NFL Draft: Thoughts on Packers First Round Picks

My thoughts on the Packers first round picks. So to start off, I was wrong. I never thought they would draft an off-ball linebacker in the first round. As we all know they haven’t done that since AJ Hawk. I thought there was a good chance they would draft one. I just didn’t think it would be in the first. Both players were on my Packers board. I will also have full scouting reports up for Quay Walker and Devonte Wyatt tomorrow.

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Quay Walker:

Obviously most people were surprised by the pick. There had been rumblings the last week or so that he would end up as the first linebacker drafted. But no one thought it would be to the Packers in the first round. Then yesterday we started seeing mock drafts with the Packers drafting him, and it was a number of “connected” people within the draft community.

It was thought that it might mean something. The Packers under Ted Thompson really had no value on linebackers. Brian Gutekunst seemed to follow this with only drafting Oren Burks in the 3rd round, and no other linebackers on day one or two. So, there is another threshold of Ted that he broke. He did stick to their athleticism thresholds though.

Now to Quay Walker as a player. He has some similarities to Eric Stokes in that he is super athletic, came out as a junior, and was seen as a player who is still a little raw and needs some work before he reaches his potential. He should team with De’Vondre Campbell to form a very highly athletic duo while he develops. I wouldn’t be surprised if he shared those duties with Krys Barnes early on. This will also allow them to use a lot more base defense, especially if he can show solid coverage skills.

He shows a lot of hustle on film, and is always around the ball. Those are good qualities to start with. He might even play special teams early on, where he could be a demon. This pick also puts a limit on how long Campbell will be in Green Bay. If Walker develops as hoped, then I don’t see Campbell being a Packer for more than two more years. Walker then takes over as a lead guy.

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Devonte Wyatt:

The Packers traded away one Devonte — or in this case, Davante — and draft another. Wyatt was always one of my favorite defensive linemen in this draft. He fit the Packers almost to a T, except of course the age issue. The former Bulldog can team with Kenny Clark to form an elite due that can both stop the run and rush the passer.

He also adds a complement to Clark as a pass rusher, with Wyatt winning with his explosion, speed, and agility versus Clark’s leverage, strength, and drive. Clark is seen as a “slow burn” pass rusher, whereas Devonte wins fast/quick. He immediately becomes the second-best defensive lineman on the roster. Early on he will probably rotate with Jarran Reed. That is something the Packers like to do. They like to bring their rookies a long slowly as the season goes.

Wyatt does have the off-field issues that popped up recently, even though they were from 2020 and were in the news. Some people just read the headlines and automatically assumed he beat his girlfriend or something like that. But if you read the report it wasn’t that type of thing.

Was he in the wrong? 100% and it should have never happened, but he didn’t hurt any one or point a gun at anyone. People do make mistakes, and the Packers tend to lean conservative when it comes to off-field issues with draft picks. So if they gave him the go ahead, I have full confidence in Gutekunst that it was just a dumb mistake made by a young kid. I also expect the Packers to have him on a “short leash” and told him as much.

Final Thoughts:

While I personally would have drafted a Tyler Smith or a Jermaine Johnson over Walker, I understand why the Packers took him in the first round. Of course, I love the Wyatt pick and think he will have the bigger impact in year one and could even have a bigger impact in year two, as well. Walker will be the Packers future at inside linebacker with Campbell turning 30 soon and the Packers not usually keeping guys past 30. I won’t give this draft a grade. Its three years too soon, but I will say so far I like it!

Will they now be called the Green Bay Bulldogs? If they draft George Pickens tomorrow, they might!

NFL Scouting Combine: Day 3 Takeaways

Jordan Davis NFL Scouting Combine
Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Day Three of the NFL Scouting Combine is now complete. What were the major takeaways from the third day of on-field drills?

