Green Bay Packers

The Packers Continued A Quiet Trend When They Drafted Ty'Ron Hopper

Photo Credit: Steve Roberts-USA TODAY Sports

The Green Bay Packers had a clear need at inside linebacker this offseason, with only Isaiah McDuffie and Quay Walker as returning players. They attacked the need by re-signing Eric Wilson and drafting second-round pick Edgerrin Cooper and third-round pick Ty’ron Hopper. While Cooper has garnered much coverage for his dynamic skillset, many are a bit cooler on Hopper due to his lower pre-draft ranking as the 172nd-best prospect on the consensus big board, according to the NFL Mock Draft Database.

However, Hopper’s skillset and third-round draft status suggest they may view him as able to compete and contribute sooner rather than later. Hopper follows the mold of recent Packers draftees like Dontayvion Wicks, Luke Musgrave, and Kingsley Enagbare insofar as his best season was his second-to-last year in college. In 2022, Hopper had a 77.5-overall PFF defensive grade compared to a 60.9 PFF grade in 2023.

It’s hard to pinpoint any one reason for Hopper’s diminished performance. He suffered an ankle injury that prevented him from playing his final two college games and final bowl game. It’s possible he had a nagging injury before shutting down, impacting his ability.

The Packers typically invest in players with elite flashes, even if the trend line points down. That could be the case with Hopper, who has shown some playmaking capacity. He started as a defensive back in high school and grew out of the position. Still, he shows some solid vision in pass coverage.

Here’s a great example of creating an interception:

Hopper is also a competent blitzer, racking up 9.5 sacks and 65 pressures across his college career. Here’s a good look at him pressuring second-overall-pick Jayden Daniels and flushing him out of the pocket to force an incompletion:

With the transition to a new defensive coordinator Jeff Hafley, the Packers are prioritizing guys who can eat up space sideline-to-sideline and vertically. “The days of playing a 255 lb. linebacker, I’m not sure there’s many of them left,” Hafley said. “We got big backers, I’m not worried about those guys, Quay or McDuffie or any of those guys stopping the run. You got to be able to run. You have to be able to shrink the field.”

That’s exactly what the Packers are getting in Hopper.

While Hopper’s 40-yard dash at his Pro Day was 4.68 seconds, the Packers timed him closer to the high 4.5 seconds. When Hopper diagnoses a play accurately, he shows excellent click-and-close ability to make tackles in the hole. He can also chase down outside runs.

Here’s a good look at Hopper making a tackle on an outside-zone run:

While Hopper shows playmaking and sideline-to-sideline speed, he needs to show better fundamentals and consistency in tackling in the NFL. In his final season at Missouri, Hopper had a 22.7% missed-tackle rate, the third-worst among draftable linebackers who amassed 50% of their college snaps. NFL draft analyst put it well in his scouting report in describing Hopper’s tackling ability as a “hard hitter, but needs to improve tackle security.”

Part of Hopper’s improvements in tackling could come down to better decisions about when to strike.

Hopper is a great ball of moldable clay. It’ll likely come down to Jeff Hafley and linebackers coach Anthony Campanile’s ability to slow the game down and simplify Hopper’s responsibilities early on. While the Packers are likely to spend most of their time in nickel defense with two linebackers (likely Walker and Cooper), the Packers could choose to employ Hopper as the third linebacker at the Mike position and have him flow to the ball and clean up screen passes, crossers, slants, and defend the run. That’s the type of role Hopper may be able to fill early and have success — the kind of success indicated by his 2023 performance, as opposed to his 2024 showing. That’s a gamble the Packers have taken in the past, and it’s often worked in their favor.

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