When the Green Bay Packers’ turn to pick in the first and second round of the NFL draft came up, there were still several players left on the board who would have provided re-enforcement to the defensive line and inside linebacker positions.
And the Packers selected none of them.
Packers general manager Ted Thompson left many of us scratching our heads after this draft. Who’s he? Why’d they take that guy? Huh? Those questions were uttered by many Packers fans this weekend, particularly after the Packers’ selections in the first three rounds.
To answer some of those questions and hopefully alleviate some of the bewilderment, here are all of the Packers’ draft picks and the reasons why, in my opinion, Thompson made them.
Damarious Randall – Projected cornerback – Round 1, Pick 30 (#30 overall) – Replaces Davon House
Rationale: Ted Thompson and Dom Capers love versatile defensive backs with raw speed and the ability to come on a blitz every now and then. And with Tramon Williams and Davon House gone, the Packers needed to restock the shelf in the secondary.
Versatile, active, good ball skills, fast, center-fielder, blitzer. Do those terms and phrases remind you of anyone? They remind me of Charles Woodson. I’m not in any way saying Randall is the next Woodson, but the Packers love that Woodson type of player, and Randall checks off several Woodson categories.
Micah Hyde and Casey Hayward have Woodson’s skill set as well, but are nowhere near as talented. Could Randall combine that Woodson skill set with an abundance of talent? We’re about to find out.
Quinten Collins – Projected cornerback – Round 2, Pick 30 (#62 overall) – Replaces Tramon Williams (maybe?)
Rationale: Well, the Packers lost two cornerbacks to free agency, so you have to replace them, right? Either that or Thompson has a well-placed source who is telling him that the NFL is going to switch to flag football this season. Collins is another basketball player. Team him with Demetri Goodson and the Packers should be able to win a game of H-O-R-S-E against any other NFL team.
But in all seriousness, Collins seems like a bit of a project. He plays fast, reckless and aggressive — all desirable traits once they become honed. However, he needs work on technique and knowing when to gamble and when to play it safe. Packers cornerbacks coach Joe Whitt will have plenty of work to do with his two new draft picks, but the tools are definitely there for Whitt to build something out of Collins.
According to Pro Football Focus, only three other players received a higher coverage grade and only two other cornerbacks received a higher overall grade than Collins. Sure, it’s a little frustrating that the Packers didn’t address the middle of their defense in their first two picks, but Thompson has picked up two talented, albeit raw, players to ensure the Packers secondary has a shot at remaining a strength, and maybe even improving.
Ty Montgomery – Projected wide receiver/returner – Round 3, Pick #30 (#94 overall) – Replaces DuJuan Harris
Rationale: It seems like it’s been forever since the Packers had a stud kick and punt returner. Montgomery had a down season as a receiver, but after averaging 28.7 yards on kick returns and 19.8 on punts during his career at Stanford, a lot of scouts projected Montgomery as the best returner in the draft.
I also wouldn’t be surprised if Montgomery is given the opportunity to line up in the backfield in a Cordarrelle Patterson or Shane Vereen type of role. Mike McCarthy has yet another chess piece to move around as he looks to create mismatches and finally conquer the tough, physical defenses that have been a thorn in the Packers’ side since winning the Super Bowl in 2010.
In the first three rounds of the draft, Thompson has selected two athletic defensive backs and a receiver with a high ceiling as a returner. At the very least, the Packers special teams should be vastly improved in 2015.
Jake Ryan – Projected linebacker – Round 4, Pick #30 (#129 overall) – Replaces A.J. Hawk/Brad Jones/Jamari Lattimore
Rationale: We’ve been waiting for Thompson to draft an inside linebacker and he finally did! Actually, Ryan played outside his first three seasons at Michigan, but moved inside his final season and was team MVP. Look for him to stay inside in Green Bay.
Can Ryan play right away? Do the Packers need him to play right away? Will he plug the giant perceived hole at inside linebacker? These are all questions people immediately asked after Ryan was picked. The answers are: hopefully, maybe, let’s not put too much on this kid before he’s even signed a contract.
Ryan looks like more of a run-stopper than someone who can blanket a tight end or a running back in coverage, but I don’t have a problem with that. The Packers need more toughness in the middle, and after this draft, they’ve got an overflow of defensive backs to handle pass coverage duties. Let’s see if Ryan can shore up the inside against the run.
Brett Hundley, — Projected quarterback — Round 5, Pick #11 (#147 overall) — Replaces Matt Flynn
Rationale: When Matt Flynn played last season, it was apparent that he didn’t have much left. By trading up to get Hundley early in the fifth round, Thompson gives McCarthy a quarterback project to work on, a competitor for Scott Tolzien in training camp, and extra insurance for his MVP quarterback — who has suffered a significant injury in consecutive seasons.
Hundley has the arm, build, and scrambling ability to play quarterback in the NFL. What he needs to work on is his ability to throw the ball downfield. Fifty-four percent of his passes in 2014 traveled 6 yards or less through the air. He also needs to do a better job of what Rodgers does so well: keeping his eyes downfield as he moves around the pocket, always looking to make a play downfield before running.
The Packers have plenty of work to do to make Hundley into a capable quarterback. Hopefully another Rodgers’ injury doesn’t force Hundley to play before he’s ready.
Aaron Ripkowski — Projected fullback — Round 6, Pick #30 (#206 overall) — Replaces John Kuhn (in a year or two)
Rationale: Notice a pattern to the Packers draft picks so far? All of them should be special teams contributors right away. When McCarthy and Thompson set out to overhaul the special teams, I guess they weren’t kidding.
While Ripkowski works to familiarize himself with the Packers’ offense and whatever Rodgers wants him to do, he should be able to bring some pop to the special teams. Can Ripkowski eventually grow into the type of fullback who can pick up a 3rd and inches or catch a dumpoff pass, if necessary? I’m not so sure. But he does look like a sledgehammer type of blocker, and even played some snaps at tight end.
Ripkowski appears to be the player with the coolest name to come out of this draft for the Packers until…
Christian Ring0 — Projected defensive tackle/long snapper — Round 6, Pick #34 (#210 overall) — Replaces Brett Goode (eventually) and provides depth on d-line
Ringo or Ripkowski: Who’s got the cooler name? It’s a close race, but I’m going with the Pollack.
Ringo put up some crazy good numbers at Louisiana Layfayette, including 11.5 sacks and 20.5 tackles-for-loss as an undersized defensive tackle in 2014. Pro Football Focus ranked Ringo as the most efficient pass rusher in the draft.
Ringo will have to line up as a defensive end with the Packers before he’s small. His ceiling is probably a lesser version of Mike Daniels. If that doesn’t work out, he could become the team’s long-snapper of the future.
Kennard Backman — Projected tight end — Round 6, Pick #37 (#213 overall) — Replaces Brandon Bostick
In today’s NFL, labels don’t mean much. Sure, a player might have TE, WR or RB listed before their name, but it doesn’t mean those labels confine that player to specific duties. This is especially true when it comes to wide receivers and tight ends.
The line is becoming more blurred. Perhaps a more appropriate title for TE/WRs is “pass catcher.” That’s how I’d prefer to label Backman. He looks like a pass catcher. He’s got tight-end size and he’s labeled as a tight end, but I don’t see him blocking much. If he’s going to contribute, it’s going to be as a pass catcher.
Adam Czech is a a freelance sports reporter living in the Twin Cities and a proud supporter of American corn farmers. When not working, Adam is usually writing about, thinking about or worrying about the Packers. Follow Adam on Twitter. Twitter .