There is a reason why Georgia won the championship

Going into the NFL Scouting Combine, the Georgia defense was expected to be the talk of the town. Eight players from the Bulldogs’ defense made the trip to Indianapolis, with three from the defensive line group and linebackers each. All three defensive linemen (Jordan Davis, Devonte Wyatt, and Travon Walker) have been featured in the first round of recent mock drafts. But the question remained: could these players deliver on their ridiculous expectations? 

Godzilla

Suffice it to say, the defensive linemen did not disappoint. The biggest star of the group was the behemoth, Jordan Davis. Measuring in at 6’6” and 341 pounds, Davis clocked in at 4.82 unofficially on his first 40-yard dash. But multiple sources indicated that he got into the high 4.7s based on hand-timing; this led to Davis’ official time being changed to 4.78.

His time was faster than Quinnen Williams’ and both Bosa brothers. He also set a new record in the broad jump for players over 300 pounds. Put simply, any doubts about Davis should be erased after this performance, as he established himself as a top-20 lock. 

Dawg Domination

The Bulldog bonanza did not stop there. Davis’ counterpart at defensive tackle, Devonte Wyatt, was just as impressive. Wyatt recorded the fastest 40-time of any defensive tackle at the Combine. He also looked exceptionally fluid in the positional drills, displaying rare athleticism for a man of his size.

Two of the linebackers, Channing Tindall and Quay Walker, were also excellent, both recording sub-4.55 40-yard dashes. Tindall recorded elite jumps as well, finishing first among all participants in the vertical and 4th among LBs in the broad. 

Aliens Among Us

Finally, arguably nobody helped themselves more than defensive end Travon Walker. At 6’5” and 272 pounds, Walker recorded a 4.51 40-yard dash. This is the fastest 40-yard dash in history for a player weighing more than 270 pounds. He also recorded a 35.5” vertical jump. Walker has been rising meteorically in the draft process due to his insane athleticism on tape. By proving it in Indianapolis, Walker may have solidified himself as a first-half of the first-round selection. 

Also Read: NFL Scouting Combine: Day 1 Takeaways

The Other Defensive Linemen Exceeded expectations

Even without the trio of Georgia studs, the defensive line group is widely considered the deepest and most talented position group in this class. Edge players like Kayvon Thibodeaux from Oregon, Aidan Hutchinson and David Ojabo from Michigan, George Karlaftis from Purdue, and Jermaine Johnson from Florida State were all projected first-round picks.

Scouts, media, and fans alike were also excited to see interior defenders like Perrion Winfrey, Travis Jones, and DeMarvin Leal. Everyone that follows the draft was clamoring to see how these players performed at the NFL Scouting Combine.

Interior Defensive Linemen

Like the Georgia defenders, the rest of the defensive line put on a show. Any other year, a 6’4” 320+ lb defensive tackle running a 4.90 40-yard dash would be the biggest story. Unfortunately, Travis Jones’ incredible day was overshadowed by the historic performances of Davis and Wyatt.

With an elite Senior Bowl and Combine performance, Jones may have improved his stock to that of a first-round pick. Thomas Booker from Stanford and Logan Hall from Houston also had excellent days, displaying remarkable movement skills for men of their size. 

The Michigan Boys

Going into the NFL Scouting Combine, many expected Aidan Hutchinson to fulfill the expectations put forth by his appearance in the Feldman’s Freaks article. Hutchinson put together a performance that mirrored Chiefs and Vikings legend, Jared Allen. While he did not meet the expectations set by the Feldman article, Hutchinson still proved that he is an elite athlete. His teammate, David Ojabo, also did pretty well for himself.

Other Edge Defenders

Boye Mafe all but locked himself in as a first-round pick, recording insane jumps and an elite 40 time. Players further down the draft board also put together excellent days; Nik Bonitto, Arnold Ebiketie, Sam Williams, and Amare Barno all had fantastic days. This draft class has one of the deepest groups of edge defenders in recent memory. 

