The Green Bay Packers definitely need to be successful in the 2014 NFL draft. They simply have too many holes on their roster to be competitive next year without an influx of talent.
One of the best ways for the Packers coaches to get a good view at prospects is to attend college all-star games. And one of the premier all-star games is the Shrine Game.
The 2014 East-West Shrine Game doesn’t involve the high-profile prospects like the Senior Bowl, but there is no doubt that the Green Bay Packers were paying attention to this week’s practices. In fact, Packers GM Ted Thompson was actually in attendance for the practices this week.
Let’s take at some positions where Green Bay needs to be concerned and some players who might be able to help improve them.
The Green Bay Packers realized just how quickly a season can turn without a solid backup quarterback during the 2013 season. You can be sure that GM Ted Thompson won’t let that happen again.
While the Packers currently have two quarterbacks signed through next season (Aaron Rodgers and Scott Tolzien), they could use another one on the depth chart. They best way for them to do that, like they’ve done in years past, is to draft a late-round quarterback.
The East-West Shrine game has a number of intriguing quarterback prospects that could be available in the later rounds. The top two quarterbacks during practices were Jimmy Garoppolo from Eastern Illinois and Jeff Mathews of Cornell according to Bleacher Report’s own Michael Schottey.
However, one name that could surprise some is former Northern Illinois quarterback Jordan Lynch. While many have talked about Lynch needing to switch positions to get into the NFL, that might not be the case anymore.
Lynch improved throughout the week to where he was displaying great touch in the final practice. He’d certainly need a ton of work, but he’d almost certainly be available in the seventh round and the Packers are one of the better teams in the league at developing quarterbacks.
Green Bay isn’t necessarily looking for a backup quarterback because that job belongs to Tolzien as of right now. However, they need someone they can groom and trust should the quarterback position get decimated by injuries again.
There is no doubt that safety is the biggest position of need for the Green Bay Packers heading into the offseason. In fact, starters M.D. Jennings, who is a free agent, and Morgan Burnett were so bad that Green Bay might deem it necessary to draft multiple safeties in this year’s draft.
While they’ll most certainly target a big-name safety like Alabama’s Ha’Sean Clinton-Dix or Louisville’s Calvin Pryor in the earlier rounds, they could also add a safety with high upside later in the draft. The safety from the East-West Shrine Game who fits that bill is Brock Vereen from Minnesota.
Vereen is the younger brother of Shane Vereen, a running back for the New England Patriots. Vereen is currently ranked as the No. 12 strong safety in the draft according to CBSSports.com, but that number should rise following a solid week of practices.
He’s only 6’0″ tall, but he’s a solid 202 pounds with the ability to really lay into opponents. Vereen also possesses solid ball skills and the ability to create turnovers in both the passing and run game.
If the Packers decide that they need to draft more than one safety, don’t be surprised if Vereen turns out to be that second safety.
Even if the Green Bay Packers re-sign Andrew Quarless or Jermichael Finley, it wouldn’t be overly surprising to see them look for another tight end in the draft who is booming with potential.
The player from the East-West Shrine Game who fits that bill is Crockett Gillmore from Colorado State. Gillmore is a big target at 6’6″ and 245 pounds with sure hands. Bleacher Report’s Michael Schottey had this to say about Gillmore:
For the East, Colorado State’s Crockett Gillmore combines a good blend of size with catching ability. Though he lacks the speed to consistently create matchup problems on seam routes, he can be a red-zone threat and took some reps out of the backfield.
An added red-zone target could only make the Packers offense more dangerous than it already is. Gillmore is currently projected to be drafted in the sixth round, according to CBSSports.com, and if the Packers could add a sure-handed weapon like him that late in the draft, it’d almost be foolish to pass on him.
Four Defensive Line
The defensive line is another unit that was underwhelming during the 2013 season for the Green Bay Packers. They also have some big-name players who are free agents this year such as B.J. Raji, Ryan Pickett and Johnny Jolly.
No matter what they decide to do with those players, the Packers will almost certainly be looking to bring in some fresh talent across the defensive line through the draft. Two defensive linemen that were rather popular throughout practices were UCLA’s defensive end Cassius Marsh and Louisiana Tech’s defensive tackle Justin Ellis.
What could potentially make both players such a nice fit in Green Bay is that they each have the ability to be a disruptive force. Ellis is a behemoth of a man who fills running lanes while Marsh is an aggressive pass-rusher with good size and speed.
If the Packers could land either player in the middle rounds of the draft, they could end up becoming a contributing member to the defense early in their careers.
Speaking of defensive linemen, the most impressive throughout the week was defensive tackle Bruce Gaston, Jr. from Purdue.
Bleacher Report’s Michael Schottey had this to say about Gaston, Jr.:
Bruce Gaston Jr., a defensive tackle out of Purdue, looked like a bit of a physical specimen. It isn’t often that a defensive tackle shows off his midsection during practice—that’s a total D-back move. Yet Gaston looked chiseled and moved well for a man his size. He also had a J.J. Watt-esque batted pass, which drew some cheers from the assembled crowd.
That technically doesn’t say much about what Gaston Jr. brings to the field, but an athletic defensive tackle who draws some comparisons to J.J. Watt simply cannot be a bad thing. With the Green Bay Packers extremely thin at defensive tackle, Gaston Jr. is definitely a name they should keep an eye on heading up to the draft.
Finally, there were a handful of offensive linemen who the Green Bay Packers might be interested in during the later rounds of the NFL draft to add some depth to their roster.
The most polished prospect at practice this week was Missouri offensive tackle Justin Britt. He comes from a big-time school, he’s used to playing against elite competition and he’s successful in both run and pass-blocking.
Two other names that stood out, mostly because of their size, were Montana’s Danny Kistler, Jr. and Belhaven (MS) offensive tackle Matt Hall. Kistler, Jr. is listed at 6’8″ and Hall is a massive 6’10″.
Both players would be need major work but in terms of physical assets their size is really quite impressive.
Overall, Britt, Kistler, Jr. and Hall are all viable options for Green Bay to bring in during the draft for competition and depth purposes.