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Packers hoping Alabama's Mosley falls to No. 21

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May 8, 2014

It was one year ago when running back Eddie Lacy of Alabama slipped to the Green Bay Packers with the next-to-last choice in the second round.

“It's like Christmas,” one ecstatic fan emailed the Journal Sentinel moments after the selection was made.

Lacy, the NFL's rookie of the year, crashed because of his endless succession of injuries.

Now a new draft dawns Thursday night and, as coincidence would have it, the Packers might well be hoping for another gift from the football gods.

Can fate deliver inside linebacker C.J. Mosley, a former teammate of Lacy's in Tuscaloosa, well down in the first round to where the Packers, sitting at No. 21, probably would be running to the podium to draft him?

It can, but once again it would happen only because Mosley's medical history proves as troubling to teams as did Lacy's.

Mosley is a terrific talent, exceptional producer and solid person.

“Top 10 or 15 pick,” an NFC personnel man said. “Of just pure football guys, he's one of the top two or three in the draft.”

So often we've heard general manager Ted Thompson mention his fondness for “guys who like football.” That's Mosley, and more importantly it wouldn't be long before he would be playing every snap as the inside linebacker in base, as one of two linebackers in nickel and as the lone linebacker in dime.

But, from picks 8 through 20, one could identify at least six teams that have a need for Mosley and easily could take him. Who wouldn't want a player with adequate size, good speed and athletic ability and no off-field issues?

Asked if Mosley were a complete player, another NFC executive said, “I would think so.”

Meanwhile, Ohio State junior Ryan Shazier ranks with Mosley as a versatile, every-down inside linebacker.

Although personnel people gave Mosley 10 first-place votes compared to one for Shazier in a Journal Sentinel poll of the best 3-4 inside linebackers, the margin between them is far closer.

Similar in size and intelligence, Shazier has an enormous advantage in speed. His 4.38-second time in the 40-yard dash was almost unheard of at the position, whereas Mosley's 4.68 was similar to a three-down inside linebacker such as Nick Barnett, who ran 4.71 at the exact same size before joining the Packers as their first-round selection in 2003.

Furthermore, Shazier beat Mosley in the vertical jump (42 inches to 35), the broad jump (10-10 to 9-10) and reps on the bench press (25 to 15).

“Shazier is the most explosive guy in the draft,” a third NFC personnel man said. “Rare explosive. Tough as hell. Plays hard. Fastest guy on the field. Just a little small.”

There's almost no way both players reach Green Bay. Certainly, the Packers would love to have either man.

My guess is that even though Mosley played on two national championship teams and has a total game, Shazier has a better chance of being taken first because of his remarkable speed and clean medical history.

“He's faster than Derrick Brooks,” said another NFL scout. “He is the fastest I have scouted that's linebacker-sized other than Brian Urlacher. Mosley is a hell of a football player but I'll take 4.38 and see if I can work with it.”

More than a dozen personnel people were asked about Mosley in the last month. Almost every one expressed reservations to a varying degree about his injuries.

“It's a concern,” an AFC personnel director said. “He's got a lot of wear and tear, like most of the Alabama guys. He's been beat up a lot. He played the full year (2013) but I think he still has some discomfort.”

Based on reports from their team doctors, several scouts said the hip that Mosley dislocated in the BCS Championship Game in January 2013 was the biggest question mark.

“It's not real good,” said one scout. “He'll be on our board for sure. Just something to be concerned about long-term.”

Mosley, 6 feet 2 inches and 234 pounds, also missed two games in 2011 with a dislocated elbow and had shoulder surgery after the '12 season to repair a torn labrum.

“Playing for that program, he's pretty much pro-ready,” an AFC scout said. “But the other thing is, playing for that program you know he's going to be beat up. When they come to the league it's almost like they're on the mend.”

Lacy, who missed one game as a rookie with a concussion, said there was no comparison to the physical demands placed on players by Alabama coach Nick Saban and Packers coach Mike McCarthy.

“Mosley's got a number of things for a small frame,” said another AFC personnel director. “But he played on it (hip) for a year. Most doctors don't worry about something if he played on it for a year. I think if he's outside (pick) 15 you're getting a steal.”

In these cases, it comes down to tolerance. A team drafting 12th to 16th probably would be more less willing to accept the risk on Mosley compared to a team drafting 21st, even one that has been decimated by injuries year after year.

“Ted would have to think about it awful hard,” said another NFL executive. “He passed us (medical grade), and everybody's got him pretty good from what I see.

“If he goes to Green Bay, you take that guy. That guy's a player.”

An indication of the efficiency in Mosley's game was revealed in a study by STATS of the 2013 season. Mosley had fewer so-called “impact” tackles than Shazier (10 to 16) but missed only two tackles compared to 12 for the Buckeye.

Given the unpredictability of draft day, there's a chance neither player would be available to Thompson unless he were to move up.

Tight end Eric Ebron of North Carolina and wide receiver Odell Beckham of Louisiana State are others you could pencil in for the Packers should they slip to No. 21 based on both talent and need.

The Packers still are keenly interested in re-signing Jermichael Finley, but the decision on his cervical injury has yet to be made by Thompson in conjunction with team physician Patrick McKenzie.

Beckham would be tailor-made not just because his 4.40 speed would make him the fastest receiver in Green Bay but also because his reckless, dynamic return ability would fill that hole instantly.

Odds are the only way the Packers could get at either of them would be by trading up.

Armed with nine choices, Thompson must close business late Saturday with one and perhaps two safeties on his new-player board. Surprisingly, the Packers passed in free agency at the position, but they can't pass any longer.

In the past month, there were a few scouts that categorized safeties Ha Ha Clinton-Dix of Alabama and Calvin Pryor of Louisville as good values even as high as the middle of the first round.

The majority opinion among teams, however, was that both players were better suited to be taken late in the first round if not the second round.

Both ran extremely slow 40s when compared to first-round safeties of the past 15 years and tested as ordinary athletes for the position.

Clinton-Dix's size and overall style of play is similar to Morgan Burnett's. Pryor has been a lights-out hitter with moderate skill in coverage.

“You've got to take care of your needs in the first three rounds,” one scout said. “Everyone has holes.”

If Thompson decides the value for a safety at No. 21 isn't acceptable and the linebackers are gone, he might decide to trade back and avail himself of the depth in the draft.

Safeties such as Deone Bucannon of Washington State and Jimmie Ward of Northern Illinois aren't regarded as first-round picks, but they appear to be starters and should be gone by 50. A cluster of teams has needs at the position.

The Packers also can be expected to land a tight end in the first four rounds and a wide receiver in the first five.

Let's say Beckham, Ebron, Mosley and Shazier are off the board. Then let's also say Thompson doesn't deem Clinton-Dix and Pryor worthy of the 21st selection.

If Thompson weren't able to deal down under that scenario, maybe he'd take a wide receiver or even a cornerback.

Thankfully, the endless speculation soon will end with the start of this needlessly drawn-out draft process that is consistent with NFL greed but also could damage the game as played on the field.

Send email to bmcginn@journalsentinel.com



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