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2023 NFL Draft: Rumors link Packers to Day 3 edge rushers

Green Bay should be active in the outside linebacker market on Saturday

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: NOV 12 Pitt at Virginia Photo by Lee Coleman/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Pro Football Network’s Tony Pauline has meticulously reported on the NFL draft since his days back as a writer for Sports Illustrated. This year, he wrote daily reports on which teams appeared to show interest in specific players during the pro day circuit — which obviously included some notes about the Green Bay Packers.

Interestingly enough, of the 14 players that were linked to the Packers in Pauline’s reports, 8 of them were edge rusher prospects.

Based on Pauline’s reports and Green Bay’s reported visits with 2023 NFL Draft prospects, it shouldn’t be a surprise if 1) the Packers are in the edge rusher market this week and 2) general manager Brian Gutekunst thinks the sweet spot for the position is in the second round or on Day 3 of the draft. Green Bay brought in four 3-4 outside linebacker prospects who are projected to be drafted in the second round, according to the consensus draft board, while Pauline’s rumors mostly link the Packers to Day 3 prospects and players who are assumed to be future undrafted free agents.

Let’s get into Pauline’s nuggets from this draft season.

Habakkuk Baldonado, Pittsburgh (170th on the consensus draft board)

Defensive end Habakkuk Baldonado, who gave PFN a great interview during Shrine Bowl practices, participated in the shuttles and position drills. His three-cone was an impressive 6.92 seconds, and his short shuttle was 4.21 seconds. Baldonado spent time with the Packers and Saints, both of whom had defensive line coaches on hand.

Deslin Alexandre, Pittsburgh (525th)

The underrated Deslin Alexandre measured a shade over 6’4” and 275 pounds. His 40 times ranged from 4.72 to 4.83 seconds, and his three-cone was a swift 6.92 seconds. Alexandre also hit 35″ on the vertical jump.

He’s being looked at as an interchangeable DE/DT, and teams like his athleticism and pass-rush ability on the inside. Alexandre is drawing interest from the Green Bay Packers and Chicago Bears. He also had dinner with the Saints the night before pro day.

Our first two prospects both hail from Pitt, where the Packers apparently sent defensive line coach and run game coordinator Jerry Montgomery for the team’s pro day. Baldonado, an Italian citizen who came to the United States as a high schooler in pursuit of a career in football, is expected to come off the board at some point on Day 3. Meanwhile, his teammate — Alexandre — is unlikely to be drafted. Alexandre spent six years at the college level and was a two-time captain at Pittsburgh but was not invited to the NFL Scouting Combine in February and is going to turn 25 years old in June.

Robert Beal, Georgia (205th)

Robert Beal was another prospect who was coming off a terrific Combine workout, timing 4.48 seconds in the 40-yard dash. Today, he ran the short shuttle in 4.42 seconds, the three-cone in 7.2 seconds, and touched 31.5″ in the vertical jump. His vertical was an improvement from Indianapolis.

Beal, who is getting a lot of interest from the Green Bay Packers and New England Patriots, was run through defensive line drills. He weighed 247 pounds at the Combine.

If Baldonado isn’t the first pass-rusher drafted off of this list on Saturday, it’s going to be Georgia’s Robert Beal. Despite spending six years at the college level with his home state Georgia Bulldogs, Beal is still only a 23-year-old. At the combine, Beal posted a 4.44-second 40-yard dash before putting up respectable agility drills at his pro day. He’s a little undersized, particularly for a Packers pass-rusher, but Green Bay has been poking around on plenty of smaller edge rushers this offseason.

MJ Anderson, Iowa State (341st)

Defensive lineman MJ Anderson, who’s been struggling with a bad hamstring since January, saw the injury flare up again during his first running of the 40 but gutted out the entire workout. His 40 times ranged between 4.85 to 4.95 seconds, and he clocked as fast as 7.78 seconds in the three-cone and 4.75 in the short shuttle. Anderson posted a vertical jump of 33″ at the Combine.

Cowboys DC Quinn ran the drills, and Anderson did defensive end and a few linebacker drills. Teams were impressed he chose to workout through the injury rather than call it a day. Anderson is being talked about as either a 3-tech or a 5-tech at the next level.

Besides meeting with the Rams, Packers, Cowboys, and Steelers the past two days, Anderson had dinner with the Washington Commanders on Monday.

Milt Hendrickson, the director of football operation for the Packers, was there to watch MJ Anderson at Iowa State’s pro day. It seems that Green Bay is fairly interested in the Cyclones' defensive front, in general, as they also brought in his teammate Will McDonald IV for a visit last month. Originally signing with the Minnesota Gophers out of high school, Anderson only played 16 combined games in his first three years with the team before transferring to Iowa State last year. After starting the final five games of the season in 2022, he declared early for the 2023 draft with two years of eligibility remaining.

