With blue-chip talent Myles Jack unexpectedly falling and Alabama thumper Reggie Ragland still on the board, Ted Thompson and the Green Bay Packers elected to stay the course instead. At pick No. 27, they addressed their undermanned defensive front, selecting UCLA defensive tackle Kenny Clark.
One of the few true nose tackles in the 2016 NFL Draft, Clark helps fill the void left by the retired B.J. Raji. Like Raji, Clark moves very well for a man of such imposing stature. At 6-foot-3, 314 pounds, the UCLA product ran the 40-yard dash in 5.06 seconds, the short shuttle in 4.62 seconds and leapt 28 1/2 inches in the vertical jump. For a team that covets athleticism in its defensive lineman above nearly everything else, those measurements made Clark too enticing to pass up.
But athleticism alone doesn't explain why Thompson tabbed Clark over options like Jack, Ragland or prospects like Ole Miss' Robert Nkemdiche. While Clark has the power and movement skills to eventually become a starter, he also has one of the highest upsides of any interior defensive lineman in his class. He doesn't turn 21 until October, nearly a month into the 2016 regular season. His nature body maturation combined with the refinement that comes with NFL strength-and-conditioning coaching could allow Clark to become a physically dominant presence the Packers need to anchor their defense.
That said, Clark may only contribute as a rotational player during his rookie season. Defensive lineman of all stripes usually take half a season or more to find their bearings in the NFL. Clark may require even more time, and his new team may need him much sooner. Already down Raji as well as Mike Pennel for the first four games of 2016, the Packers have little depth along their defensive front. Mike Daniels has the three-tech spot on lockdown, and the recently re-signed Letroy Guion can handle both the five-tech and nose positions, but their other options come with huge concerns. Josh Boyd comes off a season-ending ankle break and never provided more than adequate run defense when healthy. Christian Ringo spent his entire rookie season on the practice squad. Datone Jones has never lived up to his first-round billing, and he appears likely to spend more time at the team's "elephant" outside linebacker position than the defensive interior. Barring another addition to the line, Clark may have to play early and often as a first-year player.
Still, the team can figure out the details during the upcoming months. Right now, they have two more days of the draft to worry about.