Sunday, January 27, 2013

Packers Draft Talk

The experts all say the biggest jump for young players is between year 1 and 2 and the second biggest jump (considered late bloomers) is between year 2 and 3.  Let's take a look at the Packers last two drafts and see where the team stands before this April's draft. 

1st round Derek Sherrod LT
His overall grade is still incomplete.  He flashed a few things just prior to breaking his leg but then showed that he couldn't even run without limping in practice before shutting it down for good.  Clearly he wanted to show the coaches he could go because they gave him a chance for choosing not to activate him from the Physically unable to Play (PuP) list.  What the Packers think of Sherrod's health will show here in April's draft.  If they draft a tackle early, don't expect Sherrod to ever suit up for the Packers (or any team) again.  Even if he does heal up, if the Packers move Bulaga over to LT this off-season (as many expect), Sherrod basically becomes depth for the team there).

2nd round Randall Cobb WR
A fantastic find who can do just about everything on offense.  He'll be the slot guy in the Packers 3-1-1 base offensive attack.  People fail to realize the benefit that Finley plays for him by clearing out the linebackers and making it less likely for Cobb to get killed over the middle.  Because of Cobb, don't expect the Packers to draft a WR on the first day, but stranger things have happened.

3rd round Alex Green RB
He was a healthy scratch in the playoffs and late in the season.  Rumors abounded that his knee was still bothering him and he had never regained his explosiveness seen prior to the injury in 2011.  The Packers under Ted Thompson have been great at getting running backs off the trash heap (Grant and now Harris) and making them servicable, but they have been terrible at drafting them (Brandon Jackson, Alex Green).  Green averaged just 3.4 yards a carry last year and looked lost in the zone running scheme.  With his injury though, he may make a bigger impact in year 3.

4th round Davon House CB
Another injury issue for House (one in each of the last two years) and the jury will be out on whether he can stay healthy or not for another year.  He had shoulder surgery just last week and will hopefully be good to go for training camp.  However, that means he'll lose this next season of Organized Team Activities (OTAs) and mini-camps.  That's too bad because he flashed really nice ability and is a great size matchup on the outside.  He does a nice job of using the sideline as a defender and guarding the outside routes but he broke down in coverage in the slot area and had a hard time in press (his strength) with his shoulder injury.  Prior to the injury (injured on special teams) he was a willing tackler.

5th round DJ Williams TE
He's been OK at most things.  He's been an above average special team player and and average blocker.  He rounds too many routes and has a hard time separating as a result.  He's a natural pass catcher and can play H-back when Rodgers is in the shotgun effectively.  When I see him, I see a speedier version of Donald Lee (but not as effective as an in-line blocker).  He can give you some production, but nothing special.

6th round Caleb Schlauderaff OG
No longer on the team.  Traded to Jets for a conditional draft choice after training camp his rookie year.

6th round DJ Smith ILB
He was a productive tackling machine filling in for Desmond Bishop until he also tore his knee up and ended up on IR.  He should be ready for training camp but will likely miss all of the OTAs and mini-camps.  He was a liability in coverage, so even if he comes back at full strength, the Packers may still need an inside linebacker with coverage skills to play in the nickel (or ideally all three downs).

6th round Ricky Elmore DE
No longer on the team.  He's under contract with the Washington Redskins

7th round Ryan Taylor TE
He's been a nice special teams player that has no problem mucking it up with the big boys.  He will never back down and if there's a frackas, expect to see Taylor in the middle of it.  He's more old school hockey enforcer than TE though.  He does not separate, is barely average blocking, and doesn't run good routes.  The team will continue to need special teams guys like him though, so expect to see him remain on the team.

7th round Lawrence Guy DT
He is no longer on the team and is playing for the Colts now.

