With defensive back Damarious Randall now in the fold, the Green Bay Packers can now turn their attention to the second day of the 2015 NFL Draft. While the team entered the week with few needs, the roster still contains some holes.
Assuming that general manager Ted Thompson indeed sees Randall transitioning to cornerback, the biggest remaining position of need for the Packers is inside linebacker. The team appears satisfied with Sam Barrington holding down one of the two starting spots in the base defense. However, acquiring another starting-caliber linebacker to allow Clay Matthews to shift back outside on a more regular basis is a top priority. Fortunately for Green Bay, plenty of quality prospects remain available.
Only two off-ball linebackers came off the board on Day 1. Washington's Shaq Thompson landed with the Carolina Panthers where he projects as the future starter alongside Luke Kuechly. Several picks later, the New Orleans Saints selected Clemson's Stephone Anthony, another athletic linebacker who the team homes can replace offseason cap casualty Curtis Lofton.
That leaves Eric Kendricks, Paul Dawson and Denzel Perryman as the top remaining off-ball linebackers. Of the group, Kendricks is the best athlete and most capable in coverage. Dawson possesses strong instincts for the position that make up for his lack of speed and range. Perryman lacks ideal size but proved himself as a productive linebacker throughout his four years at Miami. Each could potentially start for the Packers next to Barrington.
While Green Bay doesn't lack for edge rushers this season, that could change come 2016. The contracts for Mike Neal and Nick Perry expire next offseason (though the team could still choose to exercise the latter's fifth-year option before May 3), and Julius Peppers, now 35, could potentially retire or receive his release should his play regress. That would leave only Clay Matthews as a proven performer at outside linebacker.
Somewhat sparingly, several quality edge rushers did not hear their names called Thursday night. Randy Gregory, a 6'5", 235-pound linebacker from Nebraska, needs to add weight but can contribute right away as a pass rush specialist. UCLA's Owa Odighizuwa is also an attractive option given his abundant physical gifts. Both could be gone before Green Bay picks at 62, but Thompson has traded up in the past for a pass rusher he covets.
The Packers could also look at the interior defensive lineman on Day 2. Mike Daniels has been a revelation over the past two seasons, but finding another end has proven somewhat challenging. Datone Jones has performed well when healthy, but he's missed significant time each of his first two seasons. Josh Boyd played well down the stretch of the 2014 season, but he's far from proven. Jordan Phillips played his college ball with new Packers defensive line assistant Jerry Montgomery and would likely be considered if he fell. Additionally, B.J. Raji and Letroy Guion signed one-year deals this offseason. Finding a long-term answer at nose tackle could take priority if a player like Eddie Goldman somehow finds his way to the end of Round 2.
If there's another position the Packers could address on Friday, it may be tight end. A year ago, the team selected Richard Rodgers in the third round, and, after a slow start, the California product began to show traits of a starting-caliber tight end. Still, Green Bay could look for a more dynamic pass catcher to pair with Rodgers. Minnesota's Maxx Williams is generally considered the best prospect at the position, but Miami's Clive Walford could also entice the Packers.