Much has changed over the past few months since my last Packers mock draft. Green Bay has some key free agents this offseason. In this mock, I have the team re-signing running back Eddie Lacy and moving Ty Montgomery permanently to running back from wide receiver. I also have a hard time seeing Green Bay retaining Sam Shields. He is not a free agent, but he has never played a full 16 games and has only played at least 14 games twice in seven seasons. The 29-year-old suffered his fourth concussion in six years and has only played in one game this season, while being paid more than $8 million. Needless to say, cornerback is the biggest need, especially after watching the team struggle so much stopping the pass this season without the former Miami Hurricane.
Round 1: Marshon Lattimore, CB, Ohio State
This one is tricky. Any number of cornerbacks could go in this spot and I think Green Bay will take one of the top corners who is left. In this case, I will have Lattimore go in this spot in the late first. Shields will not be back and Lattimore will step in and play right away. The Packers nickel corner at this point is LaDarius Gunter. While Gunter has tried to hold his own against some of the league’s star receivers, he just does not have that capability. However, I do think he has a place in the league, but as a No. 4 or 5 cornerback. I would also keep recently signed Bene Benwikere to go along with 2015 draft picks Damarious Randall and Quinten Rollins. He has good size at cornerback and has very good speed. One of the knocks on Lattimore is his health. The third-year sophomore played in only seven games his freshman season due to hamstring injuries. He was fully healthy this year and picked off four passes, including returning one for a touchdown, and having 13 passes defensed. Other possibilities here are cornerbacks Sidney Jones, fellow Ohio State cornerback Gareon Conley, Alabama cornerback Marlon Humphrey and Auburn outside linebacker Carl Lawson.
Round 2: T.J. Watt, OLB, Wisconsin
I have seen Watt go late in the first round and I have seen him go in the late second. There is a good chance he will not be here late in the second round, but I am hoping so. Both Nick Perry and Datone Jones are free agents and I believe Green Bay will re-sign one, but not both. Perry had a very good year, registering a team-leading 11 sacks. Jones has been a massive bust so far, having fewer sacks in his career than Perry had this year alone. I think Perry will be back, but there is little chance Jones returns. Green Bay drafted Kyler Fackrell last year, and he has been productive in limited opportunities this year. Clay Matthews has struggled the last two years, so next year could be a make-or-break year for him. Matthews has a combined 11.5 sacks and is being paid more than $8 million in base salary in 2016. Watt led the Big Ten in sacks, as well as is solid against the run. Other possible draft picks could be Iowa safety Desmond King, Eastern Washington wide receiver Cooper Kupp and Illinois outside linebacker Carroll Phillips.
Round 3: Jake Butt, TE, Michigan
Apparently I believe the Packers love the Big Ten, with the first three picks coming from that conference. Jared Cook is a free agent this offseason, but I would like for the team to bring him back on a two-year deal or so. Butt was going to be a first or second round pick heading into the Orange Bowl, but he tore his ACL in Michigan’s loss to Florida State. Any team that drafts him will be without him for most, if not all of 2017. Even if he does come back late in 2017, he will not be close to full strength. If Green Bay signs Cook for a few years, it will let Butt come along slowly and then take over when Cook leaves after his next deal ends. Richard Rodgers is decent, but will never be a No. 1 tight end.
Round 4: Travis Rudolph, WR, Florida State
If Montgomery moves to running back full-time in 2017, Green Bay will need a wide receiver in the draft. However, the position isn’t the urgent need it was earlier in the season when the passing game was struggling, especially with the emergence of Geronimo Allison. However, Rudolph could be an upgrade over either Jeff Janis or Trevor Davis. The latter has been in the doghouse ever since he muffed a punt in Tennessee and the former does his best work as a gunner on punt coverage. Rudolph had a bit of a disappointing season this season, having only 840 yards receiving and seven touchdowns. He has the chance to be a very good wide receiver and could be a steal in round four.
Round 5: Ethan Cooper, OG, IUP
Green Bay has three offensive linemen who are free agents, including T.J. Lang. I think Lang will be priority No. 1 in this offseason. He is having the best year of his career and Aaron Rodgers needs some continuity on the offensive line. If he is re-signed, there is a good chance J.C. Tretter will leave via free agency, so Cooper will help the Packers with depth.
Round 6: Tyree Robinson, S, Oregon
Micah Hyde is a free agent this offseason, and while I would like to keep him around, I would not be surprised if he gets paid more this offseason than the Packers can offer. If he re-signed, I don’t think Green Bay takes a safety, except for maybe King in round two. Robinson was the rock of the Oregon secondary and would have a chance to make the roster.
Round 7: Chad Kelly, QB, Mississippi
When Ron Wolf was the General Manager, he would like to take a quarterback in the later rounds every draft and stash them on the roster and then would trade them for a higher draft pick when they progress. Green Bay would be wise to do that again. That quarterback could be Joe Callahan, who was signed as an undrafted free agent and looked solid in the preseason. Kelly could be that guy, too. Mike McCarthy would just have to watch him to make sure he does not continue to DM porn stars on Twitter.