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SB Nation Writer’s Mock Draft 2018: Denzel Ward is a no-brainer for the Packers

The Packers land our top-rated cornerback in this year’s SB Nation mock.

Big Ten Championship - Ohio State v Wisconsin Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images

In what has become an annual tradition, the managing editors for all of the SB Nation NFL team sites have come together for one mock draft to rule them all. This year’s edition gives us at Acme Packing Company the pleasure of picking in the top half of round one for the first time in nearly a decade. This year’s draft board fell brilliantly for us and the Packers, who appear to seriously need help in the secondary.

Without further ado, here’s the selection. With the 14th pick in the SB Nation NFL Writer’s Mock Draft for 2018, Acme Packing Company selects:

Denzel Ward, cornerback, Ohio State

I literally did a double-take at the draft board when I realized that Denzel Ward was still available. Ward is my highest-rated cornerback by a fair margin, and he’s an ideal Packers pick: he’s the best player remaining on the board, he fits a critical position of need, and he checks all the boxes that the Packers traditionally look for in a player at his specific position. He is also familiar with a press-man coverage scheme from his time at Ohio State, making him a good fit with the Packers and new defensive coordinator Mike Pettine.

He may be lightly built, but Ward measured in taller than expected at the Combine -- 5-foot-10 7/8 -- which meets the Packers’ traditional thresholds for cornerback height. The team has stuck to their athletic minimums very closely over Ted Thompson’s tenure as general manager, and the expectation is that Brian Gutekunst will still hold closely to them as well. Ward’s 4.32-second 40-yard dash and his 39” vertical are both stellar, and although he did not formally go through agility drills, his tape suggests that he would have put up excellent numbers in the cone and shuttle runs as well.

Ultimately, the Packers cannot pass up a chance to get the best cornerback in the draft, particularly given their current depth situation at that position. They traded away their top corner from last season, Damarious Randall, for some improved mid-round picks and DeShone Kizer; last year’s top pick, Kevin King, showed promise but still has some injury concerns; and the team added just a single free agent corner in 35-year-old Tramon Williams. Ward projects as not just a special athlete, but a special player and one on whom Pettine can rely, even as a rookie. If Ward is still there at 14, the Packers should sprint up to the podium with his name on the card.

Really, the only players I would seriously consider drafting over Ward are safeties Derwin James and Minkah Fitzpatrick or edge rusher Bradley Chubb. Outside of that trio, Ward is next up on my board and I was thrilled to see him still available.

Here’s the draft board through the first 14 picks:

  1. QB Sam Darnold, USC (Browns)
  2. DE Bradley Chubb, NC State (Giants)
  3. QB Josh Rosen, UCLA (Jets)
  4. RB Saquon Barkley, Penn State (Browns)
  5. QB Baker Mayfield, Oklahoma (Broncos)
  6. G Quenton Nelson, Notre Dame (Colts)
  7. S Derwin James, Florida State (Buccaneers)
  8. LB Tremaine Edmunds, Virginia Tech (Bears)
  9. DB Minkah Fitzpatrick, Alabama (49ers)
  10. DT Maurice Hurst, Michigan (Raiders)
  11. LB Roquan Smith, Georgia (Dolphins)
  12. QB Josh Allen, Wyoming (Bills)
  13. DT Vita Vea, Washington (Washington)
  14. CB Denzel Ward, Ohio State (Packers)