Also Read: NFL Scouting Combine: Day 2 Takeaways

It’s Time to Respect Kayvon Thibodeaux

As I’m essentially a guest writer for this piece, I hope Hussam doesn’t mind me getting on a soapbox. But I’m sick and tired of hearing about Kayvon Thibodeaux’s lack of effort. After running a 4.58 40-yard dash with an excellent 1.59 10-yard split, Thibodeaux elected to sit out the rest of the positional drills. According to the NFL Network broadcast, he was hoping to do all the defensive lineman and linebacker drills at the same time. But due to their separation and the long nature of the day, he elected to delay working out until his pro day.

Generally, I like Rich Eisen and Daniel Jeremiah. But the pair spent an unreasonable amount of time giving further life to the narrative that Thibodeaux doesn’t love football and he takes plays off. Thibodeaux spent a lot of his media time working to dispel this narrative.

Turn On the Tape; Turn Off the Noise

Furthermore, if you simply watch his tape, you can see that he is an extremely high-effort, high-motor player. This season alone, he kept playing through multiple injuries, even when he could have shut down his season as Nick Bosa did in 2017. Former edge rusher and Hall of Famer Willie McGinest tried to dispel their talking points, indicating that doing the drills during the Pro Day is exactly the same. But the pair returned to the issue multiple times for seemingly no reason. 

It is fair to say that Thibodeaux had a disappointing season, as many expected him to strengthen his claim to the #1 overall pick. But to continue to claim that the reason behind his struggles is his effort or desire to be great is irresponsible and exceptionally unfair.

For every article written about his supposed laziness or apathy, there are at least two diving deep into Thibodeaux’s dedication and love of the game. Some of his comments about branding and such are being taken out of context by a sports media circus that is behind the times. I know the love of Ted Lasso has somewhat jumped the shark as of late. But the darts scene in which Ted recommends being curious and not judgmental should be applied to Kayvon Thibodeaux. 

Senior Bowl Practice Stars: American, Day 2

Senior Bowl Practice Star Malik Willis
Photo by Jeff Hanson

The Senior Bowl continued today in Mobile, AL, as both teams practiced through torrential downpours for the majority of the afternoon. Around the Block sent multiple scouts to Mobile this week to check out the prospects. For their recaps of Tuesday’s practices, check out their standouts from the American and National teams. In this article, Mitchell Wolfe highlights his Senior Bowl practice stars from Wednesday’s rain-soaked practice.

Winners

Malik Willis

Malik Willis is the first quarterback to make our Senior Bowl practice stars list. Despite the heavy rain throughout most of practice, Willis relied on his incredible arm strength to continue pushing the ball downfield. He hit on some big deep throws and showed off his ability to run. But what stuck out the most was his energy and leadership.

While most players seemed to slow down with the rain falling, Willis continued dancing between reps and hyping up the other guys on his team, including the other quarterbacks. Moments like these are important and unique in that they show viewers something that goes beyond the film or the stats.

Willis has arguably been the player with the highest energy at the Senior Bowl, regardless of position or team. Along with his incredible physical gifts, that earns him a spot among our Senior Bowl practice stars. 

Dameon Pierce

As was the case during his college career, Dameon Pierce was not the most heralded player among the running back group this year. But he deserves a spot as a Senior Bowl practice star after two impressive days. Pierce is an exceptionally tough runner between the tackles, displaying a consistent ability to get skinny in the hole and burst through into the second level. He is a compact runner, keeping his pads low and the ball high and tight. This helps him run through contact with ease.

Additionally, Pierce has been an asset as a pass protector, something that will make him exceptionally valuable as a third-down back. He finished off the day by winning a 1-on-1 blocking drill against another Senior Bowl practice star to be mentioned later. Pierce is making a name for himself down in Mobile this week.

Jermaine Johnson

Speaking of people making names for themselves, there has been no better player on the field than Jermaine Johnson. The reigning ACC Defensive Player of the Year has been utterly unstoppable through two days of practice. In yesterday’s recap, we mentioned his name as he led the elite American defensive line unit. But he continued his reign of terror against the offensive line and quarterbacks today.

