Welcome back for our fourth entry in our series on Packers Mock Drafts, where we only draft from one Power Five conference per draft. We already covered the ACC, PAC-12, and BIG-12; today we cover the BIG10. Due to the fact that the BIG10 has more talent in this draft than the previous conferences discussed, I will be adding an extra alternate option at each pick.
I will be selecting one player, one alternate player, and one dream scenario for every pick the Packers have in the first three rounds. For the Big Board, I used a combination of several I found across the internet to get an idea of where players are going in the minds of most; for the pro comparisons I used mostly thedraftnetwork.com and their comparisons but I also subbed many of my own if I found if they were more to my liking.
Let’s break it down!
- Round 1, Pick 15
- THE PICK: Jaxon Smith-Njigba, WR, Ohio State / 6’0”-200lbs / Pro Comp: Amari Cooper
- Jaxon Smith-Njigba (in-JIG-ba) was injured for essentially all of the 2022 season, so we have to go off of the 2021 season to really see his potential. The positives are that he’s smooth as butter in and out of his routes and creating separation, with wonderful body mechanics and the intelligence to understand where to be when the play breaks down. His hands seem to be made of glue and his run-after-catch ability is elite. In terms of negatives, the only real ones to be found are the lack of tape and the injury concerns. If he looks healthy in the pre-draft process, I can see going in the top half of the draft easily and maybe the top receiver drafted. Providing he’s healthy, I can legitimately see him having a Davante Adams level impact in a year or two if he keeps developing. They have similar playstyles in that they aren’t the most physically imposing or the fastest, but they are so technically refined it doesn’t matter. However, that’s a hard comparison to put on a prospect so I’m going with Amari Cooper. I think Cooper is Smith-Njigba’s floor, where he may never be truly elite but he will keep cranking out productive seasons as a mid-tier WR1 or insanely high-tier WR2.
- ALTERNATE PICK: Joey Porter Jr., CB, Penn State / 6’2”-192lbs / Pro Comp: Marlon Humphrey
- Porter has developed and improved in every season since becoming a starter in 2020 for the Nittany Lions. The trait that really stands out for him is his reach, he seems to be able to get his arms/hands anywhere when in coverage; that being said, he doesn’t really have a weakness. Run blocking is probably what he’s worst at but even that is still good compared to other defensive backs. He’s a willing tackler, who strong arms receivers and has enough length and height to not be bullied by anyone regardless of their size. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Porter have a Sauce Gardner-level impact if the Packers drafted him. If they did, I would anticipate a move for Rasul Douglas to safety while letting Stokes, Alexander, and Porter start as the CBs. If this happened, it would be like the Legion of Boom but more athletic.
- ALTERNATE PICK: Peter Skoronski, OL, Northwestern / 6’4”-294lbs / Pro Comp: Bryan Bulaga
- Skoronski looks like a Packer to me because of his blue collar-ness he’s got about him. He reminds me of Bryan Bulaga, Josh Sitton, and Chad Clifton in that way. He’s not the most physically gifted, a scout described his athleticism as “functional”, and his arms are shorter than you’d want in a prototype offensive lineman. Despite that, he has great football IQ, uses his hands well to keep blockers from pushing past him, and is bulldozer in the run game. Like Bulaga, I think he’ll always be top 6-7 at his position, just not top 3-4. The Packers could definitely use another Bulaga for the next era, especially one who could potentially play 4 positions across the line.
- DREAM PICK: Paris Johnson Jr., OT, Ohio State / 6’5”-315lbs / Pro Comp: Charles Cross
- If you designed an offensive tackle in a lab, it would be Paris Johnson Jr. He plays multiple positions (he was the right guard before switching LT), he’s earned several academic accolades as an excellent student, he volunteers his free time to help veterans and underprivileged children, and he’s an absolute stud on the field. The only negative things to say about him are a lack of experience because he only played one season at LT, and he hasn’t reached his physical peak yet. Wait, that second thing isn’t a negative. I very much doubt that Johnson falls to the Packers at #15, but if he did, Green Bay would be silly to not have him anchor the line for the next decade.
- Round 2, Pick 45
- THE PICK: Lukas Van Ness, Edge Rusher, Iowa / 6’5”-265lbs / Pro Comp: Trey Hendrickson
- Van Ness has very little experience as an edge rusher, having only played at the position for one season. However, in that season, he showed excellent traits and production. He’s not the strongest, but he’s strong enough for most blockers and he’s flexible and bendy enough to make up for it when strength won’t work. He needs more pass rush moves and more experience, but he has shown that even a little development could go a long way for him as a prospect. I think Hendrickson is a great comparison to show what could happen if Van Ness actually gets developed like Hendrickson did. After three seasons of rotations and training that gave him 6.5 total sacks, his last three seasons have gotten him 35.5 sacks. Van Ness could make that jump and the Packers would be wise to invest in him.
