My general approach to this draft would be to emphasize the following positions in this order of priority: OT, OG, CB, LB, TE, S, RB, WR, P, FB, C, QB.
Archive for April, 2010
Read here from PFT.
Now, let me preface this by acknowledging this guy has an injury history (which TT and MM despise) and he has underperformed in the NFL. And, we definitely have other positions we should be thinking about ahead of RB. Ok, got that out of the way.
But why not package some picks (and maybe a throw-in like Poppinga) for McFadden. Here’s why. Anyone who saw this guy play in college or witnessed a few of his flashes of brilliance in the NFL knows this guy is freakishly talented. He is a terrific runner, has great awareness and instinct, but more than anything as far as the Packers would be concerned, he’s a great pass catcher. He’s multi-talented and could perhaps add a Wildcat option to the Pack’s offense. He’s a different style runner than Grant and would complement him nicely. And if he’s not the every-down back, his injury risk may be reduced.
Chances are Oakland will be asking too much for him and end up not dealing him as a result. But I think it’s at least an intriguing possibility. (I also think if he does get dealt, he’ll likely end up in Dallas with his buddy Felix Jones because of Jerry Jones Arkansas fetish.)
I remember before the 2009 college season, some draft dude said that Benn would end up being a top 10 pick overall whenever he entered the draft. He had come off a fantastic 2008 season and prospects were good. But he cooled in 2009 after injuries set him back and then apparently his performance at the combine was weak on top of that – weak 40 time of 4.57.
Still, he may be another guy TT may have his eye on because by all accounts, Benn has great football instincts. A few years ago, someone did an interview with TT and other personnel guys about the kinds of guys they look for and they said something about liking “football guys” – guys with great football instincts and football in their blood. Greg Jennings is a guy with great football instincts. Clay Matthews is a guy with great instincts and football in his blood. BJ Raji also appears to be a relatively instinctive big guy. Aaron Rodgers is not only intuitive, but he’s also highly instinctive. Charles Woodson of course defines instinctive. And of course, one of the most instinctive guys on the team who doesn’t get a chance to play much: Desmond Bishop. These are all guys TT has acquired during his reign.
Again, don’t run off now thinking I am saying we need to draft this guy in the first round etc etc. I just wonder if this is another guy on TT’s radar. I saw Benn play back in 2008 anyway and the guy was fantastic.
It’s interesting – neither a former 1 Heisman winner nor last year’s Heisman runner-up are projected to go in the first round of the NFL draft. Tim Tebow in one mock I just checked out was projected to go deep in the 3rd round. And RB Toby Gerhart is projected to go in the 2nd or 3rd rounds.
But as I read through this article today by Michael Silver at Yahoo, I developed a sneaking suspicion that TT may have Toby Gerhart rated reasonably high. And, if he sticks to his “taking the best player available” draft strategy that he contends he follows, I wouldn’t be surprised if come pick #23 (if he doesn’t trade the pick), Gerhart might be a consideration.
I’m not saying he should be or shouldn’t be. I’ve never actually seen the guy play and RB isn’t a major need position. But based on a few articles I’ve read, sounds like he at least merits consideration for a 1st or 2nd round pick. While many Wisconsinites might worry that he seems to have Ron Dayne-like qualities – we loved Dayne at UW but we all saw his NFL fizzle-out – there is a solid group of scouts and personnel dudes who think that Gerhart could be a really, really good RB in the NFL. And, it doesn’t seem like a bad thing that he’s coming into the NFL with an obvious chip on his shoulder. One concern I’d have would be his pass catching abilities. On the packers, he wouldn’t start over Ryan Grant and would need to be good at catching the ball out of the backfield and blitz pick-up.
Again, I’m not writing this to say we need to pick this guy, I’m just writing this because there is something about this guy that makes me think he’s on TT’s radar.
Read here from Packers.com. Several thoughts:
- Tough to open up in Philly – but at the same time, playing a quality team in a hostile environment might just be the best way to open up. It will tell us all immediately if the team is well-enough prepared.
- In fact, the first 4 road games could all be tough (@ Phil week 1, @ Chic week 3, @ Wash week 5, @ NYJ week 8).
- Difficult stretch after the bye week with 4 of 5 games on the road (@MN, @Atl, home SF, @Det, @NE). Hopefully by then we will have built up a good enough record to be able to absorb a loss or two.
- I do like ending the season with 2 homes games – even though the opponents NYG and Chic are decent.
Still feeling quite good about the team heading into this coming year.
- Defensive Line – I like our D-Line. I like that Pickett’s here to stay for a bit, Raji looks to be a nice addition, Jolly is still good and Jenkins is OK. Beyond that though, we are a bit thin. I wouldn’t be surprised if TT went after at least one quality pass rusher (lighter DE/LB type guy) and one Jenkins-sized D-lineman. We could use depth here. One thing that wouldn’t surprise me is if Justin Harrell ends up playing decently. Because time has passed, I don’t think Harrell will feel the negative pressure he felt the first few years on the team. I think he may be able to finally just get in there and play…assuming of course, he stays healthy which considering his past, is a massive assumption.
