>\n\nWorst to First: 23. Green Bay Packers \n\n\n\n

Worst to First: 23. Green Bay Packers

Written by Ben Morgan on 04/17/2010

Last year the Packers were one of several teams to convert to a 3-4 Defense. Most of the teams had mixed results, but the Packers were in a much better position to convert as they already had a bunch of players who fitted the new system well. Chief among them Ryan Pickett who became an instant hit at Nose Tackle. So much so that first round pick B.J. Raji didn't get on the field anything like as much as expected. But still this is a team almost ready to challenge for the big one. They need a little help to get there and this draft could be huge in determining if the Packers can go on to the Superbowl or if they remain just a good team capable of playoffs most years. With some aging players in key positions there are some major concerns about how small this window of opportunity might be. In particular we'll look at the Cornerbacks and the Offensive Tackles. We also need to look at how they can improve their pass rush going into 2010. With one of the best young QBs at the reins, an explosive WR in Greg Jennings and a good running game they're going to be a team to watch, and a team to beat. As a side note if any Green Bay fans have any better info on pre-draft Player Visits, post em as comments and I'll add them to the list.
2010 Free Agent Losses 2010 Free Agent Additions
Mike Montgomery DE (Vikings,UFA-cut), Matt Giordano DB (Falcons,UFA-cut), Aaron Kampman DE (Jaguars,UFA)

2010 Unsigned Free Agents 2011 Potential Free Agents
Atari Bigby SS (RFA), Daryn Colledge G (RFA), Ahman Green RB (UFA), Johnny Jolly DE (RFA), Jeremy Kapinos P (RFA), John Kuhn FB (RFA), Tramon Williams CB (RFA), DeShawn Wynn RB (RFA)

Allen Barbre OT (RFA), Desmond Bishop LB (RFA), WIll Blackmon CB (UFA), Mason Crosby K (RFA), Donald Driver WR (UFA), Korey Hall RB (RFA), Spencer Havner TE (RFA), Brandon Jackson RB (RFA), Cullen Jenkins DE (UFA), James Jones WR (RFA), John Kuhn RB (UFA), Jason Spitz C (UFA)

Quarterbacks Minimal Need
When you have a guy who can make you forget a legend, someone on the coaching side of things is doing his job. After waiting behind Favre for years Aaron Rodgers stepped in 2 years ago and hasn't looked back. He had a superb season, despite being sacked a league leading 51 times, and played every game. Again. Must be something in the water in Wisconsin. Similar to Ben Roethlisberger Rodgers can hold the ball a touch too long and some of those sacks were his fault, but he makes plays too so I'm not sure they really want to change the way Rodgers does his job. Behind Rodgers is the latest in a long line of developmental QBs, Matt Flynn. Having beaten out much more heralded Brian Brohm (amongst others), the Pack seem pretty happy with him. They also have a former Ivy Leaguer called Chris Pizzotti, of whom I know nothing. Maybe he's the next Kurt Warner, maybe he's just a camp arm. So I can see a small need here for a developmental prospect. Green Bay does such a great job of bringing QBs through it's really all they need. A late rounder probably...

Runningbacks Minor Need
Ryan Grant's coming off a very good year, 1200+ yards and 10TDs at 4.4 a carry is pretty damn good in this league. He's comfortably got downs 1 and 2 sewn up. But 3rd downs are another matter. Brandon Jackson's blitz pickup is no longer a weakness but he's not really much of a threat and the Packers would like to add someone who can give them that big play ability on 3rd downs and as a change of pace to Grant. It's pretty unlikely they'd be looking in round 1, but then they're probably not expecting C.J. Spiller to be around by the time the 23rd pick rolls up. If for some reason he's still there he could be incredibly tempting. Not least as he'd significantly improve the Return Game as well. But it's probably a moot point. More likely we're talking about guys like Montario Hardesty or Dexter McCluster in round 2,3 or 4. Joe McKnight could enter the equation too.

