Midseason Report Card for the Green Bay Packer Draft Class of '14
Midway through the 2014 season, here's the mid-season report card for the 2014 draft class of the Green Bay Packers.
Round 1 Ha Ha Clinton Dix S Alabama: He's been a part of a three man rotation at safety and has brought some physicality to a defense that badly needed it. He's a sound, sure and hard tackler who fires up the field in run support, you'd like to see more than the one turnover caused, but for a safety unit that caused zero turnovers a season ago Clinton-Dix's production still represents an improvement. The best is still yet to come for this physical safety...While wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin, who was taken six picks later by the Panthers, could end up being something special with his incredible combination of size and speed, it's hard to argue with this pick through the first eight games of the season....Probably the best first round pick the Packers have made in the past four years. Grade A-
Round 2 Davante Adams WR Fresno State: He has progressed slowly but surely, but really seems to have gained the confidence of Aaron Rodgers as of late and seems to be entrenched as the number three target in the passing game on an offense which is getting little to nothing from the tight end position. Adams was highly productive in a gimmicky offense at Fresno State which was designed to make the wide outs productive, so their was some question as to whether he was just a product of the system, that doesn't appear to be the case as Adams' ability appears to be very real. Many of his catches came on bubble screens and plays of that sort in college so he's still a work in progress as a pro route runner, but he seems to be improving in this department every week. Adams has been faster than expected with the ball in his hands, and has shown a knack for breaking tackles and making things happen after the catch... Looks like he has a bright future, but his game is still lacking polish...Can't argue too much with this pick through the first half of the season, though when the pick was made I felt Allen Robinson of Penn State would have been the better choice coming from more of a pro style offense. Robinson and Adams share the same strengths in their respective games, they are both sure handed and they both have the ability to break tackles after the catch, but Robinson is bigger and stronger at 6'3 220, is a much more polished route runner, and may be among the best run blockers at the position in his draft class. After one half of the season my opinion hasn't changed, Adams is getting better and certainly doesn't appear to be in danger of becoming a bust, but Robinson has been the more producttive of the two. Granted he's had more opportunities playing in Jacksonville, but Robinson looks like he has a more well rounded game and appears better prepared to play a key role in an NFL offense as he's quickly become the go-to receiver in Jacksonville despite not entering the starting lineup until midway though the first half of the season due to health issues.... Adams was a solid pick, but Robinson would have been a better one. Grade B
Round 3 Khyri Thornton DL Southern Mississippi: Many saw him as a reach in the third round and he did nothing to dispell that opinion in training camp before getting injured in the final preseason game. The injury he suffered wasn't likely the type that would keep a player out for the season, but Thornton did nothing in camp to warrant a roster spot so the Packers elected to stash him on season ending injured reserve. The organization will give him every opportunity to win a job in 2015, but based on the physical ability he displayed this preseason, Thornton appears to be a third round bust and a long shot to make the roster in 2014....By all accounts he's a good kid with a good attitude, he simply lacks anything special physically, he struggles to disengage as well as hold the point of attack, major liabilites for a 3-4 defensive end. Obviously this was a poor draft pick, when the pick was made I didn't disagree with the selection of a defensive lineman, especially when inside linebackers Chris Borland and Preston Brown were taken earlier in the third round, but I had yet another Penn State alum, Da'Quan Jones rated much higher than Thornton and thought he would have represented great value with this pick. Jones ultimately slipped futher than I expected until he was taken early in the fourth round by Tennessee, and admittedly he hasn't done much through the first half of his rookie season, in fact he's been inactive for all but two games in 2014, but the former Nittany Lion flashed moments of dominance on film at Penn State and was much more productive as a collegian than was Thornton. Based on what we've seen thus far it's tough to say either pick would have been a great one, but I'm not ready to throw in the towel on Jones, he has great size for the position at 6'4 322 and brings the same versatility to play anywhere along the 3 man front that apparently drew the Packers affections to Thornton. I think Jones could be an effective run stuffing five technique if given time to develop, but I don't see the same physical tools in Thornton and would be surprised to see him ever take the field in a regular season game for the Green and Gold. Grade F
