Green Bay Packers: C.J. Mosley

Packers offseason wrap-up

May, 22, 2014
May 22
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With free agency and the draft in the rearview mirror and training camp just a couple months away, we assess the Green Bay Packers' offseason moves.

[+] EnlargeDom Capers
Jeff Hanisch/USA TODAY SportsDespite the Packers' defense ranking in the bottom third of the league at the end of the 2013 season, the team has decided to keep coordinator Dom Capers.
Best move: Sometimes, the best moves are ones that do not get made. In this case, not firing defensive coordinator Dom Capers, whose defense collapsed late last season, could prove to be the best thing the Packers did this offseason. Instead, he and coach Mike McCarthy spent several months examining every aspect of the Packers' scheme and personnel and made some changes that could turn out to be successful. They made a commitment to becoming more multiple rather than just playing base on first down, nickel on second down and dime on third down as they did so often last season. McCarthy said he and Capers have installed safeguards that will allow them to vary their defensive packages even if injuries hit as they did last season. That's a far better plan than junking everything Capers built over the past five years and starting over.

Riskiest move: Again, this is something the Packers did not do -- upgrade their inside linebackers. To be fair, the two players in the draft best suited to do that -- Ohio State's Ryan Shazier and Alabama's C.J. Mosley -- were gone by the time the Packers picked at No. 21 in the first round. Last year, the Packers stood pat at the safety position and hoped that they'd find a player among the returning group of M.D. Jennings, Jerron McMillian and Sean Richardson. It never happened, and the defense suffered because of it. Unless Jamari Lattimore or Sam Barrington made a big jump, it looks as though the Packers are going to stick with A.J. Hawk and Brad Jones on the inside.

Most surprising move: You can count on two things from general manager Ted Thompson -- he does not sign flashy, expensive free agents and he will always wheel and deal on draft weekend, usually to acquire more picks. Not anymore. Two months after Thompson wrote a check for a $7.5 million signing bonus to bring in pass-rusher Julius Peppers, he stood pat and used all nine of his original selections during the draft.

Most underrated move: For a team beset by injuries three of the past four seasons, perhaps the most important thing the Packers did this offseason was enter into an agreement with the tech firm Catapult Sports, which helps teams to compile data on athletic exertion as it relates to fatigue/preventable injuries. More than a dozen NFL teams are using Catapult or a similar GPS-based system to monitor players during practice.
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GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Ted Thompson ignored the safety position last year.

He did not make the same mistake again.

A year after the Green Bay Packers general manager watched 22 safeties come off the board in the draft without making a move at the position, Thompson let only one go by before he pounced on Alabama's Ha Ha Clinton-Dix at No. 21 in Thursday's first round.

In all, there were four safeties taken in the first round and Thompson had his choice of all but Louisville's Calvin Pryor, who went three picks earlier to the New York Jets.

In taking Clinton-Dix, the 6-foot-1 3/8 junior entrant, Thompson passed on Washington State's Deone Bucannon (who went 27th to the Arizona Cardinals) and Northern Illinois' Jimmie Ward (who went 30th to the San Francisco 49ers).

[+] EnlargeHa Ha Clinton-Dix
AP Photo/Butch DillThe addition of Ha Ha Clinton-Dix is sure to boost a Packers safety spot that didn't record an interception last season.
After watching three of their likely defensive targets -- Pryor and inside linebackers Ryan Shazier and C.J. Mosley -- get snatched up, nerves had to be high in the Packers' draft room. Had Clinton-Dix not been there, perhaps Thompson would have gone in a different direction -- another position or a trade down. Or maybe he would have taken one of the other safeties.

Instead, he did not have to change his strategy or make a reach pick.

He handed defensive coordinator Dom Capers and safeties coach Darren Perry the chance to make up for the ills of last season, when the Packers were the only NFL team that did not get a single interception from the safety position.

"We have to be better," Perry said shortly after the Packers made their pick. "We weren't good enough, and that starts right here with me. That starts with our coaching staff, and we recognize that. We don't shy away from that. It's going to be a great challenge, and we will be better, no question in my mind. I'm looking forward to it."

Clinton-Dix should make Perry's job easier. He combined to intercept seven passes in his final two seasons at Alabama, including five as a sophomore when he played more free safety. As a junior, he played a more versatile role that included some strong safety.

"I think he's a real all-purpose kind of safety," Thompson said. "He's shown an ability to cover down in the slot. He's good in [run] support, a physical player. Also can play well in the back end."

