Day 3 Lookahead: Defense Here are the top 31 remaining players at positions of at least semi-need for the Green Bay Packers on defense: outside linebackers, inside linebackers and cornerbacks.
Note: We go especially deep at this position, where the Packers are short on numbers after losing Julius Peppers and Datone Jones in free agency.
Carl Lawson, Auburn (6-1 3/4, 261; 4.67 40; 4.19 shuttle; 7.46 3-cone): Junior. Lawson is one of the most confounding prospects in the draft. He earned some first-team All-America accolades with his nine sacks, 13.5 tackles for losses and 24 hurries. However, he wasn’t even a consensus first-team all-conference selection, since he posted only 30 tackles. Lawson ranked 10th in PFF’s pass-rush productivity. He is a powerful, well-schooled, high-motored rusher with experience as an interior rusher. In fact, one scout called him the best all-around rusher in the draft, winning either with athleticism or technique. But Lawson was a woeful 29th in run-stop percentage. He’s basically a one-hit wonder. He missed all of 2014 with a torn ACL. In 2015, he was limited to seven games with a cracked hip and recorded just one sack and three TFLs. Beyond the injury history, Lawson is an interesting case in our projecting 2017 through Thompson’s history. Lawson’s three-cone time was significantly slower than any outside linebacker picked by Thompson and his 31 1/2-inch arms are a concern, too, but his shuttle time was great and his 35 reps on the bench press topped the field. His father, Carl, played fullback at Georgia Tech.
Vince Biegel, Wisconsin (6-3 1/4, 246; 4.67 40; 4.30 shuttle; 6.92 3-cone): Despite missing two games with a foot injury that required surgery, Biegel was second-team all-Big Ten as a senior. He logged 44 tackles, including four sacks and six for losses, and added seven quarterback hurries. He was third-team all-conference as a junior (66 tackles, eight sacks, 14 for losses) and second-team as a sophomore (7.5 sacks, 16.5 TFLs, two forced fumbles). Biegel finished ninth in pass-rush productivity but fifth in run-stop percentage. His 11 missed tackles are tied for the most in our Top 31. He’s got a great motor and plays with an edge, and his Combine workout certainly earned him a few bucks. He just might need a year or two to maximize all of those gifts. Biegel is a fifth-general cranberry farmer from Wisconsin Rapids. “I would say that I am a first-round type of player. And any team that doesn’t get me in the first round is getting a steal on me. What I mean about that is by my professionalism, how I go about my business, my work ethic and my upside. I think definitely I’m a first-round talent.”
Jo Jo Mathis, Washington (6-2 1/8, 266; DNP testing due to late-season foot injury): In 34 career games in his first three seasons, Mathis had four sacks and eight tackles for losses. In the seven games before his senior season was cut short by a foot injury that required surgery, he had five sacks and 7.5 tackles for losses. When he played, he was tremendous. Mathis ranked second in pass-rushing productivity and fourth in run-stop percentage. He didn’t miss a tackle, either. However, the one-year wonder history and injury problems are knocks. The injury history might take him off the board entirely. Mathis wins with physicality and not athleticism. He is a tremendous bull rusher and uses his power to be a consistent winner against the run. The Packers prefer power rushers so he could be a fit. He went from 24 bench-press reps at the Combine to 32 at pro day. Can he stay healthy? Can he improve his quickness? Those questions will define his career.
Deatrich Wise, Arkansas (6-5 1/4, 274; 4.92 40; 4.36 shuttle; 7.07 3-cone): Wise started only 10 games in four injury-plagued seasons but recorded career totals of 16.5 sacks and 23 tackles for losses. Eight of the 10 starts came as a senior, when he had a career-high 49 tackles and added 3.5 sacks and 5.5 tackles for losses despite playing through a broken hand sustained in the opening game. Wise ranked 24th in pass-rush productivity and 11th in run-stop percentage. He missed only two tackles. He was at his best as a junior, when he had eight sacks, 10 TFLs and three forced fumbles while starting zero games. Wise has 35 5/8-inch arms and big hands to keep blockers at bay. He’s got a chance to work at the elephant position. Deatrich Wise Sr. was drafted by the Seahawks in the ninth round in 1988 and played two seasons in the Canadian Football League and four seasons in the Arena Football League.
