When I went over the Green Bay Packers’ 2017 draft class, with few exceptions, most of the 10 players had outstanding athleticism. In fact, as a group, these players were so athletic it figured into my theory that Green Bay draft selections have become a group affair – when Ted Thompson was clearly the guy in charge, the Packers didn’t place as much attention on NFL combine testing.
As I’m getting better acquainted with the new team members, I’m noticing another mini-trend: toughness. Toughness is more than being big, more than being strong – it’s all about hitting the other guy harder than he hits you. Legendary middle linebacker Ray Nitschke was toughness!
Of the 10 draftees, I would rate six as better than average in this regard. Let’s look at these players through this prism.
Josh Jones – Round 2 (61st) – Grade: A
At 6’1” and 220 pounds, Jones is bigger than your average safety. The Packers obviously feel he’s a tough guy, as they immediately projected him as a hybrid safety-linebacker. His 109 tackles in his final year at N.C. State could not have been achieved without aggressiveness and the ability to put people on the ground. His 20 bench press reps further indicates a strong physique.
Scouting Report: “He’s another one that will hit you. He’s a real physical football player… He’s a tremendous athlete and the Packers love cross-training guys, corners and safeties. Here’s another one.”
“Extremely aggressive. Bouncy feet can’t wait to fire downhill and hit something.” (nfl.com)
Montravius Adams – Round 3 (93rd) – Grade: B-
For a guy weighing 304 pounds, 22 bench press reps are not impressive, but at age 21 he might still be developing physically. This defensive tackle looks like a development project.
Scouting Report: “First and foremost, a powerful football player… He doesn’t spend a lot of time wrestling with blockers. He’s a collapser. More of a power-type pass rusher than he is finesse… There’s some dormant talent there and it can be developed.” (anonymous NFL scout)
Vince Biegel – Round 4 (108th) – Grade B
The Badgers’ linebacker has good size, but his 21 bench press reps are below average. Based on his manic and reckless pursuit style, however, I think it compensates for his average strength.
Scouting Report: “He’s a tough, aggressive player with upside as a linebacker or situational pass-rusher in the pros.” (Bleacher Report)
“Biegel is as intense as they come and plays with passion. He’s an effective blitzer who powers through the smallest of creases to arrive in the backfield… His country farm strength is evident at the line of scrimmage.” (scout.com)
DeAngelo Yancey – Round 5 (175th) – Grade: B-
He has good size (6’ 1-5/8”, 220 pounds) and he’s in the 93rd percentile among receivers with 21 bench press reps. Maybe he’ll surprise me, and prove to be adept at breaking tackles and as a blocker. But I doubt he’ll ever get enough playing time for us to find out.
Scouting Report: “At 6-2, 220, Yancey has NFL-ready size, and he looked considerably thicker through the upper body than most receivers at the Packers’ rookie orientation.” (Packers.com)
Kofi Amichia – Round 6 (212th) – Grade: B+
At his pro day, the big offensive lineman recorded 32 bench press reps – a fine number. Amichia could have more potential than your typical sixth-round choice.
Scouting Report: At 6′ 3-5/8″ and 302 pounds, he put up 32 reps on the bench press. He’s up to 308 now… about 15 pounds from what he weighed as a senior… He was a superb pass protector. According to Pro Football Focus, he was the fifth-best pass-protecting tackle in this draft class. (scout.com)
Devante Mays – Round 7 (247th) – Grade: A
At 5’11’ and 230 pounds, his size and running style is reminiscent of Eddie Lacy. We know he has the lower body strength and his 22 bench press reps means he also has fine upper body development.
Scouting Report: “Built like a truck with muscular legs and a powerful, broad chest. Has a 420-pound bench press to his name. Physical runner with a penchant for finishing with a bowed neck and heavy pads. Looks to accelerate through contact and can create additional yardage with his power through contact.” (nfl.com)
Sorry fans, I can’t manage to make any kind of a case that cornerback Kevin King, running backs Jamaal Williams and Aaron Jones, or receiver Malachi Dupre possess more than an average amount of toughness or physicality. But six out of 10 ain’t bad, and probably no more than six or seven of these draftees will likely make the final roster anyway. While I’m very pleased with this year’s draft bounty, I also view three or four of the latter picks as throwaways.
What About the Other New Acquisitions?
Defensively, strong cases can be made that linebacker Jordan Tripp and defensive lineman Ricky Jean Francois will add toughness and ruggedness to the team’s defensive unit. On offense, tight ends Martellus Bennett and Lance Kendricks are also physical players, as is veteran guard Jahri Evans.
Along with other fairly recent additions such as Kentrell Brice, LaDarius Gunter and Aaron Ripkowski, the Packers personnel department seems to be assigning more value to toughness than in the past. I think the Packers learned a valuable lesson with the drafting of Damarious Randall – it appears his reluctance to engage in contact will prove more damaging to his career than any difficulty he has maintaining tight coverage.
It also can hardly be an accident that since 2013 the Packers have acquired these heavyweight running backs: Eddie Lacy, Aaron Ripkowski, Joe Kerridge (the 249-pounder joined the active roster in November) and now Devante Mays.
Following the 2012 season, coach Mike McCarthy was constantly on the defense when questioned about the toughness of his team. In one act, the selection of Eddie Lacy, those concerns were quieted – and for his first two years Lacy’s bruising running style came to personify the Packers’ physicality.
Though Lacy has departed, I think the team’s efforts to add toughness throughout the roster continues to be a point of emphasis for the entire Green Bay front office.