By Chris Havel
Special to Event USA
Packers’ family loses Hall of Famer Forrest Gregg: Lombardi’s ‘best ever’
GREEN BAY, Wis. – In 10 days the Green Bay Packers likely will be on the clock with the 12th pick in the 2019 NFL Draft.
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What should they do? Who should they select?
Based on a dizzying look at the highlight film, statistics, player evaluations and mock drafts, I’ve come to two conclusions.
** No. 1 – The Packers are going to get an impact player at 12. If LSU inside linebacker Devin White falls (he won’t), or Florida tackle Jawaan Taylor tumbles (I doubt it), they would have to consider the speedy ILB or the OL building block.
It would be a nice problem to have.
An added bonus would be if Ohio State quarterback Dwayne Haskins falls to 12, in which case another team might try to trade up for the signal caller. That could lead to a strong offer.
Otherwise, it’s most likely my No. 2 scenario will shake out.
** No. 2 – The Packers should select Mississippi State edge rusher Montez Sweat if he’s still on the board.
The addition of Za’Darius and Preston Smith in free agency doesn’t mean the Packers no longer need a pass rusher. In fact, it sets up a scenario where the Smiths can bang away on early downs, with Sweat entering in obvious passing situations.
It carves out an immediate niche for the rookie without putting any undue pressure or expectations on him beyond the norm.
Sweat, at 6-6, 260, ran a blistering 4.41 40-yard dash at the combine. He also showed a 36-inch vertical jump while doing 21 reps at 225 pounds in the bench press.
He reminds me of two NFC North pass rushers: the Vikings’ Danielle Hunter and the Bears’ Leonard Floyd.
Sweat can be in their class as a pass rusher.
After signing with Michigan State out of high school as a tight end, Sweat moved to defense and played in two games before taking a redshirt year. He played in two games in 2015, as well, but was suspended for undisclosed reasons and left the team. From there, he transferred to Copiah-Lincoln College and showed enough to earn a scholarship from Mississippi State.
Once there, he captured back-to-back all-SEC honors by terrorizing SEC offenses for two seasons. As a senior, he also received second-team All-American honors from the Associated Press after notching 53 tackles, 14 for loss, and 11 ½ sacks.
Sweat was diagnosed with a heart condition this offseason, but it’s reportedly nothing that will curtail his NFL career. The Packers shouldn’t be dissuaded by it.
If Sweat isn’t available at 12, and neither White nor Taylor falls, the Packers would have to seriously consider trading down.
They could move back a handful of spots, garner additional picks, and still select from a pool that could include: Iowa tight ends T.J. Hockenson and Noah Fant, Florida State edge rusher Brian Burns, and perhaps (if they’re lucky) Michigan inside linebacker Devin Bush.
Any of those four would have an immediate role in Green Bay, but I can’t see the value at No. 12. Now, at 15 or beyond, plus an additional late-first or early second-round pick, I’m all in.
In fact, I’m willing to guess that either Hockenson or Fant will be available when the Packers pick at 30. They also have the 44th overall pick, so they could go in several directions.
In a perfect world, I could see the Packers drafting Sweat at 12, and then drafting players at two of these four positions: tight end, slot receiver, offensive lineman and inside linebacker.
A.J. Brown, the slot receiver from Mississippi, would be ideal.
Like Jordy Nelson, Greg Jennings and James Jones before him, he enters the NFL ready-made to contribute after an incredibly productive college career.
Brown, 6-0, 226, is fast (4.49 in the 40), powerfully built (19 reps at 225) and athletic (36 ½ inch vertical).
He eclipsed his own school records with 1,320 receiving yards and 85 catches last season.
Next week, I’ll give my final draft overview and prediction.
On a sad note, the Packers lost legendary offensive tackle Forrest Gregg, whom the great Vince Lombardi called “the best player I’ve ever coached.”
Gregg, 85, passed away last week in Colorado Springs, Col., after a lengthy battle with Parkinson’s disease, according to his wife, Barbara.
The Hall of Famer played in a then-record 188 straight games over 15 seasons, garnering All-Pro honors seven times. He played from 1956 to 1971, with his final season in Dallas.
“Our thoughts and prayers go out to Barbara and the Gregg family,” Packers president Mark Murphy said in a statement. “He was a legendary player for the team, one of the greatest in our history. The ultimate team player, he raised the level of play of those around him. He also had a great connection with the organization over the years. We enjoyed welcoming him back to Lambeau Field and seeing fans appreciate him around the state.”
Bill Curry, the starting center on the Packers’ Super Bowl I team, marveled at Gregg’s attention to detail.
“The first time I set foot on the practice field in Green Bay, I noticed a player in the distance working on his stance, his technique and his footwork,” Curry said in an interview with me Friday on The FAN. “It was Forrest Gregg, the best lineman in the league. I asked him what he was doing. He said, ‘It’s all about the fundamentals. That’s where it all begins.”
Curry said Gregg was the consummate technician and pro. The two became friends and stayed in touch through the years.
“He will be missed,” Curry said. “He was a great man and teammate.”