It’s only a couple days before the 2015 NFL draft, but I thought it would be apt to take a step back and look at the 2014 draft; what were thinking this time last year and has any of that come to fruition? All scouting reports were taken from CBS, who unfortunately has removed these scouting reports or I would link them.
Round 1: Ha Ha Clinton Dix
- Pros: A rangy, fluid athlete, Clinton-Dix covers a lot of ground against both the pass and the run and projects to either free or strong safety. He has the aggressive nature to attack ballcarriers and shows the read/react quickness to diagnose and take accurate angles in coverage. He has plus hands for the interception and shows vision and natural open-field running skills with the ball in his hands. Anticipates the run well, attacking the line of scrimmage to make some impressive stops up close.
- Cons: Doesn’t have the preferred strength, at this time, to break free from blocks and isn’t a consistently physical tackler, electing to grab and pull down ball-carriers rather than striking them forcefully.
- Verdict: Very accurate. While it took a while for Clinton-Dix to become a starter at free safety, when he did he displayed fantastic range and some spectacular open field tackles. Clinton-Dix was typically in the right place at the right time and while that didn’t translate to a slew of interceptions, it did mean that the secondary was the best it’s been since maybe Nick Collins roamed the back half.
Round 2: Davante Adams
- Pros: Broad-shouldered and well-built wideout who consistently wins at the catch-point, demonstrating good leaping ability, timeing and hand-eye coordination. Tracks the ball well over either shoulder and has strong hands to pluck the ball when turned towards the quarterback. Quickly corrals the pass and wastes no time in getting upfield, showing vision to set up blocks as well as strength to run through arm tackles and a nice stutter-step to elude. Deceptive straight-line speed to challenge deep and shows good balance and overall body control to gain separation on comeback and out routes. Good strength and courage to take passes over the middle and isn’t afraid of running through traffic. Alert blocker.
- Cons: Lacks the elite speed that his gaudy production indicates. Possesses normal acceleration and tops out quickly. Occasionally will allow the ball to swing away from his frame as he attempts to fight for extra yardage, which can result in forced fumbles. Cognizant blocker downfield but isn’t nearly as physical in this area as he is when fighting through would-be tacklers. Production was certainly inflated by Fresno State’s spread offense and because he is the favorite target of highly regarded quarterback, Derek Carr
- Verdict: Accurate. Adams showed over the season to be a player that isn’t a burner but displays pretty much every other aspect of a great wide receiver. Most notably his routes were crisp and he had a little Randall Cobb in him after the catch. He also appeared to have great recognition and vision, specifically in the game against Miami where Rodgers threw him the fake spike and he had the awareness to get the first down and then get out of bounds. Adams’ production is again probably inflated by his quarterback, but going from Derek Carr to Aaron Rodgers certainly can’t be a bad thing.
Round 3a: Khyri Thornton
- Pros: Fluid lower body and easy movement skills with active feet to quickly redirect, showing some range – natural on his feet…fires off the snap with smooth acceleration, getting to his top speed quickly…quick hands and reflexes…very active and plays with energy, effort and hustle – pesky player for all four quarters…has developed his upper body strength and uses his hand grip to tear through blocks. Has some lead in his lower body to anchor and hold his ground…persevering, positive attitude and carries himself well…puts in the work off the field…versatile experience (28 career starts) as a 4-3 under DT and also at DE and the tilted NT spot with USM’s multiple fronts
- Cons: Appears maxed out physically and lacks ideal length…too easily stonewalled at the POA and needs to add more ammo to his hands and provide more of a consistent shock at contact…pops upright too often and needs to maintain his pad level to create proper leverage…undeveloped hand technique and too easily handled by single rushers – functional strength is average-at-best and ends up hand fighting. Pass rush instincts are lacking and needs to be more technically sound in his approach…leaves production on the field and needs to be more reliable in his movements to finish when the ballcarrier is in the area…minor durability concerns after missing the final game of 2013 due to injury…lackluster career production, especially as a pass rusher with only 5.5 career sacks – his sack total decreased each of his four seasons in school.
- Verdict: Inconclusive. While Thornton was stashed away on the IR before the season started, during the preseason he was a complete disaster. The scouting report was accurate that he’s too often stymied at the point of attack but in the NFL with even bigger backup offensive linemen, Thornton was too often times push right out of the play, resulting in large gaps for the running backs to attack. Overall, Thornton’s strength was severely lacking and he seemed a lot less twitchy or sudden than reported.
