It was surprising to hear the announcement made by former Green Bay Packers defensive tackle, B.J. Raji that he was retiring. Yet, at least the Packers have more than enough time now to replace him, especially with the 2016 NFL Draft on the horizon.
And while we will certainly delve a lot deeper into the draft as it gets closer, one player that would make a ton of sense for the Packers, especially in the wake of Raji’s retirement, is Baylor defensive tackle Andrew Billings.
With the Packers set to pick at No. 27, near the end of the first round, Billings could very well be a target, if he does stay on the board that long. Right now, that is the range many mock drafts have placed him, but as we all know, mock drafts are often wrong — and a lot can happen before draft day.
However, there are a number of reasons for the Packers to consider Billings and one is that the team really doesn’t have a true nose tackle on its roster. Yes, LeTroy Guion could play the position if needed and was adequate there in place of Raji two seasons ago.
Mike Pennel will also get some snaps there, once his four-game suspensions has been served. Yet, neither Pennel or Guion, while both nice players, strike me as the long-term solution at nose tackle for the Packers, but frankly, Billings could be just that.
Billings doesn’t possess ideal size for a 3-4 nose at just 6-1, 311 pounds. But, he’s extremely athletic for his size and was very productive in college, racking up 30 tackles for loss and five sacks.
When you watch Billings play, you can see his explosiveness and it’s rare to see him being blown off the ball. In some ways, he reminds you of Raji’s ability to make plays in the backfield. Billings is a disruptive interior player and putting him next to Mike Daniels would create a dangerous combination.
At 21 years of age, Billings also offers a ton of upside and after playing for three years and playing productively, it’s reasonable to assume he can be ready to contribute in short order.
Despite a dip in production, Raji was effective for the Packers last season, and whether he stays retired or not, the Packers need a long-term solution at nose tackle and Billings could be that guy.
Sure, the Packers have other needs, but with the way the board is stacking up against them at inside linebacker and tight end, it’s likely the best way to marry value and need at the end of the first round, will be at defensive tackle. And if the pick ends up being a defensive tackle, Billings would be a perfect fit.
If you want a look at Billings, here is his game against Oklahoma this past season. It highlights each and every one of his snaps.