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Signing Evans gives Thompson flexibility

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By Bob McGinn
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
Sunday, April 30, 2017

The keys to successful drafting are preparation, taking advantage of the strengths of each draft and understanding your roster.

Ted Thompson's results over the weekend, his 13th draft for the Green Bay Packers, showed a more flexible general manager starting the day before the draft.

If Thompson hadn't signed guard Jahri Evans on the eve of the draft, he would have been forced to use one of his first four or five picks on the weakest position in the draft. It would have been a complete waste of resources that needed to be allocated elsewhere, especially for defense.

It was bad enough that Thompson allowed both Josh Sitton and T.J. Lang to get out of town with nothing to show for it. It would have been much worse to compound the error and take one of the suspect guards.

The signing of Evans to play right guard is reminiscent of Ron Wolf's move to sign left guard Guy McIntyre on the eve of training camp in 1994. Like Evans, McIntryre was 33. Both players had been perennial Pro Bowlers for Super Bowl-winning teams.

McIntyre brought a measure of meanness to an offensive line that needed it. Injuries shortened McIntyre's season to 10 games and he was gone after one year, but the Packers might not have made the playoffs without him.

Wolf did the same thing in 1995 with old pro Harry Galbreath before youthful Adam Timmerman came along to solidify the position.

Evans played poorly at about 330 pounds in 2015, then was cut by the Saints and Seahawks last year. The Saints gave Evans another chance and, with his weight in the 310-315 range, were rewarded with much more serviceable play.

“I thought he hit the wall a couple years ago,” said a personnel man for an NFC team that studied the guard market in unrestricted free agency. “But he played better last year. He played OK.”

It was the kind of veteran signing that has been anathema for Thompson for years. Why he waited until the day before the draft to procure Evans is anyone's guess, but he did it and, by doing so, helped both the team and his draft.

Of course, an exceptional scout such as Thompson recognized months ago just how talented and deep the pool of defensive backs would be.

At the same time, Thompson probably listened to his scouts and the coaches, all of whom knew plain well just how bad off the Packers were at cornerback.

If Micah Hyde were considered a safety, I wouldn't have listed a single cornerback among the Packers' 10 best defensive players last season. The sad fact of the matter is the Packers didn't have a starting cornerback after Sam Shields went down.

“They've got too many slows guys,” an NFL personnel man said after the season. “That defense sucks. No identity. They've got to have players to get takeaways and that can run.”

The Packers couldn't have even lined up without obtaining a starting cornerback in this draft. The need there trumped the voids elsewhere.

It's hard to say why Thompson was willing to take the risk and trade four slots down and out of the first round. With Tre'Davious White gone to Buffalo at 27, my sense at that point was it had to be Kevin King or bust at cornerback.

Thompson is more of a risk-taker than me. Instead of taking King at 29, he gambled and won that he could accept the fourth-round pick from Cleveland and still secure King at 33.

T.J. Watt wasn't a strong consideration for Green Bay at that point in the draft. Inside linebacker Reuben Foster would have filled a void that partially remains, but the Packers weren't taking him there on the basis of medical, off-field and mental issues.

In the end, it came down to King and running back Dalvin Cook, who also fit a huge need. But King was a safer, cleaner pick than Cook, and so it was done.

In the second round, Thompson once more dipped into a position of strength by selecting safety Josh Jones.

Defensive tackle Montravius Adams was taken late in the third round, right where the league consensus seemed to have him. With the shrewdly obtained fourth from the Browns, Thompson tabbed Vince Biegel to beef up the pass rush.

Thompson increased his pick count from eight at the start to 10 choices at the end. From the fourth round on, however, there was excessive gambling on players with athletic testing numbers and not enough chops.

A total of 330 players were invited to the combine in February. Of the 253 players that were drafted, all but 25 were at the combine.

The Packers drafted three of the 25 non-combine players: wide receiver DeAngelo Yancey, guard Kofi Amichia and running back Devante Mays. Eighteen teams drafted at least one non-combine player, but Green Bay was the only one to select three.

There's nothing that says players not invited to the combine can't play. They do, year after year.

The Packers did their homework, having all three players visit and undergo medical examinations. It's possible, however, one or more of these players was overdrafted primarily due to the Packers' emphasis on athletic testing and traits.

The last six picks all were on offense, and if Thompson was in the mood for gambling he probably should have been doing it with another cornerback or linebacker.

(CUT)

Rather than resort to superficiality and assign a letter grade on this draft overall, let's dig into the Packers' choices. Much of the information stems from countless interviews with general managers, personnel directors and area scouts in the last five months (including Sunday) on more than 350 draft-eligible players.

