As always in the NFL Draft, things are NOT predictable.
You will see hundreds of mocks, from the Kipers to the McShays, Mayocks, CBS, USA Today, CBS Sportsline, Draft-specific websites, and hundreds of wannabe scouts, fans, etc.
None of them are ever too close to being accurate when the draft is all done.
There are always a handful of players who "slide" from what these mocks show.
And there are always some surprises who pop into round one who no mocks showed. Damarious Randall, Christian Ponder come to mind.
So when people say "he won't be there at 14", they might be right. Or they might be wrong.
The following five players are the guys I would be 100% happy with if their name is called for us at #14. Two of them are likely to be gone, but three are likely to be available. Or two will be available.
One never knows. And which one, I can't say.
Roquan Smith and Derwin James seem most certain to be gone. But I have seen mocks just today, March 15th, who had the Packers getting Smith at 14, and James going 15 right after us. I'd be torn if both were available, but I'd go Smith because I see him as almost a guaranteed Pro Bowler, and soon.
#1- ILB ROQUAN SMITH,Georgia
4.51 40-yard dash at combine
Lavonte David, Bobby Wagner, Deion Jones are the most common comparisons to Roquan Smith.
Former high school wideout with elite athletic ability. Speed demon who walks down backs looking to race him to the corner. Fluid and explosive in space. Block-slipper. Praised by his head coach as being a "tremendous leader" who holds himself accountable. Has instincts and football intelligence. Laser-sharp focus to finds the football when sifting through zone reads and jet sweeps. Plays with discipline. Senses when running backs are prepping for screen and fires downhill to stop it. Face-up tackler who sticks his nose in noise. Rare stop-start and change of direction talent. Flips pursuit from one target to the next seamlessly. Gets early bail into coverage against play-fake. Able to mirror and match against the most athletic running backs in coverage. Gets early jumps to join crossing routes and has the speed to carry them across the field. Searches out and squeezes receivers when playing zone.
BOTTOM LINE Smith is an ascending linebacker prospect with elite athletic ability, plus intelligence and an ability to be an effective cover linebacker on passing downs. While he's a little undersized, he does have the quickness and speed to keep himself from being mauled. He was good in 2016, but great in 2017 and projects as a player who hasn't tapped his full potential. Smith has Pro Bowl traits and talent and will come off the board in the first round.
A quick look at his listed measurements might put him in the “undersized” category, but I’m betting you won’t hear that term used by any ball-carrier that’s ever been hit by Smith. He packs a punch and plays with a physicality that betrays his frame. He’s the kind of defender who can instantly transform the identity of an entire unit at the next level.
#2- Edge HAROLD LANDRY, Boston College
4.64 40-yard dash at combine
Bruce Irvin, Clay Matthews, Vic Beasley are the most common comparisons to Harold Landry.
Fluid athlete with good twitch. Flies out of the gates with no false steps. Long-strider who takes early leads on races to the edge. Uses loose hips and upper body turn to create an angular, leaning target that is hard to punch squarely. Limbo-stick edge-bender. Has flexibility to drop way under a tackle's hands and can corner with a tight turn and plus burst to the quarterback. Expected to show out at the Combine. Willing to attack the throwing arm and not just the quarterback. Creates strip sacks and batted balls with his long, active arms. Uses athletic ability to ramp up a secondary rush and scoop up scrambling quarterbacks. Rangy with plus pursuit speed against the run. Has experience standing and dropping into space. Plays with good change of direction and quick lateral movement to track down bootlegs. Landry lacks premium size, but his burst, stride length and ability to dip and rip around the edge give him special potential as an edge rusher. Landry lacks strength at the point of attack and may be a designated pass rusher early in his career. While he can play standing for 3-4 teams, he's at his best with his hand in the dirt as a rusher. Landry can get by as an NFL rusher with just speed and athleticism, but he has an opportunity to become a Pro Bowler if he can improve his hand usage and develop an inside counter.-Lance Zierlein
Fluid athlete with good twitch. Flies out of the gates with no false steps. Long-strider who takes early leads on races to the edge. Uses loose hips and upper body turn to create an angular, leaning target that is hard to punch squarely. Limbo-stick edge-bender. Has flexibility to drop way under a tackle's hands and can corner with a tight turn and plus burst to the quarterback. Expected to show out at the Combine. Willing to attack the throwing arm and not just the quarterback. Creates strip sacks and batted balls with his long, active arms. Uses athletic ability to ramp up a secondary rush and scoop up scrambling quarterbacks. Rangy with plus pursuit speed against the run. Has experience standing and dropping into space. Plays with good change of direction and quick lateral movement to track down bootlegs. Landry lacks premium size, but his burst, stride length and ability to dip and rip around the edge give him special potential as an edge rusher. Landry lacks strength at the point of attack and may be a designated pass rusher early in his career. While he can play standing for 3-4 teams, he's at his best with his hand in the dirt as a rusher. Landry can get by as an NFL rusher with just speed and athleticism, but he has an opportunity to become a Pro Bowler if he can improve his hand usage and develop an inside counter.