Hunter Dimick, Utah (6-3, 268; 4.75 40; 4.13 shuttle; 7.15 3-cone): Dimick was a surprise Scouting Combine snub after leading the Pac-12 Conference with 14.5 sacks and 20 tackles for losses. Those figures ranked third and 10th, respectively, in the nation. He ranked 18th in pass-rushing productivity, 15th in run-stop percentage and missed seven tackles. All of that pass-rush production came from the left side, meaning he was beating college right tackles. Scouts were blown away by his shuttle time, which matched Watt for the best in this class, because it didn’t show up on tape. His staggering 38 reps on the bench press ranked No. 1. That did show up, whether it as bull rushing the quarterback or re-establishing the line of scrimmage vs. the run. His motor showed up, too, and he was a tireless performer with a huge weekly workload. His 31-inch arms and 8 7/8-inch hands might not make him a consideration; the smallest hands for any outside linebacker taken by Thompson are 9 1/2 inches and only Bradford had shorter arms.Carroll Phillips, Illinois (6-3 1/4, 242; 4.64 40; 4.37 shuttle; 7.06 3-cone): As a senior, Phillips became the Illini’s first first-team all-Big Ten selection since 2011. Among his 56 tackles were nine sacks and 20 tackles for losses. The TFLs count is tied for fifth-most in school history, and his 19 solo TFLs ranked second in the nation during the regular season. He added three hurries and one forced fumble. Phillips ranked 23rd in pass-rush productivity and 17th in run-stop percentage. It was from-out-of-nowhere production for a player who had a combined total of three sacks and 5.5 TFLs the previous two seasons. At this point, he’s a third-down edge rusher who will rely on speed to get around the corner. Rather than being consumed by the streets of Miami, Phillips found a mentor and a job at a mortuary. He is cousins with rapper Luther Campbell. He’ll be 25 in September.Avery Moss, Youngstown State (6-3 3/8, 264; 4.79 40; 4.43 shuttle; 7.25 3-cone): Moss started his career at Nebraska, taking a medical redshirt as a freshman in 2012 and then tallying 4.5 sacks and eight tackles for losses in 2013. However, in January 2014, he was banned from campus due to indecency charge. Moss fought the ruling for a year before transferring to Youngstown State in January 2015. After making a minimal impact as a junior in 2015, Moss made a big impact as a senior. He was named first-team Ohio Valley Conference with 10.5 sacks, 17.5 tackles for losses and four forced fumbles. PFF only charts games involving FCS schools so Rivers’ numbers are incomplete. In his limited sample size, he ranked a dead-last 31st in pass-rushing productivity but 14th in run-stop percentage. While he didn’t test well he’s got 34 1/2-inch arms, huge hands, a good first step. His bench press (14 reps) was the next-to-worst by any front-seven player at the Combine.Ifeadi Odenigbo, Northwestern (6-3, 258; 4.72 40; 4.40 shuttle; 7.26 3-cone): Odenigbo tallied 10 sacks, 12 tackles for losses, six hurries and two forced fumbles as a senior to earn all-Big Ten second team. He ranked 15th in pass-rushing productivity but just 30th in run-stop percentage. After playing only one game as a freshman in 2012, Odenigbo registered 23.5 sacks, 26.5 tackles for losses and five forced fumbles in four seasons. Almost half of his career total of 61 tackles came behind the line of scrimmage. He’s not a great athlete but he’s quick off the ball, plays hard and has some power to jolt his blocker. He was mentored by Dean Lowry, a relationship that continued as Lowry played his rookie season in Green Bay. His “little” brother, Tito, is a 290-pound defensive tackle for Illinois. They are the sons of Nigerian immigrants.Keionta Davis, Tennessee-Chattanooga (6-3, 271; 4.72 40; 4.62 shuttle; 7.64 3-cone): Davis was a two-time FCS All-American, including first-team honors as a senior, when he was named the Southern Conference’s Defensive Player of the Year. In 2016, he led the league with 10.5 sacks while tallying 44 tackles, 11.5 tackles for losses, seven hurries and seven passes defensed. For his career, he piled up 31 career sacks — including a career-high 13.5 as a junior — and forced eight fumbles. Davis’ times could take him off the board but his vertical was 37 1/2 inches and he put up 30 reps on the bench — an impressive number with 34 1/4-inch arms. There’s some tools for a move to the elephant position, which is why we didn’t discard him from this list.
