One more weekend remains in the football season with Super Bowl LIII set to kickoff Sunday evening in Atlanta.
The Senior Bowl has come and gone and the NFL Combine is less than a month away. Since it’s Friday, it seemed like a good time for another round of Packers musings but with a draft-themed twist. Much has been made about the Packers’ draft possibilities with two picks in the first round. But Green Bay’s bread and butter when most successful has been its ability to identify contributors in the middle and late rounds.
Today’s article features three potential candidates Green Bay could consider outside of round one in the 2019 NFL Draft, adding on to what appears to be a promising group of mid-round picks a year ago.
Deebo Samuel, WR, South Carolina
Green Bay’s lack of a slot receiver has been noted in the early part of this offseason, especially with Randall Cobb’s expiring contract. I still think that the Packers explore under-the-radar veterans in free agency, but, in the event that they do not, there are many draftable prospects to consider. Yes, Green Bay selected three receivers a year ago, but none are true slot receivers.
One player who has some similarities to Cobb is Samuel, a dynamic SEC receiver. The knock on the South Carolina product is injury, as Samuel suffered a broken leg in week three of the 2017 season. After a slow start to his senior season comeback, Samuel began to showcase his talents once again. Like Cobb, Samuel can play outside if needed but would be more dangerous from the slot as a six-foot target. He has a thicker frame than Cobb with a similar level of physicality, but breaks more tackles after the catch than Cobb showed in his younger years. Samuel also has kick return experience and would give Green Bay immediate help in that department.
A good showing at the Senior Bowl increased Samuel’s status. But still within day-two range, Samuel could be an explosive threat in an innovative offense with his route-running and separation skills.
Tyree Jackson, QB, Buffalo
Under Ron Wolf, the Packers’ philosophy was to draft a signal caller on a near-yearly basis. However, Green Bay has selected a quarterback just once since the 2012 season, drafting Brett Hundley in 2015. While they have had stability at the position and traded for DeShone Kizer last year, the Packers could be in line to begin that trend once again.
I could see Jackson being a late riser as draft season progresses, but he’s currently a boom-or-bust third-day prospect. With a large build reminiscent of former Tampa Bay quarterback Josh Freeman, Jackson has strength as a runner and a powerful arm. As an overall passer, Jackson remains a bit raw and will need NFL coaching over time to fix mechanical issues with his slower release that leads to accuracy issues.
Jackson could have used another year in college and was set to be a prime graduate transfer candidate. Instead, he will begin to state his case at the NFL Combine to be selected within the first three rounds. If not, Jackson would be an intriguing developmental prospect with Aaron Rodgers etched in as the Packers’ long-term starter under center.
Isaac Nauta, TE, Georgia
As a College Football Playoff squad, the Georgia Bulldogs had ample marquee television opportunities in 2018. And while Georgia has many future NFL talents - Jake Fromm, Deandre Baker, and Riley Ridley among others - one that consistently made big plays when most needed in the games I watched was Nauta, an early entry.
Whether Green Bay keeps Jimmy Graham or not, it will need depth at tight end. Nauta improved significantly as a run blocker during his time with the Bulldogs, using his long arms to his advantage as a pass blocker as well. He has enough speed to stretch the field and his physicality as a runner and receiver made him a trustworthy target for Fromm.
While many evaluators wonder if he will be able to separate at the next level, Nauta could be an excellent blocker at the position at the very least. Currently, Nauta could be a steal in the realm of rounds three or four.