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NFL Mock Draft 2018: Green Bay Packers pick a cornerback

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With the 14th overall pick in the 2018 Bleeding Green Nation community mock draft, Green Bay Packers GM 89Tremaine selects ...

NCAA Football: Peach Bowl-Auburn vs Central Florida Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

Mike Hughes, CB, UCF

Green Bay’s Dream Scenario

The dream scenario for Green Bay would have been for either Josh Allen and/or an OT to be drafted before they pick so that they could draft one of: Tremaine Edmunds, Denzel Ward or Roquan Smith (in that order). As the draft board has fallen, their pick would have increased value to anyone looking to leapfrog Arizona and get Allen. If this scenario were to play out, I believe that they would look to trade down with Buffalo, San Diego or Pittsburgh to add draft capital or bluff Arizona to give up a fourth and move back one spot.

Given that this is a mock draft where we cannot make trades, Mike Hughes is the selection. It’s possible that he would still be available if the Packers were to trade down. Hughes is a perfect scheme fit for what new defensive coordinator Mike Pettine wants to implement and fits a big need for the Packers. Based on the position rankings by the draftniks, the pick may surprise some and be met with some level of disapproval. What follows is the rationale as to why Hughes is the best player available.

Packers Current Roster and 2017 Ranks

The Packers invested draft capital into the running back position, adding Jamaal Williams and Aaron Jones in 2017 as well as moving Ty Montgomery to full-time running back from receiver. The rushing offence, while not impressive using traditional stats, has been very efficient. When healthy, the offensive line is solid, but could use an infusion of youth and depth, specifically a swing tackle and more interior line talent.

Simply getting Aaron Rodgers back should be enough to improve the Packers poor passing stats from 2017. Adding Jimmy Graham will help in the red zone, though he is the third new pass catching tight end added in the last three years. The cost of adding Graham was the loss of Jordy Nelson who was leading the league in touchdown catches before Rodgers’ injury. Nelson was Rodgers’ favourite target in the scramble drill, but the Packers chose to keep the younger Randall Cobb instead.

Aaron Rodgers’ injury aside, the stats make it evident where the Packers lost games the past two years. The pass defence has been atrocious and is the reason that they made a change at defensive coordinator, moving from Dom Capers to Mike Pettine. Pettine served as defensive coordinator of the Jets under Rex Ryan from 2009-2012 before joining Doug Marrone’s staff in Buffalo in 2013. During his tenure as defensive coordinator, his teams finished in the top 10 each year using both traditional and efficiency measures. His scheme is built around blitzing and press man coverage.

Mike Daniels, Kenny Clark and new signee Muhammad Wilkerson make for a strong starting defensive line. No doubt the hope is that Pettine can bring out the best of Wilkerson as he has experience with him from his time with the Jets. At linebacker, the Packers could use youth and explosiveness behind starters Clay Matthews and Nick Perry. Green Bay had a higher sack rate than the Eagles in 2017, but should look to improve their pressure statistics. The change in scheme should free up rushers to get home more often, though it will also mean a longer learning curve for rookies.

The secondary is clearly the area of focus this offseason as the Packers tried to pry Kyle Fuller from the Chicago Bears. Their offer sheet was matched, and combined with the trade of Damarious Randall, creates a gaping hole at cornerback. Ha Ha Clinton-Dix and Kevin King are two solid players to build around, but more talent is needed. Green Bay also did not retain Morgan Burnett, creating a need at safety.

Mike Pettine’s Defensive Scheme

Like former defensive coordinator Dom Capers, Pettine is known for being primarily a 3-4 base defence. However, unlike his predecessor, Pettine runs multiple fronts including a 4-3 under look, a 5-2 front as well as game-plan specific defence. In his own words, “4-3? 3-4? What are you? And my answer to that is yes to all of the above. We are a multiple-front, attacking, pressure-style defence. We’re going to play man coverage, we’re going to play zone coverage. What we’re going to do defensively is take advantage of what our players do well.”

The key word with Pettine is multiple. It isn’t enough to do one thing well, players need to be able to be multiple so as not to be predictable. This is not the Jim Schwartz wide nine coming out of the same alignment and relying on fundamentals and execution. It is a scheme that brings the best out of players that he can move around like chess pieces to take advantage of matchups.

For this reason, the talent at pass rusher doesn’t fit the draft slot at 14. The two likely targets at this point would be Marcus Davenport or Harold Landry. Davenport is a raw, athletic freak with huge upside, while Landry would start as a situational pass rusher. It’s not that they couldn’t develop into an ideal fit for Pettine’s multiple scheme, but it’s a huge projection and drafting this early, you want to minimize the risk. Quinton Coples was a highly drafted pass rush specialist that never panned out for the Jets because he was a defensive end tasked with transitioning to an outside linebacker. The Jets never had a dominant pass rusher under Pettine, but they had the best secondary in the NFL featuring Darrelle Revis and Antonio Cromartie. With Buffalo, Pettine brought out the best in existing pass rushers Kyle Williams, Jerry Hughes and Mario Williams.

The talent at defensive back better suits the scheme with targets like Mike Hughes, Jaire Alexander, Joshua Jackson and Justin Reid. Of these options, Hughes is the most complete player. He is at his best in press man coverage, can move into the slot and has shown that he can be an effective player in zone. Hughes also has added value in the return game. As such, he represents the best fit for what Pettine will want out of his defensive backs: the ability to play press coverage and be multiple to keep the offence guessing.