With all the hoopla surrounding the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis this past weekend, you’ll surely see dozens of lists purporting ‘winners’ and ‘losers.’ When it comes to edge defenders though, one guy’s performance was head and shoulders above anyone else’s.
Harold Landry’s 6.88-second 3-cone at 252-pounds puts him in rarified air for top prospects. Below is every single 250-plus pound defensive lineman drafted in the first round that had a sub-6.9-second 3-cone:
That is some impressive company. With the exception of Pollack, whose career was cut short
due to injury, and T.J. Watt, whose only played one year in the league, every single other player
on the list has been All-Pro caliber at some point in their career.
Landry’s performance was made all the more important by the fact that he had so many question
marks about his play in 2017. If you go back to August and look at just about any preseason draft
rankings, you’ll see Landry’s name projected in the top-10 in almost every single one. The Boston
College edge defender flat-out dominated as a junior in 2016, racking up 18 sacks, seven hits and
44 hurries. That was 16 more total pressures than No. 1 overall pick Myles Garrett.
One of the biggest knocks you’ll see on Landry’s game is his run defense. When you go back
through his career however, it’s not that he’s incapable of playing the run, rather that he’s more
interested in rushing the passer. And I can’t say I blame him. Back in 2015, Landry led all edge
defenders in the NCAA with a 13.0 run-stop percentage. He’s a rare 250-plus pound athlete who
knows how to win with his hands as both a run defender and pass-rusher.
What more could you want?
Landry is the single most complete edge defender in this class and is simply coming off an injury-plagued year.
His high-end play is special, as is the company he keeps athletically. If his 2017 tape pushes him down and out of the top-10 on draft night, someone is going to get a steal.
#3- CB JAIRE ALEXANDER, Louisville
4.38 40-yard dash at combine
Chris Harris Jr., Casey Hayward (also exactly 5, 11", 192), are the most common comparisons to Jaire Alexander.
It seems like I fall in love with a top cornerback every year and go all in. Two years ago, it was putting William Jackson III eighth overall as my CB1. Last year, it was putting Marshon Lattimore second overall as my CB1. This year, I am doing the same with Louisville star Jaire Alexander, who I have seventh overall and as my CB1 right now.
There is a certain sort of arrogance he plays with on the outside, and I gravitate towards it when watching him. He knows he’s better than his opponent and plays with a chip on his shoulder each and every snap, letting the receiver know about it too.
When you watch his feet and reactionary quickness in man coverage, you can see the elite change of direction and skill set that Alexander possesses. At the catch point, he is as good as anybody in this class at attacking at the high point and dislodging the ball between the receiver’s hands. He did this in press man coverage, off man coverage, two-man, Cover 2, and Cover 3.
This type of scheme versatility, ability to play inside and out, and traits in man coverage bring flashes of Chris Harris Jr., who is still one of the NFL’s best cornerbacks pound for pound. Harris is a lockdown cornerback who can simply take receivers out of games, whether it is in the slot or on the outside. Like Alexander, he’ll let them know about it too.
The biggest hurdle for Alexander will be to prove that he can stay durable in the NFL at his current frame, but with his traits as the most natural playmaker and man coverage cornerback in this class, I think he is one of the surest bets I’ve seen since scouting the position.
From USA Today:
JM: A lot of people think you’re the best corner in this class. Why should they continue to feel that way?
