Before I delve into my deepest draft thoughts, let me explain my absence from APC over the last several weeks. Unfortunately, being in my last semester of graduate school requires me to focus my efforts on things other than the Packers (like Badger Hockey...also projects and papers, I guess). That said, I couldn't resist writing up some things I'd really like to see happen in the first round of the NFL Draft, held tonight at 6:30 CDT.
One of the players at the top of my draft board is Michigan DE/OLB Brandon Graham. Current projections have him going somewhere between 14th and 27th. Graham showed his variety of pass-rushing moves and his nonstop motor at the Senior Bowl. Plus, he played OLB in high school before Michigan moved him to DE. I would feel very confident in his ability to adjust to the OLB position. Frankly, I think he's the best among the crop of likely first-round OLBs, and I'm really hoping that he slips to the Packers at 23.
On the pass-rushing side, our chief Brandon has already addressed Sergio Kindle and Jerry Hughes, who are also excellent prospects with talent. Personally, I'd feel more comfortable with Kindle's adjustment to OLB, since he already played some linebacker at Texas, whereas Hughes was strictly a down lineman. I'm confident that at least one of these three players will fall to us at the 23rd pick, and it will be tough to pass on any one of them.
That said, I still see the offensive line being the biggest long-term need, and while the Packers have had some success developing lower-round players into starters, I wouldn't be shocked to see Ted Thompson grab a lineman tonight. For months, I've been holding out hope that we'd end up with Bryan Bulaga from Iowa, and I would be on board if Thompson moves up a few spots to grab him. What I'd rather avoid is taking a player like Maurkice Pouncey or Anthony Davis if one of the three OLBs or secondary help is still available.
(On a semi-related note, isn't it a little crazy how draft stock can change drastically and quickly? Back when I wrote that article in February, Trent Williams was still being projected by many to go in the second round...now he's got a great shot of being a top-5 pick.)
Anyway, speaking of the secondary, I would be ecstatic if somehow CB Kyle Wilson of Boise State drops into Thompson's lap with the 23rd pick. A quick, instinctive corner, Wilson would immediately step in as the dime back, and could help out in the return game. Wilson started for four years, and has all the tools to be an excellent player. A few years of learning from Charles Woodson and Al Harris have helped Tramon Williams progress well, and I would expect a similar, maybe a quicker, learning curve for Wilson.
At the safety spot, I'm hoping that we avoid Taylor Mays. I just have a hunch that he won't pan out.
Finally, in case anyone's wondering what some of the Packers think about tonight's pick, Jermichael Finley wants to see his college teammate Kindle come to Green Bay.