The NFL Draft is fast approaching, and Green Bay Packers fans are eager to know who the team my select with their first-round pick. As of right now, the Packers have the 30th pick in the first round although GM Brian Gutekunst has traded either up or down in each of his previous two drafts.
This is the next in a series of articles looking at players the Packers may be interested in selecting at this year’s draft. The only players listed here are realistic possibilities for the Packers to pick at 30 or if they trade up or down slightly from that spot.
Today we will examine inside linebackers since the Packers clearly have a need at this position. The team lost both of last year’s starters, Blake Martinez and B.J. Goodson, to free agency. They signed Christian Kirksey from the Cleveland Browns in free agency but will certainly be looking to add players at this position.
Besides Kirksey, the Packers also have Curtis Bolton, an undrafted free agent who made a good impression in training camp before getting hurt, last year’s seventh-round pick Ty Summers who played extensively on special teams last season but did not play on defense. They also have Oren Burks, the former third-round choice out of Vanderbilt who has yet to establish himself as a starter but will have one more chance this year to claim a significant role on defense if he can stay healthy.
Overall, the inside linebacker position is not very deep in this year’s draft and there are not many players worth using a first-round pick on, even at the 30th spot.
So here is a list of possible inside linebackers the Packers may take in the first round:
1. Kenneth Murray Oklahoma
Murray is the consensus pick as the best available inside linebacker in the draft. It is doubtful he will still be on the board when the Packers pick at 30.
Murray is a three-year starter at a quality program. He is adept at blitzing and can play well in coverage as well. He has good speed for an inside linebacker and has been timed at 4.63 in the 40-yard dash. More than that, he has good short-burst quickness that allows him to step up and make plays by penetrating and blowing up blocking schemes to get to the ball carrier.
In addition, Murray is a smart football player who reads offensive schemes well and is quick to address plays and attack them.
He needs to reduce his hesitancy to react to some running plays. Sometimes he seems to respond a little slowly at times as if he doesn’t always trust what he sees. With good coaching, he can also improve his ability to get off blocks.
Murray is a hard hitter who will make some highlight-reel tackles. With the right coaching, he has the potential to become a long-time, upper echelon starter in this league for a long time to come.
2. Patrick Queen LSU
Queen, like Murray, is entering the draft after his junior year. His biggest strengths are his quickness and ability to change directions when diagnosing a play. His speed also makes him a solid player in pass coverage, something the Packers struggled with when Martinez was the primary player at the ILB position.
The primary reason Queen is ranked behind Murray is his like of size. At 6’1” and 227 pounds, he has trouble disengaging from blocks and can be overwhelmed by the size of tight ends when trying to cover them.
Queen is also a hard-hitting ILB who plays fast. Last year, he had 12 tackles for loss including three sacks.
He would be an excellent fit in Mike Pettine’s defense and once he gains experience, could probably do all the things Pettine requires of his primary ILB.
Like Murray, Queen is also unlikely to still be on the board when the Packers pick at 30. If Gutekunst wants one of these two players, he will likely have to trade up to select him.
These are the only two players worthy of a first-round pick this year at inside linebacker. One player who may fit well into the Packers scheme who may be available on day three is Francis Bernard of Utah. He is good at zone coverage and may be worth a look at the hybrid safety/inside linebacker slot.
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