Q. What are the team needs for the Green Bay Packers heading into the draft?
A. Defense. Defense. Defense. The Packers ranked dead last among the 32 teams in 2011 and it was no accident. The Dom Capers-led unit was clearly hurt by the losses of defensive lineman Cullen Jenkins and the injury to Nick Collins. They were a unit without leadership and purpose.
Ted Thompson’s ﬁrst goal will be to restock the defensive line and linebacker positions. If he can also throw in a solid defensive back, he will be even further ahead. With 12 total picks, Thompson might just do some wheeling and dealing, especially in the ﬁrst couple of rounds, but he could also surprise everyone and deal down to accumulate even more picks. But given the fact that 12 drafted rookies would have a very difficult time cracking the lineup of a team that went 15-2 last season, I highly doubt Thompson would look to add quantity over quality.
Look for the Packers to draft either a defensive lineman or outside linebacker with the ﬁrst couple of picks; and then follow those picks up with an offensive lineman, a defensive back, a running back and a quarterback in the later rounds. The rest will be simply players to pad the roster and add competitive depth.
Q. Who are some prospects you’d like to see end up with the Green Bay Packers?
A. I would love to see the Packers add a defensive lineman such as a Melvin Ingram, Quinton Coples or a Courtney Upshaw, but we all know they most likely will be quickly nabbed in the early picks of the ﬁrst round. However, if a Nick Perry or Whitney Mercilus is still on the board when the Packers pick at 28, Thompson should pull the Trigger. However, we wouldn’t kick a Vin Curry, Andre Branch or a Chandler Jones out of bed either. Peter King says the Packers will pick Michigan State’s defensive tackle Jerel Worth, which could be a coup for the longterm and a solid pick for the Packers. Another intriguing prospect who might be an interesting defensive pick and who would be a great pick for the Green Bay Packers is Boise State’s Shea McCellin – I wouldn’t be surprised at all to see Thompson go after him.
On the offensive side of the ball, the Packers’ need for depth and longterm effect on the line is evident. Left tackle and center are the two most glaring needs, but quality is always most important when considering drafting for the line. Of course, Peter Konz’s name always comes to the forefront, but Thompson’s effort to grab center Jeff Saturday has softened the need for the team to go after a top-rated center right away. Thompson’s ability to pick solid linemen in the later rounds is well-known and he may even be able to land an undrafted free agent who could help the team.
Picking a running back and even a quarterback, in my estimation, is just as important. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if the Packers put a premium on a running back who could add to its already somewhat solid stable. Ryan Grant is probably gone, and with injuries to James Starks and last year’s rookie Alex Green, the Packers are left with second year man Brandon Saine. You might see the team try to draft Chris Polk out of Washington, or a Doug Martin out of Boise State.
At quarterback, the Packers have more of a need than Thompson has admitted. The loss of Matt Flynn moves untested Graham Harrell to number two. The need is evident, but Thompson most likely will draft to develop at the position. A Kirk Cousins from Michigan State is an intriguing prospect, and might be available to the team around the fourth round. But don’t count out a Ryan Lindley of San Diego State or even Russell Wilson from right here in Wisconsin.
Q. What would represent a successful draft in your opinion?
A. If the Packers can nab a solid defensive lineman (defensive end or tackle), an outside linebacker that can be a bookend for Clay Matthews to draw some attention away from him, an offensive lineman, a running back and a quarterback, the Packers will have had a successful draft. I don’t see Ted Thompson moving too far away from the team’s obvious needs, though he says he doesn’t draft that way. According to him, it’s always the best player on the board. Well, in my estimation, that’s ﬁne, but at some point the team has to address the team needs as well. Last year, Thompson decided to go with who he had at defensive lineman and outside linebacker and it came back to bite the team in the long run. Hopefully, Thompson learned a lesson with that tactic and will look at the overall picture more intently this time around.
Q. Give us a bold prediction for your team.
A. My bold prediction is that Thompson will trade up at least ﬁve picks to select USC’s Nick Perry in the ﬁrst round, giving up a couple of later round picks to do so. Much like he did when the team selected Clay Matthews, I feel that if the Packers can hang on to their 28th pick and nab another in the early to mid-20s, they will have two solid ﬁrst round selections that will have an immediate impact. The team can afford to give up a couple of later round picks to make that happen.