Amidst all of the draftspeak at Packers General Manager Ted Thompson’s draft preview press conference on Thursday, these words rang truest: “Most people that comment on it don’t know anything they’re talking about.”
Be that as it may, and it is, talking about the draft is too much fun to prefer silence. Plus, when has the NFL ever discouraged fans, draftniks or sportswriters from talking about the draft? It’s good for business.
It’s an event built on opinion and speculation, and the experts are often wrong and those that know nothing about the draft are sometimes right. So, with all of that in mind, here are some prospects I like at the bottom of each round.
Round one—Three players intrigue me: Arizona defensive end Brooks Reed, who projects to outside linebacker in a 3-4, and defensive linemen Phil Taylor (pictured) of Baylor and Stephen Paea of Oregon State. Reed is being compared to Clay Matthews but I see Kevin Greene. Either one is a good thing. Taylor is a pure nose tackle; Paea is a perfect 3-4 end.
Round two—LSU’s Drake Nevis could turn out to be the steal of the draft. He’s an explosive, penetrating, one-gap defensive tackle with a big motor and great range. He’s a Warren Sapp-type tackle whose lack of size is pushing him down boards.
Round three—Stefen Wisniewski of Penn State has sensational bloodlines and versatility. He can play guard and center and can also long-snap. He’ll play in the league for 10 years. What’s not to like?
Round four—West Virginia’s Chris Nield is an underrated nose tackle that is on the rise. He’s the kind of hard-working, get-the-most-out-of-your-ability prospect teams seek in the middle rounds of the draft.
Round five—Greg Romeus would’ve been a first-round pick had he declared eligibility for the draft last year. Staying in was a big mistake for the Pitt defensive end. His year began with back surgery and it ended with knee reconstruction. He’s a futures pick but, in a lockout year, most rookies might end up falling into that category. Romeus offers premier, blindside pass-rush ability in the late rounds of this draft.
Round six—Draftnik Tony Pauline describes Notre Dame cornerback Darrin Walls as a “huge sleeper.” Walls was a dependable four-year starter at a bad time in Notre Dame football. He was forced into action in the first game of his college career, against Calvin Johnson, no less, and Walls has been one of the few highlight players on what was a bad Irish defense that switched systems and coordinators.
Round seven—You like upside in the last round? Florida’s Carl Johnson is your guy. He’s not the most mobile guy, but at 6-5, 361, he’s a lot of man and a powerful short-area blocker with the potential to be a lot more than that if he buys into an NFL-caliber conditioning program. Here’s a bonus candidate: Undersized Ohio State linebacker Brian Rolle, who might project to safety in the NFL. Rolle seeks contact and offers the potential to translate well into substitution packages. At the worst, he figures to be an outstanding special teams player.
Undrafted free agency—You’ll have to close your eyes on this one, but if you can get by the character concerns, quarterback Josh Portis possesses a world of talent. The cousin of Clinton Portis, Josh Portis was an all-world prospect coming out of high school in California. He went to Florida, transferred to Maryland and eventually wound up at tiny California (Pa.) State, where he did two things: He dominated on the field and got into trouble off it. At 6-4, 210, Portis is loaded with talent. Can it be harnessed and disciplined? Is it worth the risk?