Following each pick are two numbers. On a 1-to-10 scale—with 10 being the highest—the first number is the player's chance to make a significant contribution as a rookie and the second number is his chance to make a significant contribution during his career in Green Bay.

Kevin King, CB, Washington (9, 9): Let's hope the Packers don't play silly games and make King “earn” the position. The holdovers earned nothing by their play a year ago. King should start from Day One.

At 6-foot-3, he's the tallest cornerback in Green Bay since Michael Hawthorne in 2003-04. He's also 20 times more talented than Hawthorne.

King isn't one of these developing underclassmen, having started three years at Washington. He has terrific speed, remarkable ball skills and everything it takes to play the press-man system favored by defensive coordinator Dom Capers and cornerbacks coach Joe Whitt.

He needs to get stronger and become a more secure tackler. It's not that he isn't willing. It's just that there are times when he slams into a ball carrier, gets too high and slides off.

Would the Packers have taken Gareon Conley, who went 24th to Oakland amid accusations of rape? Thompson is the only man who knows the answer, and he'll never say.

Did the Packers prefer White, another savvy senior, to King? My guess is no on the basis of how much speed was emphasized, but White certainly had many redeeming qualities.

Not only is King taller than Quincy Wilson, he's also faster and more experienced.

Josh Jones, S, North Carolina State (7, 8): The Cowboys drafted Chidobe Awuzie primarily as a cornerback, which made Jones the eighth safety selected. It was an all-time draft at safety, and the Packers got a good and potentially great player.

Despite his arresting size-speed numbers (6-1, 221, 4.40), Jones was better playing in the box. He's a little stiff in the hips, and even with the speed there are reservations about his range.

He'll need some work playing the middle of the field. At times, he has been overly aggressive in coverage, sitting on or jumping routes and giving up big plays.

With Ha Ha Clinton-Dix patrolling deep, Jones can learn the nuances of off-the-hash coverage in time. His role appears to be as one of the two linebackers in the nickel defense and possibly as the only linebacker in the dime.

Joe Thomas (6-0, 230) had that job last season. He can be an explosive tackler, as can Jones, but can't even begin to cover as much ground.

It's questionable if Jones possesses the physicality to shed a block and tackle a top running back as the lone linebacker in a 4-1 defense. What he should be able to do is blitz or spy the quarterback.

The selection of Jones could enable Morgan Burnett, if he can fend off talented youngster Kentrell Brice's bid for at least a little playing time, to play 100 percent of the snaps at safety alongside Clinton-Dix.

Montravius Adams, DT, Auburn (5, 7): Teams didn't like what they saw from Adams in his first two seasons as a starter. Like a lot of athletic defensive linemen, his effort level ran hot and cold.

As a senior, Adams went from underachiever to achiever. He was named the Tigers' MVP. There was nothing the matter with his intensity.

Adams' flashes show dominance. He gets off the ball in a hurry, as Jerel Worthy once did at Michigan State, and was able to overpower some blockers in the SEC for sacks and tackles for loss.

Worthy's inability to beat NFL guards became apparent 10 days to two weeks into his first Packers' training camp. He also was too easily buckled at the point of attack. He was a bust.

Adams is stronger and a little bigger than Worthy. His problem at the point is lack of awareness. By the time he recognizes the blocking combination, the double-team is in place and he's being washed down.

Having lost inside rushers such as Julius Peppers, Datone Jones and Mike Neal in the past year, the Packers drafted Adams to back up Mike Daniels at 3-technique in the 3-4 and possibly join him inside on passing downs.

Adams has the stuff you can't teach. It's up to Mike Trgovac, the veteran position coach, to develop his reactions and footwork.

Vince Biegel, OLB, Wisconsin (4, 6): Thirteen outside linebackers in a 3-4 defense were off the board when Biegel led off the fourth round. The Packers took him over Auburn's Carl Lawson and running back Samaje Perine of Oklahoma, a player regarded highly by some teams for his power running and personality.

Nevertheless, the Packers think they might have hit it big with Biegel, and rightly so.

This is no projection, and there's no need for rookie orientation. He played in a 3-4 at Wisconsin, and he also knows all about the team and its fans.

Biegel isn't as big or quite as fast as Kyler Fackrell, who was drafted 20 slots earlier a year ago. But Biegel is thicker and probably stronger.

In coverage, Biegel will have work to do. Teams will try to exploit him with the pass, and some personnel people questioned his stoutness against the run.

If Biegel can't win consistently as an outside rusher, there's a chance he could play inside. His father, Rocky, played off the ball at Brigham Young, and a scout for an NFL team said Sunday that they seriously considered drafting Biegel and playing him at inside linebacker.

