For the first time in almost a decade, the Packers will be selecting in the top half of the first round in the NFL Draft. Sitting at 14th overall and coming off a 7-9 season, Green Bay has number of needs that can be filled by an impact player on either the offensive or defensive side of the ball. While a shiny new weapon on offense may be the Packers pick at 14, most signs point to the Packers taking a defensive player with their first pick of the draft for the seventh year in a row. With a handful of quarterback-needy teams picking in the first round prior to Green Bay’s selection, it’s very possible that an impact defender or two with top-10 talent falls to the Green and Gold. With that said, here is a look at a few possible targets for the Packers this coming Thursday.
DB Minkah Fitzpatrick, Alabama:
Fitzpatrick is a perfect example of top-talent who may fall to the Packers due to an early run on quarterbacks at the very top of the draft. If the former Alabama safety did in fact fall to 14, the Packers should run the card up. Allowing Morgan Burnett to walk this season, and Micah Hyde the year prior, Green Bay may very well look to add more depth to the secondary this past season, and Fitzpatrick would be a perfect fit. He would likely emulate the type of role Hyde played while with the Packers, a swiss-army knife capable of playing safety, slot corner, and even on the boundary in a pinch. Whatever Hyde did in our defense, Fitzpatrick has the potential to do better as a much more athletic and established prospect.
CB Denzel Ward, Ohio State:
Ward would be the perfect fit at 14 overall for the section of Packers fans who believe that cornerback is the Packers biggest need this offseason after trading away Damarious Randall to the Cleveland Browns. Generally regarded as the top cornerback in the 2018 draft class, Ward is a very realistic possibility and pairing him with Kevin King would appear to lock down the starting cornerback jobs for the forseeable future. What Ward, 5’10”, lacks in size he makes up for in athleticism and playmaking ability, posting 15 passes defended and 2 interceptions in his final season at Ohio State. Ward would likely win the starting slot cornerback role outright in his rookie season in Green Bay with Tramon Williams and King playing on the boundary.
EDGE Harold Landry, Boston College:
Landry, the second-best edge rusher in this draft class behind NC State’s Bradley Chubb, would be a boon to the Packers’ outside linebacking corps that lacks proven depth behind starters Clay Matthews and Nick Perry. Unlike fellow potential first-round pick and edge rusher out of UTSA Marcus Davenport, Landry would be ready to come in and make an impact as a pass rusher on day one. He would be able to learn more about the position from Clay Matthews and improve his run defense under Nick Perry while not having to be the primary pass rushing threat on his team.
S Derwin James, Florida State:
James is another example of a top-10 defense with the likelihood of slipping into the teens due to a run at the quarterback position. Like Fitzpatrick, James is a former college safety who could play a number of different positions in the NFL. If selected by Green Bay, James would likely fill Burnett’s shoes as starting strong safety/inside linebacker/slot cornerback, rotating in and out of the lineup with 2017 second round pick Josh Jones. James could also be a solid at slot cornerback for the Packers in his rookie season, as the way that position stands right now it would likely be filled by either Quentin Rollins or undrafted rookie Lenzy Pipkins. Either way, James brings a physical, playmaking presence that they have been sorely lacking for a number of years in the Green Bay secondary.
WR Calvin Ridley, Alabama:
This selection may be a bit of stretch, and I admit it likely won’t happen, but it would be fascinating to watch a talent like Ridley play with Aaron Rodgers. While the Packers will likely look to add a defensive playmaker at 14, Ridley is widely regarded as the top wide receiver talent in the NFL Draft and would instantly slot in as the starting receiver opposite Davante Adams. With Jordy Nelson moving on to Oakland, Randall Cobb getting another year older, and no one else at the position making much of an impact the last two seasons, the cupboard at wide receiver looks as bare as ever and bringing in an athletic talent such as Ridley would give Aaron Rodgers a trio of dynamic targets with newly signed Jimmy Graham as well as Adams. If Ridley were in fact selected by Green Bay, I wouldn’t be shocked to see Green Bay try to move up at he back end of the first to try and select an impact defender such as cornerback Josh Jackson or edge rusher Marcus Davenport.