Friday, April 27, 2018

With The 18th Pick in the 2018 NFL Draft, The Green Bay Packers Select Louisville CB Jaire Alexander

The Green Bay Packers caused some whiplash in the 1st round of the 2018 NFL draft by trading down from No. 14 to No. 27, and then trading back up to No. 18 to select Louisville CB Jaire Alexander.

But first about the trades, which reminded me of last year when they traded out of the 1st and into the high 2nd round before drafting CB Kevin King. The move down netted them a 4th round pick (Vince Biegel) for basically no cost.
A 5th and a 6th round pick also changed hands but neither of those picks have a lot of value. If Alexander was always their guy, and they took advantage of the Saints to turn a 2018 3rd round pick into a 2019 1st round pick, that's a nifty piece of work. However, should Alexander have been the guy?
Alexander to the Packers wasn't talked about until Mike Mayock's mock draft came out on Wednesday. I didn't want the Packers to reach for a corner just because the depth chart is paper thin, but a productive college player who had a fantastic workout isn't a reach. However there are reasons why Alexander was a mid-1st round player while a similar CB in Ohio State's Denzel Ward was always considered a Top 10 pick and ended up at No. 4 overall to the Browns.
It was already mentioned above that Alexander missed time in 2017 due to injury (concern #1) and in the above video it's discussed that he gave up a lot of touchdowns (concern #2). That second concern seems like something that can be fixed with experience and coaching, but injury concerns can plague a guy. But if Alexander can stay healthy, he could be as good as Denzel Ward.

But trading down meant that the Packers passed on Florida State SS Derwin James, who was typically in the Top 10 in every mock draft.
The Packers needed a cornerback more than another safety, but going into the draft I thought that if they have a chance to draft a great defensive back, take him and figure out positions later. One knock on James is that while Alexander posted fantastic times in the shuttle and 3-cone, which measures quickness, James skipped both at the NFL combine. Maybe that was enough to bring some doubt into it, plus the fact that the Packers really needed a cornerback more than a safety.

There's some risk here with Alexander because of past injuries and college inconsistencies (too many touchdowns allowed) but he's a 1st round talent and not a reach. Plus the move back to acquire an extra 1st round pick in 2019 made it a successful 1st round for 2018.

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Or The Green Bay Packers Select CB Josh Jackson

Iowa CB Josh Jackson is exactly the sort of quality player I want the Green Bay Packers to select in a later round, not the 1st round.
Jackson has all the tools, and the great college career, you could want except the great speed. Jackson's former college teammate, CB Desmond King, entered the draft process last year with the expectation of being drafted in the 1st or 2nd round before he fell to the 5th round due to speed concerns. It all worked out for the Chargers, who plugged King into the slot and he became one of the best rookie CBs in the NFL. But the Packers have let slot corners like Corey Hayward and Micah Hyde leave in recent years so I can't imagine they'll use their highest draft choice in years on a slot corner to replace the ones they lost.

The more I look at No. 14 overall, the more it seems like a no man's land. I'm thinking right along with Zach Kruse, there aren't 14 impact players in this draft and the Packers are going to be a couple spots away from drafting one. Trading up is going to cost a lot (the Jets gave up three 2nd round picks to move up three spots). While that was at the top of the draft for a QB, a team like the Raiders at No. 10 might be looking at their choice of SS Derwin James or CB Minkah Fitzpatrick vs. missing out on an impact player at No. 14. To make it worth the Raiders's time might cost the Packers their 2019 1st round pick, which I hope they don't offer.

If OLB Harold Landry isn't there at No. 14, it might be time to move down but I'm not sure which team wants to move up. If they have to stand pat, they could look at one of the offensive lineman (Will Hernandez or Mike McGlinchey) or a project like Marcus Davenport, who might be a better fit in a different defense.

Still, it's the 14th overall selection and they should be able to draft a quality player even if he's a clear step behind someone like James or Fitzpatrick. The best available player might look unspectacular and that might OK.

Friday, April 20, 2018

With The 14th Pick in the 2018 NFL Draft, The Green Bay Packers Select

Here are a couple of basic expectations I have from the Green Bay Packers in the upcoming draft. They need help in the secondary, but please don't reach for a DB. If Denzel Ward or Derwin James is still available, great, but don't go looking for the 4th or 5th best DB with No. 14 overall, just take the best available player at any non-Quarterback position. And please don't trade up for one of those DBs though I'm not against trading down.