The Packers now can move Morgan Burnett, who played mostly strong safety last year, to free safety if they were so inclined. When the Packers drafted Burnett in the third round of the 2010 draft, they raved about his ball skills, having picked off 14 passes in three seasons at Georgia Tech. Burnett has six interceptions in four NFL seasons, but none of them came last year.

"Morgan, he was kind of forced into that role as a strong safety," Perry said. "But I think Morgan has the ability to play both, both of these guys [can], along with the other guys that we have back there. I think the competition is going to be great."
videoGREEN BAY, Wis. – The Pick: Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, S, Alabama.

My take: How long have we been saying the Packers needed to find their next big-play safety? At least since the end of last season, if not earlier. The only NFL team that did not get a single interception from a safety in 2013, the Packers have finally made a move to replace Nick Collins, who hasn't played since his Packers career ended with his neck injury in Week 2 of the 2011 season. Clinton-Dix led Alabama with seven interceptions since the start of the 2012 season, five of which came two seasons ago. Of the four defensive prospects the Packers seemingly had their eye on, Clinton-Dix was the only one available, having watched Louisville safety Calvin Pryor of Louisville go three picks earlier to the New York Jets. Both inside linebackers the Packers might have been interested in -- Ohio State's Ryan Shazier and Alabama's C.J. Mosley -- also were gone. Shazier, who the Packers might have preferred, went No. 15 to the Pittsburgh Steelers, while Mosley went two picks later to the Baltimore Ravens. But at least they weren't left without any of their top defensive choices.

What of Micah Hyde's move to safety?: Throughout the offseason, coach Mike McCarthy has talked about getting Hyde on the field more this season. That has included the possibility that the second-year defensive back would play some safety. Last season, he played almost exclusively in a slot cornerback position in the nickel and dime packages. Casey Hayward is expected to come back from the hamstring injury that limited him to only three games last season and likely will return to his role as the nickel cornerback.

What’s next: The Packers have three picks on Friday -- Nos. 53 (second round), 85 (third round) and 98 (third round) -- and likely will be looking at inside linebacker, receiver and tight end.
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- After months and months of mock drafts and revised mock drafts and re-revised mock drafts, there is no more time to waffle.

Mosley
Shazier
So what does that mean for the Green Bay Packers if they stay at No. 21 in the first round of the NFL draft?

Let's take a look at what several local and national NFL writers and analysts see for the Packers (with links to their full first-round mock drafts):

