Thursday, April 15, 2010

The Packer Draft Board

I had already written about the Green Bay Packers' off-season needs. You can find it either in my blog or on Bleacher Report.

For a team like the Packers, that does not delve too much into the free agency market or get involved in high stakes trades, the draft is the only opportunity to improve their roster in the off-season. That makes the NFL draft week a critical period to fill all holes in preparation for next season. With the 2010 NFL Draft only a week away, I thought I should throw out my opinion of how the Packers should prepare their draft board.

The Order

The Packers have a fairly routine set of picks this draft. They have a total of 8 picks in the 7 rounds of the 2010 NFL Draft. They have 1 pick every round with an extra 5th round pick which was awarded to them as a complementary pick by the league (for losing Corey Williams as a free agent last year).
Here are the overall positions in the draft where the Packers are supposed to make their picks:

Pick 1 : Round 1 (Overall Pick No. 23)
Pick 2 : Round 2 (Overall Pick No. 56)
Pick 3 : Round 3 (Overall Pick No. 87)
Pick 4 : Round 4 (Overall Pick No. 123)
Pick 5 : Round 5 (Overall Pick No. 155)
Pick 6 : Round 5 (Overall Pick No. 170)
Pick 7 : Round 6 (Overall Pick No. 194)
Pick 8 : Round 7 (Overall Pick No. 231)

The Packers will like to not only fill some of their holes, but also to upgrade on some positions and maybe even add depth to some others.

The Blind Side

The biggest need is in the Packers' Offensive line. They did re-sign Mark Tauscher and Chad Clifton this off-season. But clearly the Packers know they need to find the eventual heirs at both offensive tackles. One of last year's draft pick, TJ Lang might very well be the future Right Tackle behind Tauscher. The future Left Tackle who has to protect Aaron Rodger's blind side though, is definitely not on the current roster.

This year's draft class have quite a few prospects for the LT position. The general consensus is that successful offensive tackles are always more likely to be found in the 1st round of the draft; more so than any other position. Turns out this year's draft class has a number of 1st round level prospects. But the problem for the Packers is that they do not pick till No.23 in the first round and there are a whole bunch of teams that are also looking for franchise offensive tackles.

The top prospects for Offensive linemen are: Russel Okung, Bryan Bulaga, Trent Williams, Mike Iupathi (guard), Bruce Campbell, Anthony Davis and Charles Brown. Out of these prospects, if Okung, Bulaga, Williams or Davis falls down to No.23 it would be a no-brainer for the Packers to grab them right away.

Although Brown is a solid prospect, he might be a reach at No.23. He is more of a 2nd round level player in most scouting reports. Bruce Campbell made his way to the top of many draft boards with an impressive showing at the combine, but his college performances on tape have been shaky and questionable. The Packers would be wise to stay away from him in the first round.

If the Packers cannot get any of the elite guys in the first round, they can try to get Vladmir Ducasse or Jared Valdeer in the second. In a deep OT class like this one, you just might discover a gem outside the first round.

Cover Page

Defensive Back is another position the Packers need to shore up. On paper, they do have 2 solid starters at Corner Back in All-Pro Charles Woodson and Al Harris. But Harris is coming off a major injury and all prognosis points to a rather slow recovery and it will not be surprising if he doesn't start playing till late October or so. They do have a solid CB in Tramon Williams.

But after that there is a lot of unknowns - Pat Lee is perennially injured. Brandon Underwood and Jarett Bush are still too raw and are not starting material quite yet (no one knows if they ever will be). Will Blackmon is coming back from a ACL surgery, but he is more valuable on special teams right now than in the defensive back field.

At Safety, Nick Collins has been a stud, and has been locked up with a big contract. He's going nowhere. Atari Bigby, in spite of all the promise he showed couple years ago, has been shaky the last 2 years, partly because of injuries and partly because of lack of confidence, which is more worrying.

Ideally, the Packers will want to pick a CB in the early rounds. There is no way Joe Haden falls to the Packers at No.23 in the 1st round. Kyle Wilson or Patrick Robinson will be worthy first round picks. In the 2ns or 3rd rounds too, the Packers might be able to find a decent enough CB like Perrish Cox, Devin McCourty or Kareem Jackson.

