I disagree with Greg Bedard’s claim in this article that the Packers might look to trade up for an impact player because: “With one of the youngest teams in the league coming off a berth in the NFC Championship Game, the Packers have depth and few, if any, needs to fill”. We do have needs. Despite getting close to the Super Bowl last year, to get to the Super Bowl this year (and in years to come) and win it, there are needs to fill. I recognize that a team can fill needs in the draft, via trades and free agency. But heading into the draft this weekend – this is how I see our present team needs.
Quarterback: C-. Right now we have Rodgers and some bodies (though I admit to knowing zero about Babb and Bell – not interested in keeping Nall). Rodgers definitely could be good and may be able to survive a whole season – that is definitely possible. But Rodgers is injury prone and we have nobody to help when he goes down. This is a need position and my hope would be that we could draft a really solid player and pick up a savvy veteran (Chad Pennington?) to help bring Rodgers along.
Running Back: B-. Grant appears to be a quality back and likely will be solid again this year. And if this were years ago, we’d be fine here as so many teams just had a feature back who did most of the work. Nowadays though, the Pack should have a reliable counter-punch for opposing defenses to deal with. I’d say only one player between Wynn, Morency, Jackson and Herron should make the team (probably Wynn or Jackson) and the Packers should draft or pick up another player (or maybe give Corey White a shot – he’s done nothing but play well when asked). We could also take a look at another FB. FB/RB are need positions.
Tight End: C. This could change to a B- if Tory Humphrey gets back out there and plays well. Krause is not impressive so far. Donald Lee is a good tight end, but he needs a partner out there. This could be a position to fill in the draft (and there are apparently some good options in Keller and Fred Davis).
Wide Receivers: B+/A-. This is a really good group. Driver is aging but still effective, Jennings is really breaking out, I’m pretty sure Jones is ready for a break-out year, Koren Robinson will hopefully be in a bit better shape to play and Ruvell Martin may be the best #5 receiver in the NFL. However, ever since about 1995, I’ve been hoping the Pack would pick up another huge, bruising-type receiver who can bench press the bus (still can’t let go of Sterling Sharpe retiring). I wouldn’t give up much here to add a receiver – not really a need position, but adding a quality option could never hurt. (I thought briefly about writing a post pushing for the Pack to pick-up Boldin because he’s really really good, but I know it would cost too much. But just think of a 4 receiver set of Boldin, Driver, Jennings and Jones. That would be an unstoppable passing game).
Offensive Line: C+. I thought the Packers should have looked harder at Matt Burke, perhaps sign him and then move Wells to guard. There are some new faces at guard the team will be looking at (Ryan Keenan, Cameron Stephenson, also Babre) and this may also be a position to fill in the draft. Colledge and Spitz probably have camp and then 4-6 more games to prove they can play. I wouldn’t be surprised to see one or both of them dropped if their collective mediocrity continues. The Packers’ present thoughts on Coston may be the deciding factor in how aggressively we pursue a guard in the draft. Tackle is also a position the team might need to start thinking about more. Tauscher is still awfully good and I think has several more quality years left. But Clifton is someone in whom I am losing confidence. He got some attention last year (even some arguments for the Pro Bowl), but I think he’s on the decline and we need to start thinking about a replacement. I wouldn’t be surprised to see TT go for a quality guard or tackle with our first 3 picks.
Defensive Line – B. I may be in the minority here giving this high of a grade, but I think we’re in pretty good shape along the line. Losing Williams does hurt, but only if Jolly can’t come back to full strength. I think Jolly’s injury was a quiet reason the Packers defense as a whole declined at the end of last year. He is an effective player who can change a game even if he isn’t playing well simply because he makes it really hard for the QB to see with those Paul Pressey-like arms. I feel better about our interior D-Line (Pickett, Jolly, Harrell, Cole, Muir) than I do about the ends. Really Kampman is the only good one. Jenkins was OK last year but Cletidused a bit (or, faltering after getting a big contract – “to Cletidus” is the infinitive verb form). He may actually be more effective platooning at DT. KGB should be cut, Hunter is just too small (though I like his motor), and despite my pulling for him, Montgomery seems quite average. I wouldn’t be surprised to see TT pick up a good DE in the draft. (Or maybe surprise us all and trade a second rounder and 5th rounder or something for Jason Taylor??)
Linebackers: B-. Barnett played very well last year. I finally feel comfortable with him in the middle (prior to last year I thought he was overrated). Hawk is solid, but that’s it. For now, I’m OK with him on the weak-side but I may raise a stink next year if he has a mediocre-poor year this year. He is a #5 overall pick – Urlacher was a #9 overall pick. I expect major contributions from the guy and I don’t buy the “scheme” excuse used to explain Hawk and Poppinga not making big plays. I’m excited that we picked up Chillar because I think we need to replace Poppinga, but I’m not sure Chillar is the guy. I’m not sure why Desmond Bishop isn’t getting more of a chance to dethrone Poppinga from his OLB spot. It is possible we may pick up an OLB in this draft.
Secondary – C+. While there is lots of chatter out there about the Packers needing to draft a CB, I would not put it as our #1 need (though it is a need). Tramon Williams showed flashes of major talent last year, as did Will Blackmon. Our 2 corners, though aging, still play with enough veteran savvy to be above average corners. Bigby created a reputation for himself with some great hits, and if he can develop a better sense in coverage, he could become a monster back there. Collins, early on one of my favorite players, has been a disappointment. He does nicely in general in containing big plays (mostly because of his speed), but frankly, I’m not sure he’s smart enough to be the leader of the secondary. Rouse showed promise and I’m comforted that he could step in should Collins or Bigby get injured or play like crap. Jarrett Bush should be cut and Tyrone Culver should get a shot at playing CB. I could see TT looking for a CB or safety in later rounds. (As I said before, the only secondary guy I’d be inclined to draft early on (perhaps 2nd round if he’s still there) would be Tom Zbibowksi from Notre Dame.
Special Teams: B. We weren’t too bad on special teams this past year. I think it is part of the reason the team played well overall. Looks like Jon Ryan will have competition by Ryan Dougherty, but outside of that, we should be OK. We may miss the leadership though of Rob Davis (though he’ll be in the locker room still as director of player development). Importantly, we’ve re-signed Tracy White who is simply a star on special teams.
Here is my order of draft need priority:
- Tight End
- Offensive guard
- Running back (possibly fullback)
- Outside linebacker
- Defensive end
- Offensive tackle