Rob Demovsky, ESPN.com
  • Player: Justin Gilbert, CB, Oklahoma State
  • My take: With Eric Ebron, C.J. Mosley, Ryan Shazier, Odell Beckham Jr. and the top-two safeties off the board in our NFL Nation mock draft, a move back was intriguing. Even though the Packers re-signed Sam Shields, cornerback will be a need down the road with Tramon Williams getting up there in age, and Gilbert is too highly rated to pass up.
  • Note: With all due respect to my NFL Nation colleagues, I'm not sure I see the first 20 picks playing out the way it did in our draft, which was unveiled on Tuesday. I find it highly unlikely that all of those players I mentioned will be gone by the time the Packers pick. Given the opportunity to do the entire first round on my own, I believe there is a good chance at least one of those previously drafted players will be available. In that scenario, I think it would come down to Mosley or Shazier. On the contrary, I do not believe Gilbert will be available to the Packers at No. 21 as he was in our mock.
Mel Kiper Jr., ESPN Insider
  • Player: C.J. Mosley, LB, Alabama
  • Kiper Jr.'s take: I've had Mosley in this spot before, and it makes a lot of sense both as a value -- he's a top-15 player for me -- and also from the standpoint that he fills an obvious talent void at linebacker. He can line up next to A.J. Hawk and not only help the run defense, but also give the Packers a very good cover linebacker. The question for Mosley has been whether he can stay healthy, but he has stayed on the field and could be a pretty big steal at this point.
Todd McShay, ESPN Insider
  • Player: Marqise Lee, WR, USC
  • McShay's take: I would never put Lee here, as I think safety is a much bigger need (and the No. 1 safety on our board, Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, is still available in this scenario) and there are probably four or five other positions that are bigger need areas for them than wide receiver. But I've heard that Lee won't get past the No. 21 pick, and he does make some sense in that they could get QB Aaron Rodgers another weapon -- and Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb's contracts are both up after this season. Clinton-Dix is probably the more logical choice, but we'll roll the dice on Lee based on what we're hearing.
Bob McGinn, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
  • Player: C.J. Mosley, LB, Alabama
  • McGinn's take: The Packers need a safety but can't pass on Mosley, who would make it this far only if teams have reservations about his injury history. GM Ted Thompson seeks a safety (does he trade up?) a bit later.
Pete Dougherty, Green Bay Press-Gazette
  • Player: Ryan Shazier, LB, Ohio State
  • Dougherty's take: Packers need dynamic every-down player for heart of ‘D’.
Bill Huber, Packer Report
  • Player: Ryan Shazier, LB, Ohio State
  • Huber's take: Is he an inside linebacker? An outside linebacker? Why, yes, he is. If he's available, Ohio State's Ryan Shazier figures to be the Packers' selection as a potential three-down, game-changing weapon. However, will Shazier be available when Green Bay is on the clock at No. 21?
Paul Imig, FoxSportsWisconsin.com
  • Player: Ryan Shazier, LB, Ohio State
  • Imig's take: There is more depth in this draft at safety than there is at inside linebacker, giving the Packers an opportunity to perhaps land a quality safety such as Jimmie Ward or Deone Bucannon with their second-round pick. If Green Bay somehow walks away with Shazier and either Ward or Bucannon in the first two rounds, it will be a draft-weekend victory for Thompson.
Don Banks, Sports Illustrated
  • Player: C.J. Mosley, LB, Alabama
  • Banks' take: This time around we don't foresee the Packers getting the safety they covet, because the highly regarded Clinton-Dix and Pryor went in the upper half of the round. But Mosley is a talented and productive three-down linebacker that Green Bay defensive coordinator Dom Capers could make good use of. With Mosley and Julius Peppers both joining forces with Clay Matthews, the Packers' linebacking unit would look significantly improved in 2014.
Peter King, TheMMQB
  • Player: C.J. Mosley, LB, Alabama
  • King's take: I wanted to put Ryan Shazier here, and that could well be Ted Thompson's pick. But the Packers have to like Mosley’s nose for the ball, and Green Bay's need at inside linebacker is big. This is a logical pick, and Thompson's a logical man.
Pat Kirwin, CBS Sports
  • Player: Ryan Shazier, LB, Ohio State
  • Kirwin's take: Shazier can do it all. He's fast, can drop in coverage, he can rush the passer and his 258 tackles in 39 games speaks for itself. Nine forced fumbles is just another indicator he's around the ball.
Pete Prisco, CBS Sports
  • Player: Ryan Shazier, LB, Ohio State
  • Prisco's take: They have to get faster and he plays faster than C.J. Mosley.
Daniel Jeremiah, NFL.com
  • Player: Austin Seferian-Jenkins, TE, Washington
  • Jeremiah's take: Seferian-Jenkins would provide Aaron Rodgers with an enormous red-zone target.
Mike Mayock, NFL.com
  • Player: Ryan Shazier, LB, Ohio State
  • Mayock's take: Shazier is a linebacker made for today's NFL. He has 4.38 speed at 237 pounds and can play inside in the base and all over the place in sub-packages. He'll be an immediate playmaker.
Ourlands’ Scouting Service
  • Player: Darqueze Dennard, CB, Michigan State
  • Ourlads' take: Darqueze is a plugin and play man-to-man defender. He is a physical corner in coverage and on run support. Reroutes receivers and keeps position on them. Has a closing burst when called on to blitz. An aggressive wrap tackler who is smart and instinctive.
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Let's get this out of the way from the top: We know Green Bay Packers general manager Ted Thompson does not draft for need -- or so he says.

But in the months leading up to this week's draft, Thompson and his scouts have spent hundreds of hours not only discussing the prospects who will be available to them but also their current roster and its strengths and weaknesses.

With that in mind, let's break the 12 position groups that make up the roster into four parts based on the following categories of draft needs.

We will define them this way:

Part 1: Negligible -- positions where there is little or no need.

Part 2: Non-essential -- positions where there is a need but it is not paramount to fill.

Part 3: Secondary -- positions where there is a need but not at the critical level.

Part 4: Pressing -- positions where it is imperative that help be found.

On Monday, we looked at the negligible needs, Nos. 10-12. On Tuesday, it was the non-essential needs, Nos. 7-9. On Wednesday, it was the secondary needs, Nos. 4-6.

Finally, the pressing needs.

1. Safety: The Packers thought so little of their 16-game starter at free safety last season, M.D. Jennings, that they did not even offer him a restricted free agent tender, and he signed a one-year, minimum deal with the Bears. Coach Mike McCarthy has said he plans to use Micah Hyde, who played a slot cornerback position last season, at safety this season. But it remains unclear whether that's enough to ignore this position in the draft for a second straight season. The Packers remain committed to strong safety Morgan Burnett, who signed a four-year, $24.75 million contract last July, but his play must improve. There are two sure-fire first-round safeties -- Alabama's Ha Ha Clinton-Dix and Louisville's Calvin Pryor -- but both could be gone by the time the Packers pick at No. 21.

