As a self-proclaimed Bears fan it certainly pains me to say I think the Green Bay Packers may be one of the teams to win it all at the end of the season. Not only do they have a relatively easy schedule where all their tough match ups are at home. They also still have Aaron Rodgers who may be the most talented quarterback in the league. The only detractor really holding him back is GM Ted Thompson's inability to hit on draft picks in recent years or being willing to delve into free agency to find him better talent on the outside. Overall, though barring an injury the Packers are my favorite team to win it all besides the Patriots.
Of course this team will go as far as Rodgers will carry them so I will just glance over him in the offense summary here. I may gripe about how poorly Thompson has done finding Rodgers quality receivers outside of Jordy Nelson. However, he has been an excellent finder of solid blockers. They have lost Josh Sitton, T.J. Lang, and J.C. Tretter this off season and last, but they seem set up to have another quality line with Thompson's ability to draft a heir apparent before a player hits free agency. Left tackle David Bakhtiari has been a steady contributor since day one, Corey Linsley at center is solid when healthy, and Bryan Bulaga has been solid since being drafted in the first round years ago. The only question marks are first year starter Lane Taylor who struggled in injury relief last season, but he has talent to be a quality starter and Jahri Evans the veteran who has been injury riddled in recent years. My bigger concern is the running game behind this solid offensive line where converted receiver Ty Montgomery is the projected starter. I am not a fan of that move to be honest since he is not strong enough to carry a large load and is already heading into the season hobbled. I do really like the rookies Jamaal Williams, Aaron Jones, and Devante Mays more so Williams over the others though. Going into the draft I saw Williams being a sort of Jordan Howard type power back who can play right away at a high level. Now we get to my least favorite unit on this offense, the receivers. Outside of an old Jordy Nelson who only puts up good numbers playing with Aaron Rodgers the rest are a bunch of mediocre talents who would not be able to start on any other team. Davante Adams is a terrible pass catcher who has dropped more touchdown passes than I have ever seen by one player and Randall Cobb to me is just a returner who can maybe make some plays in open space when healthy. Cobb's price tag to me is definitely not worth it. If I were Rodgers I would make more of a stink to get better receivers especially after he sees his only competition in New England continue to add talent like Brandin Cooks and others. If Rodgers were ever given a good talent like Alshon Jeffrey or even a Keenan Allen this offense would be terrifying to defend.
Then we get to the side of the ball that can actually be a detriment to the Packers attempt at going to the Super Bowl. To me their pass rushers are just not enough to get the job done consistently. Clay Matthews has declined tremendously as he ages and it's a wonder if his reckless style of play is the cause of it. Then his battery mate on the other side of the formation Nick Perry has been very disappointing since being a first rounder. His only solid season was last year during a contract year so it's very possible he mails it in going forward. Their down linemen are okay with Mike Daniels being a consistent talent, but I am sure they would love to see last year's first rounder Kenny Clark take a jump up in production after being pedestrian his rookie year. To me the strength of this defense lies in their secondary where Ted Thompson for his credit has found solid players over the years like Sam Shields, Casey Hayward, and Micah Hyde. Even without those solid players they still sport a solid corner tandem in Damarious Randall and Davon House who is currently nursing back from a hamstring injury. The depth behind the two is very stout with Quinten Rollins, Lardarius Gunter, and rookie Kevin King who they really like. Of course they still have Pro-Bowler Ha-Ha Clinton-Dix as a ball hawk at safety and the reliable Morgan Burnett next to him. If their pass rush were more consistent to go along with this talented pool of defensive backs this defense could be one of the best in the league.
In the end, if this team was not in the NFC Championship game at least I would be incredibly shocked at that outcome. This roster is one of the deepest in the league especially at the skill positions on both sides of the ball. I may not love their starting receivers, but I do find some of their depth guys intriguing and if any of them turn into anything special then watch out. As mentioned above their schedule is pretty favorable with home match ups against the Seahawks, Bengals, Saints, Ravens, and Bucs to go along with their divisional match ups which they should handle. The most difficult match ups will be on the road against the Falcons, Steelers, and Panthers. If they can beat at least one of them they should be in good shape. A record of 11-5 is very possible for this team and possibly even better.
