While it’s a pretty pointless endeavor to grade picks right after the draft, it does start to make some sense to start grading players when they’ve actually stepped on an NFL football field against NFL level talent across from them. For the next four weeks, I will be grading each player selected in the 2014 NFL draft and seeing how they progress. In terms of grading, obviously I will be excluding Jared Abberderis, who is out on IR and Jeff Janis, who missed the first preseason game with a shingles (aka adult chickenpox) infection. Also, grades will be curved based on where players were drafted, a lot more is expected from Ha Ha Clinton-Dix than is expected from Demetri Goodson thus grading will be harder on the 1st round draft pick.
Round 1, Pick 21: Ha Ha Clinton-Dix (B grade, B grade overall) - Clinton-Dix played 29 snaps on defense mostly on the 1st and 2nd team squads and surprisingly played a lot of “strong’ safety, as mentioned by our own Jay Hodgsen, the Packers are remaining a defensive team that rolls their safeties so it’s important for both players to be capable of playing free and strong spots. Other than that, Clinton-Dix held his own, he wasn’t particularly challenged in the passing game and was where he was supposed to be on run plays. The two plays that did stand out were his recovery on a pass play where he managed to get back into position and knock the ball down and a running play where he completely missed against Dexter McCluster. Perhaps most important, Clinton-Dix appeared to be where he was supposed to be and was a part of the defensive playing calling, two signs that he is getting a hang of the defense. Overall, a very solid first performance.
Round 2, Pick 53: Davante Adams (A grade, A grade overall) - First off, this grade is not including Adam’s special teams play, which obviously was an F. I do find it a little odd that the Packers decided to try out Adams, who has no experience in returns in college, in monsoon weather on the first preseason game. Either way, Adams play on offense was much better and might signal big things to come. First off, Adams is not very fast but runs very crisp routes and at least against the Titans defense was often open and by a wide margin. While often times his quarterbacks straight up missed him being open or threw him some wobbly balls that he couldn’t reel in, I think he is a player to keep an eye out on, especially if he starts seeing Aaron Rodgers behind center. The only thing limiting his growth is likely the huge amount of talent ahead of him, but either way I would say Adam’s week 1 performance was the best of the draft class.
Round 3, Pick 85: Khyri Thornton (F grade, F grade overall) - Do you remember Thornton playing at all? I certainly didn’t until I watched the game a second time. Thornton played mainly with the 3rd team defense and logged 30 snaps and was completely unremarkable. While Thornton wasn’t exactly drafted for his pass rushing acumen, he certainly didn’t surprise anyone and it is a little alarming to see so many defensive linemen ahead of him in the pecking order, especially considering he was a high draft pick. On the field, he wasn’t able to generate any push and often times was the linemen furthest back from the ball, which naturally makes running lanes bigger. Secondly, Thornton appears to lack a second move or way to disengage with his blocker as he often ends up getting stonewalled. It is possible that the Packers are asking him to be a blocker soaker in the mold of Ryan Pickett, but even when Thornton moved to defensive end he failed to get much push.
Round 3, Pick 98: Richard Rodgers (B grade, B grade overall) - Rogers was maybe the surprise player on the 1st team offense and saw action as both a tight end and a fullback. While his run blocking isn’t pretty he is effective and likely more practice and playing time will improve his technique. As for his pass catching and route running, Rodgers does a good job as a bigger receiver in shielding the ball away from defenders and shows the ability to adjust his body to make the catch. While I’m not sure if there is a pecking order between him, Brandon Bostick and Andrew Quarless, Rodgers does seem to be the most complete package of the 3.
Round 4, Pick 121: Carl Bradford (D grade, D grade overall) - Bradford was simply not in the game much, playing only a mere 8 snaps with the 3rd team defense. This number is surprisingly low considering Nate Palmer and Andy Mulumba, both who are on the roster bubble got 23 and 15 snaps. The two undrafted rookie linebackers Adrian Hubbard and Jayrone Elliot both received 6 snaps, which makes Bradford’s 8 all the more surprising since he was a mid round draft pick. Overall, Bradford was largely invisible on the field, which of course might be due to the fact that he simply didn’t have many chances to stand out. Overall, the only reason I can think of his low snap count is a poor showing in practice, or else he should be seeing a lot more snaps than he did.
Round 4, Pick 161: Corey Linsley (B- grade, B- grade overall) - Linsley played 29 snaps on offense, mostly with the 2nd team and acquitted himself well. While he wasn’t often asked to solo block defenders, he did keep his head on a swivel and was an effect combo blocker. When he was asked to solo block, Linsley really shined in run blocking, where he was able to generate good push and open up lanes for his running backs. While his pass pro is still pretty ugly, Linsley did fare well on passing plays as well. Overall, both Linsley and starter JC Tretter did well in week 1 and it’s probably still in the air who wins the position at the end of the day.
Round 6, Pick 197: Demtri Goodson (C grade, C grade overall) - Goodson had a very rookie like first game, making some really great plays followed by some really poor ones. On the positive side, Goodson has plenty of playing speed as he was able to keep in the hip of receivers running go routes all night. On the negative, Goodson doesn’t have much technique when things go poorly; he was obviously called for defensive holding once when he failed to get his head around to block the pass but also grabbed his receiver on the passing touchdown to Bishop Sankey near the end of the game. I think Goodson’s chances would be a lot higher were he able to demonstrate some return abilities but at the moment I would say its 50-50 if he makes the team, but at very worse the Packers will try to get him on the practice squad.
Thomas Hobbes is a staff writer for Jersey Al’s AllGreenBayPackers.com.