Wide Receivers Minimal Need
Donald Driver is starting to look like he'll play til he's 50. Another 1000 yard season, and this at the age of 35. Driver is entering the final year of his contract though and whilst Greg Jennings is a big time playmaker, underneath Driver they're still waiting for James Jones and Jordy Nelson to develop. They like both players, and understandably so. James Jones has great attributes but he drops too many passes. This could be a make or break year for him as he'll also be a free agent in 2011, possibly unrestricted too if there's a new CBA. With questions about Jones and Driver after this year and not great options below their top 4 there is the potential to stash a rookie this year, but it shouldn't be a high pick. I expect they may go into the season with what they have and hope Jones and/or Nelson makes Driver replaceable in 2011.

Tight Ends No Need
Having Donald Lee would be a solid situation. Having Jermichael Finley as well? Boy this is a nice position for the Packers. Finley is incredibly talented and incredibly young. What's really nice to see is how much more consistent he became down the stretch last year and how much more trust Aaron Rodgers had in him. He's going to be something special and he's probably going to be it very very soon. With the amount of other TEs they have on the roster as well, I don't expect a pick being used on another in this draft.

Offensive Line Major Need
As we mentioned earlier, the Offensive Line gets a lot of criticism for the number of sacks and hits Aaron Rodgers takes. Some of this is on Rodgers. Not all though. The Packers OL was pretty awful early in the season when pass blocking. 5 sacks were given up to just one guy in the Bengals game. Things got a lot better when Chad Clifton and Mark Tauscher were healthy and able to step into the starting line up though. Add in a healthy rushing game and things are looking up right? Well part right. Clifton and Tauscher combine for 64 or so years on the planet. That means they're both heading into the "borrowed time" phase of an NFL Lineman's career. But it does mean that barring injuries, the Tackle positions are safe for another year. Even so, were one of Clifton or Tauscher to get hurt again (highly likely at their age) it would be bad news for Aaron Rodgers. I think taking a Tackle, and doing it early is an incredibly smart thing for this organisation to do. Even with the 23rd pick. It's not the best Tackle class but unlike many teams out there Green Bay have the luxury of some time to develop a player. With T.J. Lang looking like moving inside to Guard again (he's nothing if not versatile having started at Left and Right Tackle as well) it does look like leaving the depth at Tackle pretty threadbare. Also it might allow them to get Daryn Colledge off the field after a pretty awful 2009. With Scott Wells playing well at Center last year Jason Spitz could move into a Guard slot too. So inside things are potentially not too bad at all. But I would say at 23 if Bruce Campbell or Charles Brown should be a good fit in Green Bay. Later prospects might include Jared Veldheer or Jason Fox. Bryan Bulaga won't fall to #23 which is a shame, I think he'd look great in Green. I'm not as down on the Pack's OL as a lot of people but age of the starting Tackles and lack of much under them leads me to make this Major Need.
Defensive Tackles No Need
With the excellent Ryan Pickett now extended longterm and last year's #9 pick B.J. Raji also inked long term there's really no need here at all. I would expect Raji to spend some time playing 3-4 DE as well this year and also backup Pickett.
Defensive Ends Minimal Need
How well did Johnny Jolly convert to 3-4DE? Yeah pretty good huh? But facing a possible conviction there's a big shadow hanging over his head. Even if he doesn't get jailtime he'd likely get a league suspension from Roger Goodell. Cullen Jenkins did a bang up job at End as well but he's a free agent in 2011. So there is some reason for concern here. It's all ifs and buts right now but it pays to cover your ass in the NFL. Raji will take some of that heat as you figure he'll eventually move full time to DE (as long as Pickett is healthy) which would give them a great rotation but worst case scenario is in 2011 they're missing a starter at a position that it typically takes a while to learn. Beyond the starters Jairus Wynn is a project as a 3-4DE and Justin Harrell has had so many injuries you have to wonder if he'll ever amount to anything. I definitely think it might pay them to investigate another player here. If Raji backs up NT and plays DE they have a spare roster space to carry someone. Someone like Alex Carrington in round 3 would be a nice pick. I'm calling this a Minimal Need but if things go badly for Jolly in his trial it could be a Major one very quickly.
Linebackers Major Need
Inside the Packers are pretty set. Nick Barnett and A.J. Hawk plus backup Brandon Chillar make for a more than serviceable lineup. Hawk hasn't really justified his draft position but he's still solid. Outside Aaron Kampmann dekamped to the Jaguars. It's a better fit for him as he's best suited to the 4-3, and that's left the Packers with a bit of a hole to fill. Brad Jones did pretty well for a rookie but you have to like him better as depth. There's a real good shot that the Packers could use their 1st rounder on OLB again having struck gold with Clay Matthews last year. Jerry Hughes, Sergio Kindle and various others should be around at #23 and would instantly upgrae the pass rush. But other needs may take precedence for the Packers. Still it's an option and would help out their secondary more than a rookie CB would (IMO). This is a team with a few holes and one that could challenge to go all the way next year. Rookie CBs rarely help hugely. Rookie pass rushers do.

