The Packers won the Super Bowl (and we landed on the moon!) meaning they’ve been handed the most bitter-sweet of all draft positions: No. 32. Monty McMahon of TotalPackers.com talks about what’s in store for the green and yellow at the 2011 NFL draft.
1. Everyone thinks the Packers need a pass-rushing outside linebacker in this draft. Is that the top priority in your mind?
Yes. The current options of Erik Walden, Brad Jones and Frank Zombo, all of whom saw time in the starting lineup last season, are average at best. Complementing Clay Matthews with another pass-rush threat would make the Packers defense next to unstoppable. After outside linebacker, the Packers could use help on the offensive line. Left tackle Chad Clifton probably has one season left and both left guard and center could use upgrades. What a lot of people don’t know is the Packers offensive line, outside of right guard Josh Sitton and right tackle Bryan Bulaga, is well below average in the run game.
2. Brooks Reed has been a popular mock draft pick. That would be a hell of a lot of girl hair on one defense…
True. I think the Packers would lead the league in white linebackers with flowing golden locks. Reed would join Matthews and A.J. Hawk in that category. They’ll be competing for shampoo deals.
3. What if Mark Ingram drops to you guys? Ryan Grant’s future with the team is in doubt and James Starks has a long way to go.
Everyone seems to think general manager Ted Thompson always chooses the best available player. That’s typically true in the later rounds, but Thompson usually picks for need in the first 2-3 rounds. Case in point: receiver Michael Crabtree dropped to the Packers two years ago and Thompson chose nose tackle B.J. Raji instead. Crabtree was widely considered a top-5 talent, but the Packers needed to beef up their defense at the time and receiver was one of the deepest positions on the team. Thompson clearly chose for need.
As far as running back, Grant will be a free agent after the 2011 season, but Starks is definitely the back of the future, if not the present. The coaching staff loves him. The only question is if he can stay healthy. I can definitely see the Packers choosing a back in the draft, but I don’t see it happening in the first round.
4. Did the emergence of Tramon Williams — and to a lesser degree, Sam Shields — sort of cool your need for a cornerback? Charles Woodson could be moved to safety soon, right?
He could be, but Woodson is best when he’s allowed to play near the line. He’s a great blitzer and is still a solid corner. Williams has turned himself into one of the best cover corners in the league and Shields was a find — Thompson deserves a pat on the back for that one. Shields will eventually fill Woodson’s shoes and when you consider he only played one season at cornerback in college, could develop into one of the best in the game, in time. He reminds me a little of former Redskins cornerback Darrell Green because of his speed.
That being said, other than Jarrett Bush and the top three, I don’t trust any of the cornerbacks on the roster. If the right guy is on the board after round one, I can absolutely see the Packers choosing a corner. You have to remember: Thompson always chooses guys the team doesn’t need right away, but will need two years down the road.
5. Who are you predicting the Packers end up with in the first round?
I know Reed is the popular pick, but you can find great 3-4 outside linebackers later in the draft. Look at Pittsburgh’s James Harrison — 2008 defensive player of the year, four-time All Pro and undrafted free agent. I think the Packers go offensive line. The team’s most valuable commodity is Aaron Rodgers. Keeping him off the turf is of utmost importance and adding another solid run blocker would only improve the Packers offense.
The Packers have a potential hole at left guard. Daryn College will likely be a free agent when the new collective bargaining agreement is signed and he’s the team’s weakest starting offensive lineman even if he comes back. I like Florida guard Mike Pouncey. If he can run block anywhere near as well as his brother does (Pittsburgh’s Maurkice Pouncey), the Packers running game could really be a force. Add that to the passing game, where Rodgers gets tight end Jermichael Finley back to go with Greg Jennings and Donald Driver and, well, I’d crap my pants if I were an opposing defensive coordinator.