Samson Ebukam, Eastern Washington (6-1 7/8, 240; 4.50 40; 4.34 shuttle; 7.07 3-cone): Ebukam was a first-team FCS All-American as a senior. One of six co-captains, Ebukam had a team-high 9.5 sacks and contributed 71 tackles, 15 tackles for losses, two forced fumbles, three fumble recoveries, eight quarterback hurries, two passes broken up and an interception. PFF charts only FBS games, so Ebukam’s rankings of 27th in pass-rushing productivity and 16th in run-stop percentage come in limited snaps. Playing as a stand-up rusher, Ebukam finished his career with 24 sacks. Also at his pro day, Ebukam had a vertical jump of 39 inches, a figure beaten only by Garrett and matched by Willis. Ebukam was born in Nigeria, where he spent his first nine years with his six siblings. The family made it to the United States one child at a time over the span of eight years. Ebukam visited the Packers, though they’ve never had much interest in speed rushers.Tashawn Bower, LSU (6-4 3/4, 250; 4.82 40; 4.37 shuttle; 7.20 3-cone): If Bower gets drafted, it might be because of his final collegiate game. Of his 5.5 career sacks, three came against Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Lamar Jackson in LSU’s bowl game rout of Louisville. Mostly, his forte has been stopping the run as a career backup. In 40 career games, Bower started only seven times and recorded 60 tackles, 5.5 sacks and 12 tackles for losses. In limited snaps, he ranked 19th in pass-rushing productivity and 18th in run-stop percentage.Ryan Watson, Air Force (6-2 3/4, 249; 4.61 40; 4.60 shuttle; 7.12 3-cone): Watson had seven sacks and 10.5 tackles for losses during his first three seasons. As a senior, he had nine sacks and 11 tackles for losses. He ranked 27th in pass-rush productivity but 16th in run-stop percentage. The Packers brought in Watson for a visit.Pita Taumoepenu, Utah (6-1 1/4, 243; 4.67 40; 4.33 shuttle; 6.91 3-cone): Taumoepenu rates as one of the best pass rushers in Utah history with 21.5 sacks. He had 20.5 sacks, 23.5 tackles for losses and four forced fumbles during his final three seasons. He was an honorable mention on the all-Pac-12 team as a senior with his nine sacks, 12 tackles for losses, three forced fumbles and four pressures. He ranked 26th in pass-rushing productivity and run-stop percentage. Taumoepenu was born in Texas but moved to Tonga with his grandparents when he was 6 months old to experience his culture. He was good enough to join the country’s U-20 national rugby team. His first time playing football was as a high school senior.Josh Carraway, TCU (6-3, 242; 4.74 40; 4.44 shuttle; 7.20 3-cone): A part-time starter as a sophomore, Carraway blossomed into a two-time all-Big 12 first-team selection as a junior and senior. As a junior, he tallied nine sacks, 11.5 tackles for losses and one forced fumble. As a senior, he had eight sacks, 11 tackles for losses, 49 tackles, five hurries and one forced fumble. It was all-or-nothing production, though. Carraway ranked 29th in pass-rush productivity and a dead-last 31st in run-stop percentage. At this point, he’s only a designated pass rusher.