Cornerbacks Major Need
There's no escaping the Packers couldn't cover anyone at the end of 2009 (and they weren't great all year) but look at the injury list. Al Harris, Will Blackmon and Patrick Lee all gone. Is it any surprise they were so bad? If everyone's back and healthy they should be pretty solid. Charles Woodson may be 33 but he's still fantastic. Al Harris may not be ready for the start of the season and he is 35. So we're starting to see there is a definite need here. CBs take time to develop in the NFL. It's a mighty big step up for most of them so you definitely have to draft ahead of immediate need here. With Will Blackmon an unrestricted free agent next year and possibly Tramon Williams as well. They really could do with looking for another CB in this draft. If Kyle Wilson is around at #23 (which I doubt) he'd be a good pick and may be able to contribute immediately. More likely it'd be a case of seeing who's left in round 2 or 3 I think. Because of development times I'm calling this Major Need but they should be ok for 2010.

Safeties Minor Need
Whilst Nick Collins is one of the best in the business things are a little cloudy for the rest of Green Bay's safeties. Atari Bigby is coming off 2 injury disrupted seasons and isn't the best in coverage. Clearly they could upgrade on him at which point he'd be very good depth, which is something they currently don't have. Which brings me to Taylor Mays. Mays could fit into that mid-late first round area and might still be there at #23. He's an incredible athlete but is a real boom or bust type. Big risk... As things stand they have a 1 excellent and 1 so-so starter. There's many teams in worse positions so I'd have to go for calling this a Minor Need. Depth has to be improved. If it can be done by demoting Bigby, so much the better. As it's likely a Strong Safety they're after you can often pick good ones up in round 3 and beyond though.

Specialists Major Need
Mason Crosby hasn't really ever nailed down the kicking job in Green Bay and I'd expect some form of competition to be brought in for him. I would guess Green Bay would be more interested in a veteran than a college kid though. On the punting side they have 2 guys on the roster but neither is likely to wow you. So the Packers could well be in line to use a later round pick on a Punter.
Return Game Minor Need
Packers special teams in general aren't great, but if the Pack are looking for that big play RB it figures they'd probably bring some plenty good return ability too. It's a need, not Major, they have several ok returners, but it's likely to be one filled as a result of another Need.
Dream Day One
1.23 Bruce Campbell OT Maryland
2.56 Ricky Sapp OLB Clemson
Player Visits
 Jonathan Crompton QB Tennessee
O'Brien Schofield OLB Wisconsin
Noah Shephard QB South Dakota State

 Danny Batten LB South Dakota State
Vuna Tuihalamaka OLB Arizona
Mike Iupati OG Idaho

 Antonio Robinson WR Nicholls State
Patrick Robinson CB Florida State


Last Edited: 04/14/2010

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