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By CHRIS HAVEL
Cornerback, inside linebacker and edge pass rusher make most sense
The Green Bay Packers are sitting pretty at 30.
They earned that late-round slot because they were among the NFL’s best teams last season. Now, they can capitalize on it by being patient, trusting their scouting department and letting the best players fall.
The big question is which player the Packers are going to take?
As difficult as that may be to answer, there are probably a handful of players who would be nabbed by the Packers if they were available.
Here’s a look at several just four days before the NFL draft:
If the Packers go for an inside linebacker it appears they have two fine options.
They may be able to choose between Clemson’s Stephone Anthony or UCLA’s Eric Kendricks.
Kendricks is on the small side (6-1, 232) but is very instinctive and runs well enough to cover backs and tight ends while also being able to play the run off the edge.
Anthony (6-2 ½, 243) is bigger, faster (4.56) and more athletic. He also possesses an explosive 37-inch vertical jump.
So which way does Packers GM Ted Thompson go?
I still prefer Anthony to Kendricks for several reasons.
Kendricks, for all his instincts, isn’t a downhill run stuffer. He doesn’t bring the lumber like other more notable inside linebackers in a 3-4. As a weak-side linebacker in a 4-3, Kendricks might be an ideal fit. As an inside linebacker in a 3-4 he would be a liability against the run. Already, I have images of Marshawn Lynch and other powerful backs blasting their way through and over Kendricks.
Anthony’s talents are more suited to play in a 3-4 alignment.
His height (6-2 ½) makes it more difficult to complete passes over him and beneath safeties. His athleticism allows him to tip passes and create havoc in the passing game.
His size and striking ability give him at least a chance to slow down the likes of Lynch and other big, powerful backs.
Early reports had Packers defensive coordinator Dom Capers being really impressed with Anthony. I see why.
If the Packers go elsewhere here are two possibilities:
LSU cornerback Jalen Collins has excellent size (6-1, 203) packed on a long, rangy frame. He also runs a 4.48 40-yard dash with loose hips and the ability to turn and run in man-to-man coverage.
Recently, reports have surfaced that Collins failed “repeated” drug tests at LSU. That could be misinformation planted by teams who truly covet the LSU cornerback and hope others bypass him because of it.
Another possibility is more of a long shot due to a toe injury that could sideline him 4-5 months. Thompson hasn’t been shy about drafting injury risks, especially if it’s believed surgery and rehab will allow the player to return to top form.
Collins could be the Packers’ man. Also, he’s not sophisticated enough to step in and be an NFL team’s “top corner” but is much better suited to be the No. 2 corner behind a player such as Sam Shields.
If the drug reports are true, and worrisome to teams, the Packers might pass. On the other hand, if they doubt the validity of such claims, I wouldn’t put it past Thompson to take his pick at 30 and then wait to pounce by trading up higher into the second round to nab Collins.
Another long shot is Missouri outside linebacker/defensive end Shane Ray. The 6-3, 245-pound edge rusher is explosive and has the ability to quickly close on quarterbacks and ball-carriers alike.
Ray’s injury status might push him into the second round as well. Again, expect the always vigilant Thompson to be poised to pounce.
I would be surprised if Minnesota tight end Maxx Williams is available at 30, but not as surprised as I would be if the Packers selected him.
I can’t see Thompson going tight end at 30.
The most likely outcome is that Thompson will select a player who he has highly rated AND fits a need. That definition applies to several players, including those mentioned above.
If Thompson can land Anthony at 30 and then trade up in the second round to grab Collins or Ray that would be a might good bit of work.
Regardless who the Packers select this much is true: Thursday night can’t come fast enough.
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 (www.thefan1075.com). Havel also hosts Event USA’ MVP Parties the evening before home games.