Andre Jones, Louisiana (378th)

The Louisiana Pro Day took place a few weeks ago without Andre Jones. Yet, after yesterday’s pro day at LSU, about a dozen teams headed to Lafayette to watch the Shrine Bowl participant work out.

Jones has been struggling with a hamstring injury he suffered on his first attempt of the 40-yard dash at the Combine. Jones did not run the 40 but looked good in drills.

Some believe the 6’4 1/2”, 248-pound pass rusher will eventually grow into a defensive end. The Bears, 49ers, Green Bay Packers, Atlanta Falcons, and Indianapolis Colts were just a few of the teams on hand to watch Jones.

It must be noted that, while Jones never fully completed his 40 at the Combine, as he pulled up lame around the 20-yard mark, his 10-yard split came in at 1.56 seconds, one of the better splits from the linebacker group.

Jones is another sixth-year senior that the Packers seem interested in. As a freshman, he split time on the defensive side of the ball and at tight end before committing to a pass-rushing position full-time back in 2018. Jones was able to start 46 games for Louisiana over the last four seasons and was twice named an All-Sun Belt player in a conference that is quickly developing credibility for its on-field play.

Maalik Hall, Southeastern Oklahoma State (unranked)

Readers of my weekly “Risers & Sliders” column should be familiar with Maalik Hall- he was my “Small School Prospect of the Week,” last September 19. He had a tremendous campaign in 2022, leading the defense with 77 tackles, 11.5 TFLs and eight sacks. Hall was equally impressive during his pro day when he timed as fast as 4.42 seconds in the 40, 4.34 seconds in the short shuttle, as well as touching 38.5″ in the vertical jump and 10’7″ in the broad.

Teams must now decide how quickly the 6-foot, 235-pound Hall can transition from being an up-the-field linebacker, which he was in college, to an off-the-ball linebacker, the skill he must display on Sunday. Regardless, special teams are where Hall must make his mark next season. The Minnesota Vikings, Green Bay Packers, Baltimore Ravens, and New Orleans Saints have been in constant contact with Hall, with the Saints individually working him out after the pro day.

I’m not going to lie to you and tell you I even know what colors Southeastern Oklahoma State’s football team wears, but a 4.42-second 40-yard dash for a potential pass-rushing prospect is not something you hear about every day. A 6’0”, 235-pound edge rusher certainly comes with some negatives, though.

David Perales, Fresno State (unranked)

David Perales, an underrated pass rusher who combined for 25.5 tackles for loss and 16.5 sacks the past two seasons, timed 5.00 in the 40 on a bad ankle. His three-cone time was a swift 7.10 seconds and short shuttle 4.40 seconds. Perales spent time with the Eagles, Jaguars, Packers, and Broncos at pro day.

A 7.10-second three-cone is a very good number but a 5-second 40-yard dash is borderline undraftable. It would be interesting to know just how impactful that ankle injury was for his 40 time. At least Perales has some production at the FBS level. Originally, Perales went to Merced Junior College before transferring to Sacramento State — a premier FCS program. He started at Sacramento State before transferring to Fresno State in 2020. Perales was named a Second-Team All-Mountain West defensive lineman in 2020 and 2021 and a First-Teamer last season.

Thomas Rush, Minnesota (unranked)

As far as performers, pass rusher Thomas Rush was the star of the day. The senior measured 6’3″, 251 pounds, and timed as fast as 4.58 seconds in the 40, 4.22 in the short shuttle, and 7.04 in the three-cone. His vertical jump came in at 35″ with 10’3″ in the broad. Rush looked terrific in all his drills. The only concern was his arm length, which measured just 31 1/4″. Rush is drawing interest from the Miami Dolphins and Green Bay Packers.

Usually, edge defenders who run a 4.58-second 40-yard dash and run a 7.04-second three-cone end up being top-100 selections. Rush only started six games before this past season, though, and only recorded 1.5 sacks and 2.5 tackles for loss in 2022. Diamond in the rough or fool’s gold? Who’s to say?

As far as the non-pass rushers go, here are the other players of interest for the Packers, per Pauline’s reports.

Holton Ahlers, East Carolina, quarterback (420th)

East Carolina quarterback Holton Ahlers entered the season as an afterthought in the scouting community and was looked upon as a player who would be lucky to receive a minicamp invite. Ahlers responded by turning in a terrific senior season and leading East Carolina to the Birmingham Bowl, where the Pirates put a beating on Coastal Carolina.

During the ECU Pro Day last week, Ahlers impressed scouts again. It wasn’t his testing numbers but rather his passing workout. Ahlers displayed a next-level arm and the ability to make all the throws. His accuracy and ability to perfectly place passes had scouts grinning.

