The NFL Scouting Combine starts on Saturday and Packers general manager Ted Thompson will be there to observe all of the young NFL hopefuls who could potentially fill holes on the Packers roster.
Yes, it’s that time of year where words like “athletic” and “upside” become part of our everyday vocabulary and we pay extra close attention to how long a player’s arms are and what kind of motor he has. Keeping track of everything going on at the NFL Combine and the buzz about various prospects can be overwhelming. That’s why ALLGBP.com is here to help.
I picked out 10 players to watch at the NFL Combine if you’re a Packers fan. I have no idea if Thompson himself will be closely watching these players over others, but these 10 players are a mix of possible first-round targets for the Packers, or mid-round picks that appear to have the tools to help the Packers in one way or another down the road.
Of course, after the NFL Combine wraps up, ALLGBP.com will have more NFL draft profiles on possible future Packers than you will be able to handle. For now, keep an eye on these 10 players and we’ll see if any of them wind up in Green Bay come April.
HaHa Clinton-Dix, Safety, Alabama
The Packers need a safety and Clinton-Dix might be the best one in this draft class. Scouts rave about Clinton-Dix’s instincts when the ball is in the air and his ability to shift directions and accelerate. His tackling could use some work, but the Packers desperately need a safety who can close on the ball and help eliminate big plays in the opponent’s passing game. Based on what I’ve seen, it’s really hard to get over the top on Clinton-Dix. Teams have had no problems getting over the top on the Packers safeties ever since Nick Collins was injured. If you’re a Packers fan, you might actually hope Clinton-Dix has a poor showing at the combine to increase the chances that he’ll fall to the Packer at pick No. 21.
Calvin Pryor, Safety, Louisville
If you want a safety who will lower the boom on people, Pryor is the guy. He doesn’t project to have the cover skills and closing speed of Clinton-Dix, but we’ll see if his combine numbers change that perception. In a recent media call, NFL draft guru Mike Mayock called Pryor a “bigger, stronger version of Bob Sanders.” That’s high praise. Like Clinton-Dix, Pryor might be off the board by the time the Packers pick.
Marqueston Huff, Safety, Wyoming
There’s a good chance both Clinton-Dix and Pryor will be gone by the time the Packers pick in the first round, so taking a safety later in the draft is a definite possibility. What I like about Huff is his mulitiplicity (did I just invent a new draft word?). He’s played safety, cornerback, running back and returned kicks. He can line up and cover in the slot, close on the ball as a free safety, and be a thorn in the side as a gunner on special teams. Huff seems to fit the mold of what Ted Thompson likes in a defensive back.
Ra’Shede Hageman, Defensive Line, Minnesota
6-6, 318 pounds
I saw Hageman play in-person four times this season. He looked lazy and out of shape in the first game. In the next three, he played like a raw, potentially great, NFL defensive lineman. Hageman looks more like an offensive tackle than a defensive lineman, but those broad shoulders, long arms, and trimmer-than-normal waist for an interior lineman actually work in his favor. I see Hageman more as a defensive end in the NFL, but that doesn’t mean he should be ruled out as an interior force. He’s a boom or bust pick, in my opinion, with a ceiling of Julius Pepper and a floor of Justin Harrell.
DeAndre Coleman, Defensive Line, California
6-5, 315 pounds
The Packers are likely going to need re-enforcements along the defensive line and Coleman could be a good pick in the third or fourth round. He’s listed at 315 pounds, but he looks more like a muscular 285. If the Packers are serious about getting more athletic in their defensive line, Coleman could help as a 3-4 defensive end or an interior tackle with deceptive explosiveness. Coleman looks like he’s an NFL prospect, but his numbers in college left a little to be desired. Some scouts think Coleman looks like a player, but isn’t actually a player. Perhaps the production wasn’t there because he played on a horrible Cal team.
C.J. Mosley, Linebacker, Alabama
6-2, 232 pounds
The Packers drafted a standout running back from Alabama last year after he fell to the second round due to injury concerns. Could they do the same this year with a linebacker from Alabama who has an injury as history? Mosely can play all four downs and is a handful when he comes charging between the guards on a blitz. If Mosely didn’t have injury concerns, he’d be a sure-thing first-round pick. He’ll still probably go in the first round, but if he doesn’t, how far will he fall?
Chris Borland, Inside Linebacker, Wisconsin
5-11, 246 pounds
Unlike some of the players on this list, Borland won’t wow you with his size and appearance. He’s short and stocky and doesn’t have that graceful and chiseled look most NFL linebackers have these days. But the kid can play. He moves sideline-to-sideline with ease and he knows how to use his stoutness to gain leverage on taller and less agile offensive linemen on blitzes. Scouting reports also cite his intelligence and awareness as major attributes. We know how much the Packers value smarts and proper alignment from their middle linebacker slots. If the Packers address safety with their first-round pick, they could further boost the middle of their defense by taking Borland later in the draft.
Justin Gilbert, Cornerback, Oklahoma St.
6-0, 200 pounds
You might think the Packers don’t need another cornerback, but Gilbert could be too tempting for Thompson to pass up. Tall, athletic, strong, good tackler, jams receivers and plays zone. He has the tools to do it all. Oh, and he’s also a helluva kick returner. With Sam Shields possibly departing, Tramon Williams getting older and on the last year of his deal and Casey Hayward coming off a lost season, don’t be surprised if Thompson snatches up Gilbert. Gilbert also seems like the type of player whose stock could go way up after the combine, so we’ll see where he stands after this weekend.
Richard Rodgers, TE, California
6-4, 245 pounds
Things worked out well the last time the Packers drafted a guy named Rodgers out of California. With Jermichael Finley likely out of the picture, the Packers will look to replace his athleticism and ability to line up inside as a traditional tight end and outside as a flex wide-receiver type. Rodgers could fit the bill. Like Finley was coming out of Texas in 2008, Rodgers is extremely raw and will probably need a year or two of seasoning.
Brandon Coleman, WR, Rutgers
6-6, 220 pounds
There are a lot of wide receivers in this year’s draft, and Coleman could be one of several taken after the first round with a chance to develop into a go-to player. Coleman may have been better off staying in school, honing his skills a bit, and coming out next year when the wide receiver field isn’t so stacked. Then again, with his size, an impressive combine could send him rocketing up draft boards. I’m sure Aaron Rodgers wouldn’t mind a 6-foot-6 target to throw to, especially with James Jones possibly on his way out and Randall Cobb and Jordy Nelson free agents next offseason.
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 .