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By CHRIS HAVEL
Any of these six players would be a terrific addition to Green Bay’s razor thin defense
The Packers will have several options when they’re on the clock with the 29th pick in this year’s draft.
Their first, best move would be to trade back if possible.
There are too many highly rated cornerbacks, linebackers and running backs not to explore the possibility. An extra pick would afford the Packers tremendous flexibility, and Green Bay GM Ted Thompson has proven to be an adept draft manipulator.
The next-best decision would be to stay put and take the best available player at any of the three levels on defense.
It’s a risky proposition to predict what an NFL team will do with its first-round pick, especially if the pick is at No. 29. However, there are several clues as to what Thompson might do.
The Packers added help at each of the three levels on defense. They signed defensive lineman Ricky Jean Francois, linebacker Nick Perry and cornerback Davon House.
Clearly, the Packers recognize their urgent need for defensive help at all three levels. Also, by signing Perry to a fairly sizable free agent contract, it suggests they believe in him, and perhaps that they doubt a top-end edge rusher will be there at 29.
The Packers’ top three players at each level are Mike Daniels, Kenny Clark and Dean Lowry on the defensive line, Clay Matthews, Kyler Fackrell and Perry at outside (edge) linebacker, and Damarious Randall, Quentin Rollins and House at corner.
It should be obvious that the Packers’ greatest need is cornerback.
They added quality depth with House’s signing, but that doesn’t begin to replace the loss of Sam Shields.
While it is possible that both Randall and Rollins will return to their rookie form and continue to grow into starting-caliber cornerbacks, it is risky to believe both will do so. Ladarius Gunter also played well at times in 2016, but he is limited by mediocre speed and so-so agility and ball skills.
That’s why I think the Packers will select a cornerback at No. 29 with the only exceptions being that one of three players is still available when Green Bay is on the clock.
They are Alabama linebacker Reuben Foster, Michigan defensive end Taco Charlton and UCLA defensive end Takkarist McKinley. I’m not as high on McKinley as I am on the others. Call it UCLA burnout. If each of these three is off the board, I believe the Packers will select one of three cornerbacks at No. 29.
With that said, here are my top six picks to click at No. 29 for the Packers (in order of preference):
1 – Reuben Foster, linebacker, Alabama
Foster is a six-foot, 230-pound wrecking ball. He has the speed to play sideline-to-sideline and the explosiveness to be a legit pass rusher.
Green Bay needs a linebacker that can rush the passer, play the run and cover tight ends and running backs.
Foster can do all three. Despite questions about his off-the-field antics, he’ll likely be long gone by the time the Packers are on the clock.
2 – Taco Charlton, defensive end, Michigan
Vidauntae “Taco” Charlton is going to be at worst a solid NFL starter, and at best a potential Pro Bowl pick.
Charlton is a massive man (6-6, 277) and powerful edge rusher who would be a great addition to the front of the Packers’ 3-4 defense. Daniels, Clark and Taco would be a formidable group.
Alas, I believe Charlton also won’t be around at No. 29.
3 – Takkarist McKinley, defensive end, UCLA
McKinley has ideal size (6-2, 250) and quickness as an outside linebacker/edge rusher. He had 18 tackles for loss, 10 sacks and six pass breakups as a senior.
He would become an immediate starter for the Packers who could probably play either inside or out.
4 – Marlon Humphrey, cornerback, Alabama
This is a prediction: If Humphrey is available at No. 29 – and each of the above is gone, which is likely – he will be heading to Green Bay.
He has pedigree (his father, Bobby, was an All-American at Alabama), athleticism and speed (a 4.41 40-yard dash).
He also is very aggressive with receivers and is unafraid to get up in their face-mask.
I can’t imagine Thompson passing up Humphrey.
5 – Kevin King, cornerback, Washington
King is even bigger (6-3, 200) and almost as fast (4.43 40-yard dash) as Humphrey.
He has excellent size at the position and could be valuable as a perimeter cornerback and also at defending in the slot.
6 – Tre’Davious White, cornerback, LSU
White (5-11, 192) has nice size to go with 4.47 speed in the 40-yard dash. He was an all-SEC freshman and continued to ascend.
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’s MVP Parties the evening before home games.