Round 3 Richard Rodgers TE California: Another third round pick that was viewed as a reach by most draft pundits, however Rodgers was one of the pleasent surprises of training camp, displaying sound sure hands, surprising speed for his size and more advanced blocking skills than expected. Those tools have yet to translate into regular season production, Rdgers began the season as the starter but has since been supplanted by veteran Andrew Quarless. Rodgers still has intriguing talent and could be a factor in the second half... I had Colorado State's Crockett Gillmore rated higher at the tight end position going into the draft, Gillmore isn't quite the athlete that Rodgers is, but at 6'6 260 he's an inviting target over the middle with better than average hands and an outstanding catch radius. Based on what I've seen thus far, I can't argue much with the selection of Rodgers, but I also haven't seen enough to change my mind. I think Gillmore would have been the better choice based on the potential that comes with his 6'6 260 pound frame, but Rodgers appears to be a better prospect at the tight end position than I anticipated. Grade B-
Round 4 Carl Bradford OLB/ILB Arizona State: One of the worst picks of the Ted Thompson era, Bradford did nothing to earn the roster spot he currently holds...Bradford's 6'1 252 pound frame and lack of secondary pass rush moves made him completely inept as an edge rusher, the coaching staff moved him inside before the final game in the hopes that the high motor and hitting ability could make him a worthwhile project at a position of weakness on the defense, but clearly there were better inside linebacker prospects that could have been taken here. I was surprised to see the Packers go with an outside linebacker when they made this choice, they appeared to have enough young talent to develop at that position within the organization while the inside linebacker position seemed like a much greater need. When this pick was made I assumed the Packers were planning on moving Bradford to the inside from the get-go, just like I assumed they would move Micah Hyde to safety a year ago, that was not the plan however. I was clamoring for the Packers to make Kentucky's Avery Williamson their choice with this pick. The leader of the Kentucky defense in 2013, Williamson displayed outstanding tackling ability, great instincts and an excellent motor. Williamson rarely took any false steps on film and never seemed to miss a tackle when he arrived at the football. Williamson was taken 30 picks later in the fifth round by the Titans and is considered one of the early jewels of their 2014 draft class. Williamson has been a starter since week five and has arguably been the best player on their defensive unit.... Against the Texans in week eight he recorded ten tackles and his first career sack.... Based on early returns, Williamson appears to be a contender for defensive rookie of the year honors and would certainly look very good right now at inside linebacker for the green and gold, where the performance of the current inside 'backers has been nothing short of attrocious. It appears like the Packers missed out on a big time steal and long term solution at a position which has been a weak spot for quite awhile in Titletown....No doubt this was a black eye on the Packers 2014 draft. Grade F
Round 5- Corey Linsley C Ohio State: One of the bright spots of the 2014 Packer draft class, Linsley was forced into starting duties when JC Trettor was injured in the third preseason game and has performed better than expected in the middle of the Packers offensive line. Linsley has done a better job than you'd expect from a rookie making the line calls and he's been much better in pass protection than most anticipated. Linsley's biggest strength is just that, his strength, he's arguably one of the strongest players on the team and he's utilized that power to create movement in the ground game as well as anchor down and keep the pocket from collapsing in the passing game. It'll be interesting to see how soon the coaches re-insert Trettor back into the lineup upon his return, if at all, Linsley has done his job, he's given the coaching staff a difficult decision whether to stick with the rookie Linsley or go with the man they viewed as the long term solution at center in Tretter. It's not as if Tretter was entrenched as a starter in Green Bay prior to his injury, in fact he still has yet to see his first regular season action after missing all of last season with an ankle injury. He clearly outperformed the rookie Linsley in training camp, but theres also the school of thought that if it ain't broke don't fix it, and Linsley has progressed with every game in the first half of 2014. Either way, Linsley was a solid pick in the fifth round by Ted Thompson and a difficult one to argue with. I liked Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray as well as Montana linebacker Jordan Tripp and the player the Packers would pick next, Wisconsin wide receiver Jared Abbrederis at this point in the draft as well, but this turned out to be an outstanding pick, especially after the injury to Tretter created the need for a capable center to fill the void. Grade A-
Round 5 Jared Abbrederis WR Wisconsin: One of the most polished receivers in the class of 2014, as well as a very sure handed, dependable, and more explosive than advertised return specialist, I considered Abbrederis to be a big time steal with the 176th overall pick late in the fifth round. Unfortunately, Abbrederis tore his ACL in the first practice of training camp and was lost for the season before the season really began. He should be given every opportunity to win a job in 2015 as I believe the Packer organization viewed Abbrederis as just as much ofa steal as I did. He's been an overacheiver his entire career, entering the University of Wisconsin as a walk on only to become the number one wide receiver by the end of his freshman year. Abbrederis displayed the polished route running, sure hands, and knack for finding space in coverage during OTA's that made him a star with the Badgers....No question about it, this former Badger still has plenty of time to make this an outstanding pick by the Packers late in the fifth round. Grade Incomplete
