Green Bay Packers head coach Mike McCarthy said this offseason he wanted bigger players for his football team and when the 2016 NFL draft rolled around, it was clear that General Manager Ted Thompson, heard him loud and clear.
When it was all said and done, the Packers made a total of seven selections in the 2016 draft and nearly all of them were big football players. Starting with first-round defensive tackle Kenny Clark of UCLA (6-2, 315) and continuing through sixth-round tackle Kyle Murphy (6-7, 308), size was a prominent theme.
Clark, of course, fills the spot vacated by B.J. Raji, who retired earlier this offseason. He is a force inside and should help anchor a run defense that has struggled in recent years. Yet, Clark isn’t the only big-bodied defender added during the three-day draft.
In round 3, Thompson added Kyler Fackrell, a 6-5, 245-pound edge rusher from Utah State. Pro Football Focus rated him as the sixth most productive edge rusher coming into this year’s draft and with his size and athleticism, he will fit perfectly in Dom Capers’ 3-4 scheme.
The Packers have lacked length in their 3-4 defense for years. Julius Peppers has helped with that, but Green Bay has never really had a five-technique that can play end in their scheme that had proper length — now it does, after selecting Dean Lowry of Northwestern in the fourth round.
Lowry (6-6, 300) started 33 games for the Wildcats and while he may not be the greatest pass rusher in the world, he had 12.5 sacks in three years as a starter. But, with his long arms, he batted down 18 passes and with is ability to play the run, he has starting potential.
Fellow fourth-round linebacker Blake Martinez of Standford isn’t huge by any means (6-1, 240), but he’s not small either. And he is a sure tackler and solid in coverage. He isn’t flashy, but could add enough depth to inside linebacker that Clay Matthews can spend most of his time playing outside linebacker.
One of the biggest questions coming into the draft, is what would the Packers do on the offensive line?
Four key players are headed for free agency, including three starters. All Thompson did was draft two enormous offensive tackles with massive skill sets.
First, Thompson made a rare move up the draft board to select Indiana left tackle Jason Spriggs (6-6, 300). Springs is an ideal tackle prospect. He has tremendous feet and the ideal build for a tackle. He started 47 games in his career and if he had to play next season, he would be more than fine.
Lastly, the Packers added Murphy in the sixth round, a player who should not have lasted that long. He started 13 games at right tackle and 14 at left tackle. He’s a little stiff and may not be athletic enough to play left tackle in the NFL, but he could be a starter at right tackle someday or a solid backup at both spots.
Many NFL coaches have the philosophy that big players matter and that even though it sounds simple, size wins.
The Packers have made a concerted effort to get bigger in recent years and after selecting four players 6-5 or taller and another that’s more than 300 pounds, there’s no question that they have done just that.
Thompson and McCarthy knew their team needed to be bigger and tougher to get back to the Super Bowl and the 2016 draft was certainly a big step, in the right direction.