The game is won and lost in the trenches.
Defense wins championships.
Put them together and you see the need for drafting defensive linemen high.
Look no further than the last Super Bowl to see what a killer front can do to stymie even the most potent offenses in the league.
Even if defensive line isn’t the Packers biggest need, it’s hard to pass up a great defensive lineman if he falls to you in the 1st round. It’s just as hard to lay off if one falls in the second round, too.
That’s what happened in our 10th mock draft.
Here are the results:
Christian Barmore – Defensive Lineman
Profile: The Defensive MVP of National Championship game after dominating the playoffs, Barmore’s name keeps coming up as a high pick. He was a backup as a freshman, a starter as a sophomore, then had 8 sacks and 9.5 tackles for a loss in the short 2020 season, and now he’s coming out early. Not only did this 6’5 310 beast get better each year, but he finished strong with 6 sacks in last 6 games. He’s got the fast twitch to jump off the snap and stunt like lightning, but also has powerful legs to drive through stalemates. With the leverage and athleticism to wall off blockers from any angle, Barmore also shows a great swim move and the ability to lunges into holes to make plays. In a year where a lot of players seem to need more development after a shortened season, Barmore is the rare early entrant that looks ready to start immediately.
Analysis: This is a gift. In a class without a lot of can’t miss defensive linemen, at a time when the Packers desperately need another talented defensive lineman, the best defensive lineman in the draft somehow just falls in their lap. Yes, cornerback and offensive tackle are bigger needs. Yes, fans want more wide receivers. But there’s no two ways about this, getting a dominant defensive lineman at the end of the 1st round is something you just can’t pass over.
Levi Unwuzurike – Defensive Line
Profile: With a great first step, the long, athletic Unuwuzurike, plays with leverage and leg drive. He doesn’t have the same jumpy twitch as Barmore, but he has similar power that shows up in good gap control and a strong anchor. Unwuzurike shows a natural feel for finding the ball carrier in the run game. After being hailed as and All American candidate before the season, he opted to sit out. He only practiced one day at the Senior Bowl, but he didn’t look like the time off hurt him at all.
Analysis: I really wanted a cornerback here, but five of them were snatched up between the Packers first and second picks, so I went with the next best thing: make a line so good that the corners won’t have to cover for so long. Kenny Clark, Christian Barmore, and Levi Unwuzurike could make for one of the best 3 man fronts in a a year or two and give Za’Darius Smith and Rashan Gary 1×1 matchups.
Ifeatu Melifonwu – Cornerback
Profile: Melifonwu is a physical corner at 6’3 213, who has a knack for disrupting receivers at the catch point. He has long arms and is a great tackler in the open field as well as run support, plus he’s physical enough to handle tight ends. The thing I love most about his is his coverage skills, through – in 3 years, he never had a PFF coverage grade lower than 74.1.
Analysis: For as thin of a cornerback class as this is, I’m thrilled to get a guy like this in the 3rd round. If I know he would be available, I would probably intentionally skip taking a cornerback in the first two rounds. Getting two stud defensive linemen is more than worth it – this is another example of why you take the best player available instead of reaching for a position of need.
James Hudson – Offensive Tackle
Profile: Hudson was only a one year as starter, but he looked really good that one year and capped it off with a great week of Senior Bowl practices. One year starters can get a bad rap, but in Hudson’s case, it’s because he moved to offensive line from defensive line in 2017, then had to sit out 2019 due to paperwork issues. He’s still learning to position, but he has fast footwork for zone blocking. Not a finished product, he can lose balance when he reaches on the edge, though his long arms help make up for a developing technique. He has a good anchor and powerful hands, but is still refining his placement.
Analysis: Hudson might not be able to walk in and start right away, but he could be the long-term solution at right tackle after Bakhtiari comes back. With so much investment needed on the defense, it’s hard to shore up the offensive line, which may be a patchwork job for a lot of the season. They just need to get 69 back and gel for the playoffs.
