Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Packers Draft Targets: Eric Kendricks, Byron Jones, Jalen Collins

I haven't written a lot about the 1st round draft prospects for the Green Bay Packers. The subject hasn't had much interest for me this year. The obvious prospect looks like Eric Kendricks as a desperately needed inside linebacker but he looks more like a 2nd round pick.

Anyone they draft at the end of the 1st round will at least provide depth and he's going to be a good player. They need an inside linebacker right now, and the 2015 Packers might be better off with a decent veteran (or young veteran) who knows how to play rather than a talented rookie with a big learning curve. Drafting for need might not help them if they reach too high up for a lesser player.

SB Nation compiled a list of mock drafts from all over and came up with the most frequently named players linked to the Packers. GM Ted Thompson isn't giving away any information, so these are all just guesses and no team has as little consensus about a player than the Packers. There are three favorites depending on whether you want the Packers to draft for need or the best available player.
UCLA LB Eric Kendricks. He might be the most pro-ready, but no one really knows about that until he steps onto the practice field at training camp/OTAs. He's not huge for his position but he's got coverage skills that are essential at inside linebacker. He'd be a help even if he can only offer a part-time role in 2015.

UCONN CB Byron Jones. Here's your best available player. He blew away the competition at the NFL combine and is probably as good an athlete as any player in the draft. The downside is that he didn't play a lot of cornerback in college. 2013 was his first season at cornerback and he missed much of 2014 with a shoulder injury. He reminds me of Sam Shields, who should have been a big project at cornerback too but instead played a major role during his rookie season. If the Packers do select Jones, he'll probably be ready sooner rather than later. Cornerback is a big need as far as depth goes, but isn't a bigger need than inside linebacker. It might be better to draft the high ceiling cornerback in the 1st round than reach for a linebacker.

LSU CB Jalen Collins. He's not as athletic as Jones, but he's played a lot of cornerback in college over the last three years in the SEC. The NFL might not exactly know what they're getting with Jones but they have a lot of college film on Collins. He reminds me of Davon House, which isn't a bad thing, as a lanky, fast cornerback who might need some time to work on his techniques.

I don't have a horse in this race. If there was a great inside linebacker prospect available in the late 1st round (such as 2014 1st round pick C.J. Mosley) I'd be all over him, but that player isn't in the 2015 draft. They'll get a good player and they can always use help/upgrades at almost every position, so I'll probably like the selection, if it's one of these three players or someone else.

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