Round 3b: Richard Rodgers
- Pros: Lanky athlete who has proven the ability to manipulate his weight to fit his team’s offensive scheme. Very good initial quickness for the position, demonstrating the ability to beat defenders upfield with his burst or to gain the advantage while blocking, including on cut-blocks. Long arms and soft hands. Gathers in passes quickly and secures the football. Good agility and straight-line speed for the position. Good bloodlines. Father is Richard Rodgers, Sr., who is credited for making the call and one of five laterals on “The Play,” the famous Cal kick return in 1982 to beat Stanford (and its band). Father now serves as the special teams coordinator for the Carolina Panthers.
- Cons: Lacks the bulk and strength to hold up as an in-line blocker in the NFL. A bit finesse in his play, relying more on his athleticism than physicality. Gets to the second level quickly but rather than latching on to control opponents, Richard extends his arms and stops his feet, allowing defenders to break free easily from his blocks. Possesses the ability to make the incredible catch but will drop the occasional easy pass and struggles in traffic. Only asked to run relatively simple quick out and drag routes in Dykes’ offense. Only started 11 of 37 games over his collegiate career.
- Verdict: Somewhat accurate. While Rodgers best trait coming out of college was his ability to fit into a bunch of different schemes, for the Packers his soft hands became a reliable target for Aaron Rodgers, especially late into the season. Rodgers also got significantly better at blocking inline as the season progressed, while Andrew Quarless is still the best blocker of the group, it’s not unsurprising to see rookie tight ends make strides in that regard as they learn to cope with the speed and power of NFL defensive lines.
Round 4: Carl Bradford
- Pros: Sports a compact, powerful frame. Highly instinctive, physical and versatile defender who splits his time between defensive end, outside linebacker and inside linebacker. Good initial quickness off the snap out of the three-point stance, showing enough speed to cross the face of the offensive tackle, as well as an effective club, rip and spin moves to break free. Surprisingly effective when run toward due to his quickness and use of leverage, bending to take out the knees of oncoming blockers and creating a pile. Adept at slipping blocks. Locates the football quickly and shows an explosive burst to close emphatically. Only occasionally asked to drop back into coverage, but shows at least fair fluidity and speed when doing so. Alert player with a history of making big plays.
- Cons: Played in a highly aggressive scheme that may have maximized his big-play ability while minimizing his faults. Lacks ideal physical traits to remain as an outside pass rusher in the NFL, where he starred for the Sun Devils. Can be engulfed in the running game (whether playing linebacker or defensive end) and does not appear to possess ideal arm length to break free once blockers latch on. Smooth accelerator off the edge but doesn’t possess great speed. Can play out of control, at times, dropping his head to deliver the knockout blow and occasionally whiffing on open-field tackles. Can allow his emotions to get the better of him; benched for the second half against Oregon State Nov. 16 after a physical altercation with teammates on the sideline.
- Verdict: Inconclusive. Prehaps the most puzzling player of the 2014 draft class, simply put Bradford didn’t get enough screen time to really make a decision one way or another (he only logged 96 snaps in the preseason and 0 in the regular season). To complicate matters, it appeared if the Packers initially set Bradford up as an outside linebacker and only really converted him to inside linebacker near the end of the preseason. From what Bradford did show, the scouting profile was correct that Bradford did have issues disengaging with blockers and sometimes was a non-factor in the running game.
Round 5a: Corey Linsley
- Pros: Good foot quickness with natural athletic traits to work well on the move. Stays light in pass protection to slide back and forth with a quick recovery step. Mobile and does a nice job at the second level with an accurate sense of his surroundings. Always keeps his head on a swivel after the snap with good awareness to pick up blitzers and slide with extra rushers. Good core strength to hold his ground, not an easy guy to move from his spot – absorbs contact well and uses his hands well to combat rushers. Good initial movement at the point of attack with quick limbs and momentum to surge into defenders. Quick hips and base to gain correct body positioning, keeping his butt low and knees bent to play with leverage. Good tenacity through the whistle and looks to eliminate his target. Veteran presence with versatile experience at guard and tackle. Tough and durable, playing through pain – started every game the past two seasons (26 straight starts) for one of the top offenses in the country.
- Cons: Average size and length with little growth potential. Too patient at times and is susceptible to explosive inside rushers. Doesn’t always play urgent and will be surprised at times at the snap. Lacks natural explosion and needs to improve his set-up quickness. Strong, but won’t overpower defenders and needs to better control blocks once engaged.