Jordan Evans, Oklahoma (6-2 7/8, 232; 4.51 40; 4.18 shuttle): Evans was one of the surprise Combine snubs. The three-year starter posted 286 tackles, 22 tackles for losses, five interceptions, four forced fumbles and 16 passes defensed for his career. The PBU count is tied for second in school history among linebackers. As a senior, the team captain and first-team all-Big 12 choice had 98 tackles, including 2.5 sacks and 10 for losses, plus four interceptions and eight pass breakups. Evans ranked 13th in run-stop percentage and 10th in tackling efficiency (12 misses). He had a great pro day was his 40 time ranking No. 1 among the inside linebacker class, his shuttle ranking second and his vertical (38 1/2) ranking third. He had a predraft visit to Green Bay. At worst, he’ll be the third-down coverage linebacker because of his athleticism, instincts and length.Blair Brown, Ohio (5-11 1/2, 238; 4.65 40; 4.18 shuttle): Brown was named first-team all-MAC and earned some All-America accolades as a senior with 128 tackles, including 4.5 sacks and 15 for losses, and one forced fumble. Brown started for most of his sophomore season (55 tackles) and all of his junior season (65 tackles). The knocks are obvious. First is size, not just height but length (31 1/4 arms). The three-year starter broke up only two passes — and those came as a sophomore. That will make him a two-down linebacker and special-teams ace. However, he was the most efficient tackler in the draft class, leading PFF’s metric while missing only three tackles, and among the most impactful, trailing only Foster in run-stop percentage. “He’s very physical, he blows up plays at the line of scrimmage,” defensive coordinator Jimmy Burrow told PostAthens.com during the season. “Really, against the run game, that’s what you need.”Jalen Reeves-Maybin, Tennessee (6-0 3/8, 230; 4.68 40; 4.38 shuttle): Reeves-Maybin’s senior season ended with a shoulder injury. He recorded 20 tackles, with two for losses, during his abbreviated season. He ranked seventh in run-stop percentage and sixth in tackling efficiency (two misses). As a sophomore and junior, he tallied back-to-back 100-tackle seasons, with 101 tackles, two sacks and 11 tackles for losses as a sophomore and 105 tackles, six sacks, 14 tackles for losses, two forced fumbles and four passes defensed as a junior in which he earned some all-SEC honors. In the passing game, he’s a much better blitzer than cover man, as he gave up a total of 61 catches in 2014 and 2015, according to PFF. Reeves-Maybin’s dad, Marques, played basketball at Louisville under renowned coach Denny Crum. A motorcycle accident left him paralyzed from the waist down in 2003. Jalen was 8.Dylan Cole, Missouri State (6-0 1/2, 239; 4.54 40; 4.19 shuttle): Cole put up huge numbers as a senior with 141 tackles, including eight for losses, along with two interceptions and three forced fumbles. After being limited to only three stops by Kansas State, Cole had at least 13 tackles in each of his final eight games. Cole was a first-team All-American and a finalist for the Buck Buchanan Award, which goes to the top defender in FCS. Cole also posted 152 tackles as a junior. That’s all well and good, considering the competition, but then Cole had a great pro day. In our group of prospects, Cole’s 40 ranks fourth and his shuttle is tied for third. Moreover, Cole’s 32 reps on the bench press top the charts and his 39-inch vertical ranks second.Anthony Walker, Northwestern (6-0 5/8, 238; 4.65 40; 4.34 shuttle): Junior. Walker piled up 227 tackles during his two seasons as a full-time starter. As a sophomore, he earned some All-American recognition with 122 tackles, including a whopping 20.5 for losses. As a junior, he tallied 105 tackles, including two sacks and 10 for losses, plus two interceptions, five passes defensed, six hurries and four forced fumbles. He ranked eighth in run-stop percentage but a next-to-last 16th in tackling efficiency (19 misses). Walker wins with quickness and strength (23 reps on the bench) but probably won’t factor as a third-down linebacker. PFF had him giving up a total of 65 completions the past two seasons. In the fourth game of his redshirt freshman season, an injury elevated Walker into the starting lineup against Penn State. A pick-six against Christian Hackenberg led to teammates calling Walker “The Franchise.”
Eric Wilson (6-1 1/8, 230; 4.53 40; 4.31 shuttle): Wilson opened his career at Northwestern in 2012 and emerged as a starter for his final two seasons at Cincinnati. As a senior, he had a team-high 129 tackles, including three sacks and 7.5 for losses, plus broke up two passes and forced a fumble. Wilson ranked only 15th in run-stop percentage but was second in tackling efficiency (eight misses). That combination shows an efficient if not an impact tackler. In three years at Cincinnati, he recovered seven fumbles and added 25 tackles on special teams. His 39 1/2-inch vertical is the best in the class, his 40 time is the second-fastest and his 25 reps on the bench tied for the third-most. He visited the Packers.Chase Allen, Southern Illinois (6-3 1/8, 241; 4.60 40; 4.19 shuttle): After starting his career as a backup outside linebacker, Allen led the team in tackles in each of his three seasons at inside linebacker, becoming just the second player in program history to be the team’s leading tackler three times. He had 292 tackles during that span and ranks 12th in school history with 324 tackles. Former NFL star Bart Scott is one of only three players ahead of Allen in tackles since 2000. As a senior, he had 77 tackles, including seven for losses, plus one pass breakup and one forced fumble. PFF does not keep small-school data. His shuttle time is tied for third-fastest in this inside linebacker class — an impressive feat considering his size.
