Bruce Campbell

The Packers could fill a big hole with this cat.

Sure, the NFL Draft isn’t until April 22, but it’s never to early to begin speculating about it, especially since we now know the Green Bay Packers will pick 23rd in the first round.

ESPN released their Draft Watch for pick 23 earlier this week. It contains two lists – the first from Scouts Inc. and the second from draft guru Mel Kiper – focusing on the players ranked in the range the Packers will pick.

The Scouts Inc. list

18. USC safety Taylor Mays
19. North Carolina outside linebacker Bruce Carter
20. Florida inside linebacker Brandon Spikes
21. Florida defensive end Carlos Dunlap
22. California running back Jahvid Best
23. Oklahoma tight end Jermaine Gresham
24. Maryland offensive tackle Bruce Campbell
25. Florida State cornerback Patrick Robinson
26. Notre Dame receiver Golden Tate
27. Iowa offensive tackle Bryan Bulaga
28. Notre Dame quarterback Jimmy Clausen

Mel Kiper’s list (which only goes to 25)

18. Rutgers offensive tackle Anthony Davis
19.
USC safety Taylor Mays
20.
Michigan defensive end Brandon Graham
21.
Texas linebacker Sergio Kindle
22. Oklahoma tight end Jermaine Gresham
23. California running back Jahvid Best
24. Illinois receiver Arrelious Benn
25. Florida State cornerback Patrick Robinson

These lists are swell, but I thought they would be more interesting if they eliminated guys the Packers were unlikely to target. For instance, the Packers are set at tight end with Jermichael Finley and Donald Lee, so the chances that they draft someone like Jermaine Gresham are slim to none.

Here’s what the Scouts Inc. list looks like without those guys.

18. USC safety Taylor Mays
20. Florida inside linebacker Brandon Spikes
21. Florida defensive end Carlos Dunlap
22. California running back Jahvid Best
24. Maryland offensive tackle Bruce Campbell
25. Florida State cornerback Patrick Robinson
27. Iowa offensive tackle Bryan Bulaga

Gone are Bruce Carter, Gresham, Golden Tate and Jimmy Clausen. Although the Packers are likely to look at outside linebackers, Carter was eliminated because of his size. At 223 pounds he’s a little on the small side for a 3-4 outside linebacker. Gresham was eliminated for obvious reasons. Tate was eliminated because even though Donald Driver struggled down the stretch, I would still consider receiver a position of strength for the Packers. Clausen was eliminated simply because the Packers won’t be looking for a starting quarterback for at least 10 years.

Here’s Kiper’s list updated.

18. Rutgers offensive tackle Anthony Davis
19.
USC safety Taylor Mays
21.
Texas linebacker Sergio Kindle
23. California running back Jahvid Best
25. Florida State cornerback Patrick Robinson

Gone are Brandon Graham, Gresham and Arrelious Benn. Graham was eliminated because he’s a 4-3 defensive end and the others for reasons stated above.

The Packers biggest offseason need is tackle. There are three tackles remaining in the pool.

Davis is ranked 18th by Kiper and 14th by Scouts Inc., so we have to assume he’ll be off the board by the time the Packers pick at No. 23. That leaves Campbell and Bulaga.

At 6-6, 312, Campbell is a huge man who is athletic and strong. He’s leaving Maryland as a junior, but he’s had pro prospect written all over him from the day he set foot on campus. His strength is in pass protection, which the Packers surely need to improve upon. While his ceiling is high, Campbell has had injury problems – he missed three games his junior season with a turf toe and knee injury. Does this guy have Justin Harrell written on his forehead?

If he’s available, doesn’t show up overweight at the combine and the Packers feel he’s not injury prone, Campbell could well be the pick.

Otherwise, Bulaga isn’t a bad fall back option.

He’s identical in size to Campbell at 6-6, 312, but might be a better all-around blocker at this point in his career. Bulaga was the Big 10 Offensive Lineman of the Year, despite missing three games with a thyroid condition. He may not be as athletic as Campbell, but he’s fundamentally strong and the type of nasty offensive lineman the Packers seem to like. He’s also coming out as a junior but gets added points for being a Midwest guy – in addition to playing at Iowa, he’s from Illinois.

Either guy would bolster the Packers biggest weakness, but what if neither is available or if they rise up for fall down the board?

Taylor Mays is an intriguing option if he’s available. Mays was widely considered a top five pick had he come out as a junior, but he’s dropped after a solid, if unspectacular senior season at USC. Still, Mays is the kind of hard-hitting playmaker that could step in for Atari Bigby. Mays is solid against the run and can cover, and with Bigby’s injury history, the Packers could be looking for a replacement.

Mays might be a pipe dream, though. Once the combine comes around, something tells me Mays is going to be moving up a lot of draft boards.

If you had your choice, who would you pick?

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