5 Great Defensive Options for the Green Bay Packers in Round 1
Dom Capers remains as the defensive coordinator, but the track record of his defenses over the past three seasons have not been very stellar.
When Capers became the defensive coordinator in 2009, the Packers finished second in the NFL in total defense. In 2010, the year the Packers won Super Bowl XLV, the defense was ranked 5th in total defense.
Since then, however, the team has dropped to 32nd, 11th and 25th in that category over the past three seasons.
There have been a number of reasons for the drop off, and injuries have been part of the problem, but the defense has to play better in 2014 for the Packers to have any Super Bowl aspirations.
McCarthy talked about how the defense will change in 2014 when he talked to reporters in early February, via Packers.com:
Our defense is going to change some. You don't ever stay the same. There will be some adjustments. I don't know if you'll notice them. (They'll be) based on personnel, too. That obviously plays into it. We're going through scheme evaluation.
We weren't as multiple as we were in prior years, really because of the stress of the injuries on that unit. We want to get back to doing some of the things we did well in the past, make sure we're carrying enough packages to utilize all of our players.
We also need to get better on defense. I think these moves on defense will definitely put us on that path.
The Packers re-signed some key players who were all unrestricted free agents this offseason to help to bolster the defense. Players like cornerback Sam Shields, defensive lineman/outside linebacker Mike Neal and nose tackle B.J. Raji.
Plus the Packers added a couple of new players through free agency when they signed defensive end Julius Peppers and defensive tackle Letroy Guion.
The Packers can also help their defense a great deal in the first round of the 2014 NFL draft. There is a reasonable chance that the Packers will be able to select an excellent defensive player with the 21st pick of Round 1.
I've listed five of those players in this slideshow.
Linebacker C.J. Mosley (Alabama)
Weight: 234 pounds
In my most recent mock draft, I had the Packers taking C.J. Mosley in the first round. Why? It's very simple. He's the most complete linebacker in the draft.
He's a three-down inside linebacker, who is very good against both the run and the pass, as his career stats prove.
Mosley had 319 tackles, 23 tackles for a loss, 6.5 sacks, five interceptions (three for touchdowns), 24 passes defended, one fumble recovery and two forced fumbles.
I talked to scout Chris Landry about Mosley recently, and he gave a very solid endorsement of the former Crimson Tide linebacker:
"C.J. Mosley is even more versatile. To me, he's kind of the new-age of linebackers, in that he can stay on the field for three downs. He's outstanding in coverage. He's got great pursuit speed. He's got really good instincts. He's a good tackler.
I mean, he can play the run and he can play the pass with equal effectiveness. Not any issues there. Doesn't play over a tight end as well. More of a weak-side guy. But he is someone who when you go up against spread offenses and some uptempo stuff, he's a guy who you don't have to worry about substituting for because he can run like a deer."
NFL Media draft analyst Mike Mayock rated Mosley as the best inside linebacker currently on his board.
Safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix (Alabama)
Weight: 208 pounds
No. 6 had 88 tackles, seven interceptions and 13 passes defended.
Landry rated him as the best safety in this draft class:
"Clinton-Dix is the best of the bunch (safeties). He's got really good size. I think he's got good range. I think he's physical and I think he's got the ability to make plays on the ball."
Mayock also has Clinton-Dix rated as the best safety on his board..
Safety Calvin Pryor (Louisville)
Weight: 207 pounds
In my second mock draft, I had the Packers taking safety Calvin Prior from Louisville in the first round.
Pryor is a very physical safety who hits hard and also makes plays on the ball. In his career at Louisville, No. 25 had 218 tackles, 11 tackles for a loss, two sacks, seven interceptions, 18 passes defended, one fumble recovery and nine forced fumbles.
Landry talked about the differences between Pryor and Clinton-Dix at safety:
"I think the difference between Clinton-Dix and Calvin Pryor, I think both are outstanding. Both will be really good players. I think Clinton-Dix is a little more rangy in coverage and Pryor is a little more physical coming down the hill in defending the run. The both can play free (safety), but I think Clinton-Dix has a little bit more range.
It's really what you are looking for. Pryor does a good job of playing deep, but coming down hill a little bit better than Clinton-Dix defending the run. Both can latch-on to cover or slide-cover the tight end. They can stay on the field in the nickel. Both are very good. I expect them to go high (in the 2014 NFL draft), but I think Clinton-Dix's range is a little bit better."
Mayock has Pryor rated as the second-best safety on his board, only behind Clinton-Dix.
Defensive Lineman Ra'Shede Hageman (Minnesota)
Weight: 310 pounds
Hageman is a powerful force on the defensive line, who also has great size. In his career at Minnesota, Hageman had 91 tackles, 24 tackles for a loss, 10 sacks, one interception, eight passes deflected and two forced fumbles.
No. 99 had a very solid performance at the NFL Scouting Combine, as he ran a 5.01 40-yard dash, which is very good for a man his size, plus he showed his strength by having 32 reps in the bench press.
Hageman also has prototypical size for a defensive end in the 3-4 defensive scheme, which the Packers utilize.
Mayock has Hageman rated as the fourth-best defensive tackle on his board currently.
Linebacker Ryan Shazier (Ohio State)
Weight: 237 pounds
Linebacker Ryan Shazier from Ohio State has shot up the draft boards recently due to his performances at the combine and at his pro day.
His career as a Buckeye was pretty good as well, as he had 317 tackles, 45.5 tackles for a loss, 15 sacks, one interception for a touchdown, 16 passes defended and nine forced fumbles.
Landry also believes Shazier is definitely a first-round talent:
"Shazier is a guy who is going to go in the first round, I agree with you. I think he's an athletic guy who can play over a tight end. He can find his landmarks in coverage. I think he's got some good rush ability. I think he represents a really good value, anywhere from the mid-to-late first round. I think he's a guy who can play Sam-backer. He can play inside and I think he can play a couple of positions."
Mayock has Shazier rated as the third-best outside linebacker on his board.