When you look at the Green Bay Packers’ needs heading into the draft, defensive line isn’t near the top of the list.
That doesn’t mean it should be near the bottom, either, though.
Sure, the Packers look to have a very good four-man rotation (baseball reference, sorry, it’s that time of year) in Cullen Jenkins, Ryan Pickett, Johnny Jolly and B.J. Raji (RAJI!!). And with the team running a 3-4, it doesn’t need as much depth there as in years past.
But when you look a little closer, you can find a few reasons why Green Bay needs to address this position at some point in the draft. First, Jenkins is entering the last year of his contract. After a good start to the 2009 season, Jenkins’ impact seemed to lessen as things progressed. Plus, he’s had more than his share of injury troubles and there’s always a chance he’ll want to go to a team that runs a 4-3 scheme, allowing him to rush the passer more.
Then there’s Jolly’s well-documented legal situation, which could bring a suspension from the league at some point – even if he’s found not guilty. Throw in Pickett’s age/injury troubles, the fact that we still know very little about Raji (I think he’ll be very good, but we don’t know for certain) and a definite lack of depth behind those four and you can start to see what I mean.
I’m not saying the Packers should take a d-lineman in round one – or even round two or three. But at some point, maybe in the fourth or fifth round, Green Bay needs to find a lineman who can bring something to the table. Because God knows we can’t rely on Justin Harrell any longer.
So, who are some of those possible mid-to-late round targets? Let’s find out.
- Brandon Deaderick, Alabama
The numbers: 6-feet, 4-inches, 314 pounds…turns 23 years old in August…no workout numbers available as he is recovering from offseason shoulder surgery…23 tackles and one sack in 2009…seven sacks over his final three years at Alabama.
With players like Rolando McClain, Terrence Cody and Kareem Jackson taking up most of the acclaim and headlines for the Crimson Tide’s defense last season, Deaderick’s is a name few know. But that doesn’t mean the Packers should ignore him in this draft. A key three-year starter at end in Alabama’s 3-4 scheme, Deaderick excels at many of the things a 3-4 end must do. He’s strong and can use his hands well to control blockers, thus freeing things up for others. And this cat is tough. How do I know that? Well, Deaderick was shot in the arm during a robbery attempt just before the ‘09 season. How many games did he miss as a result? None. He needs to get a bit quicker and work on his tackling some more, but he projects as a solid pro. If he’s on the board in round four, Green Bay should scoop him up.
- Clifton Geathers, South Carolina
The numbers: 6-feet, 8-inches, 297 pounds…turns 23 years old in December…forfeited his senior season to enter the draft…4.97 40-yard dash time and 26 bench press reps at the combine…40 tackles, three sacks and one forced fumble in 2009…five sacks and two forced fumbles over his final two seasons at South Carolina…brother, Robert, is a starting defensive end for the Cincinnati Bengals.
Clearly, the first thing that you notice about Geathers is his size. Not too many d-lineman – hell, not too many football players in general – stand 6-8, as Geathers does. That size – and did I mention his 37 3/4 inch arm length? – gets his foot in the door. On top of that, he’s got above-average quickness and decent natural strength. But he’s raw – really raw. Geathers, essentially, has to work on every area of his game in order to see consistent playing time as a pro. The biggest thing he must improve is how he uses his hands in order to clear free from blockers. He’s a project, no question about it, but might be worth a gamble for the Packers in the sixth round.
- Corey Peters, Kentucky
The numbers: 6-feet, 3-inches, 300 pounds…age unavailable (seriously, I couldn’t find it anywhere)…4.98 40-yard dash time and 33 bench press reps at the combine (those numbers changed to 4.90 and 26 for his pro day in March)…second team All SEC in 2009…56 tackles, four sacks and one forced fumble in 2009…eight sacks over his final two seasons at Kentucky.
What is it with us and SEC guys in this post, huh? Not sure, but Peters is another standout performer from that conference who’d translate well in green and gold. He played defensive tackle in college, but I think he could easily move to end in Green Bay’s scheme. He’s plenty strong and knows how to anchor his body. From there, he uses his hands to either control the blocker or move him out of the way. He knows how to get to the quarterback, as well, and I doubt that changes with a position switch. The biggest thing Peters must correct is his consistency. He takes plays off far too often, something you can not do if you expect to start in the NFL. Still, he seems like a good fit to me – if the coaches can keep a fire under his butt, that is - and would be a solid fifth round selection for Green Bay.
- Mike Neal, Purdue
The numbers: 6-feet, 3-inches, 294 pounds…turns 23 years old in June…4.87 40-yard dash time and 31 bench press reps at the combine…honorable mention All Big Ten in 2009…34 tackles and five sacks in 2009…12 sacks over his final three years at Purdue.
Finally, a non-SEC player! And a Big Ten guy to boot! Anyways, one of the major qualifications for a 3-4 end is strength. That player needs to be tough to move, “a block of granite,” if you will. Well, Neal is certainly that. He’s also got a quick first step, solid instincts and intelligence and he knows how to take down the ballcarrier (I have mentioned the Packers struggled in their tackling last season, right?). Some wondered if Neal could play end in a 3-4 after being a tackle at Purdue, but he proved during East-West Shrine Game practices that he’d fit in either scheme. Like Peters, though, Neal tends to lack effort at times. He’s also not as good as Peters is at using his hands to clear free from blocks. That said, I like his combination of strength, toughness and tackling ability and, like Peters, I think he’d be a nice fifth round selection.
That concludes our one – and only – look at defensive lineman. Tuesday, we’ll kick off our look at the final position in our series: Safety. Should be fun, so make sure to head back here for that.