And with perhaps the greatest reality television show approaching in under a month, it’s time for Shawn’s draft thoughts of the week. We begin today with one of the more intriguing storyline prospects in the draft: Jalen Hurts.
Could Hurts be the second coming of Taysom Hill for the Packers and the NFL?
No quarterback in the past two seasons has proven more surprising and versatile than the former BYU star Hill. Whether or not the Green Bay castoff would have been used in more dynamic ways than purely under center on Mike McCarthy’s squad is debatable, but it is hard to ignore the feeling that Hill was the innovative weapon that got away.
With the Packers potentially in pursuit of a backup quarterback behind Aaron Rodgers to compete with Tim Boyle, an interesting name to watch is Hurts. While he does not have the highest ceiling of other quarterbacks in the 2020 class, he may be the most NFL ready to step in if needed due to his experience in varying college offenses and his dual-threat skillset. Hurts could be developed into Rodgers’ primary backup quarterback, while also serving as a functional tool in other packages.
From an athleticism standpoint, Hurts impressed at the Combine with a 4.59-second 40-yard dash and he has the size at 6-foot-1 and 222 pounds to hold up as a ballcarrier. Although Hurts did not necessarily have experience in other offensive roles while a collegian, he has the attributes to cross over while still being a backup option under center. Hurts has always been lauded as a good teammate and that kind of character is a trait that the Packers covet. That would be especially so if Hurts is to be used in a team-friendly role.
Chase Claypool is an attractive late first-round candidate for Green Bay
Earlier this week, Mel Kiper mocked Claypool to the Packers in round one and made an interesting notion that Claypool would have a Jimmy Graham-like role in replacing Graham himself. While reports surfaced from ESPN’s Rob Demovsky that the Packers have serious interest in Baylor’s Denzel Mims, another athletic freak at wide receiver, Claypool could be a unique weapon in Green Bay’s arsenal.
Claypool emerged at the Combine, posting a 4.42-second time in the 40-yard dash and a 40.5-inch vertical leap at 6-foot-4 and 238 pounds. Is Claypool better suited to stay at wide receiver or bulk up for the tight end position? That’s unclear. But like Graham early in his career, Claypool may be best utilized in a role without a penciled-in position. He can be a matchup nightmare against smaller cornerbacks on the outside vertically and in jump-ball situations. The Notre Dame playmaker also adds physicality in routes over the middle to be effective in the slot as a big-bodied receiver and could be lined up in the backfield due to his run-blocking skills.
Like Mims, at times Claypool can struggle to gain separation. But there is a place in the NFL, as well as on the Packers, for a player of his rare size and athleticism. General Manager Brian Gutekunst’s passion for elite size-speed receivers is apparent.
Yetur Gross-Matos could be a late riser, but would his skill set translate to the 3-4?
The Packers received a major defensive lift from their edge-rushing signees last free agency and then added Rashan Gary in the first round of the 2019 draft. No team can ever have enough pass rushers on the roster, so the position is not off limits early in the 2020 draft. One of the names moving up the board as of late, and into the late first-round region of the draft, is Penn State’s Gross-Matos, who has a blend of intriguing raw traits. But would he fit the 3-4 edge rusher profile?
There was a fair level of uncertainty that Gary could make the transition to the linebacker position after playing along the defensive line in college, and the same applies to Gross-Matos. Yet, the Packers selected Gary and could do the same with Gross-Matos who draws some similarities in terms of elite size, speed, and agility, and the need to refine and develop pass-rushing moves. Perhaps Gross-Matos is better suited for the 4-3 end position, but his length, burst, and ability to set the edge could be the type of characteristics Mike Pettine’s 3-4 defense could build upon and use in a variety of pass-rushing ways like Gary and Za’Darius Smith.
While Gross-Matos does have a level of bust potential, he also has a very high ceiling if the whole package comes together as a professional. He may not be the perfect 3-4 fit that draft gurus are looking for, especially with his lack of experience dropping into coverage. But he is not a player to write off of Green Bay’s board either.