Undrafted Free Agents
Bradon Saine RB - IR Knee - don't expect any contribution from him
Jamari Lattimore LB - Speicial Teamer nothing special

1st round Nick Perry OLB
Ended up on IR with a wrist injury that required surgery.  He should be back in time for OTAs and minicamps and he needs every rep he can get.  He's a physical monster, but he's also a project, and that may not be good for the Packers.  Hopefully he can bounce back and put together some consistency with the flashes he showed this past year.  If the Packers bring back Walden, expect them to compete for the starting position.  If they don't bring Walden back, they will likely bring in someone young to compete either through the draft or free agency.

2nd round Jerel Worth DT/DE
He was showing some flashes of quickness, especially as a nickel pass rusher inside and opposite Mike Neal.  Then he blew out his knee and had to wait nearly a month before they could operate on it.  He will be challenged to play at all in 2013 and will definitely be on the PuP list to start the season.

2nd round Casey Hayward CB
He was the bright spot of the 2012 draft class for the Packers.  He helped create a lot of turnovers.  Most people I talk to would like him to be the heir-apparent for Charles Woodson in the slot.  His best plays, however, came when he was playing on the outside, matched up in man coverage.  With an offseason of OTAs and mini-camps though, he could really develop into a strong force in the slot.  He even showed some pass rush ability from the outside as well.

4th round Mike Daniels DT/DE
He's short but fiesty and productive.  He doesn't really fit the mold of a 3-4 DE and definitely not a nose.  The Packers used him in a rotation and against the right personnel, he was productive. Still, he's not a long-armed large man that the 3-4 defense needs on the weakside of the blitz (typically opposite Mathews) to hold the point or eat up blocks.  Expect the Packers to draft someone if they can.

4th round Jerron McMillian S
He has decent range but took some bad angles and seemed way too tentative in 2012.  However, with a season of minicamps and OTAs, he could make some decent strides.  The Packers desperately need something in the saftey position and still miss Nick Collins back there.  If the Packers draft a safety early in the draft, expect a fierce competition to open camp.

5th round Terrell Manning ILB
He was pretty much never an option at ILB and basically took up roster space as an inactive for most of the year.  He was a slow-footed runner who is more of a run-stopping plugger.  He only played 4-3 in college.  With a year of OTAs and minicamp, he might be available to contribute but he's hardly the answer the Packers need at ILB.

5th round Andrew Datko RT
He is still an intriguing prospect.  With a year on the practice squad strengthening his oft-injured shoulders, can he develop and contribute?  The Packers promoted Don Barclay over him when Bulaga went down, so clearly he wasn't ready this year.  Perhaps with a solid off-season he can be ready to contribute into the depth at tackle.

7th round BJ Coleman QB
Strong armed with barely an ounce of intellect, this guy mostly rubbed me the wrong way.  He strikes me as the QB version of all the bad things about Finley, but mostly he's a guy that'll hold a clipboard.  He needs to press for the 2nd string spot this year, but if he doesn't, he may still find a spot on the practice squad because McCarthy always needs a QB project.

Undrafted Free Agents (including mid-season acquisitions that qualify as well)
Greg Van Roten OG - Came in as the 6th lineman after Evan Dietrich-Smith became the starter at center.  Definitely a guard.  He's pretty much an unknown and considering I wasn't able to watch any practices  this year, I can't really comment on his ability.

Donald Barclay RT - Definitely a RT and not a LT, he did a pretty good job as an undrafted guy when Bulaga got hurt.  Has a tendency to hold when beaten by a speed move.  At the minimum, he can provide some depth at tackle.  If Bulaga moves to LT this offseason, then Newhouse and Barclay compete for the starting position at RT.

Sean Richardson S - Played a little bit of special teams and was beaten badly in his only action of the season.  He ended the season on IR for his back.

Dezmon Moses OLB - Played well at times and was decisive (even if he chose wrong) most of the time.  He can really benefit from an off-season of OTAs and minicamp.  He needs to find the ball carrier better and I'm not entirely sure if that can be taught.  Still, he can really fly around and can be disruptive if not accounted for - and that's saying a lot for an undrafted guy.