- ALTERNATE PICK: Devon Witherspoon, DB, Illinois / 6’0”-190lbs / Pro Comp: Troy Hill
- Witherspoon has almost all the traits you’d want out of cornerback prospect except top tier athleticism. He’s not the biggest or the fastest but he’s tenacious, a good tackler, and he is willing to play on special teams. I think Witherspoon best projects as nickel corner, which isn’t a big need for the Packers but it’s always better to have depth at premium positions.
- ALTERNATE PICK: Jaelyn Duncan, OT, Maryland / 6’6”-315lbs / Pro Comp: Billy Turner
- Duncan has lots of experience at LT, starting there for the Terrapins as far back as 2019. He has prototypical size and athleticism, but he struggles in applying that against high level defenders. I don’t think Duncan would be an immediate starter on the o-line, but I do think he could develop nicely into a swing tackle prospect who could fill in almost anywhere.
- DREAM PICK: Dawand Jones, OT, Ohio State / 6’8”-360lbs / Pro Comp: Orlando Brown Jr.
- Jones is an absolute unit who almost definitely won’t fall this far in the draft, but in the event he does then the Packers should scoop him up. He’s beyond huge and surprisingly fast despite it. His strength is in the run game as opposed to the passing game but that’s fine because he projects more as a right tackle anyways (he played all of college at right tackle). I know this is the second pick in a row where my Dream Pick was an Ohio State offensive tackle which is kind of boring BUT if the Packers had either one of these players they could have the best o- line in football next year which would benefit either an immobile Aaron Rodgers or an inexperienced Jordan Love. If they had both, then I think the defense would just sit down on the turf and not even try to rush.
- Round 3, Pick 78
- THE PICK: Keeanu Benton, NT, Wisconsin / 6’4”-315lbs / Pro Comp: BJ Raji
- Benton is not an interior pass rusher, he’s not a versatile lineman, and he’s not going to win awards for most athletic player. So, what kind of player is Benton? He’s a run stuffing machine who stops more runs than Imodium. He refuses to be moved off his spot and soaks up blockers like it’s his favorite thing in the world. He won’t excite the stat sheet, but he will fix the Packers run game. It will also allow Kenny Clark and Devonte Wyatt to work more as penetrators in the pass game let Clark get those stat sheet numbers that he’s been denied. At the time of writing, Benton is actively blowing up offensive lines during Senior Bowl practices so once his tape gets more national coverage, I expect he won’t be available at this spot.
- ALTERNATE PICK: Sam LaPorta, TE, Iowa / 6’4”-249lbs / Pro Comp: Hunter Henry
- LaPorta is the new archetype for NFL TE’s coming out of college. He can block but is only average at it, and his real strength is catching. LaPorta worked as the de facto top target for the Iowa offense the past two years, and it has shown how refined his receiving game has become. He can play in-line or in the slot with hands that snag the ball out of the air and a lower body that allows him to generate yards after the catch on a consistent basis. The Packers need TE talent something fierce and LaPorta would give them a high-upside weapon. Also, LaPorta played at Iowa so maybe he turns into the next George Kittle or TJ Hockenson with any luck.
- ALTERNATE PICK: Ronnie Bell, WR, Michigan / 6’0”-195lbs / Pro Comp: James Jones
- Bell is what happens when you take all your talent and spread it across everything. He’s not small, but not big. He’s not fast, but not slow. He’s runs good routes but can’t create solid separation. He’s got good hands but isn’t great with contested catches. He has worked well as a return specialist which adds some value, but in general I like Bell because of what he is: solid, dependable. Much like a Toyota Corolla, he’s nobody’s dream car but he’ll get the job done. I would expect him to take on returning duties if Keisean Nixon leaves in free agency and immediately become WR3 or WR4 with the ability to become a reliable, but not exciting, WR2.
- DREAM PICK: Zach Harrison, Edge Rusher, Ohio State / 6’6”-275lbs / Pro Comp: Rashan Gary
- Honestly, my dream pick is Keeanu Benton but because Harrison is ranked higher as a prospect by most draft pundits, I’ll have him down here. Zach Harrison reminds me a lot of Rashan Gary. He’s got all the physical attributes as a former 5-star recruit but his college career seemed a bit vanilla. He never really had a defining season where you saw consistent elite production. But someone is going to take a swing on him and develop his talents into a pressure generating machine. The Packers have already done it with Gary, who I think was easily going to eclipse double digit sacks last year before he tore his ACL, so they could do it again with Harrison.
This is the only draft in this series where, despite listing the Dream Picks due to their high talent and expected draft position (I imagine they’ll go higher than where the Packers are picking, hence why they are “dream” options), I actually would prefer if the Packers were able to select the original picks I chose at each spot. The reason for that is a simple one: I am a fan of those particular players. Of all the draft scenarios the Packers could participate in, given the current knowledge we have of the upcoming draft class, I think that adding Jaxon Smith-Njigba, Lukas Van Ness, and Keeanu Benton would be the best possible (and reasonable) way for the Packers to improve in the draft. I’ll be curious to see if I feel that same way after we’ve seen the combine, pro days, and more tape on the prospects.
Send your comments and opinions to me at @SamZeus93 on Twitter.