I know many of you are disgusted at even the suggestion that the team will perform poorly before we really even get a chance to see what Hundley can do as a starter. I admit, it may be in poor taste but tact isn’t exactly my strong suit. As I mentioned on the Packernet Podcast, there are two very strong things working against the Packers right now. First is our new quarterback Brett Hundley, who currently is rocking a 27.0 quarterback rating in his regular season career. The other is the devastating injuries that the team has encountered beyond Aaron Rodgers, most notably, the Packers offensive line. Unfortunately, I also forgot to mention a third adversary, which is a rather difficult schedule ahead.
With all that in mind, I simply ask that you not view this as so much as a slight against Hundley or against McCarthy’s ability to make something happen with what he has available, but rather, a silver lining in an otherwise ugly and horrible situation. A silver lining that comes once in a millennia. The rare occurrence when the best team in the NFL is so ravaged by injuries that they are simultaneously the best the NFL has to offer, and a team with a top 10 pick in the draft. It’s the kind of unfortunate occurrence that has the potential to turn this already storied franchise into a team that wins several Super Bowls over the next 5-7 years.
With that, I want to introduce you to some of the elite level talent coming into the 2018 draft. Guys the Packers never so much as get a whiff of. Guys that can turn a team like the Packers into the most dominant force the NFL has ever seen.
A little over the top? Perhaps, but the Packers just lost Aaron Rodgers. Am I not allowed to indulge?
Finally, the Packers currently have 4 wins, meaning 4-12 is the worst they could possibly do. Last year, 4-12 was good for 5th in the draft. Considering the order in which teams take certain players and the fact the Packers won’t be taking a quarterback, I decided not to rule anyone out, but rather, introduce you to the best players in 2018. If and when the Packers win more games and the 2018 draft boards come into focus, some of these players may start to slip from our grasp.
Players are generally grouped by position but are in no particular order beyond that.
Derwin James, S, Florida State
6’3, 212 pounds
Bucky Brooks described James as a combination between Jamal Adams and Reuben Foster. I’m not sure how much of that is hyperbole but if there is even a slight chance there is any truth to that, James is not only an elite athlete but a great fit for the Packers.
For those that don’t know, Jamal Adams was 1 of 2 elite level safety prospects to come out in 2017. He went 5th overall to the Jets. Reuben Foster is an Alabama linebacker and was thought, by some, to be the best linebacker prospect since Luke Kuechly.
A hybrid of those two players rolled up into one guy? A player that can help our corners on the back end and improve our pass defense overall? A guy that can play as a linebacker if need be? A punishing hitter that brings an edge and an aggression to the Packers defense? Sign me up.
Sources close to Walter Football say James is a top 3 overall talent in the draft. Check out some highlights.
Minkah Fitzpatrick, DB, Alabama
6’1, 203 pounds
If Derwin James is your hit-stick, ILB/SS type player, Fitzpatrick is going to be your CB/FS guy. What Fitz brings to the table is versatility. Labeled by many as a DB, Fitzpatrick is moved all over the field by Nick Saban depending on the matchup. Sound familiar?
Whether it be boundary, slot, or safety, Fitzpatrick can cover anyone from anywhere. Although maybe not as physically impressive as Derwin James, Fitzpatrick has the full bag of tricks able to put on the myriad of hats NFL safeties are asked to wear.
Alabama seems to produce elite DB prospects every year and the Packers struck gold in 2013 with Ha Ha Clinton-Dix. Could lighting strike twice?
Arden Key, DE, LSU
Considering the depth of talent at quarterback in the 2018 draft, and the extreme pressure by most early draftering teams to grab a franchise quarterback, Arden Key will likely be a steal for the team that takes him.
Thought to be the top talent in the draft by many, drafting Key would be incredibly unlikely. It would likely require the Packers to end the year no better than 5-11, as well as all the teams ahead of them drafting other positions of need. Still, the possibility remains that the Packers, for the first time ever(ish), will be drafting the top edge rusher on the board.
To put Key’s talent into perspective, many believe he is a better than the number 1 overall pick in the 2017 draft, Myles Garrett. Based on their 2016 stats it’s not a very difficult case to make.
