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2021 Mock Draft 2021: Packers go heavy on defensive backs early in pre-FA mock

With tenders and contracts mostly set for the Packers heading into free agency, we have a much clearly picture of where this team will be looking in the draft (though we’ll know even more after free agency ends). So let’s have some fun and make some fake picks.

NCAA Football: Cincinnati at Central Florida
Richie Grant is one of the most underrated prospects in the draft and fits beautifully with the Packers defensive needs.
Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports

Preston Smith and Aaron Jones are staying. Raven Greene is going and the the Green Bay Packers don’t seem particularly concerned if Chandon Sullivan goes with him. And though Robert Tonyan is now Big Bob Tendered, he may not have a long-term future with the team. So now what? Mock drafts before free agency are the ultimate in cart/horse mismanagement, but they’re also fun and you love them even if it’s to hate them.

In this mock, using The Draft Network’s patented mock draft machine, we focused on team need as well as guys who fit the Packers type. It just happened to work out four of the five guys in this mock have already met with Green Bay brass, which may mean nothing, but it’s also better than just blindly throwing darts (when it comes to the draft, only marginally so).

Defensive back will be overhauled this offseason, which overlaps with the strengths of this draft in an ideal way for the Packers. We only did four rounds because everything after the fourth round amounts to lottery tickets. Those are fun too, but not particularly useful.

Let’s dive in.

29. Greg Newsome II — CB, Northwestern

I won’t be surprised if the Packers eschew cornerback here because of how deep this class is and with Green Bay reportedly interested in signing a mid-tier corner, they could fall in love with a linebacker like Nick Bolton or an offensive linemen like Teven Jenkins. But Newsome not only name-checked Jaire Alexander when asked who he most likes to watch in the NFL, he also fits the athletic profile the Packers covet.

Plus, this team loves to draft Big Ten defenders and Green Bay already met with him virtually. Whether Green Bay actually finds a free agent cornerback to play opposite Alexander or not, Newsome profiles as a natural Packers target.

In fact, even with the draft far in the distance, if Newsome remains on the board when Green Bay picks and he’s not the selection, it would be genuinely surprising barring some other weirdness like a top prospect falling.

62. Richie Grant — DB, UCF

Grant can play anywhere and everywhere in this backfield. Raven Greene’s departure and Will Redmond’s uninspiring play leaves a gaping hole at nickel safety that Grant could fill right away. His ability to play deep middle or deep half would free up Darnell Savage to rob the middle of the field or play in the slot. Plus, Grant offers experience there as well, showing off unique cover skills for a safety at the Senior Bowl.

When Joe Berry said the team can never have too many guys who can play the nickel spot, no doubt he had players like Grant in mind even if it wasn’t literally Grant at the time. Versatile, experienced defenders like him are difficult to find and it won’t be surprising to see Grant’s star rise during the spring in the run up to the draft.

If he’s available at this spot, the Packers would be smart to pounce, though he’s the lone player in this mock who does not have a reported virtual meeting with Green Bay. Still, he was at the Senior Bowl, so presumably scouts talked to him there.

92. Demetric Felton — HB/WR/Weapon, UCLA

It’s no secret I have a draft crush on Felton. Before the combine last year, Matt LaFleur insisted he wanted three running backs he could trust. With Aaron Jones back in the fold, the need for a true running back falls with A.J. Dillon already in the mix as well. But Felton is more than a running back.

While he can play in the backfield, he fits in seamlessly as the Tyler Ervin jet back, only he’s a more natural route runner and catcher of the ball while providing more elusiveness in space. Think of Felton as turbo Ervin but better in this offense, someone capable of doing more than just getting schemed open, but a guy who can win in space and make defenders miss after the catch.

Green Bay also met with Felton virtually per reports.

135. Ambry Thomas — CB, Michigan

Brian Gutekunst loves to double and triple-up at need positions and Thomas can fill multiple roles for the Packers. He only brings one year of starting experience, but that one year offered stellar play on the boundary from a legit 6-foot cornerback. Thomas allowed a 56.3 passer rating when targeted and loves to play physical football at the line of scrimmage. Between Alexander, Newsome II and Thomas, the Packers would put together a young group of corners who play with a nastiness and edge.

Thomas also provides return skills, an added bonus for a fourth-round pick who would likely have to play on kick coverage as well early in his career. Green Bay met with Thomas virtually per reports.

142. Daelin Hayes — EDGE, Notre Dame

With Preston Smith back in the mix, Gutey won’t have to prioritize outside linebacker, but a team can never have too many pass rushers. Even with Smith back for 2021, his future beyond 2022 with the Packers is a tenuous proposition at best.

Hayes never put up monster sack numbers, but he can affect the quarterback with pressure and plays stout enough against the run. He’s a piece defensive coordinators love to deploy because he can rush from anywhere.

Imagine lining this guy and Za’Darius Smith up inside as stand-up pass rushers on 3rd-and-long.

No wonder he was one of the first players reported to have met with the Packers.