Friday, April 29, 2011

Packers Re-load on Offense in 2nd/3rd Rounds

One of the strategies that has made Ted Thompson’s drafts so successful is he selects players a couple years before he urgently needs them.  This approach gives players time to mature, to develop.  And, frequently, they emerge in their second or third (or, in Rodgers’ case, fourth) year as pros to become impact players.

That strategy seemed to be at play today with the selection of Randall Cobb, WR from Kentucky, in the second round and Alex Green, RB from Hawaii, in the third.  I was somewhat surprised to see the Packers select two more offensive players, particularly with their needs at DL and OLB not addressed yet.  But I’m having a hard time objecting to either pick.

Cobb is a little under-sized at just 5'10" and 191 lbs.  But he was a top 5 receiver in most of the mock drafts, and projected to go higher.  So to get him with the 64th pick was certainly good value.  Several receivers came off the board in front of him – including Jon Baldwin from Pittsburgh (to the Chiefs), Greg Little from North Carolina (to the Browns), and Titus Young from Boise State (to the Lions) – who don’t seem as promising as Cobb.  So I expect the “best available” approach played into this selection.

Cobb is also a good fit for the Packers' offense.  He is quick off the snap and has great hands.  He played the slot a lot at Kentucky – suggesting the Packers may see him as an eventual successor to Driver.   Cobb also brings some interesting X-factor skills.  He’s a very good return man – something the Packers desperately need.  He even has had experience as a quarterback and running back, which could provide useful versatility to the Packers' offense.  The selection of a receiver in the 2nd round also suggests that the Packers may be expecting to part ways with James Jones.  Cobb would help sustain the Packers’ depth at receiver.  Here are some Cobb highlights to get you pumped up:

The selection of Alex Green at running back in the 3rd round with the 96th overall pick was a bigger surprise.  As with the Cobb pick, this selection could indicate some uncertainty about the future of Ryan Grant and Brandon Jackson.  I expected the Packers to hold tight at running back, particularly since Starks appears to be a steal from last year’s draft.  Even if you accept that the Packers had need at this position, there were quite a few other guys – including Kendall Hunter from Oklahoma State, Jordan Todman from Connecticut, Jamie Harper from Clemson and others – who I suspect would be higher on most team’s boards.

Green, at 6’0”, 225 lbs, is one of the bigger, more physical backs in this year’s draft.  And the Packers could see him as a Grant replacement, perhaps after a year or two on the bench.  I just think they probably could have gotten Green with a later pick – most mock drafts seem to have him going a round or two later.

That said, it’s hard to point out other picks that the Packers passed up.  Defensive line was a need, but the run on defensive linemen was dramatic – with 25 selected in the first three rounds so far.  Maybe they just didn’t see anyone else at that position that they liked.  I’m not sure I do.

The other position I was hoping they might draft early was outside linebacker.  But there again, they may just not have seen value at that position when they were selecting.  Several promising prospects were already taken in the second round – including Akeem Ayers from UCLA (pick 39 by the Titans), Bruce Carter from North Carolina (pick 40 by the Cowboys), Brooks Reed from Arizona (pick 42 by the Texans) and Jonas Mouton from Michigan (pick 61 by the Chargers).  Martez Wilson from Illinois could have been had in the second, but he was gone by the third round (pick 72 by the Saints), as was Justin Houston from Georgia (pick 70 by the Chiefs).  Sam Acho from Texas was still available at the end of the 3rd round, but maybe they think they have a chance to land him, or some of the other players still available at OLB, later.

Cornerback is the other position I could have considered in the third round, but it was pretty picked over.  Five cornerbacks were selected in the second round, including Ras-I Dowling, Marcus Gilchrist, Jaiquawn Jarrett, Brandon Harris, and Aaron Williams.  And five more were taken in the third round.  Without a pressing need at that position, I probably would have passed on this second-tier crop of players as well.

I guess I can’t complain.  I spent most of last season begging for Thompson to get a running back.  He’s finally answered the call in the way he knows how: through the draft.  Hopefully, both these guys will work out.

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