Jarrett Boykin WR - He's not a burner (but probably plays faster than his 4.7 40 time he ran at the combine), but he's a natural pass catcher and already a solid route runner.  He will compete for the Packers 5th WR spot.

Jeremy Ross WR - He's got return talent and seems to play taller than 5'11" too.  He will compete for the Packers 4th or 5th WR spot.  He's not a starter though, so the Packers may want to draft a guy to fill that 4th spot that can develop into a starter once Jones/Nelson/Cobb leave.

DuJuan Harris RB - He's projected as the starter at this point.  He a decisive, downhill runner that gets lost when the big bodies get moving.  The jury is out whether or not he can hold up for an entire year with his size though.  Still, a great find that can definitely contribute next year and will greatly improve from minicamps and OTAs as he actually will have time to learn the offense.

2013 Packers Draft Needs
Because the Packers had such a dearth of injuries in their last two draft classes, it will be a challenge for Thompson to find the right pieces and not waste a pick.  Say, for instance, that they go tackle early and then Bulaga and Sherrod are 100%, they will have a log-jam at the tackle position with 5 guys (including the new draft choice) that could be solid starters.  The Packers won 12 games with the line they had (including its 51 sacks), so I'm more apt to believe that they will roll with what they have at that position and make some tweaks inside the team to best align and squeeze talent out of that group.  To do that, I'd expect Bulaga to move to the left and let Barclay and Newhouse battle for the RT position.  Then if Sherrod is healthy, he can battle with them at RT as well with the losers backing up the two tackle positions. 

Draft Needs (# of players needed):
WR (1)
C/G (1-2)
RB (1)
DL (1)
ILB (1)
OLB (1)
S (1)
QB (1)

They need a #4 guy.  This guy can be developmental and the draft seems a bit light on WR talent so they may ignore this position all together for the year.  They could use a big body guy if possible.

Packers usually get a guy to play both positions here to allow them to only suit up 8 linemen. They need 2 here if they aren't going to roll with Evan Dietrich-Smith at center and draft a starting center. They would still need depth here.

What they could really use here is a pounder that can get the short yards.  To get the right back though it would require a 1st or 2nd round draft choice.  The Packers are 28-7 the last two seasons with a bunch of retreads and no-names at running back; I still think they have bigger fish to fry and will try to roll with Harris and company for the year.  They could try to draft someone in the later rounds but that only seems to work well for Shanahan in the zone blocking scheme.

With Worthy out for the year (likely) and Pickett, Raji, Neal, and CJ Wilson all free agents after the season, this is the position of absolute need for the Packers.  They will likely draft 2 guys here and if there's a big and tall guy available early, they'll jump on him and draft him right away.

They have a need here due to injuries and lackluster play.  They need an everydown inside linebacker that can go sideline to sideline.  They won't find one outside of round 2 however, so they would have to draft early to find that guy.  Considering AJ Hawk's contract means he'll be here for another 2 years for sure, they are not likely to draft here (even if they should).

They may not draft here if they resign Walden and run with Walden, Mathews, Perry, and Moses this next year, but they can never have too many athletic linebackers, so expect them to draft one in the later rounds for Greene to groom.

They need either depth here (if they are sold that McMillian and Burnett are the answer) or they need a bonafide starter that can make plays.  That guy might be available in the first or second round, but after that, it's all just for depth.

This is for depth only (obviously).  The Packers may find something and may not, but they'll probably have at least 4 QBs on the roster for training camp, and if the guy can actually throw it, it'll certainly help the defense prep for offenses in scout team practice.

If I were GM and things fell exactly the way I wanted
The draft is obviously a lottery and you never quite know what's going to be available when you pick.  The Packers will be afforded the opportunity to draft the best player available in most cases and there should be some options available.  Here's what I'd do each round (note they'll get 1-2 compensatory picks as well and those are just guesses as to what they'll get rewarded).

1 - DT/DE
2 - ILB
3 - RB
4 - C/G
5 - WR
Compensatory - DL
6 - QB
7 - OLB
Compensatory - S

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