It's starting to be that time, everyone - that time when all the draftniks come out of the woodwork and make their presence felt for the next three-plus months. With 28 teams ready to focus on scouting college players, it makes sense.
Here at Acme Packing Company, we're going to spend some time breaking down the Packers' 2013 roster soon to identify the critical areas of need, but it's safe to say that safety is among the positions that urgently need an upgrade. As such, we have two premier draft prognosticators who are predicting the Packers to draft safeties with the 21st pick of the first round of the 2014 NFL Draft.
ESPN's Mel Kiper projects the Green Bay Packers to select junior safety Calvin Pryor from Louisville. Kiper has this to say of Pryor (Insider subscription required for the entire article):
Pryor is a rising talent with the speed and instincts to cover a ton of ground in coverage, but also the willingness to fly downhill and make tackles at the line of scrimmage. The onetime high school running back (and safety) was pretty dominant as a junior and enters the draft with a lot of momentum in terms of his tape
The only other defensive back on the Packers roster who matches Pryor's size (6'2" and 208 pounds) is Sean Richardson, and he has had known issues in coverage. If Pryor can show good speed at the NFL Scouting Combine, a late-first round selection would not be a huge surprise.
Other picks to note in Kiper's first mock:
#8 Vikings: QB Teddy Bridgewater (Louisville)
#14 Bears: DT Timmy Jernigan (Florida State)
#15 Steelers: NT Louis Nix (Notre Dame)
#17 Cowboys: S Ha-Ha Clinton-Dix (Alabama)
NFL.com also has two new mock drafts that were released yesterday. Daniel Jeremiah has the Cowboys and Packers swapping Kiper's picks, with Dallas picking up Pryor and the Packers taking Clinton-Dix instead. Bucky Brooks had the Alabama safety going early and Pryor still on the board at 21, but instead projected nose tackle Louis Nix as the Packers' pick in that slot. With both Ryan Pickett and B.J. Raji becoming free agents this off-season, adding a big playmaker in the middle of the defensive line makes sense. Nix definitely has the size and strength to occupy multiple gaps on the nose.
In either case, it is clear that the middle of the defense contains the areas of most urgent need for Green Bay, and draft analysts are recognizing this.