By Chris Havel
Special to Event USA
GREEN BAY, Wis. – In a perfect world Virginia Tech linebacker Tremaine Edmunds will be available when the Packers are on the clock with the 14th pick in the NFL Draft.
Here’s best-case scenario for Green Bay when Packers, Gutekunst are on the clocks
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The next-best scenario has Ohio State cornerback Denzel Ward inexplicably available at No. 14.
Alas, the world is far from perfect.
If the Colts don’t select Edmunds with the sixth overall pick, the 49ers quite likely will with the ninth pick.
And if the Browns don’t draft Ward with the fourth pick, the Bears most likely will with the eighth pick.
It is reasonable these 10 players will be gone by the 14th pick:
- Four quarterbacks – Sam Darnold, USC; Josh Allen, Wyoming; Josh Rosen, UCLA; and Baker Mayfield, Oklahoma.
- Two linebackers – Edmunds and Roquan Smith, Georgia.
- One defensive end – Bradley Chubb, North Carolina State.
- One running back – Saquon Barkley, Penn State.
- One offensive lineman – Nelson, Notre Dame.
- One cornerback – Ward.
That leaves the Dolphins (11), Bills (12) and Redskins (13) selecting in front of the Packers. Given the unpredictable nature of NFL Drafts, including perceived needs that supersede common sense, the Packers are going to add a talented defender with the 14th pick.
The question is, “Who will it be?”
There appears to be a consensus among NFL scouts regarding the prospects expected to be drafted in the 11-to-16 pick range.
It features two edge rushers, UT-San Antonio’s Marcus Davenport and Boston College’s Harold Landry. It also includes a trio of defensive backs in Florida State’s Derwin James, Alabama’s Minkah Fitzpatrick and Louisville’s Jaire Alexander.
The trick for the Packers is to select the best of this bunch.
Landry, according to some, is the top pure pass rusher in the draft. Others view Davenport, a 6-foot-6, 264-pound athletic freak, as the edge rusher with the greatest potential.
I suspect the Packers already have decided which linebacker they’re going to select between these two.
My money is on Landry if he’s there, with Davenport a possible “trade back and take” player in the 16-19 pick range.
In the secondary, Fitzpatrick and James are versatile “football guys” whose body types more resemble a “Big Nickel” defender. That’s a player with the speed and cover skills to be effective in coverage and the strength and size to play the run.
James, at 6-foot-2, 215 pounds, is like a faster version of Seattle’s Kam Chancellor. Fitzpatrick’s physical skills don’t jump off the page, but he’s a highly skilled, instinctive player whose athleticism shouldn’t be discounted by a so-so combine.
Louisville cornerback Jaire Alexander also has to be taken seriously. Alexander, at 5-foot-11, 192 pounds, is a pure cover corner and ball-hawk with speed (4.38 in the 40) and moxie.
Alexander would join Kevin King as the Packers’ bookend corners for the foreseeable future.
What we cannot know is new defensive coordinator Mike Pettine’s preference within his scheme.
By signing cornerbacks Tramon Williams and Davon House in free agency, Packers GM Brian Gutekunst has laid the foundation for a semblance of competence at the position.
That said it doesn’t rule out a cornerback in the first round.
If it’s between James and Fitzpatrick the decision would be easy for me. I would take James – the bigger, stronger, faster athlete – ahead of Fitzpatrick.
So what should the Packers do?
First, forget about trading up from 14.
Second, cross your fingers that Landry is there at 14. If the Boston College edge rusher is there the Packers should write his name on the card, turn it in to the commissioner, and begin devising a way to trade back into the late-first round for a corner such as Iowa’s Josh Jackson or UCF’s Mike Hughes.
A Landry-Hughes/Jackson one-two punch would be aces.
A Davenport-Hughes/Jackson acquisition would be my next preference.
If Landry is gone and Davenport doesn’t appeal to the Packers I expect them to make a tough call between James and Alexander. If it’s me and my pass-rush preference isn’t available, I’d defer to my new defensive coordinator. In that case I have a hunch the selection would be James.
Either way – James or Alexander at 14 – I would immediately begin working to get the next-best pass rusher available in the late first or early second rounds.
Landry still remains the best option at 14, mostly because he’s a bona fide pass rusher, but also because there are a cluster of talented corners and/or safeties available in the second round.