Not being nearly as big a fan of the college game as I am the NFL game, I needed to do some research on the Packers’ last 7 selections in the 2011 draft. Everyone hopes to find some diamonds in the rough in these later picks. The reality, of course, is that some of them may not even make the team. But if we get a Sam Shields or two out of this crop, we should all be happy.
The X-factor that is very hard to determine from game film is a players’ character. The Packers have consistently selected players with integrity, determination, and self-confidence without overly large egos. Perfect example, if you haven’t seen it already, is this ESPN story about Packers’ 5th-round pick D.J. Williams from Arkansas.
Guys who can overcome this upbringing have the character to make it in the NFL. The Packers obviously felt they could find some gems late in the draft as they traded down to amass three picks in the 6th round and two more in the 7th. Here’s my breakdown of the remaining picks.
Davon House, CB, New Mexico St. (Round 4, Pick 131)
I like this pick. Some boards had him as high as a second-round pick. He has good size, plays bump-and-run press coverage, and should challenge the Packers’ back-up DBs to be their dime back. House fits well with the Packers’ defense and has the athleticism to contribute on special teams as well. Good example, like Shields, of getting a gifted athlete. I also like the selection of a DB. We needed a little competition on the depth chart.
D.J. Williams, TE, Arkansas (Round 5, Pick 141)
Since seeing the video above, this guy is one of my favorites. Thompson evidently has an affinity for guys named “D.J.” since he picked two of them this draft. Williams was seen as one of the top 3-4 TE prospects in the draft. Like House, his skill set fits very well with the Packers offense – great hands and speed who creates match-up problems. He can also play in the fullback or halfback position, which presents some intriguing possibilities. One analysis described drafting Williams in the 5th-round as “highway robbery.” Certainly, with Finley back, and Quarless’s maturation, the Packers have an elite set of lethal weapons at TE.
Caleb Schlauderaff, OL, Utah (Round 6, Pick 179)
This was no steal, but it does add depth at a position we will likely need help at if Colledge and Spitz are lost. Schlauderaff reportedly has great toughness and work ethic, along with a “mean streak” which I like to see in offensive linemen. It’s not clear if he’s got the skills to be a true starter. Frankly, it’s not clear he’s got the skills to even make the team. But he should provide depth and some options at the interior of the Packers’ O-line.
D.J. Smith, LB, Appalachian St. (Round 6, Pick 186)
Many prognosticators (myself included) expected the Packers to select an OLB sooner in this draft. But at least we added someone to the mix. Smith is small, and certainly not obviously better than any of our other various options for OLB. Some speculate he may be better suited to play inside, or may just be a special teams player. Thompson commented on the pick, “What I like most about him, is his name is D.J.”
Ricky Elmore, DL/OLB, Arizona (Round 6, Pick 197)
By this point in the draft, you’re really taking flyers on guys. But Elmore could be worth the flyer. He again grades out high on the character quotient – with a reportedly “strong motor” and never-say-quit attitude. Several mock drafts had us taking another Arizona pass rusher and Clay Matthews look-alike, Brooks Reed. But Elmore actually out-produced Reed over their respective college careers, with Elmore logging a Pac-10 best 21.5 sacks over the 2009-2010 seasons. Again, should add depth and competition at training camp and has great potential up-side.
Ryan Taylor, TE, North Carolina (Round 7, Pick 218)
The Packers like their tight ends, and have selected many great ones. Taylor apparently caught the eye of the Packers scouts and coaches, and could make the team as a fourth TE. There will be plenty of competition, with at least 6 guys (including Crabtree and Havner) by my count coming into training camp. It’s possible the Packers see his value as mostly on special teams – Taylor was a special teams captain at North Carolina.
Lawrence Guy, DT, Arizona State (Round 7, Pick 233)
The appropriately named “Guy” wasn’t the last pick in the 2011 Draft (that honor went to Cheta Ozougwu from Rice with the 254th selection by the Texans), but at pick #233 he was pretty close. It’s an honor to be selected at all, but, statistically speaking, the likelihood of some “Guy” making an impact, or even making the team, as a 7th-round pick is low. That said, Thompson and his team have shown they can find great value deep on the board. I would not have guessed that defensive line, one of the areas I thought we needed most, was a position we would wait to select till the last round. But this “Guy” has the potential to be a surprise value. He’s big and athletic and probably could have gone higher in the draft. If nothing else, he will, hopefully, motivate Neal, Wilson and other Packers’ defensive tackles to step it up.
My overall reaction to the draft was positive. It was more heavy on offense than I expected. Although we addressed them late, I wish we had selected some more promising players at DT and OLB. That said, there are several players with upside potential. And the “best-available” approach that has served us well in the past could have been an effective philosophy again this year. Can't wait to see these guys in camp, assuming we ever sort out this labor mess.