Mike Hughes Breakdown

Mike Hughes was a 3-star prospect who played both QB and DB in high school and signed with the North Carolina Tar Heels. He played sparingly in his freshman season and was suspended for an altercation at a frat house. Details as to the incident itself are sparse, but it took the accusers 11 days to press charges, which were eventually dismissed when Hughes agreed to 100 hours of community service. Hughes transferred to Garden City Community College in 2016 where he became Conference Defensive Player of the Year and an NJCAA All American. He played corner, slot corner, running back and returned both kickoffs and punts at Garden City. Hughes was originally slated to sign with South Carolina after a year at Garden City, but the timetable for receiving his associate degree did not match up with the enrollment date.

As a result, he signed with UCF in August 2017, two weeks before the season opener. All he did there was become a starter by week two, helped lead them to an undefeated record and was named first team All Conference. His final stats: 49 tackles, 11 passes defended, 4 interceptions, one of which he returned for a touchdown. He also returned 20 kickoffs for 635 yards (31.8 avg) and two touchdowns. Lastly, he added 233 yards on 14 punt returns and another touchdown, becoming the first player in UCF history to score on an interception, kickoff return and punt return in the same season. One of the kickoff return touchdowns came at the end of the conference championship game against South Florida to preserve the undefeated season.

Return Specialist:

Spider graph via Mockdraftable:

Mike Hughes measured in at 5-10, 189 lbs at the Combine. His size and disappointing 40 time (4.53) will lead some to label him as a slot corner, but doing so is a mistake. Hughes was routinely matched up on the outside against opponents’ top WR and held his own. Some of the more prominent WR matchups included holding Courtland Sutton (SMU) to a season low 9.2 yards per catch (5 for 46), had a pick six versus DJ Moore (Maryland), and Anthony Miller (Memphis) to 3 catches in their first meeting. For the season, quarterbacks had a rating of 20.8 when targeting Hughes on Go routes (per PFF), and he also excelled in limiting WRs on routes designed to get them the ball in space (slants and screens).

Highlights Showing Various Attributes

Man to Man Coverage:

Ball Skills:

Run Support:

Strength/Jam:

Zone Coverage:

Nastiness:

Hughes is not a complete prospect as he will have to improve upon getting beat with double moves, highpointing the ball, adding NFL strength and tackling technique. In watching Hughes, his tackling is reminiscent of Asante Samuel, another former UCF DB once labelled as too small and slight to play outside. However, he is a willing tackler and with proper coaching has the natural ability to develop into an excellent corner at the next level. His fluidity and mirroring are exceptional, and he provides an added plus in the return game. His ability to play multiple coverages makes Mike Hughes the selection for the Green Bay Packers at pick 14.

Poll

Do you approve of this pick?

This poll is closed

  • 46%
    Yes
    (197 votes)
  • 53%
    No
    (225 votes)
422 votes total Vote Now

2018 BGN Community Mock Draft Order

1) Browns (GMinTraining): Saquon Barkley

2) Giants (ablesser88): Quenton Nelson

3) Jets (20Safety_Hazards): Sam Darnold

4) Browns (MJ1893): Josh Rosen

5) Broncos (drc242): Baker Mayfield

6) Colts (I Need a Username): Bradley Chubb

7) Buccaneers (dunc123): Minkah Fitzpatrick

8) Bears (NVEagleShark): Tremaine Edmunds

9) 49ers (Doug Pederson’s Pair of Balls): Calvin Ridley

10) Raiders (Milehighbirds): Derwin James

11) Dolphins (danishdynamite_): Roquan Smith

12) Bills (LAOJoe): Denzel Ward

13) Washington (Eagle1987): Vita Vea

14) Packers (89Tremaine): Mike Hughes

15) Cardinals (RimoDawkins):

16) Ravens (PhillyEagles2011):

17) Chargers (LBCeaglesFan!):

18) Seahawks (KEZHOG):

19) Cowboys (Brawnybalboa):

20) Lions (dshelton5):

21) Bengals (Palaniappan K M):

22) Bills (BeamerWentzorBentley):

23) Patriots (jy1187):

24) Panthers (dceagles):

25) Titans (ei78):

26) Falcons (SakPrescott):

27) Saints (MidMajorMatt):

28) Steelers (SummersInVA):

29) Jaguars (RecarTabmok):

30) Vikings (AnthroEagle):

31) Patriots (PhilaWolverine):

32) Eagles (JALupowitz):


Now it’s time for you to vote for who YOU think the Packers should pick in the 2018 BGN Consensus Mock Draft.

Poll

Who should the Packers draft at No. 14 overall?

This poll is closed

  • 4%
    Mike Hughes
    (16 votes)
  • 50%
    Denzel Ward
    (166 votes)
  • 7%
    Calvin Ridley
    (26 votes)
  • 8%
    Harold Landry
    (29 votes)
  • 14%
    Marcus Davenport
    (47 votes)
  • 10%
    Josh Jackson
    (33 votes)
  • 3%
    Jaire Alexander
    (11 votes)
328 votes total Vote Now

1) Browns: Saquon Barkley

2) Giants: Sam Darnold

3) Jets: Josh Rosen

4) Browns: Josh Allen

5) Broncos: Baker Mayfield

6) Colts: Bradley Chubb

7) Buccaneers: Minkah Fitzpatrick

8) Bears: Quenton Nelson

9) 49ers: Tremaine Edmunds

10) Raiders: Derwin James

11) Dolphins: Roquan Smith

12) Bills: Lamar Jackson

13) Washington: Vita Vea

14) Packers: