Predicting the Packers Draft: Outside Linebackers

We’ve well documented that the Packers have a problem with their pass rushers. Specifically, they don’t have enough of them.

Even with Nick Perry back in the fold, the Packers could use some more players capable of getting after the quarterback.

The problem? It’s very hard to find the right kind of athlete to do that.

What do the Packers look for in the draft at outside linebacker?

Although “EDGE” is the preferred nomenclature for pass rushing outside linebackers in today’s draft parlance, the NFL Combine still refers to these players as outside linebackers, so that’s what we’ll go with.

In Green Bay, these types of players tend to be a little smaller and a little faster than the league average. The Packers also prefer their outside linebackers to perform well in the 20-yard shuttle.

What’s the best round to draft an outside linebacker?

Draft analyst Justis Mosqueda says that outside linebackers (specifically edge rushers) are the defensive equivalent of quarterbacks.

Their performance shows why. If you need one, get him in the first round or you’re going to have a bad time.

2016 Pro Football Focus grades by round selected - OLB

What rounds have the Packers drafted outside linebackers?

Highest pick: Clay Matthews, 2009
Matthews was the result of one of Ted Thompson’s rarest moves: trading back into the first round to snag Matthews 26th overall.

Biggest disappointment: Carl Bradford, 2014
An undersized wrecking ball in college, Bradford never gained much traction in the NFL. He switched from outside linebacker to inside linebacker to unemployed linebacker over his three years with the Packers.

Best value: Clay Matthews, 2009
It was expensive to trade up to select Matthews, but he’s been worth every penny. He’s been a bit injury plagued over the last few seasons, but the balance of his career has been excellent.

Who might the Packers draft at outside linebacker?

The question on pass rushers is whether or not they’ll be available. Many prospects fit what the Packers are looking for, but could be off the board before they get a chance to pick in the first round. Takkarist McKinley is a little bit undersized at 6-2 and 250 pounds, but T.J. Watt is right in line with what the Packers like from pass rushers.

Near the middle of the draft, there’s still plenty of value to be had, but two names jump out: Vince Biegel of Wisconsin and Alex Anzalone of Florida. People have made a lot of to-do about T.J. Watt having similar measurables to Clay Matthews, but both Biegel and Anzalone are actually closer. In fact, they’re significantly closer than Watt.

The Packers like pass rushing types late in the draft and in undrafted free agency because they’re great on special teams. Think Jayrone Elliott and Andy Mulumba, for starters. Dylan Donahue of West Georgia fits into that kind of mold.

High-end

  • Haason Reddick - Temple
  • Zach Cunningham - Vanderbilt
  • Takkarist McKinley - UCLA
  • Tyus Bowser - Houston
  • T.J. Watt - Wisconsin

Mid-round

  • Vince Biegel - Wisconsin
  • Carroll Phillipps - Illinois
  • Alex Anzalone - Florida

Late-round/undrafted

  • Dylan Donahue - West Georgia
  • Pita Taumoepenu - Utah