The draft is three days away and we still have no clue (surprise, surprise) as to what GM Ted Thompson is thinking at No. 9. Assuming that Green Bay has no shot at outside linebacker Aaron Curry and offensive tackles Jason Smith, Eugene Monroe and Andre Smith, and no real interest in quarterbacks and wide receivers, we’ve narrowed the list of possible first round picks to eight. We asked a former scout to give us a thumbnail sketch of each of these players. Here are his comments:
DE/OLB BRIAN ORAKPO (Texas)
“He’s going to be a very good pass rusher in the NFL, but I’m just not sure if he can play in a 3-4. While he has excellent straight-line speed, he’s a little stiff – something that could be a problem in coverage. A lack of fluidity could also be an issue with Aaron Kampman. Do the Packers really want two outside linebackers who may not be all that effective dropping into zones? To me, Orakpo is an ideal 4-3 end. He’s big enough to hold his own against the run and explosive enough to manufacture consistent pressure off the edge. He would’ve been a perfect fit for the defense Bob Sanders ran last season. Probably not so much anymore.”
Biggest question – Can his stay healthy? He battled quite a few nagging injuries in college, and then tweaked his hamstring at the Combine.
DT B.J. RAJI (Boston College)
“The Packers should know this player as well, if not better, than any team in the league. One of Mike McCarthy’s closest friends in football is Jeff Jagodzinski, who just happened to coach Raji at Boston College. If Jags’ opinion of the player is positive, then it’s hard to imagine Ted Thompson passing on him at 9. Raji is the type of nose tackle that every 3-4 team covets. He’s difficult to move and has very good short-area quickness. Green Bay could probably get by with Ryan Pickett for another season, but he’s pushing 30 and in the last year of his contract.”
Biggest question – Is any nose tackle worth a top 10 pick? Two of the best – Casey Hampton and Vince Wilfork – went much later in round one.
DE/OLB AARON MAYBIN (Penn St.)
“He might have the highest ceiling of all the hybrid rushers, but two things concern me. First, he started for only one year at Penn State, and second, he gained over 20 pounds between the end of last season and the Combine in February. And while he carried the weight better at his pro day, I’m still not sure if he’s ever going to be comfortable at 250. In fact, it wouldn’t surprise me to see him back down in the 230s by the middle of two-a-days. Maybin has the talent to be an impact player in the NFL, but there are too many unknowns to consider him at 9.”
Biggest question – Can he be as effective with the extra weight? He showed a tremendous burst at Penn St., but that was 25 pounds ago.
OT MICHAEL OHER (Mississippi)
“He’s too talented to dismiss at 9, but he’s too inconsistent to be a no-brainer that high in the draft. On his best days, Oher is a more dominant player than either Jason Smith or Eugene Monroe. But there are too many other times when he looks more like a mid-round prospect. He should probably go in the late teens or early 20s, but the lack of talent at the top of the draft and the number of teams that need a tackle will push him up – maybe all the way into the top 10. Any team that picks him that high will be rolling the dice. I don’t see much middle ground with Oher. I think he’ll either be a perennial All-Pro or be out of the league in five years.”
Biggest question – Does he want to be great? Oher took too many plays/series off at Mississippi and appeared almost disinterested at times.
DE TYSON JACKSON (Louisiana St.)
“I know people question whether Jackson is worth the No. 9 pick, but 3-4 ends who can stuff the run and also provide a little something in the pass rush are few and far between. That’s why [ex-Cowboy] Chris Canty got $17 million guaranteed from the Giants last month. And Jackson should be a better pro. He didn’t play very well as a junior, and that bothers me. It’s inexcusable for a player with his talent not to be one of the best players on the field every Saturday. Is he worth the No. 9 pick? In most drafts, I’d say no. But in this draft, I don’t see it as much of a reach.”
Biggest question – Can he rush the QB? He only recorded eight sacks in the past two seasons, a surprisingly low number for a player with his skill set.
DB MALCOLM JENKINS (Ohio St.)
“This kid is the anti-Mike Mamula. He was terrific on the field for three seasons, but struggled a bit in shorts at the Combine. He’s bigger and faster than Al Harris, and that guy has done pretty well for himself in the NFL. I’ve read mock drafts that have Jenkins going between 18 and 24. Are you kidding me? He has more than enough skills to be an elite cornerback in the NFL if used properly. I think a team would be insane to play Jenkins at safety early in his career. Any scouts who don’t think he can play cornerback need to toss their Combine notes in the garbage and just watch his 43 starts at Ohio State.”
Biggest question – Does he run well enough to play cornerback at the next level? He was timed at 4.53 and 4.58 at the Combine in February.
DE/OLB ROBERT AYERS (Tennessee)
“Ted doesn’t care what other people think, but would he really draft another kid from Tennessee so soon after taking Justin Harrell? Ayers didn’t do much as a sophomore and junior, but his senior season was very good. He also put up excellent numbers at the Combine in February. He’s bigger than Everette Brown, Aaron Maybin and Brian Orakpo and more explosive than Tyson Jackson. To me, he’s not really a pure 4-3 defensive end or a pure 3-4 outside linebacker. I see him simply as an impressive athlete and an ascending football player who would be a significant asset to any team that employs a creative defensive coordinator. And with Dom Capers now in Green Bay, that includes the Packers.”
Biggest question – Can he help you right away? He’s raw and needs to get stronger. A team might have to wait to get a return on its investment.
DE/OLB EVERETTE BROWN (Florida St.)
“If picking another Volunteer in the first round would upset Packers fans, I can only imagine how they’d react to taking another undersized pass rusher from Florida State in the top 10. But I don’t think that Brown will be a bust in the pros. Unlike Jamal Reynolds, he comes into the league with a pair of healthy knees, a flexible body and a wide variety of pass rush moves. He’s probably too small to play end in a 4-3, so if he’s going to be starter in the NFL, it will have to be at outside linebacker in a 3-4.”
Biggest question – Can he drop off the line into coverage? He was very rarely asked to do that at Florida State. If he can’t, then any team that picks him will be stuck with an awfully one-dimensional player.
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