Round 6 Demetri Goodson CB Baylor: A tremendous athlete who first made a name for himself as the starting point guard at Gonzaga University, Goodson later transferred to Baylor to give football a try. Goodson has tons of raw ablity, but the key word is still "raw". Goodson has good natural feet, better than average speed and great leaping ability, but he had a knack in the preeason for shooting himself in the foot, esspecially when it came to unnecessary illegal contact down the field when he had already established for himself good position...Goodson was clearly outplayed by second year corner Jumal Rolle in th preseason, but the packers though enough of his natural tools to keep him as the sixth corner instead of trying to bring him back on the practice squad by putting him on waivers and thus exposing him to the rest of the league. The Packers thought enough of his potential not to want to take that risk, but there's no question Goodson would be a major liability in coverage if he were forced into action on defense at this point in his career. I can't say that Goodson would have been my choice here, I was a big fan of what Isaw on film from another cornerback Victor Hampton out of South Carolina, however Hampton went undrafted and for awhile wasn't eevn signed as an undrafted rookie due to off the field concerns and character issues. That's the problem with scouting from afar, you don't have the opportunity to meet these young men so it's tough to judge character and attitude. Based strictly on what i saw on film, Hampton may not be quite the athlete that Goodson is, but he appeared to me to be one of the most polished and technically sound corners in the draft, especially when it came to his footwork and transitions in coverage. Hampton ultimately signed with the Bengals but was let go on final cutdown day, he's currently on the New York Giants practice squad. Tough to say who would have been the better choice, I'd feel much better about having Hampton on the field if I needed someone to play cornerback for me tomorrow, but you could certainly argue that Goodson has more long term upside. Time will tell on this pick. Grade D+
Round 7 Jeff Janis WR Saginaw Valley St: One of the stars of the preseason, Jeff Janis went out and took the fifth spot on the Packers receiving corps with an outstanding training camp highlighted by an eye popping performance in the third preseason game in St Louis. Janis flashed tremendous speed and burst after the catch, especially for an athlete standing 6'3 and 220 pounds. Janis hasn't seen much playing time in the regular season, but that's due to the excellent veteran talent in front of him. There's plenty to be excited about here, Janis is a sensational athlete with impressive size, he has a wide catch radius thanks to his outstanding leaping ability, and he has a knack for making things happen with the ball in his hands. His opportunities have been few and far between thus far in the regular season, but don't be surprised if the Packers find a way to get him on the field late in the year if he can continue to progress in practices. Janis also flashed potential as a kickoff and punt returner in the preseason, it wouldn't be a shock to see him get a chance in that role sometime late in the year if he can gain enough trust from the coaching staff, I can't imagine Mike McCarthy isn't holding his breath every time he sends star receiver Randall Cobb back to return punts given his value to the team on offense. Of course there were plenty of players I still liked on the board more than Janis at this point, and though I can't argue much with the pick, one player that stands out to me is former Boston College defensive end Kasim Edebali. Edebali, at 6'2 253 pounds is the classic undersized collegiate defensive end who's tailor made to be a 3-4 outside linebacker at the next level. On film, Edebali, who was born in Germany, displayed an outstanding motor , excellent body control around the edge, and the ability to use his hands to disengage and get after the passer. I instantly loved his potential to play standing up at the next level after watching his game film, he ended up going undrafted and signed with the Saints as a free agent, ultimately making the final roster and has impressed in limited playing time, including two sacks toward the end of the Saints week eight victory over the Pack. Grade B+
Overall this draft started out well as the Packers couldn't have done a whole lot better than Clinton-Dix and Adams in rounds one and two, but rounds three and four were an uncharacteristic disaster as the team had the potential to make a difference with three picks in those two rounds, but made terrible choices with Thornton and Bradford, though Rodgers could still salvage something out of those two rounds if he continues to develop as a complete NFL tight end. Moving Bradford to the inside is a desperation move, and the only reason he wound up as a backup inside is because of the overall mediocrity at the position in Green Bay. They could have done something to remedy that position by selecting Avery Williamson in round four instead of Bradford, but unfortunately the organization didn't recognize the pro potential of the former Kentucky captain. They did a great job of scooping up the center Linsley with one of their two fifth round selections as Linsley has done an excellent job as a rookie starter and ultimately gives the organization impressive depth in the interior of their offensive line. Goodson isn't ready to play in the secondary, but Janis is ready to contribute at wide receiver if called upon, and the only reason he hasn't is because of the veteran talent in front of him. Don't be surprised to see Janis push Jarrett Boykin for the fourth receiver slot as the season wears on, he's just as big as the third year veteran, who has surprisingly struggled to hold on to the football in the first half of the season, and he brings much more speed and game breaking ability to the table.
Overall Grade: B-