GREEN BAY – Packers.com draft contributor Tony Pauline likes two cornerbacks for the Packers' potential pick at No. 30 in tonight's first round of the 2015 NFL draft.
"The name I keep hearing that could be there is Eric Rowe. Big, physical, athletic guy. Can play corner or safety. Coachable, good football intellect. Just a good character guy. Maybe Byron Jones slides down. He's coming off labrum surgery. A really tough, physical, shutdown corner with a well-rounded game. Tough against the run. You can play him in zone and has some bump-and-run coverage skills," Pauline said.
Rowe, 6-1, 205, is from Utah. Jones, 6-1, 200, is from UConn and began his rise up the board following a strong showing at the scouting combine.
Cornerback and inside linebacker are considered to be the Packers' two primary need positions. The list of inside linebackers that are candidates to be drafted late in the first round is considerably deeper. Pauline says that list includes UCLA's Eric Kendricks, Clemson's Stephone Anthony, TCU's Paul Dawson and Miami's Denzel Perryman.
"He's short but he's a terrific football player. Instinctive, intense, sideline-to-sideline player," Pauline said of Kendricks, 6-0, 232. "He's good in coverage but he might have trouble against 6-4 tight ends, as might all of the inside linebackers except Anthony (6-3)."
Kendricks is the only one of Pauline's late-first round inside linebacker prospects to whom Pauline gives a first-round grade, but adds: "This is the type of draft that there are going to be surprises. There are going to be players that three months ago you would've said there's no way they'll be picked in the first round, but they'll be picked in the first round because of the limited talent in this draft. Anthony is the perfect example."
Anthony moved his stock up dramatically with a strong showing at the Senior Bowl.
"Excellent football player. Terrific run defender and showed pass-coverage skills at the Senior Bowl. Paul Dawson is just six foot and has some off-the-field issues, minor stuff, and ran 4.9 at the combine, but improved to 4.75 at his pro day. From an instinct point of view, he's incredible. His foot times are slow but his reaction times are off the charts. He knows what's going to happen before it happens. Denzel Perryman (5-11, 236) is undersized and has short arms, but he plays sideline to sideline and goes very hard. If Perryman is 6-2, he's a top 20 selection. Heart and soul of the Miami defense for three years," Pauline said.
Tight end and defensive line are two other areas of potential need for the Packers. Pauline doesn't see a tight end fitting in the first round, but likes three defensive linemen for where the Packers are picking.
"Malcom Brown (6-2, 319, Texas) would be a terrific fit. He ran 5.06 at the combine. He's not just a gap occupier. He's got to pick up the intensity of his play, but that would be good value there. He can play nose or end. Eddie Goldman (6-4, 336, Florida State) doesn't test well but he's very explosive. He's got the athleticism to develop into a playmaker. Arik Armstead (6-7, 292) of Oregon ran in the low 5's. If you're looking for an end in a 3-4, this is your guy. Very athletic. Shows ability to make impacting plays. Could be a good complement to Datone Jones," Pauline said.
Pauline also mentioned two potential value picks: Missouri pass rusher Shane Ray and Mississippi State linebacker Benardrick McKinney.
"You have to consider Shane Ray at this point. Great physical skills, explosive up the field, but there are issues," Pauline said. Ray was recently cited for marijuana possession and it could cause his stock to fall.
Pauline has McKinney, 6-4, 246, rated as an outside linebacker, but he's played on the inside and could be another player to consider should he be available at pick No. 30.
"Real forceful linebacker. He'll defeat blocks and make plays on the ball handler," Pauline said.
The first round of the draft begins at 7 p.m. CT tonight. Each team will have 10 minutes to make its first-round selection.