There’s now a possibility Ahlers lands in the late rounds. The Buffalo Bills, Green Bay Packers, and New York Giants are all interested in the ECU signal-caller.

More and more it seems like the Packers are going to have to use their second quarterback spot on either Danny Etling or an undrafted free agent. They simply have no cap space to add a veteran and they’ve been very active in the potential UDFA quarterback market. Beyond this link to Ahlers, Green Bay has also brought in Penn State QB Sean Clifford and Minnesota QB Tanner Morgan for visits. Morgan, for reference, has already been drafted by a USFL team despite being a 2023 NFL Draft prospect.

Camerun Peoples, Appalachian State, running back (274th)

Running back Camerun Peoples sat on most of his numbers from the Combine and did position drills. The Packers have shown interest in the big ball carrier. He also met with the San Francisco 49ers and Bengals.

Nick Hampton, Appalachian State, 3-4 inside linebacker (184th)

More than two dozen teams descended on Boone, North Carolina for Appalachian State’s Pro Day.

The big ticket item on hand was linebacker Nick Hampton, who stood on his Combine marks but did position drills.

Primarily used as a 3-4 pass-rushing linebacker in college and during the Senior Bowl, Hampton was asked to make plays in reverse and looked good. His drops were smooth, and he quickly changed direction and caught the ball well. The Green Bay Packers ran the drills and did plenty of extra one-on-one work with him later in the workout. Hampton also met with the Indianapolis Colts, Lions, and Vikings during his pro day.

The Packers were busy at Appalachian State’s pro day. I almost considered Hampton a pass-rusher, as it’s the position he played in college, but it appears that he’s being looked at as an off-ball linebacker at the next level. Both of these players have a chance to be drafted as depth players, as the 2023 starters at each of their positions are already locked in on the Packers’ roster. Peoples and Hampton were both team captains at App State last year with Hampton bringing home back-to-back First-Team All-Sun Belt honors over the last two years. Prior to his 2022 hip injury, Peoples was a back-to-back Second-Team All-Sun Belt player in 2020 and 2021.

Kadeem Telfort, UAB, tackle (438th)

Offensive tackle Kadeem Telfort, another Shrine Bowl participant, completed 19 reps on the bench press and touched 25″ in the vertical jump. Telfort’s arms measured 35 7/8″ at the Shrine Bowl. A left tackle at UAB, Telfort ran through right tackle drills with the Green Bay Packers. The RT-needy Jacksonville Jaguars met with Telfort.

Quinton Burrow, Grand Valley State, tackle (unranked)

In an unusual Sunday pro day workout, 10 teams assembled in Allendale, Michigan, to watch Grand Valley State. The apple of their eye was massive offensive tackle Quinton Barrow.

Barrow, a Shrine Game participant who measured 6’5 1/2’’ and 322 pounds in Vegas, timed just over 5.2 seconds in the 40 and completed 20 reps on the bench press. His arm length was 34 ¼ inches at the Shrine Bowl.

The Lions, Green Bay Packers, and Houston Texans are showing a ton of interest in Barrow, who will also participate at the Central Michigan Pro Day. In fact, the Texans did extensive board work with Barrow and took him to lunch after the pro day workout.

Barrow, graded as a late sixth-round pick on my board despite not receiving an invitation to the Combine, is getting looks as both a left and right tackle by next-level evaluators.

A pair of tackles made this list and Telfort must have left an impression on the Packers’ evaluators. Just last week, it was reported that Green Bay brought in Telfort on a visit, nearly a full month following his pro day. If you’re wondering, “Who is Tony Pauline and why should I believe what he writes,” maybe that’s a little proof of concept for you.

Telfort originally enrolled at Florida, where was suspended for credit card fraud. From there, he spent time at two junior colleges before finding his way back to the Division I level. Barrow originally was headed to Bowling Green in the MAC before turning down that option to play for a Division II juggernaut. The assumption is that both of these players — who played left tackle — are considered potential undrafted free-agent signings.

Reese Taylor, Purdue, safety (unranked)

Former Indiana safety Reese Taylor, who played for Purdue in 2022, shined during pro-day. Taylor’s marks included forty times which ranged from 4.46 to 4.49 seconds, a swift three cone time of 6.63 seconds and 4.09 seconds in the short shuttle. His vertical was 38.5 inches and broad 10’4’’.

Taylor really looked terrific in position drills from people I spoke with and his pro day was labeled a “plus workout.” The Detroit Lions and Green Bay Packers are showing interest in the priority free agent.

A freak athlete safety just feels like a Rich Bisaccia signing in undrafted free agency. Since Bisaccia took over as the team’s special teams coordinator, no position on the Packers has seen a higher increase in special teams snaps than the safety position. It’s also worth noting that the safety class is pretty weak this year, despite Green Bay’s need at the position.