- Verdict: Inaccurate. Linsley turned out to be way better than advertised, who showed great power and the ability to be a force in the run game. While he wasn’t nearly as good in the passing game, his overall level of play was good enough to rank him 5th in the league according to Profootball focus and perhaps more importantly garner the praise of a certain MVP quarterback. Perhaps the funniest comment in the scouting report is that Linsley can be surprised by the snap, obviously this only applies when he played tackle or guard but for a center prospect this is a little odd.
Round 5b: Jared Abberderis
- Pros: Sneaky speed with long strides to get behind the secondary…smooth movements with stutter-and-go burst and body lean to create separation – smart and savvy route runner, setting up defenders and making it easy on his QB…good footwork in/out of his breaks, getting open and working back to the ball…natural body control and tracks the ball very well in the air, making proper adjustments…quick hands and focus to handle fastballs and highpoint away from his frame to finish…excellent field awareness and always knows where the sticks are. Tough runner who won’t shy from contact or go down easily, catching the ball well in stride…superb blocking effort on the perimeter and down the field…very high football character and work ethic with a motivated, goal-oriented attitude to exceed expectations – type of guy who will run through a wall for his team…good vision on ST returns and holds school-record for KR career average (25.8) – one ST score on a PR…very productive as a three-year starter (39 career starts) and leaves Madison tied for the school’s all-time reception mark (202) and second in receiving yards (3,140) behind Lee Evans – two-time consensus All-Big Ten First Teamer.
- Cons: Average height with a lean, skinny build…little muscle definition and lacks an ideal body type – allergic to the weight room and needs to get stronger to better match up in the NFL…lacks quick-twitch athleticism and not as productive vs. jams and physical man coverage…will have some focus drops and uses his body too much, unnecessarily jumping at times…needs to protect the ball better on returns or after the catch…grabby as a blocker and attract holding calls…questionable durability with several concussions over his career and other minor injuries that caused him to miss playing time -tough and plays through pain, but banged up easily.
- Verdict: Inconclusive. Simply put, Abberderis’ season was over before it started due to injury and not even the Green Bay Packers likely know what they have in their 5th round pick. One hope is that Abberderis was able to bulk up and get stronger with a full year of time in the weight and rehab room.
Round 6: Demetri Goodson
- Pros: Excellent all-around athlete who boasts natural skills and good speed. Good size for the position. Brings kick returns skills. Good bloodlines; brother, Mike, is a running back for the Jets.
- Cons: Former basketball player is still refining football skills. Doesn’t shed blocks well to make tackles. Significant durability concerns; ankle injury ended 2012 season and dealt with arm injury as a senior.
- Verdict: Who knows? Goodson got very little attention coming up to the draft and plenty of scouting services didn’t even have a bio on him. In my opinion, the scouting report could have been written for just about anyone, with the only real interesting bit being he’s a converted basketball player. Overall, Goodson did show good athleticism for the position but often lost out due to bad technique, as he was often tackling receivers from behind because he had let them slip past him first.
Round 7: Jeff Janis
- Pros: Looks the part with a tall, muscular body type. Has worked hard to fill out his frame. Fleet of foot with very good build up speed to accelerate away from defenders. Controlled routes and shifts his momentum well with smooth footwork in/out of his breaks. Good hesitation to sell patterns. Good tracking skills and judgment on deep throws. Solid functional strength for the position, making it a chore for tacklers to finish him off. Strong competitor with an intrepid, fearless approach to the game. Very tough and holds onto the ball after jarring hits. Ambitious worker with strong intangibles and excellent character on and off the field. Try-hard player who gets the most out of his ability. Productive resume (37 career starts) with back-to-back 1,500+ receiving yard seasons the past two years. Holds the school record for single-season receiving yards (1,635), single-game receiving yards (300) and single-game catches (18).
- Cons: Marginal initial burst and needs a few steps to get back up to full speed after gearing down. Bad habit of rounding some routes and will try to freelance too much. Will have some double-catches and fight the ball at times. Hand/eye coordination appears to very average. Limited after the catch and lacks suddenness in space to create much separation. Not the most consistent in traffic. Limited experience as a return man on special teams. Career production and experience came against a lower level of competition
- Verdict: So-So. On one hand the scouting report is dead on that Janis is a bigger receiver with good speed and definitely has an advantage with the deep ball. They were also correct that Janis’ route running left much to be desired, which was a marked difference with Davante Adams. However, Janis did show great separation ability, with great after the catch speed and perhaps a Jordy Nelson-esque sneaky speed to get away from defenders.
So what do you think? Was the Packers class of 2014 everything you thought it would be?
Thomas Hobbes is a staff writer for Jersey Al’s AllGreenBayPackers.com.