Rhamondre Stevenson – Running Back
Profile: Stevenson had a long road to get here. After getting hurt in high school, he took time off from football then played JUCO before getting a chance to play D1 ball. In 2019, he rushed for 8 yards per carry, but then got suspended and only played 6 games last year. Still, he had almost 7 yards per carry. At 6’0 245, he’s a load. A power back with decent speed and light feet, he has a nice jump cut and start stop moves. He doesn’t have a lot of pass catching experience, but he looked adequate when he did it. With good vision, he’s a decisive runner who busts through the line, shaking off contact and stiff arms with authority. He doesn’t hit the corner fast, but he runs between the tackles like a beast.
Analysis: Imagine going up against a AJ Dillon as the feature back and then, when he needs a breather and the change of pace back comes in, it’s… someone actually heavier… That’s what a back like Stevenson could bring to the table. If the Packers want a power running game, a back like this to serve as RB2 could be an interesting way to hammer away at defenses.
Ambry Thomas – Cornerback
Profile: Physical at 6’0 185, Thomas didn’t play in 2020, but showed a lot of good press technique in prior years. He gets around the ball and had 3 picks and 2 fumble recoveries in 2019. Thomas can cover the perimeter or the slot. Sometimes he hesitates in zone and seems suited to locking into one guy.
Analysis: The Packers need more than just a CB2, they need depth. Thomas brings the ability to play perimeter or slot and he’s not lost in zone coverage. That kind of versatility means he’d be a great depth addition who could step in for multiple roles and, if he continues to develop, has the chance to become a starter longer term.
Jamen Davis – Inside Linebacker
Profile: With a great frame at 6’4 225, Davis is both big and athletic. He only started for one year but had over 100 tackles in 10 games to go with 3 interceptions, 1 that he returned for a touchdown. He has speed and range to go with his coverage ability, too. He’s not imposingly strong, but he crashes into traffic with no hesitation. Solid in run defense, he uses long arms to sort through blockers and find the runner.
Analysis: Davis is the kind of coverage linebacker that Packers currently lack. Martin and Barnes are great run stuffers, but neither has this kind of speed or coverage ability. A pick like this would allow new DC Joe Barry to deploy Darnell Savage and Adrian Amos all over the place without having to worry about bringing one in the box. The fact that Melifonwu can cover tight ends could Davis spy duty on receiving backs, making their coverage options extremely flexible.
Frank Darby – Wide Receiver
Profile: Darby run solid routes, but a lack of agility makes it a little harder for him to get separation. He has good ball skills, though and gets downfield on competitive fire instead of raw speed. He had a really good senior bowl and brought lots of energy. Also great on contested catches.
Analysis: I’ve always believed that wide receiver is one of the easier positions to fill without using a 1st round pick. This year’s crop is as deep – if not deeper- than last year’s historical class. Darby isn’t stud pick, but there’s no reason he can’t be a successful starter with the tools and skills he has.
Dez Fitzpatrick – Wide Receiver
Profile: Fitzpatrick is a bigger receiver at 6’2 210. He accelerates quickly and makes hard cuts on his routes. He uses his body well and has strong hands through contact. Even though he doesn’t do much after the catch, he was still productive, averaging 19 yards per catch in 2020.
Analysis: Next year, the Packers have all their receivers coming up on contract. They have a productive group now, but likely won’t be able to keep them all. Drafting guys like Darby and Fitzpatrick gives them a year to prepare them for a larger workload in 2022.
This didn’t go as planned, but getting a couple stud defensive linemen – particularly Barmore – plus a solid option at starting corner, is a heck of a draft. There’s not a lot of immediate help for the offensive line (they’ll have to lean on their year 2 guys this season), but they pick up some quality depth at the skill positions.
Pretty much every mock I run, I get trade offers to move up to #23 (Jets) or #24 (Steelers) for the Packers 1st and 2nd round picks. This is about where the trade value chart values them and since Gutey loves to trade up in the 1st, I wonder if this could really happen.
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