This Senior Bowl practice star regularly beat offensive linemen, in team drills and 1-on-1s, with various pass rush moves using speed, power, and finesse. To be frank, Johnson has nothing left to prove this week and could go home with his status solidified as a first-round pick. 

Devonte Wyatt

While Johnson has been wrecking shop off the edge, Devonte Wyatt has been demolishing the interior of the offensive line. Wyatt also stood out yesterday and continued to bully his opponents throughout practice.

He somewhat flew under the radar on his own team, as the massive and terrifying Jordan Davis got most of the spotlight. But Wyatt is an excellent player in his own right and proved so today and yesterday. He consistently maintains excellent pad level and leverage to win his battles and push his opponent backward. 

D’Marco Jackson

Our final ‘winner’ among our Senior Bowl standouts is a smaller school guy, D’Marco Jackson, a linebacker from Appalachian State. Jackson had an excellent career with the Mountaineers, recording over 200 tackles the last two seasons of his career. Down in Mobile, he has been one of the primary leaders of the defense, filling in as the Mike linebacker that communicates the plays and signals to the rest of the defense.

On a team littered with four- and five-star recruits from major Power Five programs, it is very impressive that Jackson stepped up into that role despite coming from a smaller school. He’s also been nearly impossible to shake in coverage, routinely locking down running backs and tight ends. Jackson is a player that I am very excited to watch more film on in the coming weeks. 

Losers

Bailey Zappe

To be quite honest, I don’t love labeling players as “losers”. Players can have bad days, and on ones with conditions like today, it’s certainly forgivable. But there is clearly a gap between Bailey Zappe and the rest of the quarterbacks here.

Firstly, Zappe does not look like he physically belongs on the field compared to his teammates. Secondly, the rain and the wind emphasized his lack of arm strength, as balls regularly fell short of their intended target. Where most of the other quarterbacks could drive the ball through the falling rain, Zappe could not.

Hopefully, he’ll look better during indoor practice tomorrow, like he did with this throw yesterday. But Bailey Zappe earned a spot among the Senior Bowl standouts, not necessarily for the right reasons. 

Velus Jones Jr.

Velus Jones Jr. is another tough addition to this list. He made some really nice plays and is undoubtedly one of the fastest players on the field. However, Jones probably had more drops than any other receiver on the field today. Drops have been a problem for most of the receivers here through the first two days, even when it wasn’t raining. But Jones struggled to reel in some catches yesterday, and the problem worsened in the elements today.

Some of the receivers that stood out positively had drops early but rectified the issues as practice continued. That was not the case for Jones, who let multiple balls clang off his hands throughout practice. Like Zappe, hopefully, Jones can get this corrected during indoor practice tomorrow.

Daniel Bellinger

Truthfully, it was tough to come up with a third loser to close this Senior Bowl standouts list. Putting those of us who stood out in the rain for five hours to watch practice seems like a cop-out. Therefore, I will bring up Daniel Bellinger out of San Diego State.

Bellinger was a bit of a surprise addition to this roster, as few people knew of him during the pre-draft process. While Bellinger has not looked out of place or anything, it’s clear the other tight ends on his team are much better athletes than him. All of them look significantly more fluid running routes and after the catch.

Furthermore, while Bellinger is billed as more of a traditional, in-line, blocking tight end, he has been victimized by some of the elite edge rushers here — namely Jermaine Johnson and Kingsley Enagbare, as shown in the clip below. Again, putting Bellinger on this list of Senior Bowl standouts might be a bit harsh; but he has not elevated his game to significantly improve his draft stock thus far.

Senior Bowl Standouts: American, Day 1

FSU EDGE Jermaine Johnson led the group of Senior Bowl Standouts after Day 1 of practice
Photo by Jeff Hanson

The Senior Bowl began today in Mobile, AL, with the first day of practices getting underway in the afternoon. Both teams spent the day working on simple installation of the schemes for the game on Saturday. There were also multiple periods of individual and 1-on-1 drills.

