The conclusion of the NFL season means that it’s time once again for mock drafts to begin in earnest for the 2019 NFL Draft. On Thursday morning, ESPN’s Todd McShay published his latest mock for April’s upcoming draft, which featured the Green Bay Packers selecting a pair of linebackers in round one.
However, despite the Packers’ needs on the edge, the first pick is an off-ball linebacker instead. First up, with the Packers on the clock at 12 overall, McShay projects them to select LSU linebacker Devin White:
Green Bay would probably want an edge rusher here, but the value is just off the charts for White. I envision him becoming the future leader of the defense as a three-down rangy backer who moves with explosiveness. And with the Saints’ pick on the back end of the round, the Packers can still get their pass-rusher.
The only part that I really agree with in this rationale is the first half of the first sentence: the Packers want an edge rusher. With three excellent ones still on the board — Clelin Ferrell, Jachai Polite, and Montez Sweat — I can’t see the Packers going for an off-ball linebacker instead, even if White is a great prospect.
To illustrate this point, let’s look at where the Packers have drafted off-ball linebackers since Ted Thompson’s arrival as GM in 2005:
2018: Oren Burks (3rd round)
2016: Blake Martinez (4th round)
2015: Jake Ryan (4th round)
2013: Sam Barrington (7th round)
2012: Terrell Manning (5th round)
2011: D.J. Smith (6th round)
2007: Desmond Bishop (6th round)
2006: A.J. Hawk (1st round), Abdul Hodge (3rd round)
2005: Brady Poppinga (4th round)
The Packers have a type and a value on their off-ball linebackers, and it’s simply not a position they have prioritized highly in the past. Besides, given the fact that Martinez has one starting job locked down and the investment made in Burks (the team’s highest-drafted off-ball linebacker since Hawk), the need is far, far less pressing than that on the edge. The better bet here is that the Packers double up on outside linebackers rather than taking an off-ball linebacker this high.
Is White a good player? Yes, and he’s likely to be a good pro. But so are those edge rushers, all of whom would likely make a much bigger impact in Green Bay given the need and the defensive system the team runs under Mike Pettine.
As for the 30th pick, McShay does have the Packers picking a player on the edge: Old Dominion’s Oshane Ximines. Here’s McShay’s reasoning:
Clay Matthews and Muhammad Wilkerson are both free agents, and Ximines would give the Pack a rusher off the edge. He stood out at the Senior Bowl and plays with power. He piled on 12 sacks and 18.5 tackles for loss at ODU this season. Ximines would be the first Old Dominion draft pick ever.
Interestingly, Ximines appears to be built similarly to Matthews coming out of college. He measured in just over 6-foot-3 and weighed 241 pounds at the Senior Bowl, numbers that put him right on par with Matthews’ size at the Combine. However, Ximines is unlikely to test on par with Matthews, who had an excellent Combine workout.
Perhaps if the draft board fell the way it did in McShay’s mock, the Packers would be inclined to trade up with the Seahawks at 21 and land Jachai Polite instead. Then again, Ximines might be worthy of a first-round grade just based on his Taco Bell menu preferences:
Oshane Ximines weighed in at 241 today. Said he wants to be up near 250 but he’s on a new diet because he ate Taco Bell three times a day in college. “Cheesy gordita crunch.”— Chris Burke (@ChrisBurkeNFL) January 22, 2019