GREEN BAY – An inside linebacker finally arrived in the fourth round.
The Packers addressed their position of greatest need with their first pick on the final day of the draft on Saturday, taking Michigan’s Jake Ryan with the 129th overall selection.
“His instincts are something that really stand out,” said Eliot Wolf, the Packers’ director of pro personnel. “He can get through traffic and make plays on the outside, penetrate and make plays on the inside run. He’s pretty good in coverage. Kind of an all-around guy who adds really good value to our team.”
Ryan also will come to Green Bay with a chance to play right away at inside linebacker, where the Packers released A.J. Hawk and Brad Jones and let Jamari Lattimore leave in free agency this offseason.
Wolf said Ryan tested better in the speed and agility drills than many anticipated, and the Packers see him as a three-down linebacker, which “can be hard to find,” Wolf said.
There’s a lot to like about Ryan’s intangibles as well. A two-time team captain at Michigan who started 41 career games, he overcame an ACL injury in the spring of 2013 in time to get back on the field for the second half of that season.
Then in 2014, he moved from outside to inside linebacker in Michigan’s defense and became even more productive. In earning first-team All-Big Ten honors, he finished his career tied for second on the Wolverines’ all-time list in forced fumbles (seven) and seventh in tackles for loss (44 ½).
“He’s kind of an underdog,” Wolf said. “I think Michigan was his only BCS offer. He worked his way up from the bottom as a recruit.”
A native of Westlake, Ohio, and a St. Ignatius High alum, Ryan wasn’t bothered by the fact that Ohio State wasn’t interested and wouldn’t change anything about his career, even though Michigan fell on some hard times in recent years.
“It’s funny now, those (recruiting) stars – I think I was 2 ½ stars coming out of high school, and once I committed to Michigan I got three,” Ryan said. “Those stars don’t matter. I wasn’t highly recruited, but I didn’t let that shape how I played.”
His transition from outside to inside linebacker went off without a hitch, too. That speaks to what Wolf called being “a football guy” who can find the ball quickly.
“A lot of film work goes into football,” said Ryan, who quickly got comfortable in the middle of Michigan’s defense. “Knowing what happens before the play, it’s huge.
“Instinctive is a good word to describe how I play.”
Additional draft coverage - Day 3