While an argument could be made that this was a reach, the Green Bay Packers drafted Khyri Thornton because they see a ton of unteachable tools that can be developed. Although the Packers re-signed B.J. Raji on a one-year deal, Thornton will most likely be the starting nose tackle at the start of his second season. At 6-foot-3, 304 pounds, the Southern Mississippi product doesn’t have ideal size for a 3-4 defensive tackle, but his quick burst off the ball and his ability take on double teams makes up for his small size.
Active hands and quickness off the ball are becoming two predictors of future success for defensive tackles coming into the NFL and Thornton excels in both areas. In my opinion, the Packers could use Thornton instead of Raji on pass plays. Unlike Raji, Thornton is a prototypical “quick-twitch” type of tackle who beats his opponents by athleticism and explosiveness. In the running game, Thornton rarely makes plays in the backfield, but he does a good job at maintaining his opponent and stopping the ball at the line of scrimmage.
Defensive tackles like Justin Ellis and DaQuan Jones were both still in the board, and an argument could be made that both are better and have a higher upside than Thornton. Despite being drafted in the third round, some draft experts had Thornton as a late-round pick because of raw ability. Thornton is a high-risk, high-reward type of player who could end up being a real contributor on Green Bay’s defensive line. The problem with the pick is that it was a reach and the Packers need to get immediate production from all of their rookies.