COMMENTARY | When assessing a team's strengths and weaknesses leading up to the NFL Draft, you have to factor schemes, formations, play-calling and philosophies as well as weaknesses and available talent at each position.
One of the biggest dilemmas facing the Green Bay Packers this offseason is what direction they will want to go on defense. It is believed that defensive coordinator Dom Capers is in the final year of his contract, and with the way his defense has performed not only this season, but in recent years, the clock is likely ticking on Capers' tenure in Green Bay.
That raises the following question -- will the Packers continue to run a 3-4 defense?
Of course, this is under the assumption that Capers is indeed in his final year with Green Bay. But with the way this Packers' defense is built, specifically with Clay Matthews at outside linebacker and the personnel on the defensive line, a switch to a 4-3 defense would require a bit of an overhaul.
At 5-6-1 and on the brink of missing the playoffs, the Packers are projected to have a mid-round pick. Based on this knowledge, its most pressing needs and the assumption that Green Bay remains a 3-4 team, let's assess the three prospects it should be targeting in the 2014 NFL Draft.
Safety: HaHa Clinton-Dix
If you have watched the Packers extensively this season, specifically with Aaron Rodgers out, you have probably noticed the plethora of issues on this team. Injuries have contributed, but one area where Green Bay is completely healthy is at safety.
It would also happen to be one of the weakest positions on the team.
This is disappointing from Green Bay's perspective, as it gave Morgan Burnett a four-year, $24.75 million contract extension prior to the start of the season. The Packers were expecting more from Burnett as well as their safeties in general, which is why they recently cut second-year player Jerron McMillian.
There is still plenty of talent at cornerback, and while that may still be a position Green Bay addresses in the upcoming draft, safety is the No. 1 area of concern for a defense that ranks No. 22 in defending the pass.
Enter Alabama junior safety Ha'Sean "HaHa" Clinton-Dix, who would have to leave school early to enter the draft. He is considered to be one of the best, if not the best eligible safety should he enter, and has good size at 6'1" and 208 pounds.
Clinton-Dix may come with some baggage, as he was suspended for two games this season for a violation of team rules. The Packers are an organization that values high character, but if Clinton-Dix has proven to learn from his mistakes, he is certainly a player general manager Ted Thompson should consider if available.
In his college career, Clinton-Dix has seven interceptions and played for two National Championship teams. Recently, the junior safety underwent surgery for a torn meniscus, but the injury shouldn't be a long-term issue.
Tight End: Jace Amaro
As the 2013 season progressed, tight end Jermichael Finley was becoming more and more of a threat in the passing game. Just as a torn ACL cut his season short back in 2010, Finley suffered a spinal cord injury against the Cleveland Browns that may have very well not only ended his season, but his football career.
We obviously hope that isn't the case, but this is Finley's final year under contract with the Packers, and with the way Green Bay handled Nick Collins and his neck injury in 2011, it would appear Finley's days in a Packer uniform are over.
That leaves a gaping hole at tight end, which could make Texas Tech tight end Jace Amaro a prime candidate to be drafted by Green Bay.
Like Clinton-Dix, Amaro is a junior, but he is also considered to be one of the best at his position. This season, Amaro leads all FBS tight ends in receiving yards by a landslide, and ranks No. 10 among all players with 1,240 receiving yards.
Amaro is 6'5" and 260 pounds, so there's no question about his intangibles, but like Clinton-Dix, character may be an issue. In the 2012 Meineke Car Care Bowl, Amaro was ejected for punching a defender, and he has also been arrested on felony charges.
Hopefully, Amaro has put those issues behind him, as he would make for an excellent addition to the Packers' roster.
Outside Linebacker: Khalil Mack
Ever since Clay Matthews burst onto the NFL scene in 2009, the Packers have desperately searched for a worthy compliment to Matthews at outside linebacker.
Whether it's been due to injury, poor performance or both, Green Bay has failed year after year to find someone that can consistently rush the quarterback on the other side of the line to relieve some pressure off of Matthews.
Perhaps selecting an outside linebacker in the first round of the draft isn't Green Bay's most pressing need, but it's a need, nonetheless. UCLA's Anthony Barr is far and away the top prospect at outside linebacker -- he is expected to be a Top 5 pick -- but Buffalo's Khalil Mack could very well be next in line.
There is a lot of talent at outside linebacker in this year's class, so the Packers could wait until the second round, but Mack is worth a look because of his freak of nature athleticism and tenacious pass rushing ability. Recently, he set the NCAA record for forced fumbles and tied the record for tackles for a loss in a career.
Mack, who is 6'3" and 248 pounds, is also a senior, so he will undoubtedly be entering the 2014 NFL Draft.
There are several different directions Thompson and the Packers can go with their first pick, but there is still a lot to be determined throughout the final four weeks of the regular season.
Dave Radcliffe is a resident of a little known Milwaukee suburb who is an avid follower of Wisconsin sports. He has contributed to JSOnline, as a featured columnist on other sites and publications, and been a guest on multiple sports talk radio shows.
You can get the discussion going and follow Dave on Twitter @DaveRadcliffe_ .
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- Green Bay Packers
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- Clay Matthews
- Jermichael Finley