Possible players of interest: Jimmie Ward, Northern Illinois; Terrence Brooks, Florida State; Deone Bucannon, Washington State; Brock Vereen, Minnesota.

2. Inside linebacker: A.J. Hawk is coming off perhaps his best season, and the coaches love his durability and leadership. However, the other spot, occupied most of last season by Brad Jones, could be up for grabs even if they don't draft a possible starter. Jamari Lattimore and Sam Barrington could get a look there. But the Packers could use some speed up the middle of their defense, a weakness that was exposed again in the playoffs by San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick.

Possible players of interest: C.J. Mosley, Alabama; Ryan Shazier, Ohio State; Chris Borland, Wisconsin; Preston Brown, Louisville.

3. Tight end: The highest-paid tight end on the roster is Andrew Quarless, who signed a two-year, $3 million contract this offseason. That's hardly starter money anymore. The coaches have high hopes for Brandon Bostick, but he remains a bit of a project. Jermichael Finley is still unsigned, having so far failed to get clearance to return from his neck injury. That still could come, but the Packers probably can't afford to sit around and wait. They'd love a crack at the top tight end, North Carolina’s Eric Ebron, but he almost certainly will be gone by the time they pick.

Possible players of interest: Austin Seferian-Jenkins, Washington; Jace Amaro, Texas Tech; Troy Niklas, Notre Dame; C.J. Fiedorowicz, Iowa.
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- One by one, many of the players the Green Bay Packers likely covet in the first round of this year's draft came off the board in our NFL Nation mock draft on Tuesday.

The top-two safeties -- Alabama's Ha Ha Clinton-Dix and Louisville's Calvin Pryor -- were both gone, taken by NFC North teams no less.

The top-two inside linebackers -- Alabama's C.J. Mosley and Ohio State's Ryan Shazier -- were both gone, with Shazier lasting until the pick right before the Packers.

The top tight end -- North Carolina's Eric Ebron -- was long gone.

Four receivers also were gone.

If that happens on Thursday when things are for real, who knows what Packers general manager Ted Thompson will do?

After fielding two trade offers -- including one from a quarterback-needy team within the division and one from a familiar NFC team that is a possible postseason opponent -- I decided to stick at No. 21 and make the pick.

The primary reason was that Oklahoma State cornerback Justin Gilbert was still available even though cornerback is not among the Packers' top needs, although it could be in 2015 if Tramon Williams, who is in the last year of his contract, is done and if Micah Hyde's move to safety becomes full time.

Gilbert also has kick return ability. He had six career kickoff returns for touchdowns in four seasons at Oklahoma State, and the Packers have a need at the return spot.

ESPN draft analyst Todd McShay, in his latest mock draft, has Gilbert moving up the board more than any other player, having jumped from No. 22 to No. 11 in the last week.

Picking at No. 21 is a tough spot, especially if things unfold anywhere near how they did in Tuesday’s mock. As one NFL scout said on Tuesday when presented with the Packers' scenario in the ESPN NFL Nation mock, there are probably only 17 or 18 real first-round picks, and Gilbert is one of them.
Each week, I will ask for questions via Twitter with the hashtag #PackersMail and then will deliver the answers over the weekend.

 
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- The last time the Green Bay Packers had four picks in the first 100 selections of the NFL draft, they came away with two quality starters and two players who never made an impact.

That was 2008, when they drafted receiver Jordy Nelson (No. 36 overall), quarterback Brian Brohm (No. 56), cornerback Pat Lee (No. 60) and tight end Jermichael Finley (No. 91).

General manager Ted Thompson will take a similar haul into this year's draft. With the addition of a third-round compensatory pick, the Packers have pick Nos. 21, 53, 85 and 98 in the first three rounds.

"It's good," Thompson said during his pre-draft news conference this week. "If we could, we'd have more. More is better. It gives you better odds. It wouldn't be any different if it were this year or last year or the year before or that sort of thing."

Can Thompson do better in the top 100 than he did in 2008? Nelson and Finley became major contributors while Brohm flamed out and Lee was only a short-term backup.

On Thursday night, ESPN draft analysts Mel Kiper Jr. and Todd McShay went through the top 100, selecting players for teams as if they were in charge of the draft rooms.

For the Packers, they came away with this:
Kiper and McShay alternated picks, so it worked out that McShay made the Packers' first three selections, while Kiper picked their fourth.