The Packers didn't fill their void for an every-down, talented inside linebacker. Whatever the assignment, Biegel can be expected to go all-out.

Jamaal Williams, RB, Brigham Young (7, 7): The Packers were looking for a heavy-duty complement to Ty Montgomery. Given where they took Williams, he'll receive every chance to start the opener so Montgomery is fresh for passing situations.

The first words from just about every scout on Williams described just how hard he runs. He brings it down after down. Wayne Gallman and Marlon Mack were among the backs remaining at the time, but the Packers went with Williams because of his workhorse mentality.

Medical and off-field concerns cost Williams a few dollars and made him the 13th ball carrier selected.

Williams is a classic one-cut, downhill power runner. He can't create. He needs a lane. He has vision, strength and a degree of elusiveness.

He delivers punishment but, as an upright runner, takes punishment. The concern is his rather linear lower body. His legs aren't running back-thick. He looks almost like a strong safety. He's also somewhat stiff in the hips and ankles.

His inexperience both as a pass receiver and blocker is another reason why he lasted until the 134th pick.

DeAngelo Yancey, WR, Purdue (2, 4): There were a ton of wide receivers clumped after the second round. The Packers drafted Yancey as the 25th over players like Robert Davis and Stacy Coley.

Yancey is a size-speed prospect with considerable route savvy. He has demonstrated the burst to take the top off of a defense and the understanding how to track and catch the deep ball.

The Boilermakers were 9-39 in Yancey's four seasons, and poor quarterback play was his constant cross to bear.

We'll see if the Packers stretched and drafted him a round or two early. The Packers want their last receiver to cover on special teams, which Jeff Janis can and both Geronimo Allison and Trevor Davis really can't.

With his size (6-1, 220), maybe Yancey can run down with temperament and tackle someone.

Aaron Jones, RB, Texas El-Paso (4, 5): Jones played in Conference USA for a downtrodden program that went 18-31 during his four years. His status as the Miners' all-time leading rusher (4,114 yards) and an outstanding workout made him the 19th running back selected.

Jones played faster than his 4.58-second clocking in the 40-yard dash. He showed quickness and an explosive cutting ability, both laterally and north-south.

He's not a heavy hitter but doesn't go down easily, either. One scout called him a “poor man's Frank Gore.” The Packers can only hope.

Durability and ball security are the major knocks on Jones. He fumbled nine times, and scouts all noticed. It remains to be seen just how advanced he is in the passing game.

Kofi Amichia, G, South Florida (2, 3): He started at left tackle the past two years but doesn't have the length to play there in the NFL. Among a short list of guards, the Packers came up with Amichia and projected him inside. Given the alternatives, he was worth a shot.

What Amichia has going is athleticism. He's a workout warrior with a 4.98 40, a vertical jump of 33 inches and a broad jump of 9 feet 6 inches.

He's also extremely smart, as his score of 31 on the Wonderlic intelligence test would attest.

Amichia was drafted over big-school guards like USC's Damien Mama and Michigan's Ben Braden. The question is whether Amichia, who played at about 292 but is now 308, possesses the power to bang physically against the space-eaters he'll encounter on Sundays.

Drafted as a guard, the Packers can be expected to give him extensive reps at center, too.

Devante Mays, RB, Utah State (2, 2): After two years of junior-college ball, Mays carried just 202 times in 1 seasons in the Mountain West Conference before an ankle-knee injury ended his 2016 campaign in late September.

He's another athletic trait guy with a vertical jump of 40, a broad jump of 10-9 and a fast 40 (4.51). The Packers made him the 22nd tailback selected because his height-weight-speed fit their profile.

Mays runs harder than Jones but not as hard as Williams. Noting his career reception total of two, one scout Sunday labeled him as a “liability” in pass protection.

Two teams surveyed Sunday had him as a free agent on their draft board.

Malachi Dupre, WR, Louisiana State (2, 4): As the 32nd wide receiver chosen, you wouldn't expect much from this player. However, that isn't the case.

Dupre is a third-year junior with extensive playing time in an winning program. Like Yancey, he was handicapped by lousy quarterbacking.

He's an outside-the-numbers receiver with enough acceleration to haul in a take-off off a three- to five-step drop. He has size (6-2, 194), speed (4.50), tremendous testing numbers and the demonstrated ability to make the circus catch.

Dupre's chances likely will hinge on his ability to release from press coverage. He's lean and lacks strength, and there are doubts about his willingness to work in traffic.


Last updated: 11:31 pm Sunday, April 30, 2017


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