Packers' Draft Glass Appears Half FullPosted:May 1st, 2011 2:42 pm
When you look at the 10 newest Packers, it appears you can draw a line at the halfway point. The first five players Ted Thompson drafted all look like they can make a significant early impact with the team. The bottom five may all face long odds to make the roster.
Thompson elected to treat the last two rounds as the beginning of free agency: trading down a couple of times to accumulate more late picks. He knows he has a deep roster including a bunch of players coming back from injury. He figures the more long shot guys he has, the better chance one or two of them impresses, whenever the team gets to open up for business.
Clearly the happiest guy in the building right now is Mike McCarthy. Imagine him as a mad scientist who already has one of the most dynamic, exciting potions around. Then he stumbles upon a few new elements that can change everything. We'll come back to the first pick in a moment, three of the next four picks represent guys that can add all kinds of new elements for the offense.
Wide receiver Randall Cobb will have the biggest immediate impact with this class--provided that he gets a training camp to learn the ropes. You can see his role in the offense growing as the season goes along. Call him Percy Harvin-lite. He set the SEC record for all-purpose yards in 2010 and should instantly become the punt returner, relieving Tramon Williams who is too important on the defense to be playing special teams.
Cobb will also be the team's fourth receiver, with Jones moving on in free agency. With Driver's days numbered, he has a chance to move up the depth chart quickly. Cobb is a smart, high character kid who will excel in this offense--grabbing short passes and turning them in to big gains. He's one of the best receivers in this draft in yards after the catch.
In the third round, Thompson replaced Brandon Jackson with Alex Green of Hawaii, an intriguing guy who averaged over eight yards per carry in the Rainbows' pass-happy spread offense. He rushed for 1,200 yards with 18 TDs and caught 27 passes with a 13 yard-per-catch average. At 6' 225, he's big, tough, breaks tackles and looks like the Pack's new third down back--once he figures out how to pass protect.
Then in the fifth, Thompson snatched tight end D.J. Williams from Arkansas, who won the Mackey Award as the nation's top tight end. Projected as a third rounder, Williams dropped into Thompson's lap and he couldn't pass him up--didn't see a defender on the board he liked better. Williams has terrific hands and can play as an H-back, something the Packers haven't used much. He also will give McCarthy the option to run two tight end sets. Imagine Finley and Williams on each side, with some combination of Jennings, Driver, Nelson and Cobb to man the receiver spots. Aaron Rodgers appears poised for another 4,000 yard season.
The other top five pick was Davon House, a CB from New Mexico State. Not to pat my back too hard, but my nine player Packer mock draft has the Pack drafting House along with Cobb. Two direct hits and I guessed correctly on eight of nine positions. House has all the measurables that the Pack covets at corner, but had an up and down collegiate career. With Woodson, Williams and Shields atop the depth chart, along with Pat Lee and Brandon Underwood, House will be afforded time to get up to speed and learn from the best, while being an immediate contributor on special teams.
Now we draw our line. Here's where Thompson made three trades and added one extra pick. All five of these guys will have to impress to make the squad. Guard Caleb Schlauderaff, from Utah, steps in at a position of uncertainty, pending Darren Colledge's free agent status. There will be a spirited battle for the starting job here between three or four guys, Caleb (I'm not trying to type his last name again) will have a chance to show what he's got.
Linebacker D.J. Smith, from Appalachian State, is an inside linebacker; a position of strength right now with four guys making a lot of money. If Barnett or Chillar cut, Smith may have a shot at a roster spot. Defensive end Ricky Elmore of Arizona also plays a spot where the Pack could use reinforecements. The Pack had ends Cam Heyward and Muhammad Wilkerson high on their boards and may have grabbed one, but neither was available, so Elmore will have a chance but will need to unseat either C.J. Wilson or Jarius Wynn. The same goes for the team's final selection Lawrence Guy, a DL from Arizona State who plays all over the line and was projected by some to be a third or fourth rounder.
The Pack's other seventh round pick was a head-scratcher: another tigh end: Ryan Taylor of North Carolina. Maybe Thompson saw that everybody else was drafting Tar Heels so he's better join the party (nine Tar Heels were drafted). He may be a new Spencer Havner, and switch to linebacker.
Finally, the Pack's first round pick: It sounds like the Pack was down to two guys: DE Da'Quan Bowers and tackle Derek Sherrod. Bowers, who three months ago was thought of as the top player in the draft, fell to Tampa Bay at #51, a degenerative knee condition scaring most teams off. The Pack considered the knee and whether his skill set was a match for the 3-4 and ultimately went with Sherrod.
It looks like a perfect fit. Seen as one of the top five tackles on the board, Sherrod was an All-American at Mississippi State, an honor roll member who's pursuing his Masters. He will be groomed as the left tackle of the future and can learn behind veteran Chad Clifton. Of course if he looks too good to keep on the bench, the Pack could try him at right tackle and move Bryan Bulaga to guard. Whatever happens in 2011, with back to back first round tackle picks, Ted Thompson has achieved his most important mission: find blue chip talent to protect the franchise QB.
I give the Packer draft an A-. I may have preferred Thompson go the other route on Saturday: package up a few late picks to grab a guy that has a chance to make an impact. One in particular is linebacker Chris Carter who the Pack could have had late in the fifth round, but traded their pick to the 49ers. Carter was the WAC defensive player of the year at Fresno State and is a prototypical outside linebacker in the 3-4. The Steelers grabbed him at 162, I would have liked to jump up a few spots and grab him.
But overall, McCarthy has a deeper, more versatile offense; one that will allow him to add a lot of new wrinkles. His return game got better and the defense, well the defense showed in 2010 that it's deep, talented and among the league's best.
As I've seen many draft analysts say about the Pack's draft: the rich got richer.