Looking at the first round, the top two safeties were both off the board before the No. 21. Kiper had Louisville's Calvin Pryor at No. 14 to the Chicago Bears and Alabama's Ha Ha Clinton-Dix gone two picks later to the Dallas Cowboys.

In picking Mosley, McShay said he had Mosley rated as the 12th-best player on his board and called him a relentless, tough playmaker. What isn't known is how the Packers feel about Mosley from a medical standpoint. There are concerns about a knee injury, which kept him from running at the combine, and other injuries during his college career.

If the Packers don't feel comfortable with Mosley's medical history but still want a linebacker at that spot, they could go with Ohio State's Ryan Shazier. McShay had Shazier at No. 31 to the Denver Broncos.

Nix has been described as a perfect 3-4 nose tackle.

"This is a value pick, as Nix merits late first-round consideration," McShay said. "Between first-rounder C.J. Mosley and Nix, we've now drafted the No. 12 and No. 30 players on my board, respectively, at No. 21 and No. 53."

Vereen and Fiedorowicz would fill clear holes at safety and tight end, respectively. However, waiting until late in the third round to address safety seems a little late considering that might be the Packers' greatest need in this draft.
Each week, I will ask for questions via Twitter with the hashtag #PackersMail and then will deliver the answers over the weekend.

 

Analyzing McShay mock: Packers 

April, 24, 2014
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No one knows for sure who Ted Thompson will pick with the 21st selection in next month's NFL draft. Even the Green Bay Packers general manager himself might not know yet.

But put ESPN draft analyst Todd McShay on the clock, and he's ready to make a pick right now. In his latest mock draft , McShay selected who he would pick if at the controls of all 32 teams.

Analyzing Kiper Mock 4.0: Packers 

April, 17, 2014
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The Green Bay Packers began the process of rebuilding their defense by adding free-agent pass rusher Julius Peppers and re-signing several of their own key players -- B.J. Raji, Sam Shields and Mike Neal among them -- but there's still much to do in next month's draft.

Mel Kiper's fourth 2014 NFL mock draft is out on ESPN Insider today, and his projected first-round pick for the Packers at No. 21 overall should help in that process.


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Each week, I will ask for questions via Twitter with the hashtag #PackersMail and then will deliver the answers over the weekend.

 

Analyzing McShay mock 4.0: Packers 

April, 10, 2014
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The Green Bay Packers' greatest needs would seemingly be on the defensive side of the ball.

Even with the addition of pass-rusher Julius Peppers, they likely need to upgrade a few more spots in order improve on its 25th overall ranking last season. With that in mind, it might come as a surprise that in ESPN draft analyst Todd McShay's latest mock draft , version 4.0, he has the Packers taking offensive players not only with their first-round pick but also with their second.


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GREEN BAY, Wis. -- The addition of the 34-year-old Julius Peppers might be a short-term fix for the Green Bay Packers' defense.

Peppers
But when it comes to next month's NFL draft, the Packers' most significant free-agent signing since Charles Woodson in 2006 allows general manager Ted Thompson more flexibility with his early-round selections.

So says ESPN draft expert Mel Kiper Jr.

"I think it does," Kiper said. "It gives them that hole filler and that pass-rusher that you need."

Even if Peppers is only a one- or two-year player, it gives the Packers the ability to address other areas of need, especially on defense.

"I think safety, tight end, inside linebacker are positions they could address and could end up falling their way and could fill those major needs," Kiper said.

Let's start with safety, a position the Packers have largely ignored over the past year. They're looking for a playmaker to fill a crater-sized hole at free safety. Two players who started at safety last season, M.D. Jennings and Jerron McMillian, aren't even on the roster anymore. The Packers let Jennings walk as a restricted free agent and cut McMillian before last season ended.

Kiper believes one of the consensus top-two safeties in the draft could be available to Thompson when the Packers pick at No. 21.

"You look at Calvin Pryor from Louisville; I don't think [Alabama’s Ha Ha] Clinton-Dix will be there, but Calvin Pryor could and he's a heck of a football player," Kiper said.

While Kiper said he doesn't think the top tight end, Eric Ebron of North Carolina, will be there when the Packers pick, it's possible the top inside linebacker, C.J. Mosley of Alabama, will be there.

"You can make an argument he'll go a little earlier," Kiper said of Mosley. "If Mosley and Pryor are there, those would be two guys that fill areas of need and are good football players."
Each week, I will ask for questions via Twitter with the hashtag #PackersMail and then will deliver the answers over the weekend.

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