Say It With Me: D-fense…D-fense…

Need a center of the future? Sorry. Another running back? Uh-uh. Wasn’t on Ted Thompson’s agenda. Oh, he’ll tell you he followed the integrity of his board. That he drafted six consecutive defensive players to start the draft because that’s the way the players fell. Right. Never had the Packers drafted six straight defenders. But this year, it was the only way to go.

On top of that, Thompson started the draft with 12 picks and ended up selecting eight guys. This is a deep team, with a lot of young talent. Thompson packaged picks to move up and grab guys he really wanted. I love that.

We all know the Packers gave up more yards than any team in NFL history in 2011, though finished 19th in points against. There’s talent on that side of the ball, but not enough. Remove Cullen Jenkins and Nick Collins from the equation and your defense is going to take a step back. The problem is, the Packers D took a giant moonwalk leap back, yet the team still finished 15-2. It was time to bring in re-enforcements.

Let’s start with the first two rounds. After addressing the pass rush in round one with Southern Cal’s Nick Perry, Thompson went against typecast and traded up twice in round two to grab the guys he had his eyes on. Jerel Worthy was considered a late first or early second round pick. When he was still there at 51, Thompson pounced. Worthy is expected to compete to win one of the two D-line spots in the nickel, and will have a chance to start in the base as well.

Perry has some critics who are unsure whether he can transition from defensive end, with his hand in the dirt, to the 3-4 where he’ll be asked to rush the passer from a two point stance. Also, at 270 he’s too heavy to play in coverage. He played closer to 250 and he’ll need to get down closer to that weight to play outside linebacker. I think he has huge upside and will provide an instant upgrade over the Waldens, Zombos and Joneses of the world.

When Thompson got Bill Belechick to part with his late second round pick in exchange for  a third and a fifth, he scored a major coup. The trade value chart gives the Pack the big edge here, but the pick needs to deliver. Casey Hayward seems to have everything you want in a corner except top-line speed. He has all the instincts you want and was an interception machine in the SEC for Vandy. He’ll have a chance to step right in and compete for playing time.

Fast forward to Saturday. Thompson began the day adding three more defenders, beginning on the defensive line, with former Hawkeye Mike Daniels, who is vertically challenged, much like Jenkins, but is tenacious and can rush the passer.

You knew the Pack would add a safety and Thompson surprised by going the Division 1AA route (a la Nick Collins), with Maine’s Jerron McMillian, whose known as a sure tackler and student of the game. I thought Boise State’s George Iloka would be the pick. We’ll see if we got the right guy. The final defensive pick was Terrell Manning, an inside linebacker from NC State who came out as a junior and probably should have played one more year. Once projected as a second round pick, injuries dropped his stock. If healthy, he’ll have a chance to push for playing time.

The Pack’s final two picks, tackle Andrew Datko, from Florida State and QB BJ Coleman from Tennessee-Chattanooga both play positions where the team has openings. Coleman is a Tennessee transfer who is tall and has big hands and long arms, something Mike McCarthy looks for in quarterbacks.

As for the undrafted guys, Thompson signed 12-15 guys, most of whom will be hard-pressed to earn a spot on the 53 man roster. Keep an eye on South Dakota State’s Dale Moss, a former basketball player who played just one year of football. Nicholas Cooper, a RB from Winston Salem State will be moved to fullback and will have a chance to stick. The other back, Marc Tyler from USC, took a step back in 2011 after a big 2010 campaign.  He’s had some issues but he’ll be given every opportunity to replace some of Ryan Grant’s carries. Expect the Pack to keep an eye on the waiver wire for more help at this position.

The biggest surprise is that the Packers didn’t add a center to be groomed under Jeff Saturday. Either (A) they have a lot of faith in the stompee, Evan Dietrich Smith, (B) they think Saturday may have two years left in him or (C) they plan to scour other teams’ castoffs for one in late August.

My instant draft grade: B+. If the top three picks become starters I’ll upgrade it to an A. I’m sure TT will be able to sleep better tonight.

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248 Responses to Say It With Me: D-fense…D-fense…

  1. Marty from Stillwater says:

    I agree. This was a very productive draft. It truly is nice to be in a position to load up heavy on defense knowing the offence can hold their own for a couple years.

  2. Al says:

    Good breakdown of the draft, Dave. I really hope most, if not all, of these guys can chip in right away. Sam Shields, AJ Hawk and anybody that played linebacker opposite Clay Matthews etc. need to rebound this year, otherwise their days, on the team, may be numbered. Heck, even Woodson led the team in missed tackles last year. It also sounds like Driver may be a goner, since 1) They’d save a lot of money by cutting him and 2) Gurley and Borel are waiting in the wings.

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