2 (1) - Kevin King CB - I am sucker for fast and long armed corners. To me they are the golden goose of the position much like Richard Sherman, Xavier Rhodes, and Desmond Trufant. I also love Washington Husky corners, which have produced many top NFL prospects like Trufant, and Marcus Peters in recent years. King was also terrific all over the field for the Huskies whether outside, at safety, or even the slot for such a taller defender. If he continues to develop technique he can be a scary good defender on an already loaded secondary in Green Bay.
2 (29) - Josh Jones S - Another secondary pick for a team who has lost a few good players over the years and in Ted Thompson's defense he has found a lot of success drafting defensive backs over his career. Jones had some nice hype leading up to the draft, but to me he needs a lot of work in his coverage skills. He has the versatility and athleticism the Packers love in the secondary. I think in a year or two is when he will really find his groove.
3 (29) - Montravius Adams DT - Unfortunately, a foot injury has his debut a mystery, but I really loved this pick by the Packers. Like the Patriots the Packers are not ones to sit around waiting for a first rounder to find his groove and if Clark continues to look mediocre they have Adams who can push him to be better. I can actually see him take his spot since Adams is a better pass rusher who can slip by defenders with his solid speed.
4 (1) - Vince Biegel LB - The Packers needed to find a better interior linebacker after moving Clay Matthews to his more natural position. Incumbents, Jake Ryan and Blake Martinez is nothing to write home about. Biegel to me could be a nice blue collar worker who can attack the line, but like the other two backers mentioned he is a bit weak in coverage. It would also be nice to see the local product flourish and if he does he can be a nice crowd pleaser.
4 (28) - Jamaal Williams RB - Like I said above I thought Williams like Kareem Hunt and D'Onta Foreman could be this year's late round crop of backs to explode. Williams much like Hunt has a wide open door with Montgomery already hurt and people questioning if he can be a full time running back. Williams is a more natural down hill runner who can wiggle away from defenders with nice sharp cuts. The only question is his pass catching ability, but Montgomery can obviously handle that for the Packers.
5 (32) - DeAngelo Yancey WR - One of the reasons why I rushed to do these things was to beat the cut deadline, but unfortunately I could not accomplish that. Yancey was probably selected too high for a purely slot option with his limited top end speed. He ended up being a cut casualty on Saturday, but I expect the Packers to put him on their practice squad if he passes through waivers.
5 (39) - Aaron Jones RB - Here is the ying to Jamaal Williams yang. Jones is a more natural pass catching back who had a knack of ripping off long gains in college. The two of them can create a good lightning and thunder combination for the Packers to give them a solid back field for the first time in Rodgers career.
6 (29) - Kofi Amichia C - Another position Ted Thompson is good at finding is interior linemen and Amichia may be the next find. With Corey Linsley an up coming free agent to go along with Lane Taylor and Jahri Evans, Thompson may just be looking for another quality back up to develop for the future after he lets those guys walk.
7 (20) - Devante Mays RB - I guess Thompson was determined going into the draft to solve his running back issues. He is a bit of a blend of both Williams and Jones where he is a bit bigger, but is still able to be an electric play maker. However, unlike the other two he comes with injury concerns, which is why he slides down to the 7th round. I can see him being in the mix for carries as the season goes on.
7 (29) - Malachi Dupre WR - I feel like I need to insert the Noah Brown analysis here. If you do not have good numbers to go along with your talent as a receiver teams will pass over you. I also find it hard to believe leaving as an undergraduate with no hopes to sniff the first three rounds should be a good sign to go back to school. I had high hopes for Dupre to be able to overcome those stat issues like many LSU receivers have over the years, but to me he was just not as explosive or a natural pass catcher like the ones before him. He was cut on Saturday, but like Yancey I can see him on their practice squad if he gets through waivers. However, unlike Yancey I can see another team taking a shot on his athleticism.
2018 Off Season:
The Packers will probably again do nothing via free agency outside of frugal moves to bring in tight ends apparently. I would love to see them nab a top receiver to give Rodgers as he ages, but I doubt they will do that. They definitely will need to find new linemen if they let all three above mentioned blockers walk via free agency. However, Ted Thompson is a quality drafter in that department. Going after an edge rusher may be needed if Matthews continues to age rapidly or if Nick Perry proves to be a lazy player after getting paid. Either way a new young face on the edge could help in the rotation. Of course, the Packers will always be a contender as long as Rodgers is healthy and the rest of the teams in their division continue to be dysfunctional.
My 2018 Mock Selection:
1 (27) - Equanimeous St. Brown WR Notre Dame