The Green Bay Packers have only signed four free agents this offseason, but each is a player who should take up a roster spot. The biggest splash was tight end Jimmy Graham, who signed a three-year contract. That acquisition eliminated arguably the Packers’ biggest need.
The team rolled the dice on Muhammad Wilkerson, in what could be a great one-year rental, Tramon Williams was brought back to help at cornerback, and the team even traded for developmental quarterback DeShone Kizer.
That takes us to the draft where Green Bay will have some options. The team still needs secondary talent and a player to rush the quarterback opposite Clay Matthews. In the SB Nation NFL writers’ mock draft, Evan “Tex” Western of Acme Packing Co. was able to get one of the steals of the whole project.
14. Green Bay Packers: Denzel Ward, CB, Ohio State
Western: I literally did a double-take at the draft board when I realized that Denzel Ward was still available. Ward is APC’s highest-rated cornerback by a fair margin, and he’s an ideal Packers’ pick; he’s the best player remaining on the board, he fits a critical position of need, and he checks all the boxes that the Packers traditionally look for in a player at his specific position. He is also familiar with a press-man coverage scheme from his time at Ohio State, making him a good fit with the Packers and new defensive coordinator Mike Pettine.
He may be lightly built, but Ward measured in taller than expected at the Combine — 5’10 7/8 — which meets the Packers’ traditional thresholds for cornerback height. The team has stuck to their athletic minimums very closely over Ted Thompson’s tenure as general manager, and the expectation is Brian Gutekunst will still hold closely to them as well. Ward’s 4.32-second 40-yard dash and his 39” vertical are both stellar, and although he did not formally go through agility drills, his tape suggests he would have put up excellent numbers in the cone and shuttle runs as well.
Ultimately, the Packers cannot pass up a chance to get the best cornerback in the draft, particularly given their current depth situation at that position. They traded away their top corner from last season, Damarious Randall, for some improved mid-round picks and DeShone Kizer; last year’s top pick, Kevin King, showed promise but still has some injury concerns; and the team added just a single free agent corner in 35-year-old Williams. Ward projects as not just a special athlete, but a special player and one on whom Pettine can rely, even as a rookie. If Ward is still there at 14, the Packers should sprint up to the podium with his name on the card.
Analysis: Ward, who some think is in contention to be taken fourth overall, should not be available with the 14th pick in the draft. He’s universally considered the best cornerback in this draft and has superstar potential as an outside, man coverage cornerback. There have been some really good value selections in the SB Nation NFL writers’ mock draft this year, but this is straight theft.
Dan Kadar’s top five players remaining
- 13. Calvin Ridley, WR, Alabama
- 14. Da’Ron Payne, DT, Alabama
- 15. Lamar Jackson, QB, Louisville
- 16. Harold Landry, Edge, Boston College
- 18. Isaiah Wynn, G/OT, Georgia
What grade do you give the pick of Denzel Ward by Green Bay?
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