Armed with nine picks in the 2014 NFL Draft, the Green Bay Packers will be sure to address the defensive side of the ball. They pick in every round including two compensatory selections in the 3rd and 5th rounds. There is speculation that GM Ted Thompson could use their ammo to trade up for a premier game changer on defense. But as far as who to target, here’s a play by play on each pick.
With the 21st pick, there’s no doubt the Packers’ first choice will be to help their 21st ranked defense. The safety position let them down last year allowing too many big plays but Ha Ha Clinton-Dix and Calvin Pryor most likely would be off the board. So the Pack should think of getting a safety later and picking the best football player available now. C.J. Mosley can be the anchor in the middle of the 3-4 linebacking corps next to A.J. Hawk who’s not getting any younger. Mosley is the top ranked middle linebacker in the draft based on his exceptional instincts having won two BSC Championships with Alabama. With an extremely high football IQ and impressive strength and speed, Mosley can explode through the trenches wreaking havoc in the backfield. No disrespect to A.J. Hawk, but the Pack needs a new force to blitz the gaps and Mosley fits like a glove. Plus, the Packers seem to like players with initials as first names.
- Round 2 (53rd) SS Deone Bucannon Washington State
Now is the time to select their safety. Bucannon is a First Team All-American and First Team All-Pac-12 selection, leading the Pac-12 in tackles. His ability to read runs and close downhill quickly makes Bucannon the enforcer Green Bay needs. In coverage, Bucannon’s physicality combined with rare speed can make him a starter in base, nickel, and dime defense where he can run with the slot receiver or scare them with his footsteps in the zone. As the last line of defense, Bucannon can be the new game changer fixing a struggling secondary in Green Bay.
- Round 3 (85th) TE Jace Amaro Texas Tech
The Packers have no choice but to pick up some insurance for the tight end position. Jermichael Finley is still a question mark unfortunately due to a serious neck injury. Next on the Pack’s depth chart is Andrew Quarless and Brandon Bostick but neither have caught the ball consistently. Having a big target like Jace Amaro is a smart move making a more complete offense for the Pack. Amaro is 6’5, 265 lbs, a matchup nightmare. He’s a strong blocker in the run game and extremely nimble route runner. Amaro is too huge for dbs and too fast for linebackers. Amaro caught 106 balls for 1,352 yards and 7 touchdowns last year on the way to becoming the CFPA National Tight End of the Year. Simply put, he could be Aaron Rodgers’ best friend on the field.
- Round 3* (98th) DT Justin Ellis Louisiana Tech
The Packers let go veteran big guys Ryan Pickett and Johnny Jolly to free agency. Once Pro Bowler B.J. Raji is down to his last chance on a one-year prove it deal. Depth on the defensive line is an important need especially in Dom Capers’ 3-4 scheme. Justin Ellis stands a massive 6’2, 335 lbs and his greatest strengths are his agile footwork and rip skills. With a great base to push the pocket and high motor to fight through double teams, Ellis can make a difference in the trenches.
- Round 4 (121st) FS Brock Vereen Minnesota
Morgan Burnett is the only safety on the Packers’ roster who still has potential as a playmaker in the secondary. But his recent struggles equal an easy decision for management to pick another safety just in case. Brock Vereen has a smooth backpedal, fluid hips, and understands angles essentially making him an NFL ready coverage safety to run deep not letting anyone behind him. His 4.47 40 yard dash is second fastest among safeties at the combine and his 25 reps on the bench press are most of all dbs. Vereen comes from a football family. His father was drafted by Tampa Bay before moving on to the Canadian Football League and his brother Shane is currently the running back for the New England Patriots. One thing’s for sure when picking second generation football players, they know the game…remember Clay Matthews Jr.
- Round 5 (161st) WR John Brown Pittsburg State
Green Bay cut ties with star receiver James Jones this year. He’ll be missed but they have to move on. The best way to do that is by plugging in a new talent. Jarrett Boykin is now third on the wide receiver depth chart behind Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb. Speaking of Cobb, he’s now a full-time target for A-Rod who was once a special teams’ threat. So why not pick another speedster? John Brown ran the second fastest 40 at the combine. He’s elusive on his routes. He has a bulky frame to fight for extra yards. His hands are as soft as pillows. In a deep receiver class, Brown would be a great steal for the Pack’s already explosive offense and need at return man. Having a consistent 25 yards on kickoffs and punt returns from a full-time gunner makes A-Rod's job easier. The Packers are known for growing wide receivers from the draft's later rounds into All Stars. John Brown could be the next Randall Cobb.
- Round 5* (176th) LB Khairi Fortt California
In Dom Capers’ 3-4 defense, the Packers need a thumper. Khairi Fortt pounds through the trenches like a bulldozer. He’s built like a rock, 6’2, 248 lbs all muscle. His 30 reps at the combine was most among any linebacker. Fortt has no problem shedding blocks and flies to the ball like a safety. His excellent lateral agility makes up for his average awareness. But the bottom line is that the Pack needs athletes on defense, and Fortt is a great addition to rotate with the linebacking corps. He also can be a special teams star.
- Round 6 (197th) C Russell Bodine North Carolina
The Packers said farewell to Evan Dietrich-Smith in free agency. Rumors have spread appointing backups T.J. Lang and J.C. Tretter to compete for the starting center role. Bringing in a rookie as strong as Russell Bodine could shake things up. Bodine’s 42 reps on the bench press was most of the entire combine. Standing 6’3, and 310 lbs, Bodine plays with a low center of gravity able to punch block defenders back on their heels. He’s a nasty run blocker fighting anyone in his path making pancakes at the second level. Leading the way for Eddie Lacy would be fun to watch. And having a big bear to protect Aaron Rodgers will help him sleep at night.
- Round 7 (236th) QB Brett Smith Wyoming
Frankly, Matt Flynn has proved himself again and again to be a permanent backup qb in Green Bay, but he was resigned on just a one-year deal. So it can’t hurt to think about the future. Brett Smith is a prototypical pocket qb who can escape pressure like an Aaron Rodgers. He has a quick release and impressive vision. Of course there are reasons why Smith is considered as a backup, that being average arm strength and funky mechanics. But a seventh round qb is supposed to be a project. We just don’t want what happened last year to happen again; so better late than never.