I'm not a college scout so I'm looking at other mock drafts to see who's getting mentioned. Rob Rang's 5.0 mock draft has the Packers selecting Boston College OLB Harold Landry.
If you're looking for a 2018 need pick, this is not for you. Clay Matthews and Nick Perry are penciled in as the high priced starters (and they should be worth the money in 2018, if they stay healthy) while Reggie Gilbert and Vince Biegel are lurking in the background as Making The Leap candidates. Kyler Fackrell is also there, doing whatever it is he does, mostly just taking playing time away from Reggie Gilbert.

But Landry will be on the roster for the next five seasons while Matthews is a free agent in 2019. Perry's not going anywhere with that fat contract and all the potential dead money attached to it. Gilbert and Biegel have upside (drink!) but neither one is a lock to become a future starter. It never hurts to have too much pass rush and it's easy to see Landry becoming their best pass rusher in a year.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Packers Release WR Jordy Nelson, Sign Graham and Wilkerson

On a normal day, I'd have a lot to say about two significant free agent signings by the Green Bay Packers, but the release of WR Jordy Nelson hits hard:
The writing was on the wall a couple months ago when WR Davante Adams was re-signed. Three of the highest paid players on the team were wide receivers and that's not the way to build a balanced roster.

Nelson vanished most of last season, along with the rest of the offense, once QB Aaron Rodgers was injured. But Jordy really disappeared, and it can't all be blamed on Brett Hundley. In 2013, the previous time Rodgers broke his collarbone, Jordy was the only player who kept up the pace alongside a collection of backup QBs and finished with over 1,300 yards. A few years later, and one serious knee injury later, he's not the same receiver who can play like that without his star quarterback.

What really hurts is that they don't have a replacement. Adams is a good starter but he's no Jordy. This makes it harder for the offense to improve on last season.

But they did do something they had to do - find a receiving TE:
It's too much money and he'll be no better than the third receiving option, but they had to have a better receiving TE. Lance Kendricks was a big disappointment, one of the few players in the league last season that did not benefit from getting away from Jeff Fisher. They needed a TE who could do some damage in the passing game, and Graham might be a major threat in the red zone. Also, the TE market has gone crazy ($8 million per season is the going rate for a Trey Burton these days) and this is just what a guy like Graham costs.

And though he's not a cornerback, the Packers also found someone to play defense:
I'm not super excited about bringing in a guy who couldn't be ran out of town fast enough by the Jets.
The talent and health still appear to be there, and reuniting with DC Mike Pettine might help. There's no 2019 salary cap risk on a one-year deal, if this doesn't work out, and they'll have Dean Lowry as a backup in 2018 if needed. He provides upside but there's only so many moves they can take in free agency and they just used up $5 million of it on Mo. I hope it works out.

Monday, March 12, 2018

Packers Traded a Starting Cornerback for a Backup Quarterback

I was shaking my head when I read what the Green Bay Packers had done, the first major transaction of the GM Brian Gutekunst era.
But I did want to point out the swap of picks. It's not a huge get, moving up a dozen spots in those two rounds, but it's a nifty addition. It's nice to get to the good news first before writing about the bad.

Damarious Randall. The Packers were already weak at cornerback with only two starting quality CBs, and now their down to one. Quinten Rollins still exists and if healthy he would be their starter alongside Kevin King, however, Rollins is never healthy and he's never been good either. He's potentially the best from a number of bad options. Losing Randall makes the 2018 Packers a lot weaker, so far.

I'd like to think this trade means they intend to sign a free agent or two, but no one yet knows Gutekunst's tendencies and the Packers don't have a ton of cap space (if they keep Nelson and Cobb). Maybe this is the start of a bunch of trades by the new GM? Right now, all I expect them to do is draft a couple more rookies and hope for the best, which isn't going to work. They need a veteran, not just another Davon House re-signing, and it doesn't look like that can or will happen.

From a positional standpoint, this trade is terrible. But after Randall walked out on his team during their game in Chicago, I had been expecting he would be released during the season or traded for nothing at the end of the season. And maybe the coaches hated him too. So what I expected months ago came to happen, which is fine if I ignore that Randall finished the 2017 season strong and looks like a starter now.

Maybe there is good reason to expect a slide from him in 2018 because he has been an inconsistent player his entire career. After a great start to his rookie season, he faded down the stretch and might have outright lost them a playoff game in Phoenix. The next season was a disaster, maybe to do with injuries. His third season, 2017, was a roller coaster. He had one more cheap year on his rookie contract, a tough decision looming on his 5th year option, and then a potentially bad decision in his contract year with a risky new contract. I wouldn't have been disappointed if they let him walk in two years. At least he'd be their best option in 2018 alongside King while they work on grooming his replacement.

