INDIANAPOLIS – The 2016 NFL Scouting Combine is upon us, and Packers.com will be in Indianapolis the rest of this week to provide all Packers-related news.
Media access to draft prospects, coaches and general managers begins on Wednesday and continues through Saturday. Packers GM Ted Thompson and Head Coach Mike McCarthy are scheduled to meet with the media on Thursday.
Packers.com will post daily stories and videos to cover the proceedings while also compiling material for the upcoming Prospect Primer video series, which will begin in March and lead up to the draft in late April.
The Packers’ scouts and coaches will interview dozens of draft prospects over the course of the week, and while those interactions will be confidential, there are certain position groups they’re likely to focus on based on the current state of the roster.
Keeping in mind that the Packers’ roster may change during free agency, which begins in early March, here’s a rundown of the positions on the team’s radar this week.
Outside linebacker: McCarthy stated at season’s end he wants to move Clay Matthews back outside, but Julius Peppers will be entering his 15th season in 2016, while Mike Neal and Nick Perry are pending free agents. The Packers could re-sign one or both, but regardless, the most important position in Dom Capers’ defense will need reinforcements.
Inside linebacker: Moving Matthews back outside full-time will require replacing him on the inside. Jake Ryan and Sam Barrington, who was lost to injury in Week 1 last year, will head into next season as the front-runners at the position, but finding another option with coverage skills would give Capers another key chess piece.
Tight end: The Packers spent a third-round pick on Richard Rodgers two years ago, and with sure hands, an 8.8-yard average per catch, and eight TDs in 2015, he’s proven to be a reliable possession receiver and red-zone threat. Deep seam routes and big plays have been missing from the position, though, and McCarthy mentioned needing big receivers to go over the middle. Andrew Quarless is a pending free agent, and Justin Perillo and Kennard Backman are young, developmental prospects. The Packers have an opening for an immediate impact on offense.
Offensive tackle: The season almost went off the rails with David Bakhtiari’s injury last December, until JC Tretter provided a capable fill-in at left tackle in the wild-card playoff. Tretter is a more natural inside lineman, though, so depth at the tackle spots is a priority.
Defensive line: Mike Daniels and Letroy Guion have been re-signed, but with B.J. Raji a pending free agent, Mike Pennel suspended for the first four games of 2016 and Josh Boyd coming off a season-ending injury, this year is no different than any other in the search for talented big men up front.
Running back: Eddie Lacy has been put on notice for his conditioning, and James Starks is a pending free agent, so there’s a potential role for another prospect to join undrafted John Crockett in the competition. The Packers haven’t drafted a ball-carrier since taking Lacy and Johnathan Franklin two rounds apart in 2013.