Brooks Ellis, Arkansas (6-1 7/8, 240; 4.79 40; 4.25 shuttle): Ellis started 41 games in four seasons. For his career, he posted 290 tackles, including 3.5 sacks and 22.5 for losses, along with four interceptions and two forced fumbles. As a senior, he had 83 tackles, including one sack and seven for losses, and added three hurries and five passes defensed. Ellis tied for last in run-stop percentage and was eighth in tackling efficiency (nine misses). He’s also an adept blitzer. He had a career-high 102 tackles as a junior. The two-time captain was the school’s 20th Academic All-American, the SEC’s Scholar-Athlete of the Year and was a finalist for the William Campbell Trophy — aka the Academic Heisman. That intelligence showed up on Saturdays, as he made more plays than he should have based on athletic ability.Marquel Lee, Wake Forest (6-3 1/4, 240; 4.78 40; 4.33 shuttle): With three productive seasons, Lee fell just short of 300 career tackles. Lee had 101 tackles as a sophomore and 105 as a senior. He was second-team all-ACC during his final season, which included career highs of 7.5 sacks (he had seven in his first three years), 20 tackles for losses (he had 22 in his first three years) and three forced fumbles (he had one in his first three years). By PFF’s metrics, Lee was excellent — fourth in run-stop percentage and third in tackling efficiency (10 misses). He’s a two-down defender and special-teams player.Ben Gedeon, Michigan (6-1 3/4, 244; 4.75 40; 4.13 shuttle): Gedeon made the most of his one year in the starting lineup, recording 106 tackles, including 4.5 sacks and 15.5 for losses to be second-team all-Big Ten. Compare that to his 5.5 TFLs during his first three seasons combined. He ranked 11th in run-stop percentage and 10th in tackling efficiency (11 misses). Gedeon’s strength showed up with all of those tackles for losses; he led the Combine’s linebackers with 27 reps on the bench press. As was the case with Ryan, Gedeon’s fast shuttle time probably won’t equate to being a factor as a third-down cover man. The 40 time is really slow and likely played a role in the missed-tackle count as he’s a half-time slow to the spot at times. Gedeon climbed into the lineup as a senior. Before the season, he climbed Colorado’s Mount Evans, a 14,265-foot peak, with teammates including tight end Jake Butt.Connor Harris, Lindenwood (5-11 1/8, 242; 4.73 40; 4.31 shuttle): Harris won the Cliff Harris Award as the nation’s top defensive player among NCAA Division II, NCAA Division III, and NAIA programs. His 138 tackles as a senior pushed his career total to 633 — more than any player in the history of college football, regardless of division. PFF does not have stats for small-school players. In starting all 48 career games, Harris finished with 34 tackles for losses, 8.5 sacks, six interceptions and three forced fumbles. He also punted, kicked extra points and scored seven touchdowns on 50 carries on offense. One scout said Harris was too short to play linebacker but was being considered a fullback.
Howard Wilson, Houston (6-0 5/8, 184; 4.57 40; 3.94 shuttle; 6.68 3-cone; 33.5 vertical): Redshirt sophomore. Wilson ranks as one of the top ballhawks and best athletes in the class. He intercepted three passes as a true freshman in 2014. In the third game of his sophomore year, he intercepted his first pass of the season but sustained a torn ACL on the return. Wilson returned in 2016 and intercepted five passes and breaking up 10 others for a total of 15 passes defensed. According to PFF, he ranked 15th in yards per pass route (0.88), eighth in passer rating (44.6) and 13th in completion percentage (48.1). He’s got short arms but big hands. Only King beat Wilson’s shuttle time. For his frame and lack of strength (10 reps on the bench), he’s not a run defender.