JA: That’s an easy one. First and foremost, I’m a physical corner. I don’t think there’s another corner in this class who can match my physicality. I play the game fast. I have excellent speed. I have excellent ball-skills, I once played wide receiver. My ball-skills are top-notch. I bring that swagger and attitude to the field. I play with a bunch of aggression. I’m just a flat out competitor.
JM: You started out as a receiver. When did the switch happen?
JA: It was about two weeks after I arrived at Louisville. I was a freshmen running routes with the receivers and they had a need for a defensive back. They pushed me over to practice with the defensive backs group and I never looked back.
JM: Who is the best wide receiver you’ve ever had to cover?
JA: The best wide receiver I’ve ever had to cover? Probably Mike Williams from Clemson. He’s a big, physical receiver. He was a first round talent but I was able to showcase my skill against him. I held him to zero catches (and had two interceptions of Deshaun Watson). He was the best wide receiver I’ve ever faced.
JM: When a team invests a first-round pick in Jaire Alexander come April 26th, what kind of guy are they getting?
JA: They’re gonna get a leader. I’m a savage on the field. I love to compete. I’m a pure competitor. I see myself as a person that makes those around him better. I believe that my competitiveness is contagious. That’s who they’re getting.
#4- CB DENZEL WARD, Ohio State University
4.32 40-yard dash at combine
Jason Verrett, Casey Hayward, Chris Harris Jr. are the most common comparisons to Denzel Ward.
Like Casey Hayward, I can see Denzel Ward starting his career working inside, out. His lack of size may prevent him from being drafted in the top 10, but his movement skills and transitions in and out of the receiver’s breaks in man coverage are absolutely seamless. He is as sticky as they come when trying to gain separation in Man. You can see big receivers try to impose their physicality on Ward, but he doesn’t back down, showing off-the-charts competitive toughness snap in and snap out.
Casey Hayward is one of the best man coverage cornerbacks in the NFL today because of how quick and patient his feet are, and Ward is the same way in that regard. Ward is faster than Hayward, but it will take time before he reaches the nuance that Hayward plays with. With that being said, I wouldn’t bet against Ward like some teams will because of his size, and I think he has a chance to be an eraser in man coverage, whether it is in the slot early in his career, or on the outside later on.
OSU cornerbacks coach Kerry Coombs told reporters last spring that Ward was a "gifted player" and truly a "third starter" at cornerback, joining 2017 first-round picks Marshon Lattimore and Gareon Conley. Ward proved his coach correct, earning first-team All-American and all-conference accolades in 2017 with 37 tackles, two for loss, two interceptions, and 15 pass breakups (ranked in the top 10 in the nation). He earned honorable mention All-Big Ten notice from league media as a non-starter in 2016, playing 30 snaps a game on defense. Ward tied Lattimore for the team lead with nine pass breakups on the year (23 tackles), never giving up on a play and being quite physical despite his average size for the position. Ward got onto the field as a true freshman, making seven tackles, primarily on special teams. Ward was a first-team All-Ohio pick and Division II Co-Defensive Player of the Year as a high school senior (nine interceptions, 18 pass breakups). He also qualified for the state track meet as a long jumper and part of the 4x400 relay.
Supreme athletic ability. Can park in a deep squat under wide receiver's chin at the line. Patient from press showing no panic or hurry in initial movements. Can pedal and mirror for a long time without opening hips. Tremendously gifted footwork. Mirrors and matches with good balance throughout the route. Matches changing route speed stride for stride. Plays from low side of route to take away comebacks. Uses big burst for recovery and closeouts. Carries true long speed down the field. Reads clues from off-man. Reads slants and drives in front of the route in search of an interception. Allowed just over 32 percent completions over last two years. Ballhawk with sudden hands to attack the throw. Bats throws down and will swirl arms around the catch point to prevent target from finishing the catch.
BOTTOM LINE Ward has the experience and talent to handle duties on the outside, but his lack of play strength combined with his elite footwork might be the deciding factor for a move inside. Ward is outstanding as a mirror-and-match cornerback with great route feel who is able to maintain tight coverage around the field with good technique and pattern recognition. He should become an early starter at nickel cornerback with the talent to make an immediate impact for a defense that faces a pass-happy division foe twice per year.
