Trying to predict what general manager Ted Thompson might do with the 29th pick in the first round will be a lot easier after pick No. 28 is announced later tonight than it is right now. But that’s not going to stop me from giving it a shot.
OK, I’ll start by removing the players who will likely be off the board. They are: quarterbacks Patrick Mahomes, Mitchell Trubisky and DeShawn Watson, running backs Dalvin Cook, Leonard Fournette and Christian McCaffrey, offensive linemen Garrett Boles, Forrest Lamp and Ryan Ramsyzk, wide receivers Corey Davis, John Ross and Mike Williams, tight ends O.J. Howard and David Njoku, defensive linemen Jonathan Allen, Derek Barnett, Myles Garrett and Solomon Thomas, linebackers Jarrad Davis, Reuben Foster, Charles Harris, Takkarist McKinley and Haason Reddick, cornerbacks Marlon Humphrey, Kevin King, Mashon Lattimore and safeties Jamal Adams and Malik Hooker.
That leaves the following players as realistic possibilities for the Packers at No. 29: linebackers Taco Charlton, Zach Cunningham, T.J. Watt and Jordan Willis, cornerbacks Chidobe Awuzie, Gareon Conley, Tre’Davious White and Quincy Wilson and safety Jabrill Peppers.
Thompson has never selected a player in the first round who didn’t play for a school from the ACC, Big 10, Pac 12 or SEC, so let’s eliminate Willis (Kansas State). As for the talented Conley, if he’s still around it’s only because teams are scared to death of his alleged sexual assault. Let’s also say goodbye to Cunningham since Thompson hasn’t drafted an inside linebacker prior to round 4 in over a decade. And while Wilson’s size is appealing, does Thompson really want to add another corner with suspect speed to an already painfully slow secondary? I doubt it.
And then there were five – Awuzie, Charlton, Peppers, Watt and White. Thompson called jack-of-all-trades defensive back Micah Hyde one of his all-time favorites, and both Awuzie and Peppers are much more talented versions of the former Packer and current Bill. Charlton is another versatile player, who just happens to be my favorite of the quintet. But at the end of the day, I think the pick is either going to be a pure corner or a pure outside linebacker.
So now we’re down to Watt and White. While Thompson has drafted only one Badger in 12 years on the job, Watt seems like his perfect linebacker. He’s ascending, tough and gives 100% on every play. If it weren’t for a pair of knee surgeries, he’d be Ted’s wet dream. White doesn’t have great size or speed, but his tape is outstanding. The fact that he can line up either outside or in the slot and return punts is also a major plus.
So who’s the pick? It’s a very tough choice, but I’m going with White. Maybe that’s only because I like him a lot more than Watt, but I also happen to think corner is the bigger need. Plus, there should be a number of intriguing edge rushers available on day 2. Of course, if any of the game-changing offensive players (Cook or Ross) unexpectedly fall to 29, forget everything you just spent the past few minutes reading. Oh, the fun of doing a mock draft.