In our annual 32 picks in 32 days CSNPhilly.com mock draft, we select one player each day until the start of the NFL draft on April 26.
28. Packers: Jerel Worthy, DT, Michigan State, 6-2308
For a team that was nearly perfect in the regular season (15-1), and finished one step shy of the NFC Championship game, the Packers have several areas that require special attention in the draft, and most are on defense. That side of the ball let down Green Bay last season, which ended with the Pack being shredded by Eli Manning and the Giants in the divisional playoff round.
The Packers certainly need an OLB opposite Clay Matthews, but I believe this is too high a draft spot for any of the available prospects, including Boise States high-energy pass-rusher Shea McClellin. Instead of forcing the issue at linebacker, I prefer to bulk up another need area: the front line of Dom Capers 3-4 defense, with Jerel Worthy.
The Michigan State product could fit it nicely as an end next to nose tackle BJ Raji, who is entering his fourth season. Worthy would bring a further infusion of youth to offset 32-year old end Ryan Pickett. Twenty-four-year-old DE Mike Neal, (second Round, 2010) is coming off injury and has been has suspended for the first four games next season for a substance abuse policy violation.
To understand the failings of last year, you need only to look to the Eagles and Cullen Jenkins. The Packers never adequately replaced the versatile defensive lineman, and the players Jenkins left behind in Green Bay suffered as a result of his departure prior to the 2011 season. Matthews, for one, saw his sack total plummet to six, from 13 12 the previous season.
The playoff loss to the Giants showed that for all their offensive firepower, the Packers need a better defense, especially in an improved NFC North. A run-stopper that can assist against the pass is a good first step. Worthy was not much of a sack producer at Michigan State. He had only 3 12 in 2011.
Worthy (6-2308) is thickly built and plays with power. He has the size and strength to win leverage battles consistently in college. He fires well off the ball, and at his best he penetrates effectively, even though the sack numbers are low. Lined up next to the massive Raji (6-2337), with a linebacker such as the All-Pro Matthews providing the threat of speed off the edge, Worthy could be an effective piece of the defensive puzzle the Packers need to reassemble.
Worthy left school early, and for all the promise he shows, he could use the extra snaps that would come with another year of rugged Big Ten competition, mainly to refine his technique. At times he gets tangled up on blocks, usually when hes facing double-teams. Still, he flashes the potential that suggests he could expand his game at the next level, and prove himself worthy of being drafted in the first round.
E-mail Ron Burke at email@example.com