This offseason the Green Bay Packers need to find Kenny Clark some help along the interior defensive line. Here are five draft prospects to know.
Overall we saw the Green Bay Packers’ defensive performance improve in 2019. They went from being ranked 29th by DVOA in 2018, up to 15th this last year. The Packers would also finish tied for seventh in total takeaways and had one of the best red zone defenses in football. Not to mention that thanks largely to Za’Darius Smith and Preston Smith, they pressured the quarterback much more consistently.
However, one area that was a constant issue all season long was with their run defense. Particularly between the tackles.
Green Bay would finish the regular season allowing 120.1 rushing yards per game, which ranked 23rd overall. And truthfully, those final numbers are better than what they were for most of the season after a few solid performances in the final weeks against New York, Chicago, and Minnesota skewed the final stats in their favor.
Of course, the lasting image for many of us is Green Bay’s horrendous performance in the NFC Championship Game where they allowed 285 rushing yards.
While upgrading at inside linebacker will certainly help in this area, Green Bay also needs to find additional help for Kenny Clark. So far Montravius Adams hasn’t progressed as they’d hoped. Meanwhile, Dean Lowry and Tyler Lancaster come with their limitations and if they are your team’s second and third options along the defensive front, as we saw there can be issues.
There are a few options in free agency that include Michael Pierce and Leonard Williams, but it’s also worth pointing out that the Packers don’t have the same spending power that they did a year ago. And with needing to address kicker, tackle, inside linebacker, and wide receiver among other positions, interior defensive line could be left for the draft.
Now having said all of that, the purpose of this article is to take a look at five defensive tackles that the Green Bay Packers could select early on in this year’s draft. Given that top inside linebacker prospects like Kenneth Murray and Patrick Queen could be off the board before the Packers are on the clock, or the fact that this wide receiver class is loaded, the Packers could very well select a defensive lineman in the first or second rounds.
Naturally with it being this early in the draft process, things will inevitably change as these five players move up and down draft boards in the coming month and a few may or may not be available at 30th overall. However, at this stage I don’t like playing the “he won’t be available” game, unless it is obvious, which appears to be the case for Derrick Brown of Auburn.
So with some help from our friends over at The Draft Network, here are five prospects to keep your eyes on as the draft process unfolds.
Neville Gallimore – Oklahoma
We aren’t going to find many more experienced defensive lineman in this draft than Neville Gallimore. Over his career he has appeared in 46 games and totaled 147 tackles, including 17 for a loss, with 8.5 sacks. And according to Pro Football Focus, Gallimore had a pass-rush win rate of 14.7 percent along with 20 defensive stops this past season.
Here is what Kyle Crabbs of The Draft Network had to say about Gallimore in his scouting report:
“Neville Gallimore is a disruptive 1T in a penetration style defensive system. Gallimore isn’t necessarily a huge finisher and hasn’t rolled up huge production in the backfield but make no mistake, his initial quickness, power, hand counters and motor will provide plenty of disruption up front for even front teams looking to collapse the pocket and get opposing quarterbacks on their heels. Gallimore has viable three down ability thanks to his short area agility. An NFL starter.”
Ross Blacklock – TCU
After missing the 2018 season with an achilles injury, we saw Ross Blacklock bounce-back this past year with a very nice Junior campaign. In 12 games, Blacklock would total 40 tackles, 9 of which were for a loss, along with 3.5 sacks. Given his speed and versatility, Blacklock could be a great fit for Mike Pettine and the Green Bay Packers.
Crabbs had this to say about Blacklock’s game:
“Ross Blacklock is a scheme diverse talent who has all the physical tools needed to be a disruptive presence up front on an NFL defensive line. Blacklock’s length, hand power, lateral agility and first step quickness are all plus qualities and once he’s able to polish his pad level/leverage and hand placement, Blacklock will have a chance to be an impact defender. His projection is best as a 3T in an even front, where his athleticism can shine through and allow penetration into the backfield.”
Javon Kinlaw – South Carolina
I’ve seen Javon Kinlaw selected as high as the 15 to 20 range in some recent mock drafts, but as I mentioned above, for the purpose of this exercise we will take a look at what he has to offer.
The last two seasons, Kinlaw really came into his own as he totaled 65 tackles, 15 tackles for loss and 10 sacks. Not to mention that he has consistently been rated as one of Pro Football Focus’ best interior defensive lineman in terms of pass-rushing even though he was often times double-teamed.
Below is Crabbs’ most recent scouting report on Kinlaw:
“Javon Kinlaw projects as a starting defensive tackle at the NFL level. Kinlaw’s build, hand power and linear explosiveness make him an ideal B-gap defender in the NFL, whether that comes as a 3T or as a 5T in odd fronts. Kinlaw’s ability to collapse the POA with his punch is impressive and allows him to transition into a variety of hand counters in order to clear his frame and push for penetration into the pocket. Should be an impact starter in the pros.”
Raekwon Davis – Alabama
Raekwon Davis is another experienced player having appeared in 43 games during his Alabama career. While overall a productive player, something potentially concerning is that his tackles, tackles for loss, and sack numbers have all decreased since 2017. As a result, Davis is considered a second round pick by many. Here is what Crabbs has to say about the Alabama prospect:
“Raekwon Davis is a promising prospect, but one whose development at Alabama has become stagnant over his final two seasons. His best projection to the NFL would be to be featured as a penetration 5T in odd fronts, where he can press the B-gap and avoid being tasked with two-gapping and reading/keying blocks at the point of attack. Davis is more natural when encouraged to penetrate and create havoc with athleticism. Developmental starter.”
Justin Madubuike – Texas A&M
Over his final two seasons at Texas A&M, Justin Madubuike has piled up some big numbers which includes 85 tackles, 22 tackles for a loss, and 11 sacks. At the college level, Madubuike has shown that he has the ability to consistently penetrate and get into the backfield. This is what Crabbs had to say about him in his final scouting report:
“Justin Madubuike projects favorably into numerous defensive fronts. Implemented as a 0-tech NT in rush situations, 3T and also as a base end, there’s versatility here that makes Madubuike an appealing player in a number of different fronts. His explosiveness is best implemented in a penetration role and he shouldn’t be bothered with trying to stack or two-gap blocks for his best results. There’s some polish needed for consistency’s sake but this is a future NFL starter up front.”
Just as I mentioned previously, a lot is going to change between now and draft night. However, considering the draft is still almost three months away, at this point these are a few names to keep your eyes on.