The NFL draft is thankfully just a day away, and while I could steal Jersey Al’s thunder by posting yet another mock draft, I thought I would instead do the exact opposite and look at the Packer’s 2013 draft class and more specifically what was being said about them around this time last year. Were the scouting reports any good and how did these players perform when moving to the NFL? Did they show different skills in the NFL or underperform on a new team? The following are the scouting reports from CBSSports.com immediately following the 2013 NFL draft for each player that the Packers drafted. Certain drafted players have been omitted from the list including JC Tretter, Kevin Dorsey, Nate Palmer, Sam Barrington and Charles Johnson mostly because they were either injured for the majority of the season or didn’t really play enough snaps to really say much.
Round 1.26: Datone Jones
- Pros: Well-built athlete with long arms and good strength, throughout. Flashes an explosive initial burst off the snap to penetrate gaps. Uses his hands well at the snap to rip free from blocks, showing a variety of pass rush techniques (swim, rip, club), as well as enough power to simply bull over offensive linemen into the backfield.Keeps his head up and locates the football quickly, showing good awareness and effort in pursuit. Has the upper-body strength to lock-out opponents and seal the edge. Stout enough to slide inside to defensive tackle, especially on obvious pass rush downs. Enjoyed a breakout senior campaign and may be just scratching the surface of his potential.Cons: A classic ‘tweener who until his senior season hadn’t ever lived up to expectations. Lacks the sustained speed and flexibility to turn the corner as a traditional 4-3 defensive end. Lacks the bulk to handle full-time duties as a traditional defensive tackle. Has a tendency to stand up as he comes off the ball, losing out on the leverage battle. Uses his hands well initially but tires quickly and struggles to disengage once his opponent has locked on.
- Verdict: Fairly accurate. Keep in mind Jones was hampered for much of the season by a gimpy ankle sustained on his very first professional down from which he never seemed to recover. Nevertheless, he proved to be a viable pass rusher, recording 5 sacks, 3 hurries and 11 QB hits. However his run defense was severely lacking (74 out of 79 3-4 defensive ends) and taken in consideration that he only had 6 tackles total would indicate that his functional strength probably wasn’t at a NFL caliber level (which isn’t all that surprising for many rookies) but he does have the quickness to really flourish as a nickel pass rusher in the future. Hopefully another year in a NFL weight room will give him more power to seal the edge.
Round 2.61: Eddie Lacy
- Pros: Has the leg drive to push the pile and keeps his legs churning through contact, often resulting in broken tackles. Lacy reads his blocks nicely, showing enough lateral agility to avoid defenders as well as the burst to stick his foot in the ground and accelerate through gaps quickly. He’s a well-built back, but shows good balance (including an often-used spin move) and athleticism (leaping ability) to surprise defenders anticipating that all he has is power. Runs tough and determined with an angry attitude to finish each run and pick up positive yardage.Cons: Needs to stay healthy as he’s been hampered at times with foot injuries (ankle sprains, turf toe). Put the ball on the ground a few times early in his career, but improved in this area. Lacks elite top-end speed, clocking a pedestrian 4.58 and 4.62 seconds in the 40-yard dash at his pro day.
- Verdict: Fairly Accurate. Lacy ultimately ended up staying relatively healthy enough outside of sustaining a concussion on a dirty hit by Brandon Merriweather and that translated into garnering rookie of the year honors. I would however argue against Lacy’s purported lack of speed, while it’s obvious that he’s not Chris Johnson, Lacy’s speed is good enough to turn the corner and get past defenders as evidenced by 50+ yard runs against the Cowboys and Bears.
Round 4.109: David Bakhtiari
- Pros: Possesses an athletic frame with room for additional muscle mass. Quick off the snap, demonstrating light feet with lateral agility and balance. Shoots his hands into the chest of his opponent and flashes some nastiness to knock defenders to the ground when he senses them off-balance. Shows surprising football intelligence considering his lack of experience. Recognizes blitzes and adjusts to stunts well, showing the ability to slide off of double-teams and take on the defender looping around. Takes the game seriously, showing the attention to detail to improve. An ascending talent who is just scratching the surface of his potential.Cons: May lack the elite combination of height and foot speed to handle edge rushers in the NFL, though he appears well suited to simply sliding inside to left guard. Doesn’t have top body control for blocking on the move and will struggle adjusting to moving targets. Too often attacks the outside shoulder of linebackers when blocking on the move, allowing them to “swim” over him and remain in the action. Would like to see him finish his blocks more completely. Often protected with a tight end as Colorado frequently used a dual tight end set.
- Verdict: Inaccurate. While Bakhtiari’s scouting report gets many of the pros correct, such as his football intelligence, agility and balance, they completely whiff on the cons. Bakhtiari had one of the worse run blocking grades of any tackle last season (72 out of 76) and shifting him to left guard would likely have been disastrous. At the moment, Bakhtiari’s strengths is mirroring rushers trying to get the edge and he showed proper technique with moving targets. Again, kind of like Jones, hopefully an offseason of NFL weight training will allow him to better deal with run blocking as well as bull rushes.
