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Mel Kiper Mock Draft: Packers take Stanford RB Christian McCaffrey at 29

Would the Packers really take a running back in round one? It seems unlikely, especially given the defense’s recent performances.

NCAA Football: Stanford at California Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

A few days ago, Mel Kiper of ESPN issued his first mock draft of 2017. With all but a few teams having their draft positions solidified, Kiper has begun his annual discussion of potential draft scenarios, which will continue up until the 2017 NFL Draft actually begins in late April.

Now, it is worth mentioning that this mock draft was published on January 19th - before the Green Bay Packers’ loss to the Atlanta Falcons in the NFC Championship Game. You’ll see why that is worth mentioning shortly.

Kiper’s first pick for the Green Bay Packers is surprising in hindsight, due to the team’s defensive meltdown in Atlanta. The player whom Kiper chose for the Packers at pick number 29 is Stanford running back Christian McCaffrey:

McCaffrey fits what the Packers want on offense. He's versatile like college quarterback-turned-receiver Randall Cobb and Ty Montgomery, who switched to running back in 2016. McCaffrey can return kicks, catch the ball out of the backfield -- he's dynamic with the ball in his hands. The Packers have a few needs on defense, but running back Eddie Lacy is a free agent, and they don't have an internal replacement.

The first problem with this assessment is the comment that the Packers have “a few needs on defense.” That’s like saying that Julio Jones is “kind of” good or that Kiper uses “a little bit” of grease in his hair. Even before the Atlanta game, the Packers’ defense was a known issue - particularly the needs at cornerback and at edge rusher, where several players will be hitting free agency shortly.

In addition, this pick almost certainly comes with the assumption that the Packers would not re-sign Eddie Lacy, which is hardly a sure thing. Lacy is absolutely a candidate to return to Green Bay, as is fellow free agent Christine Michael.

Still, McCaffrey brings an interesting and versatile skill set to the table. He is comfortable as a traditional runner out of the backfield, but also brings excellent route-running and pass-catching traits. He could also be used on kickoff returns.

Remind you of any other former Stanford players?

Yes, he’s a bit reminiscent of Ty Montgomery in his versatility. The Packers could even put both players on the field, with one in the slot and one in the backfield, and interchange them at will. It’s an interesting theory.

However, it would go against Ted Thompson’s track record of primarily drafting offensive linemen or front-seven players in the first round. That’s not to say that it is impossible, just unlikely.

Stay tuned for more draft news, as the season for draft prep is just beginning.