The Green Bay Packers kicked off their second day of the 2016 NFL Draft by acquiring a raw-but-enticing prospect in Indiana's Jason Spriggs. They continued that trend with their third-round pick, Utah State outside linebacker Kyler Fackrell.
Early in his college career, some draft pundits pegged Fackrell as a future first-round pick. The linebacker put on a show as a sophomore, registering 13 tackles for loss, five sacks and three total turnovers on top of 82 tackles. A knee injury ended his junior season after one game, though he returned in 2015 to match or exceed his sophomore production.
Fackrell looks the part of a "Sam" linebacker, using his length and movement skills to sift through the garbage and make plays against the run while providing some juice coming off the edge on passing downs. That makes him a natural understudy to Clay Matthews, who returns outside after spending the previous year and a half working off the ball at inside linebacker. Fackrell doesn't offer the athleticism to generate pressure as consistently as a pure edge rusher, but he can serve in that role when called upon.
Of course, prospects like Fackrell don't fall into the middle rounds without a reason. He turns 25 later this year, making him one of the older players in his draft class. Older prospects tend to overachieve in college due to their advanced physical maturation, an edge they lose upon joining the NFL. Additionally, Fackrell has yet to fully regain all of the explosiveness he displayed prior to his knee injury. While that could change during 2016, his second year removed from the surgery, the possibility exists that it may never fully return.
Some may view Fackrell as a replacement for Julius Peppers when he likely retires after the upcoming season. However, his stature and profile don't fit the Packers' "Elephant" linebacker position. Rather, Fackrell's presence allows the team to spell Matthews when needed, perhaps allowing the All-Pro to occasionally shift back inside when needed. Dom Capers loves versatile pieces, and Fackrell gives him another toy with which to play.