Round 4.125: Johnathan Franklin
- Pros: Franklin boasts NFL-caliber speed and the ability to make defenders miss in tight quarters. He attacks the line of scrimmage and can squirt through in a blink, consistently giving the Bruins a big-play option from the running game.Cons: Hasn’t demonstrated the reliable hands out of the backfield (25 career catches for just 194 yards and one score) nor is he a stout blocker in pass protection — two traits normally associated with the speedy change-of-pace options NFL teams are increasingly employing in this era of specialization. Perhaps most alarming is that Franklin has struggled with ball security. He fumbled three times in a five game stretch last year and it has been a sporadic problem going back earlier in his career.
- Verdict: Very Accurate. Franklin really only had one meaningful game due to injuries, but he performed a lot like he did with the Bruins, squeezing through holes and making opponents miss, with a long run of 51 yards. However all the negatives that came with him from Los Angles also held true with the Packers; Franklin fumbled twice (I’d maybe give him a pass on the last play on the Bengals game because he was trying to stretch out for the yardage in a desperation mode) which probably pushed him on the bench before injuries became too daunting. The Packers didn’t use him in the passing game often, but in 5 attempts he did catch 4, which is just about the completion percentage Eddie Lacy ended up with.
Round 5.159: Micah Hyde
- Pros: Willing, disciplined tackler and does a nice job in the open field with good strength for the position. Reliable in one-on-one tackle situations and drives on the ball with a physical nature, fighting off blocks to be a factor. Always plays alert with top-shelf instincts and football smarts. Understands body positioning and timing in coverage, battling for the ball and making it tough for receivers to finish. Natural ball skills and reads the quarterback well to make plays on the ball. Good experience on special teams, including as a return man. Versatile experience with time at safety and cornerback.Cons: Not a quick-twitch athlete and lacks the hip flexibility ideal for the position. Doesn’t have great top-end speed and will struggle to stick with receivers vertically. Shows some tweener traits and will be viewed as a cornerback for some and safety for others.
- Verdict: Accurate. Hyde was perhaps the other surprise rookie outside of David Bakhtiari and ended up playing a “Charles Woodson” position of hybrid cornerback-safety, just as the scouting report indicates. They also mentioned his ball skills, good enough to get him the starting punt returner position. The scouting report was also accurate in its assessment of a player with good instincts and football smarts but not the top end speed or agility to really stick with receivers. Overall, Hyde is what Charles Woodson was a couple year ago, but lacks the coverage ability of what Woodson had in his prime.
Round 5.167: Josh Boyd
- Pros: Shows body fluidity to smoothly redirect his momentum. Quick-footed and rangy to make plays away from the line of scrimmage. Not shy with his punch to extend at the point of attack. Carries his weight well and looks comfortable changing directions; frequently asked to drop in space in college. Good awareness to hold his point and then chase down the action with closing burst from behind, flashing the motor to fight through the whistle.Cons: Plays too light at times and struggles with his base strength. Offers a limited array of pass rush moves and is undeveloped as a pass rusher, rarely getting consistent pressure on the pocket. Allows his pads to rise off the snap and needs to improve his anticipation off the ball. Doesn’t always finish and needs to do a better job breaking down on the move. Lacks the natural power to do much after his initial move doesn’t work. Sometimes has the bad habit of playing to the level of his competition.
- Verdict: Fairly Accurate. It’s hard to really get a gauge on Boyd since he only really started contributing to the defense near the end of the season, added to the fact that it’s likely that Boyd is being groomed to be a nose tackle or inside rusher, leading to a even lower number of stats to analyze. Boyd did display fairly good quickness for a man his size but this often didn’t translate to much as a pass rusher, with only 5 QB hurries and no sacks or hits.
Overall, I would say that the scouting reports were largely accurate for the 2013 Packers draft class. From this two statements can be extrapolated: 1) CBS draft’s scouting reports are largely accurate with only one egregious miss (Bakhtiari), this is a good thing for fans as the information publicly available now is at least passable compared to the research that teams do themselves. Compare this to several years ago where not much was known about some of later round picks and outrageous scouting reports that were obviously written with a bias or with an ulterior motive (cough cough Nolan Nawrocki). I should mention I also have the National Football Post’s scouting report as well (which I omitted for the sake of brevity) and I disagree a lot more with their assessment, so it’s not like all scouting reports are made equal.
2) The Packers are relatively good at getting what they want. Presumably the Packers’ own research is at least at the foundation is similar, but obviously more detailed, and it appears like their scouting department is good at translating what they see in college to what they think players will perform in the NFL. This again is a good sign for Packers fans; one famous story is that Ron Wolf took one look at Brett Conway, a punter he had just drafted in the 3rd round, and immediately knew he had to find a replacement. While no player is perfect, drafting players that can do what you think they can do is important in order for them to fit the scheme and philosophy of the team; in that regard Thompson has always been very good at finding player who matching what he’s looking for.
Thomas Hobbes is a staff writer for Jersey Al’s AllGreenBayPackers.com.