When the Green Bay Packers were finally on the clock Thursday night with the 26th pick in the 2013 NFL Draft, the task was to find value. That doesn’t mean getting a Hall of Famer or even a perennial Pro Bowler, but rather a player with the talent level worthy of a first-round pick that fits with the team’s scheme and productivity needs.
The Packers found that person in UCLA defensive end Datone Jones.
If Green Bay’s front office was going to sculpt an athlete to be the edge rusher to get to the likes of Jay Cutler and Matthew Stafford on a consistent basis, it’s likely they’d come up with the 6’4,” 280-pound frame that the former Bruin will bring to Dom Capers’ defense.
Jones, who will turn 23 this summer, has no shortage of confidence in his own ability. According to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, he’s compared himself to two figures beloved in Wisconsin: former Badger and current Houston Texan J.J. Watt, and Packers legend Reggie White. And in his college bio, he listed future Hall of Fame defensive end Michael Strahan as the player he admires most.
Those are some lofty comparisons for Jones before he’s ever even donned a jersey for the Packers. But with the high marks that he’s received for his intangibles and work ethics, it’s the type of players you’d like a rookie to emulate. The buzzword surrounding his selections has been “motor” – something new teammate Clay Matthews knows all about.
Schematically, Jones will fit right in with the Packers’ base 3-4 defense. He’ll help toaddress the issues in edge contain that the San Francisco 49ers (among other teams) exposed last season. Head coach Mike McCarthy won’t be asking Jones to hit double digit sack totals in his first season, but rather he’ll be hoping that the rookie can help prevent Green Bay from getting Colin Kaepernick-ed like they did in the playoffs.
So where do the Packers go from here in the draft?
One thing that the Green Bay faithful can be sure of is that Ted Thompson and the front office will be looking for value from here on out.
There are a number of big names still on the board – Manti Te’o, Geno Smith, Matt Barkley – that you’re not going to see wearing green and gold next season. There are running backs – Eddie Lacy and Montee Ball – that Packers fans might think they want, but should realize that those guys won’t provide anything that Green Bay’s current stable of ball carriers can’t.
It’s possible that the Packers could move up to latch onto a first-round talent with a second round value – a guy like FIU safety Jonathan Cyprien, perhaps – or Thompson could take advantage of teams chomping at the bit to get into Round 2 by trading a pick and stockpiling for the future. If for some reason Tyrann Mathieu fell to them in Round 3, it should be a no-brainer to scoop up that talent there.
Green Bay is not done drafting for the weekend, and with needs in the defensive backfield, on the offensive line and at running back, it’s certain that Thompson will address those spots at some point. But they can’t all be addressed with the same pick, so this weekend is about putting trust in the process and the front office. So by the time Mr. Irrelevant is picked on Saturday, the Packers will be in a better position than they were a week ago.