Maybe I would feel better about this trade if the main piece in return wasn't filling a need that was several spots down on their to-do list: find a better back-up quarterback. Instead they found Brett Hundley 2.0:
If any QB in 2017 was similar to Hundley, it was Kizer. He's got a lot of potential and upside, but he's always seemed like an underachiever, which is a description I'd apply to Hundley too. All backups are inconsistent (otherwise they'd probably be starting somewhere), Nick Foles looked like a hot mess at the end of the 2017 regular season before winning a Super Bowl MVP. Right now I don't trust Kizer to be any better if needed to start in 2018 then Hundley. Kizer might not even beat Hundley out next season. I'd rather they'd gotten a pick for Randall than a backup QB who they might never use and might underachieve as much as Hundley.

In the end, this trade isn't a disaster because Randall was too inconsistent to merit a new contract in two years and they were going to have to move on anyway. But there are a lot of ways to find a new backup quarterback that don't involve trading away one of your starters. In 2020, this trade should look better but it's a step back in 2018.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

This Was Written Last Offseason Too: The Packers Need More Cornerbacks

The cornerback position was a mess for the Green Bay Packers during the 2016 season. You can squint at the stats and say it got better last season, but that had more to do with how the games played out, since the Packers had a broken offense and they didn't force opponents into throwing and playing catch-up.

They haven't been strong at cornerback since before Charles Woodson was injured during in 2011, but they had kept it somewhat respectable with Sam Shields as their top cornerback. But now it's approaching two years since Shields played an NFL snap and the Packers' cornerback position has been a disaster since he's been out.
The silver lining to the 2017 season was that Kevin King and Damarious Randall both looked like legitimate starting cornerbacks. The problem is that neither one was healthy for 16 games last season and Randall famously flamed out during an early season game in Chicago. If they really could count on them both next season then I'd only be writing about finding depth and a reliable slot corner (how are Casey Hayward and Micah Hyde doing these days...never mind).

But they can't count on either of them next season. They're the only keepers who can compete for starting jobs but the Packers have to look towards revamping the entire unit.

The entire coaching and strategy side of the defense has already changed. DC Dom Capers was fired, they let safeties coach Darren Perry leave too, and they've handed over the keys to the pass defense to cornerback coach Joe Whitt. It doesn't seem like a stretch that they'd turn over the roster at cornerback either.

The Packers played their final game of the 2017 season with Pipkins and Hawkins at corner and the Lions torched the secondary. Rollins and Goodson are usually hurt, and haven't shown much on the field when healthy. Swapping out LaDarius Gunter for Davon House was meaningless, as limited as Gunter is, House wasn't any different last season. If all 5 of them were released or allowed to leave as free agents, that's fine.

The history of free agent cornerbacks is littered with cautionary tales. They could sign a veteran for a $10 million AAV and it might not be a meaningful upgrade. They might not be able to sign the top two free agent cornerbacks at any price. There are reasons to flinch on every high priced cornerback this offseason, but they have to kick the tires on them. Maybe now they'll actually sign one or two free agent veterans and I'd rather see them bring in a multiple veterans who are coming off injuries or down seasons on one-year "prove it" contracts. I'd rather they take chances on many players instead of risking that one high priced signing works out.

Then there's the draft. I'm sick and tired of young cornerbacks but they have to keep drafting them. It's not a strong draft class so they'll have to scout around the late 2nd, 3rd and 4th rounds for overlooked players.

I'll become a huge fan of the new GM if he can finally find a couple of reliable cornerbacks this year.

Monday, February 05, 2018

Comparing The Packers SB 45 Victory To The Eagles in Super Bowl 52

I was rooting for the Eagles in the Super Bowl because the last time they won the NFL Championship it was in Vince Lombardi's second season as the Green Bay Packers head coach. It was also the only time Lombardi lost a playoff game (9-1).
The Eagles had been waiting a long time for another championship.

Back to the present, Super Bowl 52 reminded me a little of the Packers win over the Steelers in Super Bowl 45 because of the moment when there was about 2 minutes left in the 4th quarter. Not that it means anything in particular, it was just an interesting memory I had while watching.

In Super Bowl 45, the Packers had a long 5 minute scoring drive late in the 4th quarter to extend their lead to 6 points. But then the Steelers had the ball back with just under 2 minutes remaining and a touchdown would win them the game. Fortunately the Packers' defense held them to only 20 yards on that final drive and forced a turnover on downs. At first it looked like the Packers left too much time on the clock for Ben Roethlisberger but the defense held on for the victory.

In Super Bowl 52, a long 7 minute touchdown drive late in the 4th quarter gave the Eagles a 5 point lead. But they left the Patriots with 2:21 remaining and a touchdown would lose the Eagles the game. That's too much time for Tom Brady. But just as in Super Bowl 45, the defense came up with the plays they needed to win, this time a strip sack and a knocked down Hail Mary attempt in the final seconds.