The Green Bay Packers got off to another rough start for the 2022 season, falling to the Minnesota Vikings. On the bright side, it gave Packers fans a better idea of which positions they’ll need to address in next year’s draft.
General manager Brian Gutekunst and his college scouting department are already hard at work evaluating college prospects around the country, so why can’t Acme Packing Company do the same?
Here are a few prospects for Packers fans to watch, if they have time this weekend.
Jared Verse, EDGE/DL, Florida State
It’s no secret that EDGE is one of the Packers’ biggest needs right now. Despite two very good starters in Rashan Gary and Preston Smith, the depth behind those two is rough. JJ Enagbare could become a rotational pass rusher, but as a fifth-round pick the Packers would need the rookie to look like a steal right out of the gate.
Unless things go horribly wrong for the Packers, they’re unlikely to land a top-tier EDGE prospect like Will Anderson. However, a late first-round pick could allow the Packers to snag a prospect like Florida State’s Jared Verse if he continues to impress like he did last weekend.
Verse was playing for the FCS program Albany in 2021 before transferring to Tallahassee. He was the CAA Defensive Rookie of the Year in his first season as a starter in 2021, racking up 10 tackles for loss and four sacks.
It didn’t take long for Verse to have his presence felt for the Seminoles. He completely dominated LSU’s offensive line in Florida State’s second game of the year, sacking Jayden Daniels twice while also blocking a field goal.
Although he’s currently listed as a defensive lineman, Verse’s 6’4”, 251-pound frame has him projected to be more of an EDGE player at the next level. His play strength and ability to quickly disengage from blockers make him an exciting prospect to watch this weekend against the Louisville Cardinals.
Darnell Washington, TE, Georgia
It has been years since the Packers had a true impact tight end, arguably since the days of Jermichael Finley. While the unit currently includes Robert Tonyan, Marcedes Lewis, and Josiah Deguara, the team lacks a true impact mismatch at the position. Lewis is also likely to retire in the near future coming into the 2022 season at 38 years old.
A big-bodied presence at tight end like Darnell Washington out of Georgia could give the Packers a much-needed matchup nightmare in the middle of the field. Listed at 6’7” and 265 pounds, Washington is an intimidating presence at his position.
Washington’s lack of production can be easily explained by Georgia’s emphasis on the run game in their offense, along with the incredible depth the Bulldogs have at the tight end position. With his size and athleticism, Washington is able to create problems in the passing game, particularly when flying up the seam.
As a blocker, Washington can struggle with his pad level, simply because he’s so tall it’s difficult for him to get low. However, with his play strength, size, and willingness, he’s still a more than capable in-line blocker.
Don’t expect Washington to fill up the stat sheet this Saturday against South Carolina, but he’s still worth watching for Packers fans who want to see another big-bodied tight end in Green Bay.
Nick Herbig, EDGE, Wisconsin
Even after just one game in the 2022 season, it’s apparent that EDGE depth is still a huge need for this Packers team. JJ Enagbare looked decent at best, but outside of the rookie there isn’t another edge rusher behind Preston Smith or Rashan Gary with legitimate upside.
Plenty of Packers fans already know about Nick Herbig, but those who don’t follow Wisconsin Badgers football should pay attention to the talented outside linebacker this weekend.
Herbig is coming off of a nine-sack season in 2021, and he has already picked up three more in just two games this season. When you watch the Badgers edge rusher, the top thing that stands out is his relentless energy, attacking every play with the same effort whether he’s rushing the passer or pursuing a ball carrier going away from him.
As a pass rusher, Herbig has some juice off of the snap to get into the backfield and does a nice job of disengaging from blockers to get into the pocket. He is also a surprisingly good edge setter against the run despite his limited size at 6’2” and 228 pounds.
NFL scouts will question if Herbig has the size to be a legitimate edge rusher at the next level, but his tape shows a very intriguing prospect if he decides to go pro after this season.