Around the Block sent multiple scouts to Mobile this week to check out the prospects. In this article, Mitchell Wolfe and Felix Davila will highlight their Senior Bowl standouts on the American squad from the first day of practice.

Winners

Defensive Line

Mitch: Of all the position groups on the field today, the American defensive line stood out above the rest. Jermaine Johnson and Devonte Wyatt were probably the most impressive Senior Bowl standouts. But nearly everyone in this group won the majority of their reps. They consistently wrecked their opponents in 1-v-1 sessions and team drills.

The running backs could not find any holes because the defensive linemen were blowing up the run plays. The defensive line also consistently put pressure on the quarterbacks. With that being said, the offensive line began to gel towards the end of the 11-on-11 portion, so we’ll have to see if this group performs as well tomorrow. 

Max Mitchell

Mitch: Despite the defensive line’s dominance, one offensive lineman on the American squad played well. Max Mitchell from Louisiana consistently held his own in the 1-v-1 part of practice, including multiple reps where he stonewalled Jermaine Johnson. He was one of the few offensive linemen who had success against Johnson all day. Mitchell needed to show he could survive against elite competition this week; he did so during Tuesday’s practice. 

Danny Gray

Felix: One of my favorite receivers on the day was Danny Gray. I was impressed by how much faster he was compared to film, and he demonstrated excellent hands, ball tracking, and just overall adjustment to passes from the various quarterbacks. Gray also showed he’s been working on his release package, matching footwork with active hands to get open consistently and separated quickly.

These traits were showcased on a bomb from Malik Willis for a touchdown. Gray torched his defender outside and up, gaining several yards on the defender. He helped himself plenty today.

Cameron Taylor-Britt

Mitch: Cameron Taylor-Britt had a lot on his plate during practice today. He played both inside and outside as a cornerback and even played both safety positions. Taylor-Britt is an excellent athlete (he played quarterback in high school), and his versatility was on display at practice today. He made several good tackles and nearly intercepted multiple passes as well.

In practice situations that are generally favorable to the offense, Taylor-Britt consistently performed above expectations. He was one of the few Senior bowl standouts among the defensive back group. 

Greg Dulcich

Mitch: Even though the American team had the lower-profile group of tight ends, they performed just as well, led by Greg Dulcich. The UCLA product looked exceptionally fluid running routes in the open field. He caught the ball easily, smoothly transitioning into a runner after the catch. He still has to prove himself as a blocker, so we will be keeping track of that over the next few days. But he was among the Senior Bowl standouts today.

Losers

John Ridgeway

Mitch: While the entire group of defensive linemen flourished, John Ridgeway seemed to struggle. He displayed good power and strength off the snap but did not have much of a pass rush plan after that, especially in 1-v-1 pass rush drills. He seemed to completely rely on his power without possessing or using any type of counter. Ridgeway was decent in the run game, as his size and strength make him very difficult to move. But he needs to show more creativity in the coming days. 

Lecitus Smith

Mitch: The guard from Virginia Tech stood out in his group, but not necessarily for the right reasons. Lecitus Smith looked noticeably less chiseled than the other offensive lineman. While this is not the most catastrophic of problems, it was odd to see.

Additionally, he struggled against the strength and power of the SEC interior defensive linemen. Devonte Wyatt, Neil Farrell, and Phidarian Mathis all gave him serious trouble in the 1-on-1 sessions. They also pushed him backward during the team drills. Hopefully, Smith can perform better in the coming practices. 

Dontario Drummond

Felix: The wide receiver out of Ole Miss has flashed some great playmaking ability in his career, but today was a rough start. Drummond had some nice routes with fluidity but struggled to create separation from what I saw. Most glaring, however, were his drops. He had a few catches that were blatant drops off his hands, even on routes where he burned the opposing defensive back.

He can easily turn it around with good performances the rest of the week, but dropping easy passes are an absolute no-no.