- Linebackers - After cutting Poppinga (which hopefully happens early on), the team should have some room for a younger guy. I still think Hawk is not very good despite his improvement last year. He’s adequate yes, but I continue to worry that he’s playing in front of not one, but two players who could play better – Chillar, Bishop. Barnett was solid and Matthews was quite good and has loads of potential (though his coverage and run D need some work). Brad Jones held his own and didn’t do badly for a rookie, but let’s be honest, he has one pass rush move and considering the number of times he was rushing, this is something he needs to improve upon big-time. The tough question with Jones might be: what do we do if he doesn’t develop well this year? I would kind of like to see how his development progresses before benching him because again, he wasn’t terrible last year for a rookie – he was decent for a rookie. But I also don’t want us to be disadvantaged too much on defense because we’re trying to develop someone when there are guys behind him who may just plain be better (especially Chillar). Chillar is a decent player and I can’t help but wonder how things would be if he were a regular starter. I like him over Hawk (and maybe even Brad Jones as OLB) because of his speed and coverage abilities. I still think Desmond Bishop has the potential to step in and change games and I’d really like to see him be given a better chance this year to prove himself. I think he would outplay both Hawk and even Jones at OLB if he were given the chance. (Imagine the chaos that would ensue if Bishop and Matthews were called upon to rush the QB on the same play from opposite sides. Both have an energy level and a certain tenacity that few others have.) Like I’ve said before, while there are a number of names we all throw around at the LB position, that doesn’t mean necessarily that there is lots of depth. I’d rate 2 starters as above average (Barnett, Matthews) but the other two,Hawk and Jones, are average. I think we should add a LB from the draft to improve our depth and our potential going forward. One guy to keep an eye on this year is LB Cyril Obiozor. He struggled to pick things up early last year, but Kevin Greene has worked a lot with him and if I remember right from last year, Greene thinks this guy has loads of potential. He is a big dude and I think the coaching staff sees him someday filling a role as a punishing hitter having a nasty presence on the field.
- Cornerbacks – Al Harris will be back. For someone whose hair suggests a laid back, Rastafarian, pot-accepting outlook, Al Harris is a hard-working and motivated guy who will do whatever it takes to get back on the field. I like that about him. I wouldn’t be surprised if Dom Capers experiments a little bit with Harris this year – kind of like he has with Woodson. Harris is a heady player, smart, savvy, good tackler. I could see Capers working with Harris on dropping off of man coverage on some nickel/dime situations and being more of a freelancer like Woodson. Maybe it wouldn’t work and would be too much of a departure for him from his normal gig. And maybe it would be dumb to pull Harris away from his strength which is man-to-man. But his man-to-man skills have declined especially against bigger WRs and I definitely think Harris has a mental understanding/veteran astuteness that might enable him to be a bit of a rover. Offenses have a hard enough time with Woodson improvising, having another veteran doing it could make things really messy for opposing offenses (or perhaps more disorganized for us…). Woodson is unreal – no concerns there at all. Tramon Williams is a guy many of us believe should be a bit further ahead right now developmentally. But whenever I worry about him, I try to remind myself that CB is one of, if not the most difficult positions on the football field and that guys like Woodson, Revis and Asomougha are big-time exceptions. With the precision passing games that so many teams have, even blanket coverage sometimes isn’t enough. I still like his potential and was pleased in particular with his ball-hawking/interception improvement last year. I would be a bit surprised if Will Blackmon figures much into the CB rotation, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he gets back into returning. We’ll see how he’s recovered. One guy who could surprise this year because lots of us have kind of forgotten about him is Pat Lee. He looked a bit raw last preseason yes, but he also had flashes of quality play and one big hit I remember. I would love to see him jump right back in and give us a little different feel back there. Just when I decide again that Jarrett Bush should be cut, I think back to when he was a restricted free agent (I believe he was an RFA) a couple years ago and others teams apparently expressed serious interest in him. Must be his special teams work as his coverage abilities remain iffy. Brandon Underwood may be decent yet too – he could figure in there (not so sure about Josh Bell).
- Safeties – Glad we’ve signed Collins. He’s good – he’s not a superstar, but he’d pretty solid. I am very curious to see what Atari Bigby brings this season. He’s had flashes of tremendous play during his time here and he did show an increased ball-hawking talent last year. But he isn’t always steady and I remember him taking some particularly bad angles last year. I don’t mind him as the starter opposite Collins and right now, I definitely would prefer him there to any of the other options (Derrick Martin, Khalil Jones, Jarrett Bush). Now, Derrick Martin had a bad go of it earlier in 2009 when he was thrust into starting duty hardly knowing the defense. My guess is that if he ended up having to start, he’d probably do much better now – he’s a heck of an athlete and a quality special teamer. Still, I think the Packers should draft a safety. In the near-term, I think picking up a safety with good coverage skills in particular would be smart because having the option to bring a safety up to cover might free up Woodson to improvise leading to many more interceptions returned for TDs.