Brian Allen, Utah (6-3 1/8, 215; 4.48 40; 4.34 shuttle; 6.64 3-cone; 34.5 vertical): Allen started his career at receiver but wound up playing 32 games at cornerback. Nine of his 12 career starts came as a senior, when he had four interceptions and broke up six other passes. According to PFF, he ranked a dead-last 25th in yards per pass route (1.36) and passer rating (86.0) and 21st in completion percentage (55.0). Of his 35 tackles, 4.5 came behind the line of scrimmage. He had no interceptions and four passes defensed in his previous seasons combined. He “hated” the move to defense, where he felt like a fish out of water because he didn’t even know how to tackle anyone. With 34-inch arms that would be the envy of some offensive linemen (and are the longest in our group) and 10-inch hands (tied for the largest), Allen is a natural press-man corner. He is all potential at this point with that speed and agility (second-fastest in the three-cone). Patience will be required. The move to receiver wasn’t the only change in Allen’s life. Last summer, Allen welcomed his first child, a daughter named A’mya, with his wife, Paula.
Rudy Ford, Auburn (5-11, 205; 4.36 40; DNP rest due to late-season ankle injury): Ford started 34 games at nickel and safety in his four seasons. As a sophomore, he intercepted three passes. As a junior, he had 118 tackles, two forced fumbles and two interceptions. As a senior, he had 59 tackles and career highs of 5.5 tackles for losses and seven passes defensed. According to PFF, he ranked 20th in yards per pass route (1.05), 22nd in passer rating (84.0) and a dead-last 25th in completion percentage (61.3). His four-year total: 275 tackles, 11.5 tackles for losses, five interceptions, 11 passes defensed, three forced fumbles. He earned the second-most slot snaps in this entire draft class and the most among our group of corners. He allowed 1.15 yards per snap and an 85.5 rating in that role. His best fit is as a slot and safety. He’s got the shortest arms in our group and among the smallest hands but tied for third with 20 reps on the bench. Ford was one of the top running back prospects in Alabama and made the move to corner during his freshman season at Auburn. Ford overcame more than a position switch. As a freshman at Auburn, his mom suffered cardiac arrest and brain damage, which cost her her memory, sight and ability to communicate.
Jeremy Clark, Michigan (6-3, 220; DNP testing due to torn ACL): A part-time starter in 2014 and 2015, Clark was poised for bigger and better things as a senior before suffering a torn ACL during the third game of the season. The NCAA would not give him a sixth year of eligibility. With a very limited sample size, he ranked first in yards per pass route (0.14), 24th in passer rating (85.4) and fifth in completion percentage (37.5). In 36 career games in the secondary, he had 49 tackles, three interceptions and nine breakups. All three career interceptions came in 2015, when Clark moved from safety to cornerback. He could wind up at safety in the NFL but should be looked at as a press-man corner with his excellent length (fourth-longest arms) and strength (tied for third with 20 reps on the bench). “Physicality, my competitiveness, the desire to win. And I just feel like I would be able to dominate at corner, so whatever team drafts me that’s what I feel like they can get, a dominant corner.”D.J. Killings, UCF (5-10 1/2, 187; 4.48 40; 4.21 shuttle; 6.97 3-cone; 37.5 vertical): After intercepting two passes in his first three seasons as a part-time player, Killings moved into the starting lineup as a senior grabbed three picks and broke up 11 others while adding one sack and three tackles for losses. According to PFF, he ranked 22nd in yards per pass route (1.15), 13th in passer rating (56.4) and 12th in completion percentage (48.0). Two of Killings’ brothers were murdered, Reginald in 2015 and Fred in 2013. His father, Fred Killings Sr., was a Hall of Fame running back at Howard University. Killings took a predraft visit to Green Bay.Jack Tocho, N.C. State (6-0 1/4, 202; 4.54 40; 4.34 shuttle; 7.11 3-cone; 35 vertical): Tocho was a four-year starter who posted career numbers of five interceptions and 26 additional breakups. As a senior, he had two interceptions and nine breakups. According to PFF, he ranked 16th in yards per pass route (0.91), 20th in passer rating (72.5) and 14th in completion percentage (50.0). He missed six tackles. Tocho earned his degree in accounting in only three years and hosted his own radio show, “You Don’t Know Jack.” He is the son of Kenyan immigrants and hopes to improve their lives. “Having been to Kenya three times, I have experienced first-hand the conditions my extended family members live in.” Tocho was second on the bench with 21 reps.
Here are the top available players on defense entering Rounds 4-7. The Packers own the first pick of the fourth round, No. 108 overall, along with No. 134 of the fourth, Nos. 172 and 182 of the fifth, No. 212 of the sixth and No. 247 of the seventh.