7 Hidden Gems the Green Bay Packers Should Have Noticed at the Combine
The NFL Scouting Combine is a great environment in which to evaluate potential NFL prospects from many different aspects. General managers, personnel people, scouts and coaches are there to get an opportunity to see the players in various drills, check their 40-yard dash time and also their strength via the bench press.
But maybe the most important aspect of all is the interview process. That's when a potential prospect gets to talk to the various teams and talk about his football acumen.
In this process, teams like the Green Bay Packers can find hidden gems. In other words, they can find players who look to be selected on the third day of the NFL draft or in the fourth through seventh rounds and also make a solid impact on the team.
Ted Thompson has been able to find some of these types of players since he became general manager of the Packers in 2005.
Some of these players include defensive lineman Johnny Jolly (sixth round in 2006), linebacker Desmond Bishop (sixth round in 2007), kicker Mason Crosby (sixth round in 2007), guard Josh Sitton (fourth round in 2008), quarterback Matt Flynn (seventh round in 2008), linebacker Brad Jones (seventh round in 2009), running back James Starks (sixth round in 2010), defensive lineman C.J. Wilson (seventh round in 2010), tight end Ryan Taylor (seventh round in 2011), defensive back Micah Hyde (fifth round in 2013), defensive lineman Josh Boyd (fifth round in 2013) and linebacker Sam Barrington (seventh round in 2013).
In this slideshow, I'm going to name seven hidden gems that Thompson and the Packers should be aware of at the combine. You will note that I have not listed any defensive backs, which is a primary need of the Packers (especially at safety), because the defensive backs won't work out until Tuesday at the combine.
Jeff Janis, Wide Receiver (Saginaw Valley State)
Weight: 219 pounds
CBSSports.com has wide receiver Jeff Janis of Saginaw Valley State ranked as a fifth- or sixth-round prospect. To me, Janis has great measurables, as he has great size, very good speed and nice athletic ability.
He exhibited those attributes at the combine.
He reminds me a bit of Jordy Nelson. Janis dominated at his level of play in college. In his senior year, Janis had 83 receptions for 1,572 yards and 14 touchdowns.
With Bob McGinn of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reporting that the Packers may let veteran wide receiver James Jones leave via free agency, and with both Nelson and Randall Cobb slated to be free agents next year, the Packers will probably select a wide receiver in this draft.
Janis would certainly be a third-day option at wide receiver.
Colt Lyerla, Tight End (Oregon)
Weight: 242 pounds
CBSSports.com has tight end Colt Lyerla of Oregon rated as a seventh-round or free-agent prospect. That designation is only due to his off-the-field issues.
On the field, Lyerla has showed he is a top-notch tight end. He also showed his athletic ability at the combine.
With the Packers having the possibility of losing both Jermichael Finley and Andrew Quarless to free agency, odds are that the Packers will draft a tight end at some point in the draft.
It could be on the second day of the draft in the second or third round, but if the Packers wait until Day 3, Lyerla would be a feasible option.
Head coach Mike McCarthy was himself a tight end in college, and he and his coaching staff may be able to get Lyerla to focus on football and advance his maturation process.
Shamar Stephen, Defensive Lineman (Connecticut)
Weight: 309 pounds
CBSSports.com has defensive lineman Shamar Stephen of Connecticut ranked as a sixth-round prospect.
Stephen has the prototypical size at defensive end that a team running the 3-4 scheme used by Dom Capers would like.
Stephen was a team captain at Connecticut, and he had 60 tackles with 10 tackles for a loss and three sacks last year. He also showed a physical presence at the Senior Bowl.
He also showed some nice athleticism at the combine.
With the Packers possibly losing defensive linemen like B.J. Raji, Ryan Pickett, C.J. Wilson and Johnny Jolly to free agency, the Packers will need to add to the defensive line depth in the draft.
Stephen would be an interesting third-day possibility.
Prince Shembo, Linebacker (Notre Dame)
Weight: 253 pounds
CBSSports.com has linebacker Prince Shembo rated as a fourth- or fifth-round prospect.
Shembo was solid the last two seasons for the Fighting Irish, as he had 99 tackles and 13 sacks.
Shembo showed off his athletic prowess at the combine, as he performed well in all the drills.
The former Notre Dame star has the ability to play either inside or outside linebacker in the 3-4. He is very good against the run and has showed flashes as a pass-rusher.
Shembo would be a nice option on Day 3 to add quality depth to the linebacker position.
Wesley Johnson, Offensive Lineman (Vanderbilt)
Weight: 297 pounds
CBSSports.com has offensive lineman Wesley Johnson of Vanderbilt rated as a seventh-round prospect.
Johnson has the versatility that the Packers love to see out of their offensive linemen. The former Vandy star played left tackle, left guard and center in college.
Johnson had the most starts ever in Commodores history and was a first-team All-SEC selection in 2013.
The versatile offensive lineman showed how athletic he can be at the combine.
The Packers have questions on their offensive line, as starting center Evan Dietrich-Smith could be lost to free agency, plus the team has depth questions at the tackle position.
Johnson would be an excellent addition to the offensive line depth chart on the third day of the draft.
Howard Jones, Linebacker (Shepherd)
Weight: 235 pounds
CBSSports.com has defensive end/outside linebacker Howard Jones rated as a sixth-round prospect.
Jones played defensive end at Shepherd University (Division II), but he looks to be an outside linebacker in the NFL. Jones set a school record at Shepherd with 35 sacks.
Jones had a phenomenal day at the combine on Monday, as he did very well in the drills and showed very good speed.
Because of his pass-rushing skills, in addition to his speed and quickness, Jones would be an excellent prospect to draft on Day 3 for the Packers.
Kevin Pierre-Louis, Linebacker (Boston College)
Weight: 232 pounds
CBSSports.com has linebacker Kevin Pierre-Louis rated as a sixth- or seventh-round prospect.
Pierre-Louis played outside linebacker at Boston College, but he looks like he might be a better fit as a safety in the NFL because of his size, strength and speed.
The former Eagle was an All-ACC selection in 2013, and he displayed all the attributes that would qualify him as an excellent prospect at safety at the combine.
The biggest need for the Packers right now is in upgrading the safety position, and although the team will most likely select one on Day 1 or 2 of the draft, Pierre-Louis would be a nice addition to the team and would add quality depth.