Green Bay Packers Get Kenny Clark Help in Todd McShay’s Mock Draft

Oct 5, 2019; Stanford, CA, USA; Washington Huskies defensive lineman Levi Onwuzurike (95) tackles Stanford Cardinal running back Dorian Maddox (28) during the third quarter at Stanford Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Darren Yamashita-USA TODAY Sports
Oct 5, 2019; Stanford, CA, USA; Washington Huskies defensive lineman Levi Onwuzurike (95) tackles Stanford Cardinal running back Dorian Maddox (28) during the third quarter at Stanford Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Darren Yamashita-USA TODAY Sports /

Is this the year that the Green Bay Packers get Kenny Clark some additional help inside? While wide receiver drew a lot of attention last offseason after the Packers didn’t address it in the draft, I was equally shocked that they went into 2020 with essentially the same interior defensive line group from the year before.

However, this offseason, they can’t ignore the position again. As I said, Clark still needs more consistent help, not to mention that this group is lacking some serious depth at the moment.

Dean Lowry could be a player who benefits from seeing his snap count reduced, and while Kingsley Keke took a step forward in Year 2, we still don’t know if he can maintain that level of effectiveness playing 65 percent of the defensive snaps for a season. And after those two and Clark, Willington Previlon, and Anthony Rush are the only other options.

Improved play along the interior is going to take some of the burden off Clark, but it’s also going to help the run game, the linebackers, as well as the edge-rushers.

As we look ahead to the draft, this isn’t exactly a great year to be needing to address the interior defensive line. In fact, several draft analysts have called this position group the worst in this year’s class. For this reason, I think the Green Bay Packers should try to land a veteran in free agency so they don’t enter the draft thinking that they have to find an interior defensive lineman–especially in a weaker class.

But while many mock drafts up to this point have the Green Bay Packers taking a wide receiver or a linebacker at pick 29, in Todd McShay’s most recent mock draft ($), he has them addressing that big need along the interior defensive line with Levi Onwuzurike from Washington.

Here is what McShay had to say about the selection:

"“Sure, Green Bay could look at receivers Elijah Moore (Ole Miss) or Rashod Bateman (Minnesota), or even Clemson running back Travis Etienne if it were to lose Aaron Jones to the open market. But the Packers have continued to look elsewhere in Round 1 during the Aaron Rodgers era, which suggests they might do so again. And lining up Onwuzurike (another opt-out) next to Kenny Clark on that defensive line forms a problem for opponents.”"

Onwuzurike opted-out of the 2020 season but was a full-time starter in 2019 with the Huskies and appeared in 14 games during the 2018 season. That first season, the 6’3″ – 293 pound Onwuzurike recorded 26 pressures, three of which were sacks, along with 29 tackles and 16 run-stops–or run plays that constitute a “loss” for the offense.

Additionally, his Pro Football Focus ($) grade of 90.8 was the eighth-highest among all eligible interior defensive lineman that season. Although grades aren’t everything, they can help illustrate who is playing well and who isn’t. This shows just how good Onwuzurike was in 2018.

More recently, in 2019, Onwuzurike saw his pressure total jump to 31 with four sacks. He also tallied 44 tackles and 24 run-stops–which were the 15th most among the interior defensive line, and his run-stop percentage — an efficiency metric — ranked 12th.

Once again, he ranked very well by PFF, with an overall defensive grade of 82.5, which ranked 23rd that season.

For a closer look at what Onwuzurike has to offer the Green Bay Packers, Drae Harris of The Draft Network had this to say about his game in his final draft profile:

"“Levi Onwuzurike aligns as an interior defensive line prospect. He has excellent overall athleticism and demonstrates good body quickness as a pass rusher. The way he plays with exceptional leverage helps him to excel as a run defender. As a result, he is extremely difficult to single block. He is disciplined with his technique to maintain gap control. He demonstrates the toughness and emotional endurance to play in the trenches every snap.”"

There are two things that stand out in Harris’ evaluation of Onwuzurike; the first is what he brings to the table as a run-defender. And the second is that he is “extremely difficult to single block.” As I alluded to initially, any extra attention that is off of Clark is going to be a very good thing for the rest of this Green Bay Packers’ defense.

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In his short tenure as GM of the Packers, Brian Gutekunst has surprised us several times already, but whether it be in free agency or in the draft, I’m not sure how he could go another offseason without addressing the interior defensive line. And because this year’s class is so thin, perhaps that leads to the Packers trying to land someone like Onwuzurike early on.