The Packers could get lucky if S Taylor Mays falls down to No.23. No way Eric Berry falls out of the top 10. With these two guys going early, the Packers have to wait till the late rounds to try find a Safety prospect. Safety is a lower priority in my mind for the simple reason that, if the Packers get decent depth at CB, they will have the flexibility to move Woodson to play some safety too.

The Game Breaker

Although the Packers are already a force to recon with on offense, it is only their passing offense that lends them that reputation. The west coast offense of McCarthy, although has its share of big plays, it predominantly relies on the methodical moving of the ball down field with short and efficient passes. A little more razzle-dazzle on offense will help them open up the middle of the field even more. That will make the Packer offense a match up nightmare for most defenses. The Packers lack that one player who can break open the game at any moment. A player who other teams have to always keep an eye on when he is on the field.

At RB, Ryan Grant is solid, but he is no Adrian Peterson or Chris Johnson. There is no one of that genre (let alone level) on the Packer roster. At the Wide Receiver position, the Packers have excellent possession receivers in Donald Driver and James Jones. Greg Jennings is the down field threat, but always faces double coverage and is not lightning quick to beat that.

The Packers would like to draft a RB or WR that will be a prospect that could become a game breaker like a Percy Harvin or a Deshawn Jackson. It is definitely hard to find them in the draft, but you have to try. CJ Spiller is of that mold, but is unlikely to fall to the Packers. The Packers will keep their eyes open for Jahvid Best, Dexter McCluster, Ben Tate or Ryan Mathews in the 2nd / 3rd round level.If none of them work out, they might try to pick a WR with speed in 4th / 5th round level like Jordon Shipley, Jacoby Ford or Taylor Price. They might even go to a small school lesser known prospect at RB/WR in later rounds like RB James Starks or WR Armanti Edwards.

Kicking and Covering

This is one aspect that the Packers need to improve real bad, especially in the kick returning and the kicking departments. They are going to stick with kicker Mason Crosby. But, it wouldn't be a surprise if they try draft a punter in one of the later rounds.

For returning kicks and punts, they would hope to make their CB pick or the speedy WR/RB pick to double as a returner. It is hard to find a specialist returner, but if the Packers have someone on their draft board that will fit the bill and is available at the right spot, they should pull the trigger. With a total of 8 picks, they should have enough bodies to play special teams in the coverage units.

Rush Hour

One other aspect the Packers will like to get better at is rushing the opposing passer. There is no hole per se in their current line up at defensive line / line backer positions. But they sure lack depth and elite level play from them. They struggle in patches to pressure the opposing QB, often giving them ample time to go through their progressions.

In the 3-4 system that the Packers play, the defensive line's role is shaded more towards stuffing the run than really pressuring the passer. The onus is on the line backers to do that. They would like to find someone on the other side of Clay Mathews Jr. to match his intensity. Brad Jones may end up being that guy, but no harm in drafting a prospect to compete for that OLB position or even for some depth at the LB positions as a whole. Expect the Packers to pick a OLB prospect in the middle rounds of the draft.


The most pressing need for the Packers obviously is on the O line. If the Packers do not get one of those elite tackle prospects in the first round, rather than reaching for a 2nd round level player early, the Packers can draft the best available player or fill their next biggest need and then roll their dice on the OT they pick in the later rounds.

Or better yet, if they find a suitable partner who wants to move up to pick at No.23 overall in the draft, the Packers should trade down on draft day and pile up a possible extra pick(s). The chances for that happening are good if Jimmy Clausen and Colt McCoy (the No.2,3 QB prospects) are still on the board when the Packers pick. Some QB needy team might find it a nice spot to pick one of these QBs; similar to the Browns trading up to pick Brady Quinn. There could be teams eying other position players too to pick towards the end of round 1.

If the Packers get calls on draft day to trade down, they should seriously consider it. There is always the option of trading up and picking the tackle you want. But that is just not how the Packers operate. I don't see that happening.

Coming up: I will soon come up with a Mock Draft with my prediction of who are the players the Packers will select in the 2010 NFL Draft.

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