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2014 NFL Draft primer: Green Bay Packers

Northern Illinois safety Jimmie Ward intercepts a pass

Northern Illinois safety Jimmie Ward intercepts a pass intended for Toledo wide receiver Alonzo Russell in the first quarter an NCAA college football game in Toledo, Ohio, Wednesday, Nov. 20, 2013. Credit: AP / Rick Osentoski

This is the latest primer in our NFL Draft two-a-days that looks at each team and which potential first-round picks would be a good fit. The draft begins Thursday, May 8.


2013 record: 8-7-1

Key offseason acquisitions: DE Julius Peppers, DT Letroy Guion, QB Matt Flynn.

Key offseason departures: C Evan Dietrich-Smith, WR James Jones, FS M.D. Jennings, TE Jermichael Finley, DT Ryan Pickett.

Biggest holes: Safety, middle linebacker, tight end

The "key offseason acquisitions" part of this primer is relatively empty, but that doesn't mean Green Bay wasn't active in free agency.

True to Packers form, they spent the offseason re-signing some of their homegrown talent, including cornerback Sam Shields (four years, $39 million), defensive tackle B.J. Raji (one year, $4 million), tight end and Long Island native Andrew Quarless (two years, $3 million), defensive end/linebacker Mike Neal (two years, $8 mllion) and backup running back James Starks (two years, $3.165 million).

It's clear that the Packers' "build through the draft" approach has worked. They've had just two losing seasons since Ted Thompson took over as general manager in 2005 and have made the playoffs six out of nine years (including their Super Bowl XLV win). So next week will be especially important for the Packers as they continue that trend.

The top two safeties (Alabama's Ha Ha Clinton-Dix and Louisville's Calvin Pryor) likely will be off the board at this point, but Northern Illinois' Jimmie Ward could be an option, He doesn't garner as much first-round buzz as Clinton-Dix or Pryor, but he has a skillset that warrants first-round consideration. He's a bit small at 5-11 and 193 pounds, but has great range and instincts, tracks the ball very well and is aggressive in both run support and coverage. He can also line up in the slot or on a tight end if needed.

Speaking of tight ends, Quarless (a Uniondale graduate) did an admirable job replacing the injured Jermichael Finley in 2013, catching 32 balls for 312 yards and two touchdowns. However, it remains to be seen if he's the man in Green Bay. If the Packers aren't sold on Quarless as a No. 1 tight end, they could end up taking Texas Tech's Jace Amaro here. Amaro is a 6-5, 274-pounder with 4.74 speed, making him too fast for linebackers to cover and too big for defensive backs to cover. He has experience lining up in-line, in the slot and as a flanker. He'd be a dangerous weapon in an already-dangerous offense.

If Alabama inside linebacker C.J. Mosley manages to slip this far, the Packers might decide to take him as an eventual replacement for A.J. Hawk. Mosley is an instinctive linebacker who can do everything pretty well. He does have some injury concerns - specifically his hip - but he's a smart, sure-tackling presence in the front seven.

A name to watch here: Minnesota DT Ra'Shede Hageman. Hageman is probably the second-most athletically gifted defensive lineman in the league aside from Jadeveon Clowney - he has great size (6-6 and 310 pounds) and burst (1.57 10-yard split at the Combine) and put up 32 reps on the bench press at the Combine with his 34 1/4-inch arms. He's versatile enough to stay at defensive tackle or move out to five-technique (lined up on the outside shoulder of the offensive tackle) in the Packers' 3-4.

However, Hageman isquite raw, mostly due to the fact that he switched from tight end to defensive tackle upon enrolling at Minnesota. He also runs hot and cold on tape - he'll make a very impressive play, then promptly disappear. He's a boom-or-bust prospect, but the Packers are in a position to take such a risk.

Possible Day 2/Day 3 picks include Florida State FS Terrence Brooks, Virginia Tech CB/S Antone Exum, Notre Dame tight end Troy Niklas, Georgia State TE A.C. Leonard, Wisconsin ILB Chris Borland and Michigan State ILB Max Bullough.

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