The Bears have re-tooling to do at cornerback and Jackson is one of the best outside playmakers in the draft. He led the nation with 18 pass breakups and eight interceptions while allowing a passer rating of only 31.3 into his coverage, fifth-best among corners with at least 50 targets. Jackson has the size to play press coverage, but he’s at his best in “off” coverage, making plays on the ball.
Good size, speed, athleticism for the position. Appears to have adequate length for the position and kept pace with just about all his opposition this season. Very athletic and can make circus catches and breakups. Very fluid and smooth in his movements.
Elite ball skills. Those INT and PD numbers aren’t flukes. Jackson competes for the ball consistently and aggressively.
Some of the best patience, focus, anticipation, discipline, and poise I have seen in a long time out of the position. Doesn’t take the bait, doesn’t panic when the ball is in the air.
Physical in run support and will lay a hit on the offense.
Sticky in man coverage and mirrors very well. Keeps things in front of him in zone coverage and can close quickly.
Jackson became a national name in 2017 by finishing as the nation's leader with eight interceptions and 26 passes defended. He earned first-team AP All-American and first-team All-Big Ten honors as a 13-game starter with 48 tackles, a forced fumble, and a blocked kick. He redshirted in 2014, and then moved from receiver to cornerback in the spring of 2015 and served in a reserve role on defense for two seasons behind a talented set of Hawkeyes cornerbacks. Jackson played in all 14 games in 2015, making eight tackles and breaking up two passes. He played in 12 games as a sophomore, starting the team's bowl game and finishing with 10 stops, one for loss, and four pass breakups.
Had mind-blowing ball-hawking season with 27 passes defensed including eight interceptions. Tall with long arms. Allowed 41.3 percent completion rate. Made a play on 25.7 percent of his targets. Makes his own fortune. Instincts are top-notch. Plays the ball and not the man. Flashed supreme ball skills. High-point winner with ability to pull down the one-hand grab. Put together monster performances in big games. Finished with three interceptions in upset win over Ohio State and two pick-sixes against Wisconsin. Anticipates routes. Allowed no touchdowns after Week 4. Spotlight player. Lauded for positive attitude and strong work ethic.
WEAKNESSES One-year wonder. Has just 14 career starts. Early opener from press. Needs more experience and more patience. Too easily influenced by release fakes at the line of scrimmage. Can be turned by quality routes. Doesn't flash a big chase burst when he gets behind on the routes (crossers). Needs to tighten up tackling. Questions are being raised about his long speed. Buys into route breaks a little too hard from trail and can be double-moved.
More than half of first round picks become busts, and only 3-10 usually end up as "STARS".
I think these are the 5 who have the best chance to become stars for the Packers. Bear in mind that the Packers drafting cornerbacks high in drafts is usually disastrous. From Ahmad Carroll to Damarious Randall, those were both first round busts. Second rounders Pat Lee, Fred Vinson, Quinten Rollins sucked too. At least Vinson was traded for Ahman Green in Seattle thanks to Mike Holmgren.
Roquan Smith seems like a sure thing, although that's not the biggest hole for the Packers. Harold Landry might have the biggest upside at a position that can make a difference. He has a tiny bit of bust potential, but he also tested out of the world, as Pro Football Focus showed. Those names with his times and sizes are incredible.
Jaire Alexander has the ability, size, and attitude to give the Packers a stud at CB. Denzel Ward is right behind him.
Josh Jackson is a different type of CB, and has a little bit of bust potential that worries me a bit. But he knows how to get the ball when it' in the air. He didn't play against great WR competition in the Big Ten, however.
CBS Sports rankings has Derwin James as #2 overall, yet I saw him in a National Mock today go 16, a pick after we got Landry. Still for me I'd have him below the first four just above Jackson.
They (CBS) also has Oklahoma Edge Ogbonnia Okoronkwo as their #15 overall player. He's a bit shorter than Landry, but reminds me of a powerful compact fierce pass rusher like Elvis Dumerville or Justin Houston. I could live with him as I like him a lot. Sometimes we see surprises, and that's one I will not be mad about, although I'd rather get him later. I do not want WR Calvin Ridley in round one.