Green Bay Packers 2014 Draft: The Good, the Bad and the Baffling
General manager Ted Thompson will hope his 2014 draft class is enough to help close the gap separating the Packers and the NFC heavyweights out on the West Coast.
Thompson went with value and positional need in the first round and then took four pass-catchers and a center with five of his final eight selections.
In the following slides, we'll analyze the good, the bad and the baffling from the Packers' 2014 draft.
List of All 2014 Draft Selections
List of the Packers' 2014 picks:
- 1.21: S Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, Alabama
- 2.53: WR Davante Adams, Fresno State
- 3.85: DL Khyri Thornton, Southern Miss
- 3.98: TE Richard Rodgers, Cal
- 4.121: LB Carl Bradford, Arizona State
- 5.161: C Corey Linsley, Ohio State
- 5.176: WR Jared Abbrederis, Wisconsin
- 6.197: CB Demetri Goodson, Baylor
- 7.236: WR Jeff Janis, Saginaw Valley State
The best of the Packers 2014 draft...
1.21: S Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, Alabama
The Packers didn't get a chance at either of the coveted inside linebackers, but great value still met great need when Clinton-Dix—arguably the best free safety in the draft—was still available at No. 21. While not an elite athlete, Clinton-Dix is the most complete and overall talented safety the Packers have acquired since losing Nick Collins in 2011. He might not be Collins athletically, but his skill set figures to be a drastic improvement over what the Packers had alongside Morgan Burnett last season. An immediate starter for a defense now well-stocked with first- and second-round picks.
2.53: WR Davante Adams, Fresno State
Is anyone seriously going to question Ted Thompson's evaluation of receivers, especially those found in the second round? Adams could be the next great one, following in the footsteps of Greg Jennings, Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb. The Fresno State product caught a nation-high 131 passes in 2013. He stands 6'1" and possesses a vertical leap of almost 40 inches, giving him a huge catching radius for Aaron Rodgers. He'll slot in and replace James Jones, a player Adams resembles in body type and playing style. The rich get richer here.
3.85: DL Khyri Thornton, Southern Miss
My initial reaction to this pick was that it could be a slight reach, but the more you dig on Thornton, the more you like him. At 6'3" and 303 pounds, he has just OK size for a down lineman in the 3-4. It's his non-stop motor and first-step quickness to shoot gaps that are his impressive traits. The Packers won't count on him for sacks—he had just 5.5 career sacks in college despite being a three-year starter—but he'll be an effort player against the run and a potential future starter at base end in the three-man front. Early on, he'll be a rotational player at the 5-technique. Expect him to be the eventual replacement for C.J. Wilson, but with much higher upside.
4.121: LB Carl Bradford, Arizona State
A college defensive end, Bradford likely doesn't have the length or first-step quickness to project as an edge-rusher in the NFL. The Packers will start him outside, but his best pro position might come at inside linebacker. Bradford showed an ability to take on and shed blocks and flow to the football against the run. While not an elite athlete by any means, Bradford can play in space and function in coverage. All his traits work for what Green Bay expects out of an inside linebacker in the three-man front. But who knows, a team playing the 3-4 can never have enough pass-rushers. An added bonus is the value Bradford will bring on special teams, where he could become an instant impact player.
5.161: C Corey Linsley, Ohio State
One of the Packers' bigger needs on offense entering this draft was at center, where 2013 starter Evan Dietrich-Smith left in free agency. Green Bay waited until the fifth round to address to it, but Linsley has Scott Wells-like strength and toughness. According to his combine profile at NFL.com, Linsley can bench-press 500 pounds at 6'3" and 296 pounds. Wells, a former Packers center, stands 6'2" and weighs just a pinch over 300. At the very least, Linsley will come in as a rookie and compete with 2012 fourth-round pick JC Tretter. He'll also add depth at guard, where he played some at Ohio State. While late, this was a good value pick at a need position.
5.176: WR Jared Abbrederis, Wisconsin
The Packers stay in-state to give Aaron Rodgers another shiny new toy at receiver. Abbrederis isn't the biggest or strongest at the position, but he consistently won as Wisconsin's No. 1 option thanks to an excellent understating of route running and an underrated ability to beat press at the line. He made plays underneath and over the top, and he'll immediately slot in as a dangerous No. 5 receiver for the suddenly receiver-rich (again) Packers offense. Go watch him carve up Bradley Roby (a first-round cornerback) and Ohio State back in September. He can also add competition for returning kicks and punts. The Packers got tremendous value in the final pick of the fifth round.
The questionable calls of the Packers draft...
3.98: TE Richard Rodgers, Cal
This pick feels a little bit like the Packers got unlucky at tight end earlier on (Troy Niklas went one pick before Green Bay in the second round, and C.J. Fiedorowicz came off the board early in the third) and then reached for a player at a position of need at No. 98.
Rodgers isn't a bad player, and at 6'4" he brings nice size to tight end. But his game is eerily reminiscent to former Packers tight end D.J. Williams, who couldn't get open to save his life at the NFL level. Rodgers ran the 40-yard dash in 4.87 seconds, slower than all but a few tight ends at the combine and the exact same time as Michigan offensive tackle Taylor Lewan. Williams, a fifth-round bust, beat Rodgers in almost every athletic measurable.
Rodgers has experience working from the slot and getting open over the middle, but he's going to struggle separating from NFL linebackers and safeties. Williams had the same problems. The Packers took Rodgers in the third round, but he looks like a career backup.
6.198: CB Demetri Goodson, Baylor
Goodson is a nice athlete, and he brings a basketball background to the cornerback position—which might help against Brandon Marshall, Alshon Jeffery and Calvin Johnson at some point. But he'll also be a 25-year-old rookie, and he had serious durability issues in college. An attempt to play basketball at Gonzaga delayed his football career, leaving him somewhat raw as he enters the NFL. But I still go back to the durability concerns; he suffered major ankle and arm injuries at Baylor. The Packers have had their share of problems in the medical department.
The worst of the Packers draft...
No Inside Linebackers?
A season ago, the Packers gambled with the status quo at the safety position and got burned. It appears Ted Thompson is rolling the same set of dice at inside linebacker for 2014.
After missing out on both C.J. Mosley and Ryan Shazier in the first round, the Packers ignored the position over their nine total picks—with the closest inside linebacker coming in the form of Arizona State edge rusher Carl Bradford. Some feel Bradford has long-term potential inside, but he'll start his Packers career at outside linebacker.
It's possible the board just didn't fall the way the Packers wanted to at the position. Chris Borland and Preston Brown went off the board before Green Bay's pick in the third round. Later on, the Packers shied away from gambles on Shayne Skov and Max Bullough.
Now, the Packers will enter next season with the same set of underwhelming inside linebackers that struggled at times last season. A.J. Hawk and Brad Jones are presumed starters, with Jamari Lattimore and Sam Barrington the primary competition. The group won't scare anyone.
The Packers are better off at inside linebacker today then they ended up being at safety last season, but it doesn't appear that the defense will be provided an improvement up the middle of the second level. Time will tell if that reality comes back to bite Green Bay.