GREEN BAY—Prospects for the Packers’ obvious need at cornerback and inside linebacker, positions at which the Packers will be without three of last year’s starters, are surfacing. Packers.com draft contributor Tony Pauline considers the talent at inside linebacker to be a little deeper than it is at cornerback.
“Better value there,” Pauline said.
Pauline likes UCLA’s Eric Kendricks (pictured) as a prospect late in the first round. The Packers are drafting 30th overall.
“Barely 6-0, 230, but fierce, smart, explosive, sideline-to-sideline defender. Well-rounded linebacker. Only issue is size against big tight ends in coverage,” Pauline said of Kendricks.
Behind Kendricks, Pauline likes Clemson’s Stephone Anthony, one of the stars at this year’s Senior Bowl.
“He was used in the box and up the field at Clemson, but was used outside the numbers at the Senior Bowl,” Pauline said.
Pauline sees Anthony as fitting in the bottom third of round one, but adds there could be a lot of surprises at the bottom of the first round because the talent is thought to fall off in the second half of the round.
In the middle rounds, Pauline likes Ben Heeney of Kansas, a “smallish but explosive, sideline-to-sideline defender” Pauline likens to Kendricks.
Pauline isn’t sure where Denzel Perryman fits. Some teams will love his speed (4.6’s at the combine), while other teams will frown at Perryman’s size (5-10 and short arms).
“He could go late in the first round, but his measurables don’t fit the profile of a first-round pick,” Pauline said.
Another inside linebacker Pauline likes is TCU’s Paul Dawson, whose stock has been dogged by off-the-field concerns. Dawson is on the short side and ran slow at the combine, but “his reaction times are off the charts,” Pauline said.
“The guy I like is Amarlo Herrera of Georgia. He’s a lot like Stephen Boyd from Boston College and the Lions. Fifth, sixth round. Runs 4.8 but plays to a 4.4,” Pauline said.
Cornerback could offer two intriguing prospects in the second half of round one. Marcus Peters is on the rise, following a season that saw him expelled from the Washington program for violation of team rules.
“Lot of football skill. The guy can play. He has good ball skills,” Pauline said.
Wake Forest’s Kevin Johnson is another corner on the rise.
“Kevin Johnson is an underrated guy. Explosive, fast, terrific cover skills, very aggressive. He came into the season as a top 25 senior prospect. He seems to be the forgotten man. He’ll quickly start at the next level. He didn’t go to the Senior Bowl and should have,” Pauline said of Johnson.
“Two sleepers are Eric Rowe of Utah and Byron Jones of UConn. Bottom of round one. (Rowe and Jones) are big and physical. Rowe has the versatility to play corner or safety. People like him because he’s coachable and smart, as well as athletic. Jones had a shoulder injury last year. Teams never threw in his direction. That’s why there’s no film on him. He had a great combine; great ball skills,” Pauline said.
Pauline also likes Oregon’s Ifo Ekpre-Olomu.
“Highly rated coming into the year. He had a knee injury in practice for the semifinal playoff game vs. Florida State. Once he gets healed, he’ll be a very good player at the next level, but he may not be 100 percent this year. Real steal in the middle rounds,” Pauline said.