Thursday, April 22, 2010

Draft Day!!!

Hard to believe the NFL draft is already upon us.  I have been saving clips and links to breakdown the Packers draft strategy for months, but the clock has simply run out on my doing anything comprehensive.  So, instead, all I can offer is my quick and simple analysis: O-line and D-backfield.  That simple.

Most of the mock drafts and expert analysts I've read assume that the Packers will try to shore up their league-worst-sacks-allowed offensive line with their first round pick.  The trouble is, will they be able to get someone good at the #23 spot?  The glamor pick is a left tackle, and the best guys in the draft at that position are:
  1. Russell Okung, Oklahoma State
  2. Trent Williams, Oklahoma
  3. Bryan Bulaga, Iowa
  4. Anthony Davis, Rutgers
  5. Charles Brown, USC
Most of the experts think the top 4 are a cut above and will be off the board by the Packers pick.  Leaving us facing the unfortunately named Charlie Brown, the most mocked wannabe cartoon football player of all time.  There's speculation in the blogosphere that Thompson might try to move up in the first round to get more of a franchise guy.  But my guess is that he won't do that -- instead taking a more versatile offensive lineman (a la T.J. Lang) to back up the older guys like Clifton and Tauscher.  Not sure that's worth a first round pick though, so I could see them going a different direction.

Which brings us to the Packers second big need: defensive backfield.  I almost think this is a more acute need than O-line, just because of how exposed they were went they went into nickel/dime last year and the situation with Harris (although I'd probably be looking for safeties first).  Of course, I'd love to see them get a top tier guy like Eric Berry from Tennessee or Earl Thomas from Texas.  Lots of versatility.  If they're there, take 'em.  But hard to imagine them dropping that far.  A name that's been thrown around is USC's Taylor Mays.  I don't know much about any of these guys, but again I think Thompson will go for versatility.  He doesn't necessarily need a first-year starter here -- just someone who won't suck in nickel/dime coverage, and who has the possibility of developing into a starter in a couple years as the veteran guys age out.  If he can compete for Bigby's job, great, but that's not a prerequisite at this position.

They could also go for a cornerback with the first round pick -- some names floated include Rutgers’ Devin McCourty, Florida State’s Patrick Robinson, Alabama’s Kareem Jackson, and Boise State's Kyle Wilson.  With Woodson at age 33 and Harris at 35 (and coming off a knee injury), picking a corner -- and giving him a season or two to develop under these veterans -- could certainly make sense.  I don't know that it matters that much if the guy is a safety or a corner, though, given the need.  I hope they get one of each.

The other position I hear talked about is an outside linebacker.  But I'd be a little disappointed to see Thompson go that direction in the first round.  With Clay Mathews in there and a decent LB corps overall, I see this position as less urgent for the Packers.  Some of the possibilities at this position include Texas’ Sergio Kindle, TCU’s Jerry Hughes and Michigan’s Brandon Graham.  But it seems like there's decent depth at the OLB slot in this year's draft, so if the Packers pick one, I'd rather see them do it in a later round.

Finally, the "sleeper" pick in my opinion could be a running back.  Ryan Grant has been serviceable (and I think in many ways greatly under-appreciated), but the trend in the league is to get a young, versatile back and cut guys who have more than about 5 years on their tires.  I also think, given the needs of the teams ahead of them, there could be some quality RBs on the board that you'd take under a "best player available" philosophy.  One mock draft I looked at had only two RBs going before the Packer's pick at #23 (C.J. Spiller from Clemson at 14th overall, and Ryan Mathews from Fresno State at 20th overall).  If that's true, that leaves some potential stud RBs, including Jonathan Dwyer from Georgia Tech, Jahvid Best from Cal (go Cal!), Charles Scott from LSU and others.  If I were Thompson, I'd give serious thought to any of those guys.

So those are my thoughts.  Last year's draft class was fantastic.  Hope we do as well this year.  This is Thompson's forte, so I look forward to seeing what he does.

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