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Jaelon Darden could be a souped up for version of Tyler Ervin and a run-after-catch playmaker for Green Bay.
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Surveying options across the 2021 NFL Draft at Packers’ positions of need

Cornerback early and developmental tackle late? Receiver early and safety on Day 2? How do the Packers attack the draft? We provide some options at need positions from early-round targets to value picks and late-round flyers.

Drafting a player means not drafting another player or another position. Presumably the reason starts with grade, but positional value factors in, as does the shape of a draft. Where are the value spots? Where is the draft class lean and where is it fat? When trying to determine where to allocate resources and with whom, it’s good to have a plan for where secondary options would be. If a team takes a cornerback in the first, what are they giving up the opportunity to draft and if they don’t get one in the first, where can they get it later? If your head is spinning like the Zach Galifianakis Hangover meme, that’s OK. We’re here to help.

Prioritizing needs should be the first place to start. The Packers would most benefit from upgrades at cornerback and safety, with their nickel safety likely to once again be a de facto starter this season. They could use depth at offensive line in a potential future right tackle, another playmaker on offense, and depth at defensive line and another dart throw at linebacker.

Where could they find players like that? We dig into this draft to find the pressure points.


Cornerback

First-round target: Caleb Farley, Virginia Tech

He’s only in range now because of a (second) back surgery to relieve pressure on an injured disc. If the medical reports come back clean, he may not fall to a range where Green Bay can strike, but if they do, the Packers can pounce. Northwestern’s Greg Newsome also offers an ideal fit.

Value play: Ifeatu Melifonwu, Syracuse

There’s tremendous value on Day 2 with this cornerback class and while Farley is the best zone cornerback prospect from this class, Meli isn’t far behind. He’s projected to be going on Day 2, but offers first-round physical tools and fits beautifully in Joe Berry’s scheme.

Flyer: Ambry Thomas, Michigan

It’s not just because the Packers met with him Thomas lands here. Green Bay loves a B1G defender, Thomas brings playmaking ability as a punt returner as well as a boundary cornerback, and he tested extremely well (8.97 RAS). Why is he not being touted as a higher pick? He opted out of the 2020 season and didn’t have a high profile before that. Had he put together a 2020 like his 2019, he’s probably a Day 2 pick.

Safety

First-round target: Trevon Moehrig, TCU

The more I look at the draft, the more he feels like the perfect player for 29. He can play in the slot, deep, or around the line of scrimmage. With Kevin King back and Jaire Alexander locking down the opposite side, a slot defender profiles as an immediate help and there’s so much depth at CB.

Value play: Jamar Johnson, Indiana

Johnson typifies the variance in evaluations from this draft class. Pro Football Focus views him as a top-50 player, while ESPN pegs him at 192, as a late Day 3 player. He’s a ball-hawking playmaker who could play a little bit of everywhere and if Green Bay could get him 92 or later, it would be a steal.

Flyer: James Wiggins, Cincinnati

No one loves athletes more than the Packers and Wiggins put together the second-best RAS in the class at safety. Right now, he looks to be a middle-of-Day-3 player, anywhere from 150 to the 7th round. ESPN projects him at 220 overall right now. He embodies the idea of a flyer: bet on the athletic gifts.

Offensive Tackle

First-round target: Teven Jenkins, Oklahoma State

Plug-and-play right tackle. Snagging Jenkins would allow the Packers to play Billy Turner in David Bakhtiari’s absence, then move him back to right guard where he spent most of 2019. The Jenkins brothers (no relation) plus Bakhtiari create a formidable trio around which to build.

Value play: Brady Christensen, BYU

A few weeks ago, he could have been the flyer pick here. Not anymore. He put together an all-time workout at his pro day, with the best broad jump ever by an offensive lineman, but he’s not just a workout warrior. He is an advanced analytics darling (Sports Info Solutions graded him as one of the most valuable offensive linemen in the class) and his tape is legitimately good. He may need to be the pick at 62 if Green Bay wants him, but he’s worth it.

