Mel Kiper Jr. is right: the Green Bay Packers should address their pass rush in the first round of this year’s NFL draft.
It’s why the ESPN draft analyst has the Packers taking defensive end Marcus Davenport of UT-San Antonio with their first-round pick, No. 14 overall, in his first mock draft of 2018.
The 6-foot-5, 250-pounder who had 21.5 career sacks in college was the second pure pass rusher to come off Kiper’s board. The other, N.C. State’s Bradley Chubb, went No. 3 to the Colts. Kiper also had a linebacker — Virginia Tech’s Tremaine Edmunds, who’s a potential pass rusher — at No. 12 to the Bengals.
Either way, the Packers would be getting one of the top pass rushers in the draft.
But they shouldn’t stop there. Not with how bereft they were of edge rushers this past season. They had only two players with more than five sacks, and none even came close to double digits. Clay Matthews led the team with 7.5, and Nick Perry had 7.
Matthews will turn 32 this offseason and is entering the final season of his contract. He underwent knee surgery already this offseason and missed two games in 2017 because of other injuries.
Perry, who signed a five-year, $60 million deal, couldn’t follow up his career-best season in 2016 (when he had 11 sacks). He reverted to his oft-injured ways, missing four games.
It’s why new general manager Brian Gutekunst might have to go all-in on pass rushers early in the draft, unless he’s able to find at least one impact rusher in free agency. His predecessor, Ted Thompson, ignored the position in free agency last year until he signed Ahmad Brooks (who had 1.5 sacks all season) at the end of the preseason. He waited until the fourth round of the draft to take an edge rusher, Wisconsin outside linebacker Vince Biegel, whose foot surgery last May all but ruined his rookie year.
It wouldn’t be an upset if Gutekunst drafted multiple pass rushers in this draft. He watched his old boss, Thompson, take defensive backs with his first two picks last year (cornerback Kevin King and safety Josh Jones).
For what it’s worth, Kiper had the Packers taking running back Christian McCaffrey a year ago at this time in his first mock draft of 2017. McCaffrey ended up going much higher, at No. 8 overall to Carolina, and Kiper’s mocks will surely change as draft season progresses.
Fellow ESPN draft analyst Todd McShay’s first 2018 mock draft had the Packers taking a pass rusher, Boston College outside linebacker Harold Landry. Kiper had Landry at No. 25 to the Titans in his first mock.