By Chris Havel
Special to Event USA
Big, fast receivers plus top-end corners MUST contribute to Green Bay’s success
GREEN BAY, Wis. – The Packers’ rookie draft pick most likely to make the greatest impact this season is … the punter.
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J.K. Scott’s strong right leg and varied skill set is why.
While the Packers’ defense sorts itself out early in the season field position will be at a premium. Scott, who punted at the highest level at Alabama, is a triple threat: He can pin offenses inside the 20-yard line; he can boom 60-yarders to tilt the field; and he can also handle the kickoff duties plus PATs and field goal attempts in an emergency.
Oh, he’s also an adroit holder on placements.
Stop furrowing those eyebrows and ask Packers’ kicker Mason Crosby if the holder matters. Since we’re on topic, let’s make long snapper Hunter Bradley the 1-B most-important rookie.
Brett Goode, Taybor Pepper and Derek Hart were the Packers’ long-snapping triumvirate last season.
That’s at least two too many.
The next most-significant rookie contribution will come from … the offensive lineman.
Cole Madison, out of Washington State, was a welcome and much-needed addition. Bryan Bulaga’s injury history, coupled with Jason Spriggs’ subpar play, makes right tackle vulnerable. In fact, with right guard Jahri Evans unsigned, the entire right side of the line is in a state of flux.
Fortunately, offensive line coach James Campen can fix flux.
He’s been dealing with it for awhile now.
Madison’s presence and versatility should help ease his mind.
Campen’s going to play Madison at right guard to begin with. It’s his more natural position, which gives him a better chance to start fast, and it allows the Packers to see other options at right tackle (Spriggs, Kyle Murphy, etc.) while he gets comfortable.
After Madison, it’s the best two-out-of-three at receiver and cornerback in terms of rookie impact.
By that, I mean the Packers need two out of their three rookie receivers to excel in key roles. They also need two of their corners (rookies Jaire Alexander and Josh Jackson, plus second-year pro Kevin King) to play well.
On defense, I predict King will be a solid starter this season. My guess is he’ll line up opposite Tramon Williams at the outset, with Alexander and Jackson vying for nickel and dime roles.
If either or both show the play-making ability they flashed in college, the Packers’ secondary will be infinitely improved.
Guess what? New defensive coordinator Mike Pettine actually might be able to play zone coverage well enough to force opposing quarterbacks to wonder, “Are they in man or zone?”
Last year, quarterbacks didn’t much care.
The receiver position is an intriguing group.
Missouri’s J’Mon Moore has the ability to get open. While some NFL teams thought he was too slow, the Packers clocked him at 4.49 in the 40-yard dash and have no concerns.
Moore did have a bout of the “drops” but since corrected it.
Marquez Valdes-Scantling out of South Florida is interesting in that he has great size (6-4, 206) to go with a 4.38 40 time.
If he plays just as fast and big when the pads come on in training camp, the Packers may have found themselves a gem.
If Equanimeous St. Brown has the game to go with the name they can start chiseling a bust for Canton.
St. Brown, a tall (6-4 3/4) target, is a 4.48 speedster with fine hands. He dropped in the draft after a subpar junior season, but when teamed with current Packers’ teammate DeShone Kizer at Notre Dame, St. Brown excelled.
Clearly, it’s a reminder that receiver is a co-dependent position.
Ex-Vanderbilt defensive back Oren Burks is next.
Burks’ skill set is unique.
He played safety for the Commodores his first two seasons before moving to a hybrid safety-linebacker position.
Burks excelled as a sideline-to-sideline tackler best-suited to line up in the middle of the field. However, he also would shift outside and line up over the defensive end’s shoulder and blitz. He showed to be an explosive pass rusher with closing speed.
At 6-3, 240, he was timed as the fastest linebacker at the combine and is adept in pass coverage as well as along the line.
I mention Burks last, not because I don’t think he’ll contribute, but because I saved the best for last.
You really weren’t buying in on the punter, were you?