Never take mock drafts too seriously. Even the best ones are only accurate with 30-40% of picks as NFL teams go rogue, leaving informed observers scratching their heads. Right now, reporters, NFL analysts, and Packers fans have ideas about who the likely candidates are with Green Bay’s considerable draft capital. As this process drudges forward, those ideas homogenize into a group-think soup of uninteresting and usually inaccurate notions.
Remember, this time last year, Josh Jackson was a popular player for the Packers in mock drafts ... in the first round.
So what happens when and if the draft goes off the rails, which it usually does? Here are some interesting options for the Packers, players who fit the general standards for what they’re looking for, and could also be filling important roles for the team moving forward. Obviously, the point of these kinds of stories is to project the unpredictable, a fool’s errand if ever there was one. Players will inevitably fall, others will go much higher than expected. The point is to simply think outside the box, to identify players not often connected with the team in the NFL Draft Industrial Complex, but who could be legitimate and intriguing options for Green Bay on draft day.
Here’s a potential draft, with some secondary options, that could turn some heads for being a little more outside the box than most are projecting.
12. Andre Dillard OT Washington State
Even before his combine performance showed his athlete athleticism, Dillard was being overlooked by much of the mainstream draft conversation. Whether it was his relative lack of size (he played under 300 pounds at Wazzu) or the presumed deficiencies from playing in Mike Leach’s Air Raid attack, Dillard couldn’t seem to crack the top 12-15 spots in mock drafts.
That shouldn’t be the case. Dillard is the best pure pass blocker in the class who can get even better, as indicated with his athletic tools. But don’t worry if this is sounding dangerously Jason Spriggs-y. Dillard doesn’t have the fatal flaw Spriggs has with lateral quickness and pass rushers who can counter inside. The only place he has to get better is as a run blocker, but adding some muscle and experience should do the trick. David Bakhtiari had that “flaw” too and that worked out decently for Green Bay.
Another fun one: Chauncey Gardner-Johnson S Florida — A little high based on where he’s being projected, but CGJ could be worth it. Green Bay met with him in Indy, and Gardner-Johnson tested well enough that he has teams considering him at cornerback as well. A versatile cover safety to pair with Adrian Amos? Top half of the first round isn’t too high.
30. N’Keal Harry WR Arizona State
This isn’t the first time a receiver gets the nod with the luxury first-rounder, but Harry should be getting much more run at this spot. The Packers have had their eye on the dynamic Sun Devil receiver for months and Brian Gutekunst attended his pro day in person. Harry has the speed to win down the field, the strength to create in jump ball situations, and can be dynamic after the catch. There’s definitely some Davante Adams in his game.
Harry answered concerns about his lack of college separation with good agility times at his pro day, and would come to a system that would find ways to use him creatively. ASU lined him up a little bit of everywhere, including the backfield at times, a wrinkle Matt LaFleur would love to use with a somewhat limited group of backs in terms of versatility.
Two offensive players in the first would ruffle some Cheesehead Nation feathers, but after the money they allocated to the defense in free agency, the Packers have room to get a little crazy. Harry is a top-20 talent, and if he falls to 30, Green Bay should be all over it.
Another fun one: Jerry Tillery DL Notre Dame — Ideally suited from a physical perspective to play end in Mike Pettine’s 3-4 defense with his length and strength. Tillery also has supreme athletic gifts and pass rush juice.
44. Chase Winovich EDGE Michigan
This pick will be the hardest to surprise with simply because so many options have been floated. The further down the draft, the more variance in consensus. Conventional wisdom here is snag Irv Smith Jr. if he’s available. If he’s not, there’s probably a safety worth picking here in the Darnell Savage or Nasir Adderley mold.
But what if there’s not? What if none of those guys are available, or Green Bay doesn’t value them with this selection? Eschew an edge early and the Packers could still land a solid secondary pass rusher to complement the Acme Sackers. Winovich isn’t just an effort pass rusher; he is a solid athlete who plays with an edge. Plus, the flowing blonde hair will give Green Bay fans major Clay Matthews vibes.
Sure, no safety or tight end to this point, but the Packers could be walking away with long-term starters at two marquee positions, and a rotational piece at a third in a league where you can never have too many pass rushers.
Another fun one: Justin Layne CB Michigan State — Speaking of “you can never have too many,” don’t be surprised to see the Packers keep throwing darts at the cornerback board. Layne offers physicality and size from a former wide receiver who has the traits to develop into a solid man cover corner.