The draft is full of athletes.
It’s usually easy to tell which blue chip prospects will be able to step in and dominate immediately, but it’s a little harder to tell which guys may take a year or two to grow into starting.
Packers fans saw first hand this year how much of an impact Rashan Gary had after a year to develop and learn. Given how many games were lost due to Covid, and how many players completely opted out, projecting who can develop gets even harder.
In our 9th mock draft of the year, we found a lot of guys that may not be able to immediately step into huge roles, but there’s plenty of prospects that could develop into long-term starters after a year or two.
Here are the results:
Gregory Rousseau – Edge
Profile: One of the most intriguing players in the 1st round, Rousseau is a physical freak who played safety and receiver in high school then became a defensive lineman in college. While learning the position, he broke ankle as a freshman but proceeded to dominated as a sophomore, racking up 15.5 sacks and 19.5 tackles for loss. Then he opted out of 2020. He’s far from a finished product, but has all the physical tools. At 6’6 265, he doesn’t have a twitchy first step, but he’s so long that he strides through the line. Smooth and flexible, he drops into zone coverage with ease. While he;s still learning the position, and needs to work on hand fighting both in initial punch and in stripping blockers, he plays with hustle and energy every down. He’s a raw talent for sure, but he has more gifts than most athletes ever get.
Analysis: The Packers don’t have a huge need at edge rusher, where Za’Darius Smith has been one of the most disruptive players in the league, while Rashan Gary has show considerable growth. Heck, even Preston Smith is still officially on the roster. Even with that, Rousseau is too talented to pass up this late in the round. Za’Darius and Gary both have the versatility to play on the line, which would give a guy like Rousseau a spot to play on the edge. It’s hard to tell what the new defense will look like, but finding a way to use a guy like Rousseau shouldn’t be hard.
Jackson Carman – Offensive Tackle/Guard
Profile: Carman solidified himself as a top pick in the playoffs against Ohio State, where he had 49 pass blocks and only allowed 1 pressure against a fierce front that knew they were passing pretty much every down. Powerful with strong hands, he has solid footwork, but could use some improvement. He can get beat to the edge by speed rushers, leading some to believe he projects as a guard. At 6’5 340, he has power and anchor in the run game and when his pass set get to the corner, no one gets by.
Analysis: Carman may be a stretch at left tackle but could fit at right tackle. Even if he can’t improve his footwork and kick step enough to stay at tackle, he can be a very good guard. Luckily, the Packers have a very good guard in Elgton Jenkins who has proved more than able to kick out to tackle. This kind of flexibility gives the Packers leeway in drafting offensive linemen. A pick like Carman could work out in a number of ways, but they won’t have to feel like he’s a bust if he doesn’t work out at his preferred position.
Aaron Robinson – Cornerback
Profile: Aaron Robinson started his college career at Alabama but transferred to get more playing time at UCF. At 6’1 190, he has the frame to play outside and was successful there but also looked great logging snaps at the big slot position which is becoming so popular. A physical press corner good at diagnosing route, he lacks elite speed. He plays ball well despite only 1 interception in 4 years, and was glued to guys all through Senior Bowl practices. If he was faster he’d be a 1st round pick.
Analysis: Robinson is perfect for the slot, which the Packers need, but also has the ability to play the perimeter, which the Packers also need. Really, they just need corners and Robinson has a lot of great traits that would allow the Packers to use him in a variety of ways. Waiting until the 3rd round to get a corner isn’t ideal, but it’s better than reaching, and the Packers could still come away with a viable starter.
Baron Browning – Inside Linebacker
Profile: A big thumper at 6’3 250, Browning has the wingspan to reach and wrap up. He shoots gaps and owns run blitzes. While he doesn’t quite have sideline to sideline speed, he has lots of range. Smooth and athletic, then powerful at contact. He’s quick, solid in coverage, and had a great Senior Bowl showing. Outside of Covid, he didn’t really have any major injury issues,
Analysis: The Packers have a couple inside linebackers with a lot of potential in Krys Barnes and Kamal Martin, but they both took a lot of turns getting hurt. Browning has had a pretty clean injury history, making him appealing to the Packers even if he is a similar type of player to the guys they already have.