Spencer Brown from Northern Iowa is another name to watch here.

Flyer: Stone Forsythe, Florida

The massive 6-foot-9 Forsythe defies physics, moving like a much smaller player. At 312 pounds, he looks more like a big tight end than an offensive tackle and moves that way as well. His signature performance came stoning Azeez Ojulari from Georgia, a potential first-round pick, and he tested extremely well. Still, he’s not even on the ESPN board right now, while Pro Football Focus projects him as a fourth-round quality player. With an RAS of 8.77 and a 3-cone well below the 7.7 the Packers like, this could be fun.

Receiver

First-round target: Rashod Batemen, Minnesota

Bateman fits the Packers’ mold, put together an excellent athletic profile this offseason, and could come in right away to produce. He did it once in the Big Ten, getting to campus in the Twin Cities and immediately embarrassing defenders. Brian Gutekunst reportedly talked to him at Bateman’s pro day as well. If they make a wildcard pick in the first, this feels like it.

Value play: Dyami Brown, North Carolina

Brown could go WR4 in this class or he could go WR15 as ESPN currently projects. Some boards have him barely a top-100 player, while others consider him a top-40 talent. That could mean going before the Packers pick at 29, or still sitting there at 92. Brown’s vertical skillset and RAC ability offers a terrific fit in Green Bay.

Flyer: Jaelon Darden, North Texas

He’s small. That’s it. Darden’s pre-draft rise probably pushed him inside the top-100, but in a deep draft class with other more pedigreed players, don’t be surprised to see him fall. He’s projected to go anywhere from 75-165, which leaves quite swath of choices. If falls, he has the kind of skillset that would be difficult to pass up for Green Bay regardless of their traditional preferences.

Defensive line

First-round target: Christian Barmore, Alabama

Barmore may well be the only interior defender worth targeting in the top-50 and there isn’t even consensus he belongs in that group. He’s still a raw player, but his power and physical gifts hint at a Kenny Clark-esque trajectory. Pair them together? Look out.

Value play: Bobby Brown, Texas A&M

The A&M defensive line tree bore fruit with Kinglsey Keke and the Packers could get Brown in the same kind of range on Day 3. Brown brings force and strength at the point of attack with the athletic gifts (9.82 RAS was second-best in the class) to hint at some pass-rushing upside.

Flyer: Jonathan Marshall, Arkansas

By complete athletic profile, the best iDL athlete in the draft. Marshall posted an RAS of 9.99, which only makes you wonder how he could have secured that extra hundredth. He played mostly the nose at Arkansas, but moved around and also played a fair amount of 3-technique. As a guy projected in that 5-7th round range, he fits with Green Bay wants.

Linebacker

First-round target: Jamin Davis, Kentucky

A late-bloomer in the draft process, the more people watched Davis play at Kentucky, the more his media star turned. He also happens to be one of the most athletic linebackers in the draft (9.93 RAS) and with Joe Berry prioritizing speed, a 4.48 will play all day. Davis’ game needs work in coverage, but in his lone season as the starter for the Wildcats, Davis was a heat-seeking missile in the run game and provides the physical tools to become a quality coverage player.

Value play: Baron Browning, Ohio State

If you saw The Draft Network big board, you’d assume this was a misprint. They have Browning has a top-20 player and with his pedigree as a former top recruit, his experience at multiple spots, and his excellent athletic profile, it’s not hard to see why. On the other hand, ESPN projects him in the early 100’s and PFF puts in the 130’s, which means if he’s around on Day 3, he could be a true steal.

Flyer: Monty Rice, Georgia

Rice, though undersized, boasts the straight line athleticism to become a useful sub-package player in that Joe Thomas mold, even comparing favorably to Raven Greene from a stature standpoint. At 6-foot, 233 pounds and a 40 in the 4.5’s, Rice offers some physical gifts to build on and worse case the Packers get a special teams contributor and nice backup player. If you’re getting a guy like Rice in the late 5th or 6th, you’re doing well.

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