starters
Clay Matthews is still the biggest name and threat on this list, but at 30, he’s on the downside of his prime and his sack numbers have declined twice in a row. In the last two years he’s only had 11.5 sacks total. Nick Perry will be at the other OLB after signing his huge deal in the offseason. Unusually healthy, Perry broke out with 11 sacks last year after having 12.5 the previous four years combined.

On the inside, Jake Ryan has grown into an established role heading into year three while Blake Martinez and Joe Thomas split the starts at the cover backer ILB role.

Backups
Julius Peppers and Datone Jones both left in free agency. Neither of them were a positional linchpin, but they played a lot of snaps (each were on the field for over 50% of the defensive snaps in 2016) and will eat into the depth.

Jayrone Elliott has been a preseason superstar most of his career and even occasionally flashes in the regular season, like he did with multiple turnovers in the 2015 Seattle Game. Kyler Fackrell had a couple sacks in very limited action during his rookie campaign.

After those two prospects, the cupboard gets pretty bare. The roster rounds out with Reggie Gilbert, Derrick Matthews (no relation), and Jordan Tripp. They’ve combined to accomplish what we in the business call “jack sh#t.”

Talent On Roster
The starters are pretty capable. The outside features a great pairing with the crazy edge rushing of CM3 nicely complemented by the edge-setting bull rushing of Nick Perry. However, both have a detailed injury history and there are no solid, proven options to back them up. CM3 and Perry have combined for only two total seasons with a full 16 starts

On the inside, there’s a few guys who rotate to get the job done. They also started using safeties in the box and two ILBs aren’t even on the field all the time in this scheme. Everyone wants Ray Lewis, but in today’s game, you don’t need first rounders at ILB, you just need guys to get the job done. The guys we have get the job done. We won a Super Bowl with AJ Hawk starting at ILB… these guys can do AJ Hawk.

Draft Need
High. It’s a passing league and pass rushers are in demand. The Packers have two, but one of them only had one good year and the other hasn’t had a good year in a while.

Fans have called for a high pick to be used on inside linebacker for years, but that simply isn’t necessary in this defense. The three guys they have there are solid enough to keep this unit moving and the increased use of Morgan Burnett in the box makes this even less critical.

Dear Ted: please draft edge rushers. Sincerely, everyone.

Other parts in the series
Part 1: Quarterbacks
Part 2: Defensive Line
Part 3: Wide Receivers
Part 4: Cornerbacks
Part 5: Tight Ends
Part 6: Running Backs
Part 8: Offensive Line
Part 9: Safeties
Part 10: Specialists

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