The Green Bay Packers need pass-rushers. You know it, I know it, everybody associated with the NFL knows it. And in a revelation that is sure to shock nobody, ESPN’s Mel Kiper appears to be the only one who does not appreciate the serious of that need.
The problem with Kiper’s latest mock draft is not only the fact that he chose not to project an edge rusher to the Packers in the first round — it is the positions he did project that call this entire exercise into question. Specifically, these are positions that the Packers have not drafted in round one since 2006. Furthermore, with such pressing needs elsewhere and players of comparable (or even better) value available at those spots, it feels like Kiper does not truly appreciate the urgency of the need on the edge.
For the first example, let’s look at Kiper’s projection for the Packers’ selection at the 12th overall pick. He has the team taking wide receiver Marquise Brown from Oklahoma:
I mentioned D.K. Metcalf as the best “big” receiver in this draft, and the 5-foot-10, 160-pound Brown is the class’ best “small” wideout. He can fly, but he is also a good route-runner. The Packers were playing various late-round picks at receiver last season, so adding pass-catching options is a no-brainer. And Brown would be a stellar deep threat for Aaron Rodgers. Edge rusher is also a position to watch here, and Green Bay also has the No. 30 pick from New Orleans.
Yes, edge rusher is very much a position to watch here. Four top options went off the board in Kiper’s top five — Nick Bosa, Josh Allen, Rashan Gary, and Montez Sweat — but that still leaves Jachai Polite, Clelin Ferrell, and Brian Burns as reasonable options at 12. Instead, Kiper goes to the wide receiver position.
Personally, I like Brown. I like his fit with the Packers a lot. But I don’t like his value at 12, not compared to one of the above mentioned edge rushers. If the Packers landed a pass-rusher at 12 and moved up into the early 20s for Brown, I’d be all for it, but this just doesn’t seem to be good value, at least at this point before the Combine takes place.
Then, 18 picks later, Kiper again chooses not to land an outside linebacker, instead projecting Michigan off-ball linebacker Devin Bush to Green Bay:
This is another match for need -- starter Jake Ryan missed all of 2018 with a torn ACL and is now a free agent, which means there’s a void in the middle of the Green Bay defense. Bush is a bit undersized (5-11, 235), but he’s a terrific sideline-to-sideline linebacker. I gave the Packers a receiver with their first pick, but they could also be in the market for an outside linebacker, especially with Clay Matthews a free agent.
In this writer’s interpretation, Kiper’s saying the Packers “could be in the market for an outside linebacker” is just his way of justifying getting out of round one without projecting one to Green Bay at either selection. Create doubt where there is none.
Admittedly, with the top edge rushers all gone by the 27th pick (when Kiper projected Brian Burns to come off the board), the value probably isn’t there for one of the players in the next tier. But that simply underscores the issues with projecting a receiver instead of an outside linebacker at 12 — even if he doesn’t know who he’s picking later on, he must try to put himself in a team’s shoes to see if a player at a critical position will fall to the next pick.
As for Bush, the value for the player seems reasonable. However, we fall back on the common refrain that the Packers do not appear to value off-ball linebackers high enough to seriously consider one in round one. Furthermore, the team drafted Oren Burks in round three last year, making him the team’s highest-drafted off-ball linebacker since A.J. Hawk. It is difficult to imagine them spending a lot of draft capital at the position this year unless a player fell far below where the Packers value him.
Stay tuned for later today, as SB Nation’s Dan Kadar should have his latest mock publishing.