Seth Williams – Wide Receiver
Profile: A big receiver at 6’2 225, Williams plays physical, pushing off press corners or marching into zones to create space. He has a very clean catch and secure motion to go with great ball skills. His routes need to be more crisp, as he is not very agile – he wins with body more than feet. He’s also a good red zone target.
Analysis: Another physical receiver for the Packers to get depth and options beyond 2021, when all their receivers are free agents. Williams can start to carve out a role this year, develop and learn the offense, then take on a bigger role in 2022.
Jermar Jefferson – Running Back
Profile: Jefferson is a productive back who had an impressive 6.5 yards per carry last year. A 5’10 215 back with compact power, he had 27 rushing touchdowns in 27 career games. He shows good vision in finding holes and good balance through contact. Great feet and jump cuts, he’s explosive, wiggly, and plays faster than he times.
Analysis: The Packers are rolling with AJ Dillon as RB1, but after that, there’s nothing but question marks. Jefferson could step in as an immediate RB2 that would be a different kind of runner. A compact, shifty back, he would still have the power to run whatever physical plans Matt LaFleur has, just at a different speed.
David Moore – Guard
Profile: Big and powerful, at 6’2 350 Moore has great drive, though he can lose balance by being over aggressive. He has a solid anchor and is quick on feet for size, showing the ability to adjust his drive to clear holes. Played zone well and also took snaps at center.
Analysis: The Packers need interior depth and the fact that Moore can potentially play center just makes him more appealing. He has played zone blocking schemes very well, but his ability to punish as a drive blocker could be a good fit for a ground game tailored to AJ Dillon.
Tommy Doyle – Offensive Tackle
Profile: Doyle entered college as a defensive lineman then moved to the offensive side, so he’s still adjusting to the game. He is quick into blocks, but stays patient, and has learned good hand usage. At 6’8 325, he holds the edge with length, but still needs to add bulk and get quicker feet.
Analysis: Doyle isn’t ready to step into a starting job, but with his size and tools, could easily win one in year two. The Packers may have cap constraints again in 2022 and if he could take over at right tackle, he could make Billy Turner expendable.
Rico Bussey, Jr – Wide Receiver
Profile: Bussey had 1000 yards and 12 touchdown in 2018 and looked like he was on his was to stardom. Then he tore his ACL in 2019, then came back to a shortened 2020. Even with limited playing time, he’s proven to be an explosive big play guy. He’s 6’3 210 and quick enough to create space off the line. He’ll have some drops, but he can get deep and run after the catch, making him an enticing prospect.
Analysis: Another guy who’s tough to evaluate because he didn’t play much in the years he would have been ascending. There’s no denying he has a big frame, which is perfect for the Packers scheme, and he has big play potential. Another possible future starter for a team with all its wide receivers just one year away from free agency.
The Packers may only get one first year starter out of a class like this, someone on the offensive line (and we don’t even know who) and maybe a cornerback, but just out of necessity. Fans may look at it as a “another wasted draft,” but Rousseau could be a stud in his 2nd year and guys like Doyle and Williams could be long-term starters after the adapt to the NFL.
This is the nature of the 2021 draft: most of the prospects are stunted in their development and won’t be able to start immediately.
Another way to look at a class like this would be to say that the Packers are always looking to be competitive in the long-term instead of going “all-in” by reaching with short-sighted moves. That could make the Jordan Love era more successful, but leave fans longing for more at the end of the Aaron Rodgers era.
But… what choice do we have?
Four cornerbacks were gone before the Packers first pick, with the Bears nabbing Asante Samuel, Jr.
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