In 2016, Garrett totaled 33 tackles, 8.5 sacks, 2 pass deflections, and 2 forced fumbles in 10 games. In 11 games, Key managed 55 tackles, 11 sacks, 3 pass deflections, and 2 forced fumbles.
Key is seen as being on par with other number 1 overall prospects such as Jadeveon Clowney and although not as explosive and powerful, compensates by being a much more polished and NFL ready pass rusher than either Clowney or Garrett.
Again, it’s incredibly unlikely but the fact that it’s even possible has to get Packers fans excited. Let’s also not forget, the Packers have 12 draft picks to deal. If the Packers see Key drop within striking distance, Ted could pull the trigger and deal a few picks for a guy that could easily be his best selection since Rodgers. Key can be an elite pass rusher for the entirety of Rodgers career with the Packers.
Check out this video at around 2 minutes. It looks like a lion being released from his cage. Unbelievable.
Bradley Chubb, DE, N.C. State
6’4 275 pounds
If the Packers miss on Key and still want to draft a difference maker, I’m all in on Bradley Chubb. Although he’s built more like a 4-3 defensive end than 3-4 OLB, his physical attributes supersede alignments.
In 2016, Chubb racked up 58 tackles, 22 of those for a loss (Remember, Garrett had 33 total), 10.5 sacks, 3 forced fumbles, and a batted pass.
Although Chubb is more agile than one would expect at 275 pounds, his real strength is… well, his strength. Chubb’s ability to rip and throw defenders as not only a pass rush move but in run defense makes him nearly unblockable.
Given his size and versatility, Dom Capers could have a ton of fun with Chubb, being able to move him all over the defensive line, from an interior down lineman in the NASCAR package, to a base DE, to an OLB, Chubb has the versatility to not just add quality depth to multiple positions, but to be a matchup nightmare for any offense.
Saquon Barkley, RB, Penn State
5’11, 233 pounds
This is unlikely for a few reasons. First, Barkley is in the “first overall” conversation and is unlikely to fall to Green Bay. Second, the Packers just drafted 3 running backs in 2017. If Barkley were on the board when the Packers were drafting, it’s probably more likely they would look to sell to the highest bidder.
With that said, however, the talk around Barkley is that he is basically Ezekiell Elliot but better. Better how? How about 4.33 second 40 time better.
I’m not sure what to make of it to be honest. It wasn’t that long ago we were asking the question, should you ever draft a running back in the first round. Since then running backs have been getting drafted higher each year. Part of me is wondering if the players are getting better or if the value of the position is going through the roof.
Still, Barkley checks all the boxes. He doesn’t just do one thing well, he does them all well. As a runner and receiver, his power, his vision, his burst, it’s all there. Although defense is on everyone’s mind, an elite running back paired with Aaron Rodgers makes this team virtually unstoppable.
Christian Kirk, WR, Texas A&M
5’11, 200 pounds
Another offensive weapon, Kirk is cut from the Golden Tate, Tavon Austin mold. Although that might immediately turn some people off, he is a unique talent that, once the ball is in his hands, is a lethal weapon. He’s the kind of player that needs to find the right team that knows how to use him. A team like the Packers.
Another added benefit of the Kirk type receiver, is the boost they bring to the special teams unit. A guy that is good in space, Kirk can play in kick and punt returns and would immediately put players like Jeff Janis and Trevor Davis on notice.
Kirk is seen by some to have rather elite level measurables and is thought to be one of the best wide receivers the SEC has seen in several years. All that to say, he isn’t seen as a 1 dimensional player.
But for those of you still turned off by my Tavon Austin comparison, perhaps his nickname of “Baby Beckham” is more to your liking. Or maybe you can just check out these sweet sweet highlights.
Ultimately this list assumes the worst for the Packers 2017 season. If Brett Hundley is able to keep the ship afloat and drag this broken and bruised team through the regular season, this article was for nothing.
With that said, if things go horribly wrong, I want this article to be your comfort. The Packers may lose the battle (2017 season), but the war is far from over.