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By CHRIS HAVEL
Here’s a closer look at Green Bay’s 2017 NFL draft class and how it fits
There are exceptions, of course, but the Packers’ finest drafts typically start with a bang at the top.
The 2017 edition qualifies despite the trade from 29 to 33.
It also qualifies as a tip of the helmet to today’s NFL. Big cover cornerbacks (Kevin King) and speedy corner/safety combos (Josh Jones) are in high demand. So are interior pass rushers (Montravius Adams) and versatile linebackers (Vince Biegel).
That notion of “how the game is played” also includes teams having an array of running backs with a versatile skill set. Say hello to BYU’s Jamaal Williams, UTEP’s Aaron Jones and Utah State’s Devante Mays.
Furthermore, it also applies to tall receivers with decent speed and explosive leaping ability. That describes Deangelo Yancey and Malachi Dupre. Even sixth-round pick Kofi Amichia has that versatility as a guard-center with long snapper skills.
Here’s a closer look:
Cornerback Kevin King has the physical skills, intangibles and opportunity to make an immediate impact on defense. Sam Shields’ departure created a significant void that now has a realistic chance to be filled. It’s noteworthy that King is younger, taller, faster and stronger than Shields, which is obviously why he was the 33rd overall pick instead of being an undrafted free agent such as Shields.
Finding a plug-and-play talent such as King at corner is almost as rare as pulling a Sam Shields out of the undrafted pool. King’s size (6-3, 200) is a bow to the reality of today’s game. The NFL is a passing league with its greatest athletes lining up either at receiver or tight end.
The Packers’ selection of safety Josh Jones (6-2, 220) in the second round also is a reaction to how the game is played.
Jones should be able to run with big receivers, tight ends and running backs alike. His 4.40 40-yard dash makes him the Packers’ fastest defensive back. He’s also plenty strong having posted 20 reps at 225 pounds on the bench press.
Jones will be utilized as a nickel “linebacker” who can either drop into coverage or play near the line of scrimmage. His role may be similar to other hybrid safeties in the league.
He also will be groomed as Morgan Burnett’s heir apparent.
The third-round selection of Montravius Adams, the big defensive tackle out of Auburn, also is in deference to today’s NFL. The Packers, like all teams, covet big, strong, mobile interior defensive linemen.
However, the volume of pass attempts makes a player with Adams’ skill set even more valuable.
Adams (6-4, 304) should fill out the jersey No. 90 nicely. He ran the 40-yard dash in 4.81 seconds and was an All-SEC selection (first-team) by the Associated Press.
This is quite high praise, but he reminds me of ex-Brett Favre nemesis Warren Sapp, who was a slippery inside pass rusher with attitude.
Vince Biegel – the pride of MY place of birth, Wisconsin Rapids – is an interesting prospect. He ran the 40 in 4.69 but plays much faster than he clocks, which isn’t bad. He has the flexibility and torque to get low off the edge and around a flat-footed offensive tackle. In that way he is similar to Clay Matthews.
In fact, Biegel’s 6-3, 246-pound frame inside the No. 45 jersey bears a bit of a resemblance to Matthews. I’m not saying Biegel will become a top-end pass rusher ala Matthews, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he flashes the ability to beat one-on-ones.
The running back trio is interesting to say the least. I’ll be curious as to how the Packers’ coaching staff goes about separating Williams, Jones and Mays.
At first blush, Williams (6-0, 215) is the most complete in terms of size, speed, hands and experience. It’s why he was the 134th pick and taken ahead of Jones and Mays.
Jamaal Williams has decent speed (4.54 40) but gets high marks for his football instincts and awareness. He knows how to pick up blitzes, slip out of the backfield on check-downs and set up his blockers on screens.
UTEP’s Aaron Jones, at 5-10, 208, is a slightly smaller version of Williams with a very similar skill set.
Both are confident players who view themselves as the lead dog. That hard edge at running back was missing when Eddie Lacy wasn’t available.
Utah State’s Devante Mays is a different cat. At 5-10, 230, Mays is similar in size and speed (4.51 in the 40) to Lacy. He had an injury-plagued senior that likely was the reason for his fall in the draft.
Odds are Williams ultimately will be the best of the trio, but don’t be surprised if Packers head coach Mike McCarthy keeps two of three on the team’s 53-man roster. The question will be which two?
At receiver, Deangelo Yancey is big (6-2, 220), strong (21 reps at 225) and relatively fast (4.52 40) receiver.
He was second team all-Big Ten as a senior. It’ll be interesting to see what Yancey can do with someone such as Aaron Rodgers or Brett Hundley firing passes his way.
The same can be said of seventh-round pick Malachi Dupre out of LSU. Dupre was described by scouts as “a home run hitter” who oozes confidence and believes he belongs in the NFL.
Let the winnowing process begin.
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.