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2018 NFL Draft: Five surprise picks for the Packers in round one

Here are a few options for Green Bay if the Packers choose not to go the predicted secondary/edge rusher route in the first round.

Texas v California Photo by Brian Bahr/Getty Images

With the NFL Draft just a little over a month away, the Green Bay Packers find themselves in the all-too-familiar spot of seeking out cornerback help.

Even then, this feels like a year of desperation at the position after an already-struggling unit goes into the 2018 season without Damarious Randall. Green Bay passed on popular free agents Trumaine Johnson and Malcolm Butler before the Chicago Bears matched the team’s transition tag offer to Kyle Fuller. With notable starting-caliber corners off the market and a one-year stop-gap solution appearing more likely by the day, cornerback appears to be the primary position to watch for the Packers in round one at this point.

Along with cornerback, the Packers could bolster their edge rushing talent to take the pressure off its secondary, which also appears to have lost starting safety Morgan Burnett to Pittsburgh. Adding talents such as Harold Landry or Marcus Davenport could improve the unit for the future and give new coordinator Mike Pettine young players to mold to his system.

But what if the Packers choose to go a more unconventional route in the first round and bypass their pressing defensive needs to take the best player available on their board? Here is a rundown of a few surprising possibilities (note: I still think Minkah Fitzpatrick could fall and technically be a surprise for the secondary).

Courtland Sutton, WR, SMU

In his Combine recordings on the APC Podcast, Evan “Tex” Western documented intriguing similarities between Sutton and the recently departed Jordy Nelson. Sutton, who carries similarly strong family values and worked on a farm as kid, also draws many physical comparisons to Nelson at the Combine.

Combine - Sutton vs. Nelson

Measurable Jordy Nelson Courtland Sutton
Measurable Jordy Nelson Courtland Sutton
Height 6'3" 6'3"
Weight 215 218
Hands 10" 9.75"
Arms 32.5" 32.75"
40-Yard Dash 4.55 seconds 4.54 seconds
Broad Jump 123" 124"
60-Yard Shuttle 11.53 seconds 11.06 seconds

Peculiar, isn’t it? On top of the similarities, Sutton also outperformed Nelson in the three-cone drill and 20-yard shuttle and was a top performer at his position in those drills. He also jumped almost four inches higher in the vertical leap. Sutton’s Combine has him moving up draft boards considerably, and many have him leapfrogging Calvin Ridley to become the first wideout off the board.

Green Bay, needing an outside receiver with size that can stretch the field and work the sidelines, could replace Nelson with a near-clone if it ventures away from its trademark second round tendency at the position.

Leighton Vander Esch, LB, Boise State

Vander Esch made my previous list of five players that could improve their draft status significantly with a great Combine. He did and now finds himself sailing into the first round in many mocks.

According to Tony Pauline at Draft Analyst, Vander Esch is a candidate for the Packers at pick 14 and would be the next man up at inside linebacker should Tremaine Edmunds and Roquan Smith be off the board. Vander Esch is a player that is somewhat of a one-year wonder due to an injury during his second year on campus. The junior film is tantalizing with a player that flies from sideline to sideline, adds value as a blitzer, and plays with a level of nastiness that Green Bay could benefit from.

There’s a lot of smoke this time of year, so take reports with a grain of salt. But Vander Esch is certainly a player that fits the Green Bay mentality.

Mike McGlinchey, OT, Notre Dame

There has been a lot of buzz around McGlinchey’s teammate Quenton Nelson, a guard who could be selected in the top 10. That’s taken the spotlight off of McGlinchey a bit. But in a year where offensive tackle talent is much weaker than in previous drafts, his potential to be a future left tackle will make him much more coveted. With Buffalo swapping tackle Cordy Glenn with Cincinnati to move up to pick 12, it took away a possible landing spot for the Notre Dame stud.

It’s no secret that the Packers could stand to add depth to the offensive line and potentially a starter at right tackle with the health and play of Bryan Bulaga and Jason Spriggs, respectively, in doubt. McGlinchey could be that plug-and-play right tackle for Green Bay and would provide insurance on the left side for David Bakhtiari as well.

Offensive tackle is not a sexy pick for the Packers in round one, but McGlinchey would bring solid value at number 14 and shore up another need.

Connor Williams, OT, Texas

Remember how I said quality tackles are a premium in this year’s draft class? Well, here’s another one.

Williams had an impressive showing at the Combine, testing at the top of his position in the 40-yard dash, vertical jump, and broad jump. He did not have a great 2017 season and his length is a concern for some teams. Yet, Williams could be athletic enough to move inside to guard if needed and draws rave reviews for his leadership and work ethic.

Versatility, effort, and locker room presence mean a lot to the Packers organization. Williams is a player that has not reached his ceiling and wouldn’t be the biggest reach.

Da’Ron Payne, DT, Alabama

Yes, I know. Green Bay is stacked on the defensive line. The addition of Muhammad Wilkerson only beefed up a line that was a focal point of the defense in 2017 and awaits the development of a healthy Montravius Adams. But Ted Thompson always noted how difficult it was to find big, athletic linemen. I don’t think that philosophy will shift much from Thompson to Brian Gutekunst.

Payne fits the billing and is certainly a player that should be picked in the first 20 selections. He’s strong as an ox and will clog running lanes immediately as a rookie. He’s not the most dangerous pass rushing threat, but Payne would be a great depth option in the interior of the line to spell Kenny Clark while developing a wider range of pass rush moves.

Payne would definitely be a surprise pick for Green Bay from a numbers standpoint, but logically it makes sense.