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Packers 5th-round pick Cole Madison provides instant competition at right guard

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Green Bay gets a player who can pass-protect from day one, a critical quality for a player to earn early playing time in front of Aaron Rodgers.

NCAA Football: Washington State at Arizona State Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

It took until the first pick of the fifth round in the 2018 NFL Draft, but the Green Bay Packers finally landed an offensive lineman who can help improve the depth on the right side of the line. That pick is Washington State’s Cole Madison, a college right tackle who will start out playing guard in Green Bay.

The position switch was made clear from comments by the Packers’ director of college scouting, Jon-Eric Sullivan. He said that the team likes Madison’s “position versatility” but that guard will be the place he begins for now. Sullivan noted that Madison’s ability to handle speed rushers on the outside will bode well for a transition to the inside.

Madison noted that he played guard at the Senior Bowl and that most NFL teams he spoke with viewed him as an inside player. However, changing positions is nothing new to him, as he played wide receiver in high school before starting his college career as a tight end and moving to offensive tackle quickly after arriving Pullman.

The immediate question is whether Madison can come in and start on day one at the right guard spot, which remains open after Jahri Evans became a free agent this offseason. The Packers do have some in-house options at that spot, with Justin McCray and Lucas Patrick as the top options, but Madison should have an opportunity to compete with those players for playing time and potentially a starting job.

Madison’s standout trait is his pass-blocking, which is critical for any offensive lineman playing in Mike Leach’s Air Raid-style offense. “Washington State throws the ball a lot, but the Green Bay Packers throw the ball a lot also,” Packers scout Sam Seale said after the pick was made. “(Madison) already knows how to pass block...that’s one thing he already has going for him.” Underscoring this trait is Madison’s metrics from Pro Football Focus, who calculated Madison to have a 97.8 pass-blocking efficiency in 2017, the fifth-best mark in the Pac-12 conference.

McCray might be more established as a run-blocker, but Madison’s pass blocking ability should definitely make him a contender to start on day one. Keep an eye on the battle for the right guard position this summer.