Like all NFL organizations, the Green Bay Packers cover all bases leading up to the NFL Draft by checking in with players of most positions in Combine interviews. With several areas of need, it is not surprising that the Packers’ brass was especially broad in setting up one-on-one meetings.
Interestingly enough, Green Bay was very active in face-to-face conversations with prospective running backs. Josh Jacobs, who I listed last week as a player that might be the best available player when the Packers are on the clock, was one such prospect. Although Jacobs would be a surprise selection for Green Bay considering the young talent on the roster, it would be a pick that confirms the Packers’ long-adhered-to strategy to select the top player available on their board.
As the news of Jacobs’ meeting with the Packers trickled down the pipeline, it made me wonder what other kinds of surprises could be in store for the Packers’ top three draft slots. With the NFL Combine in the rear-view mirror, here is one surprise and one logical choice for each of those picks.
Pick No. 12
The Logical: Montez Sweat, EDGE, Mississippi State
Even before the Combine, Sweat was in play for Green Bay. Now, the Packers drafting the Mississippi State product will be more of a question of whether or not he will fall to them.
A staggering 4.42 forty, in addition to top-eight marks at the edge defender in the vertical jump, broad jump, three-cone drill, and 20-yard shuttle put Sweat into consideration for the first 10 picks. Green Bay has been rumored to be of particular interest in the free agency pool this offseason to solve its pass rushing woes, but turning down a freak athletic specimen like Sweat, who has produced significantly at the SEC level, would be difficult. And while Sweat might be a better fit as a 4-3 end, the Packers could be creative in how they line him up off the edge.
A top-15 player who would also fill an area of need, Sweat is a relatively obvious choice if he makes it to number 12 overall.
The Surprise: D.K. Metcalf, WR, Ole Miss
Speaking of athletic freaks, Metcalf posted his own 4.33 time in the 40-yard dash and is absolutely chiseled with just 1.9% body fat. With a vertical leap of 40.5” and an 11-foot-2” broad jump, Metcalf confirmed the athleticism he shows on tape. Very few prospects helped themselves as much as the former Rebel and Metcalf could work his way much higher than this.
After drafting three receivers last year on the third day, Green Bay would be throwing a curveball in making Metcalf the 12th overall pick, especially with the team showing little interest in dealing for Antonio Brown. There is some risk with Metcalf as his Ole Miss career was set back by season-ending injuries twice in three seasons, but there is plenty of reason to believe that he could have been a consensus top-five selection had he stayed healthy.
Few have the size-speed potential to free themselves down the field as Metcalf. While his teammate A.J. Brown may be a good fit for Green Bay due to his ability in the slot and outside, Metcalf would represent the home-run prospect many have pleaded for to help Aaron Rodgers and the new coaching staff.
Pick No. 30
The Logical: Irv Smith, TE, Alabama
The former Alabama pass-catcher has taken a quiet seat behind Iowa’s duo of T.J. Hockenson and Noah Fant in terms of Combine attention. But Smith was impressive in his own right and would be a consolation prize for Green Bay if the other top tight ends are off the board.
There is no hiding that tight end is a position of need this offseason, even with Jimmy Graham’s return in 2019. The Packers must add numbers to the position and could turn toward the future with a player like Smith that can help immediately as a blocker while offering low 4.6 speed and route-running in the receiving game. His size is not overwhelming at just over 6’2,” but Smith was able to haul in 710 yards and seven touchdowns last season for the Crimson Tide.
A good year for tight ends may give Green Bay the option to pick one up in the second and third days, but a talent like Smith in the first round would make a lot of sense.
The Surprise: Dexter Lawrence, DT, Clemson
Depth along the defensive line is needed in Green Bay, but nose tackle is not necessarily an identified need. However, Ted Thompson and his staff never shied away from big, athletic linemen early in the draft and always said that there is a scarce number of those type of players. A Thompson disciple in Brian Gutekunst may see similarly.
Even with Kenny Clark and Mike Daniels, the Packers might benefit from a B.j. Raji-type man in the middle of the defensive front that can help eat up blockers and assist the run defense. At the Combine, Lawrence turned in a 40-yard dash time of almost five seconds flat despite a 6’4,” 340-pound frame. A large wingspan and defensive lineman-best 36 reps in the bench press raised some eyebrows.
While a quad injury arose for Lawrence in the workout and his positive performance-enhancing drug test prior to the National Championship Game looms large, the defensive tackle might have risen back up into first-round territory. It would be a minor surprise to see the Packers draft him and plug him immediately into the defense.
Pick No. 44
The Logical: Nasir Adderley, S, Delaware
I brought up the Packers legacy just over a month ago as a fit for the Packers at free safety. A high ankle sprain kept Adderley out of on-field drills at the Combine, which may have prevented him from standing out to NFL scouts like Mississippi State’s Johnathan Abram did. But Adderley remains a legitimate option for Green Bay if he lasts until its second-round selection.
Versatility, a trait the Packers covet, is a calling card for Adderley who can play in the slot or in center field. He’s physical and his small-school status should not hinder him in making a quick transition to the pro game. A turnover-creator, Adderley would fill the hole left by Ha Ha Clinton-Dix at a high-value draft slot.
The Surprise: Darrell Henderson, RB, Memphis
A running back in the second round would not be as stunning as in the first, but the Packers interviewed the dynamic Henderson at the Combine. Still, he would be a surprise and possible reach in the upper half of round two.
The Memphis product is not Alvin Kamara, but he is a player that can create as a runner and receiver. Aaron Jones and Jamaal Williams are more than capable of picking up the slack in terms of carries, but Henderson would give Green Bay the situational, package-specific weapon with home-run potential. An 8.9-yard average per carry over his last 344 attempts and 43 hand-offs of 15-plus yards signifies a potential game-changer. While Henderson carries risk in his game translating to the NFL level, he could be the kind of player that eventually keeps defenses off balance.