The Green Bay Packers were minutes away from a trip to the Super Bowl last year and just couldn’t hold on in Seattle. Blame Brandon Bostick’s botched onside kicker, Mike McCarthy’s play-calling or Green Bay’s defense choking in the final stanza all you want, but they just didn’t get it done. Finding out why and improving in the areas that were the most glaring are going to be the keys to the Pack turning right back around and making another go at it. They certainly can with a healthy Aaron Rodgers leading a potent offense into a still beatable NFC North.
Green Bay needs to make some moves, though, so let’s see what they can do in the 2015 NFL Draft to get better:
Offensive Needs: TE, QB, RB
The Packers missed Jermichael Finley to a certain degree last year, as they didn’t have a single tight end that was a dominant force over the middle of the field or in the red-zone. They could have really used an impact player when Richard Sherman was taking away half the field, and perhaps this year they go get one. Richard Rodgers and Andrew Quarless simply aren’t the answer, so if the right guy falls to them they may have to pull the trigger. It won’t be in round one, but guys like Maxx Williams and Devin Funchess would be worth a shot in rounds two or three. Williams is an ox who could be a red-zone terror, while Funchess is an explosive receiver convert.
There aren’t many major issues on offense for the Packers, but backup quarterback has to be one. Matt Flynn isn’t expected back and for some reason the Packers think they have something in Scott Tolzien. I’m not really seeing it, so I think a backup passer is in order. They haven’t had a true talent behind Aaron Rodgers in, well, ever.
Running back is one other spot they could take a look at, since they have very little after Eddie Lacy and James Starks. Lacy already has had some issues with concussions and got off to a slow start last year, so it would be nice to have a third back that could step up if need be, and for now serve as a solid passing down specialist. Michigan State’s Jeremy Langford already is solid in pass protection and has the hands and agility to be a threat as a receiver. He could be the perfect guy to target around round four.
Defensive Needs: LB, CB, NT, OLB
Inside linebacker and cornerback are without a doubt Green Bay’s two biggest holes on their roster. That’s regardless of which side of the ball you’re looking at, too. Ted Thompson was smart to cut ties with ineffective inside linebackers A.J. Hawks and Brad Jones, but he hasn’t found replacements for them yet. Banking on Sam Barrington to evolve into a reliable starter is probably silly, and with the free agent market bare he may have to find at least one starter in the draft. Of course, the Packers could always pull a fast one and shift Clay Matthews into the inside full-time, and if that ends up being the case this wouldn’t be quite as troublesome. Either way, they still probably need at least one inside ‘backer and maybe two. I think that puts middle linebacker in the discussion for their first round pick, which likely makes UCLA’s Eric Kendricks and Mississippi State’s Benadrick McKinney as the top candidates.
The other glaring need is corner. Tramon Williams was already aging and was going to command way too much money, while Davon House was only decent and also was going to need to be overpaid. Ol’ dead eyes opted against keeping either of them and that could mean bad things for Green Bay’s pass defense. They still have solid talent in Sam Shields and Casey Hayward, but they need at least one corner prospect that can be groomed into a #1 role. That could have them burning their first round pick on cornerback, where stout defensive backs like Jalen Collins, Marcus Peters or Ronald Darby could all be readily available near the end of round one. Collins has off field issues that are overshadowing his elite talent, Peters could possibly slide a bit and Darby might be better served as a day two prospect. If the Packers don’t get a corner in round one, Darby could potentially be had in round two, while Byron Jones would be another name to keep an eye on.
Nose tackle was addressed to a certain degree as the Pack held onto both B.J. Raji and Letroy Guion, but Raji is on his last leg and Guion is a bit of a headcase off the field. The Packers don’t badly need someone for 2015, but they might want to think about the future. If someone like Malcom Brown or Jordan Phillips is starting them in the face in round one, they’ll at least consider adding a mass in the middle. If not, they could take a stab at someone in the late rounds, or decide to wait another year.
Outside linebacker is another luxury item, as Clay Matthews and Julius Peppers technically have the outside edge hammered out. However, Nick Perry has been a bust and with Green Bay wanting to use Matthews in the middle more, they could use another pass rusher to take his place on the outside. Peppers is also ancient and could drop off at any moment, so that one extra body who can put pressure on the quarterback could be key. I doubt the Packers reach for that help in the first round, though.