COMMENTARY | The sulking period is over for the Green Bay Packers after an early playoff exit, so now it's time to turn our attention to the offseason, and in this case, the 2014 NFL draft.
After finishing the regular season 8-7-1, it's pretty clear the Packers have some pressing needs, most noticeably on defense. General manager Ted Thompson will want to do his best to address positions like safety, linebacker and nose tackle as soon as possible with the No. 21 overall pick.
As we've become accustomed to under Thompson, he often goes for value over need, but with so many areas to improve, it will be in his best interest to find a happy medium in his approach. And while we're only going to project seven selections, the number of picks with which Green Bay will enter the draft, odds are that the Packers will end up with more -- they wound up with 11 last year.
Plenty will change based on the draft combine, free agent signings and if defensive coordinator Dom Capers and his 3-4 defense return. But with Mel Kiper Jr.'s first mock draft in the books, let's give our way-too-early mock draft for the Green Bay Packers.
Round 1: S Calvin Pryor (Louisville) -- 6'2", 208 pounds
Considered to be the best overall safety in this draft class, Pryor would be an ideal selection for Green Bay in the first round, as safety is arguably its highest need. But with more hype surrounding Alabama's Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, we could see Pryor fall to the Packers, which makes him a no-brainer at No. 21.
2013 stats: 75 tackles (5.5 TFL), 3 interceptions, 7 passes defended, 2 forced fumbles
Round 2: OLB Kyle Van Noy (BYU) -- 6'3", 245 pounds
With Clemson's Vic Beasley choosing to return to school for his senior season, that bumps the value of Van Noy, which is bad news for Green Bay. But just as the Packers traded up for Clay Matthews back in 2009, Thompson may want to break his own mold and reach for Van Noy, especially considering Green Bay's struggles rushing the passer and the continued failure to compliment Matthews.
2013 stats: 70 tackles (17.5 TFL), 4 sacks, 2 interceptions, 7 passes defended
Round 3: DT Daniel McCullers (Tennessee) -- 6'6", 351 pounds
With B.J. Raji, Ryan Pickett, C.J. Wilson and Johnny Jolly all becoming unrestricted free agents, the Packers will want to look at picking up a defensive lineman, specifically a nose tackle. There's a very good chance McCullers is still around at this point of the draft. His great size is ideal for Green Bay's scheme on defense, and McCullers' uniquely long wingspan for a defensive tackle helps disrupt the running game and knock down passes.
2013 stats: 39 tackles (5.5 TFL), 1 sack, 1 pass defended, 1 forced fumble
Round 4: ILB Max Bullough (Michigan State) -- 6'3", 245 pounds
We don't know the story behind Bullough's Rose Bowl suspension, and the Packers aren't big on selecting players with questionable character. Then again, they gave Johnny Jolly a second chance, and Bullough would not only be a great value pick in the fourth round, but also fill a need. A.J. Hawk is on the down side of his NFL career, and Brad Jones continues to disappoint at inside linebacker.
2013 stats: 76 tackles (9.5 TFL), 1.5 sacks, 2 passes defended, 1 forced fumble
Round 5: OT Wesley Johnson (Vanderbilt) -- 6'5", 290 pounds
It will be interesting to see if the Packers re-sign center Evan Dietrich-Smith, but if they do, they should have a steady offensive line from left to right. That being said, tackle is the weakest area on Green Bay's offensive line, and it is always looking for versatility from its backups. Johnson, while a bit undersized, brings just that to the table and could very well be available in Round 5.
2013 stats: 5.12 40-yard dash, All-SEC First Team selection (coaches)
Round 6: TE Jacob Pedersen (Wisconsin) -- 6'4", 240 pounds
Everyone seems to be up in arms about the Packers' tight end situation, but quite frankly, there are far more pressing needs for Green Bay. That being said, it can find some value at tight end in the later rounds of the draft with Wisconsin's Jacob Pedersen. He's seen his stock decline after a sub-par senior season, but Pedersen is worth giving a shot.
2013 stats: 39 receptions, 551 yards, 3 touchdowns
Round 7: CB Brandon Dixon (Northwest Missouri State) -- 6'0", 198 pounds
What kind of Green Bay draft class would it be without selecting a player from an obscure school hardly anyone has heard of? That wasn't meant as a dig toward Northwest Missouri State, your Division II national champions, but Round 7 typically calls for some reaching -- going off the map to find a diamond in the rough. Perhaps that's Brandon Dixon, and with uncertainty about the futures of Sam Shields and Tramon Williams, grabbing a cornerback here wouldn't be the worst idea.
2013 stats: 36 tackles (1 TFL), 1 interception, 12 passes defended
All prospect rankings were courtesy of CBSSports.com.
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.
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