Today marks the final day of my Friday NFL Draft Thoughts before the draft officially kicks off next Thursday. As we begin to look ahead to day one of the selection show, today’s notes zoom in on possible day-two choices for the Green Bay Packers at a variety of positions.
Before looking at some rising wide receiver prospects and an intriguing hybrid linebacker, I take a look at one specific player who reminds me of a former Pro Bowl defensive lineman.
Justin Madubuike could be a near-clone of former Packer Mike Daniels
Watching Madubuike, I was struck by the comparisons in play style between him and Daniels. Each shared limitations in terms of size and length when entering the draft (though Madubuike is three inches taller) in addition to struggles when taking on double teams. But both players shared impressive overall strength and the versatility to line up in multiple positions along the defensive line. Madubuike, in particular, put up 31 bench press reps, and translates well to a three-technique position in the pros despite lining up at the traditional 4-3 end position often at Texas A&M. Madubuike’s ability to push linemen in pass rush and maintain a lower center of gravity is evident on tape and he wins on shots to the gap to disrupt running plays as well.
The Packers added another former Aggie with Kingsley Keke in last year’s draft, and Madubuike could be an interesting second-round prospect if still available this year as Green Bay looks to beef up the interior of its defensive line. He could bring some versatility in multiple fronts for Mike Pettine.
There are a few second-day wide receivers that could fit Green Bay, but have been less discussed
The narrative is that Green Bay desperately needs a wide receiver and I agree to an extent. However, this draft class is extremely deep and the Packers could benefit from targeting another position in round one before turning their attention toward receivers in the second and third rounds. Two potential targets that have emerged to me over the past week are Texas’s Devin Duvernay and Florida’s Van Jefferson.
Duvernay has exceptional straight-line speed and can produce after the catch. He reminded me of Deebo Samuel in the way he’s a well-built receiver that runs with power for extra yardage. Still, Duvernay adds the element of sub-4.4 speed that becomes a nuisance out of the slot before surprising corners deep. Duvernay, who can also tiptoe along the sidelines, may be in the late-second round range as a late riser.
Similarly, Jefferson seems to be rising and could provide Green Bay a lot of reliability almost immediately upon entering the league. While the Ole Miss transfer does not have elite speed, he brings finely-tuned route-running and hands that catch the ball in traffic and hang on when taking hits from defenders. While there are some that are concerned about his body holding up and winning press coverage battles, I saw a 6-foot-1 receiver that was not afraid to work the middle of the field and has a shiftiness at the line that allows him to separate from corners. Jefferson could be a receiver that becomes effective in the slot or on the outside, and would be a valuable commodity in round three if he drops to Green Bay.
I’m not sure where Josh Uche would fit in Green Bay, but he has incredible upside
The Michigan product lined up as a stand-up edge rusher primarily as a collegian, but it might be hard to project the 6’1, 245-pounder fitting that role consistently in the pros at his size. Still, Uche has experience dropping into coverage and is like a shot out of a cannon when he is able to shoot middle gaps as a pass rusher. He adds a little bit of power, but had great speed and bend to get around tackles for the Wolverines. He didn’t run the 40-yard dash at the Combine, but there are estimates that Uche runs in the 4.5-4.6 range. Either way, the initial and closing bursts displayed on the field stood out to me and gave me the sense that Uche could be a high-impact player if used creatively in the right scheme.
But a lack of true linebacker experience might make Uche tough to slot into the Green Bay 3-4 defense. Can he continue to win battles as an edge rusher or is he better suited for a 4-3 outside role? Could he move inside for a 3-4 and continue to develop in pass coverage enough to be a weapon in that role, as well as a blitzer, on pass-rushing downs? Uche is beginning to garner late-first and early-second round buzz, but it will take the right team to maximize all his tools and, therefore, his effectiveness as an NFL player.