Packers take UCLA DT Kenny Clark in 1st round of draft
GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) The Green Bay Packers are counting on UCLA's Kenny Clark to help fill a big void on the defensive line.
General manager Ted Thompson selected Clark, a junior, with the 27th overall pick in the NFL draft on Thursday night.
Clark played three years at UCLA, starting all 13 games in 2015 and making 29 consecutive starts overall. A team captain, Clark had 75 tackles and six sacks for the Bruins last season.
There is a huge void in the middle of the defense with tackle B.J. Raji choosing to take a year off. The 6-foot-3, 310-pound Clark will help plug that hole.
''I feel like I'm very versatile. I'll do whatever they ask me to do,'' Clark said in a conference call from his hometown of San Bernardino, California.
The first three hours of the draft shook out well for Green Bay, with plenty of front seven options still available late in the first round. Alabama's Reggie Ragland was there if the Packers wanted to add an inside linebacker, especially with Clay Matthews moving back outside.
Two Crimson Tide linemen, Jarran Reed and A'Shawn Robinson, were still available when the Packers were up. So was Baylor's Andrew Billings.
In the end, Clark was the choice.
''Just the whole package. He's a natural athlete, moves really good. Workout sessions were excellent,'' Thompson said. ''He's got great flexibility.''
''As it starts getting closer, you say, `Hey, wouldn't that be nice,''' Thompson said.
It was too early to say how exactly Clark would be used, Thompson said. He'll join a line anchored by Mike Daniels. Letroy Guion is back after he re-signed this offseason.
Raji is gone after a solid 2015 season. Complicating roster decisions this fall will be emerging backup Mike Pennel's four-game suspension to start the season for violating the NFL's substance-abuse policy.
In Green Bay, Clark will join a defense that also includes former UCLA player Datone Jones, whom the Packers selected in the first round in 2013. Clark said he spoke with Jones shortly after he got picked. Former UCLA quarterback Brett Hundley is also with the Packers as a backup to starter Aaron Rodgers.
''It's a big season ahead of us, be ready to work,'' Clark said in relaying the message from Jones.
Clark has a background in wrestling, which Thompson said can help defensive linemen with hand use, and leverage.
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