Packers’ Thompson has multiple options entering 2014 draft

Extended Coverage!
Look for Chris Havel’s column again this Friday for Havel’s analysis of Green Bay’s first round pick!

With four picks in first 98, Green Bay likely to infuse speed, talent at WR, DB
The Packers’ never-ending quest for a running back hit pay-dirt with the second-round selection of Eddie Lacy in 2013. Their annual, ongoing search for a pass rusher opposite Clay Matthews led them to draft DaTone Jones last April, and to sign veteran outside linebacker Julius Peppers in free agency this offseason.
So what will this weekend’s NFL Draft, which begins Thursday, produce at the intersection of “Team Need” and “Best Available?” Of course, that depends on what the NFL’s 20 teams who select before Green Bay will do.
History suggests Packers GM Ted Thompson will avoid selecting a skill position player in the first round. The last time he did was in 2005 when he chose Aaron Rodgers at No. 24. Common sense indicates Thompson’s past draft history will have absolutely no bearing on what the Packers’ GM does Thursday.
With that, here is the Packers’ first-round pick, followed by three likely players/positions Green Bay will focus on in Rounds 2-3:
Last week, I wrote that LSU receiver Odell Beckham Jr. would be an excellent addition at No. 21. Beckham would make an immediate impact as a kick and punt returner. He also would line up in some three- and all four-receiver formations. As previously described, Beckham is a slightly bigger, faster and more explosive version of Randall Cobb.
Beckham would be replacing James Jones – gone to the Raiders – as the No. 3 receiver, and all the other candidates in the return game, most notably Cobb. The problem is I’m not the only one who loves Beckham. So do the Steelers, Ravens and Jets, who select 15th, 16th and 17th. If Beckham is already gone the Packers have two choices: Sit tight or trade down. For the record, I don’t see Thompson trading up. If Thompson can trade down for more picks, I expect him to seriously consider Northern Illinois safety Jimmie Ward or one of the top receivers or tight ends still on the board in the late-first or early-second rounds.
Next to drafting Beckham, trading down is the Packers’ other great option. If they sit tight, it might be a reach to select Ward at No. 21, but it would be even more of a mistake to take a plummeting Ha-Ha Clinton Dix out of Alabama. Worse would be selecting Alabama inside linebacker C.J. Mosley, who is a good but not great player.
If Thomson sits tight, and Beckham is gone, there are two options:
Kyle Fuller, the cornerback out of Virginia Tech, is a Top 15 talent who still might be looking for a place to land at No. 21. For some of the same reasons I like Beckham, I also like Fuller. He would provide an answer at cornerback next season when Tramon Williams’ contract expires. He also would be of great value in a division with a collection of the game’s top quarterbacks and receivers. My best guess, though, is that Fuller also is gone by the 21st pick.
Anthony Barr, linebacker, UCLA also is a Top 15 talent and consideration at No. 21. Barr has been moving up on a lot of mock draft boards. He has great leverage and athleticism, a strong motor and excellent pass rush skills. Barr is 6-5, 255 with 4.6 speed in the 40. In Thompson’s mind, Barr just might be too good to pass up.
Let’s recap: If the Packers execute the pick at No. 21, my preferred order based on availability would be to take Beckham, Barr or Fuller. I can’t imagine that all three of these players would be gone by 21. The next-best move, if all three are gone and they can’t trade down, would be for Green Bay to take either NIU’s Ward at safety, or whichever tight end remains highest on their board. That would be either Washington’s Austin Seferian-Jenkins or Texas Tech’s Jace Amaro.
Frankly, Ward may be too high to take at No. 21, and either Seferian-Jenkins or Amaro would also be a reach. Thompson doesn’t like to reach.
So it’s Beckham, Barr or Fuller, depending on which is available at 21. If all three are gone it’s time to trade down. If that isn’t possible, it means there is at least one Top 15 talent still on the board.
Trust in Thompson to find him.

Chris Havel is a national best-selling author and his latest book is Lombardi: An Illustrated Life. Havel can be heard Monday through Friday from 4-6 p.m. CDT on WDUZ FM 107.5 The Fan, or on AM-1400, as well as Fan Internet Radio ( Havel also hosts Event USA’ MVP Parties the evening before home games.