- Offensive Line – Need here is fairly obvious. We do not have 5 quality starters at the moment and we do not have depth behind them. Spitz still has potential and if he can fill in for Colledge, we may end up being a bit better than the previous couple years overall. But if Tausch, Sitton, Wells, Spitz or Clifton get hurt, we’ll be in trouble. Only Lang seems like someone who could come in and provide positive help. But one real concern I have is whether or not we have the COACHING to draft young linemen and then groom them. For several years our line play has not been that great. That last couple haven’t been horrible, but not great. So I’m unsure if we’re just drafting duds of if we not teaching quality players effectively.
- Tight End – Donald Lee is OK but as his pass-catching role diminishes and in light of the fact that he doesn’t seem like that great of a blocker, I wonder if it’s time for someone else to see more time opposite Finley. I’m not sure if Havner is really developing as a full-fledged TE or if they plan to continue to use him only as a TD machine. Finley is great and will continue to be great. Fantastic draft pick by TT. I can’t pretend to know the first thing about Devin Frischnecht or Tom Crabtree, the other TEs on the roster – but I’m beginning to think right now, we could use an outstanding blocking TE opposite Finley. Maybe Havner, Frischnecht, Lee or Crabtree can develop in that role but I’m not sure. It may be an area to explore in the draft.
- Wide Receiver – We are still solid at WR. Donald Driver seems to continue to defy age. Greg Jennings is now one year removed from the I-just-signed-a-monster-contract-so-I’m-going-to-scare-everyone-by-being-mediocre-right-after-signing-it stage – and my guess is he’ll be a beast again this year. James Jones and Jordy Nelson are two quality guys to have in the #3 and #4 WR positions, though I have to say, I thought Jones would be better than he’s been. Still, we look good here. I still believe we could use either a super quick, slot type WR and model his use after how the Patriots use Wes Welker. This guy could also help our return game. Or, on the flip side, I would mind picking up a brutishly strong dude who could drag defenders down the field like Sterling Sharper used to. I do expect TT to snag some sneaky good guy here as he seems to enjoy drafting WRs.
- Running Back – While I’d still like to take a chance on Westbrook (though Nick is right, waiting until after the draft would probably be advisable), this may be a draft we could nab a quality shifty guy. Yes, I’m somewhat obsessed with shiftiness, but mostly because these kinds of players can be really effective (i.e. Darren Sproles), but also because I think for our team, it would complement Ryan Grant and his running style well. I still like Ahman Green and believe his signing last year was a good one. Brandon Jackson is apparently very good at blocking on passing downs and a decent receiver so cutting him outright could be tough. Lumpkin seems to be sticking around so he must still have some potential and DeShawn Wynn may have the best overall running instincts of any back on the team (though other areas are problematic). IWhile there will be plenty of competition in camp this year if the team only keeps 3 RBs, I do think this is a position we should target in the draft – ideally a super athletic shifty dude.
- Punter – we should bring in a few veterans as well as some promising young guys and make this a big-time competition this summer. Field position has been an issue over the last few years and it’s time that TT place a bit more emphasis on finding a quality punter. I don’t care if he’s a rookie or a 45 year old veteran – I just want someone who is consistent and who will help out our defense by pinning opposing offenses deep in their own territory.
- Kicker – I still like Mason Crosby. He works hard, is decent on kickoffs and overall, he has a nice leg. But I remain concerned about his overall accuracy on FGs, which of course is his primary duty. His career accuracy percentage is 78.4%, which isn’t horrendous but it’s not that good either. In his 3 year career he’s made 100% of his FGs from under 30 yards – which is solid, though most kickers are pretty automatic from that close. Much more concerning though is that his career percentage from 30-39 yards is only 81.8% which is comparatively poor. From 40-49 yards, his career percentage is 66.7% which is also not good. And his +50 yard percentage is just 47.1% which is really weak compared to other kickers. Most concerning to me though, is his overall FG percentage has declined in each of his first 3 years starting at 79.5% and ending at 75% last year. Again, I’m not sure I’m ready to cut him, but I sure would consider bringing in some competition.
packergeek readers – I have an unusual request for assistance here. Brother Dan has entered a video in a national video contest (with significant prize money for the winners). He needs his video to have a certain number of page views over at youtube in order to qualify for the judging round.
If you have a minute, please check this out. It’s only 3 minutes, it’s well done and interesting besides. Thanks.
By the way, this Packergeek is excited for the draft and I plan to post some thoughts on it as it approaches. I’ll bet there is a hidden gem or two TT is getting pumped to introduce to the rest of the NFL.
Read here from jsonline.com. Thanks to Travis and others for pointing this out. This is intriguing. I have always thought highly of Westbrook. He is a smart, instinctive player. In fact, one concern about drafting and then grooming some young RB is that the one element lots of young players lack in their first few years in the NFL seems to be instinct. Seems for RBs in particular, there is a lot of adjusting to playbooks and the speed of the NFL game. So adding a player who is already highly instinctive seems to me to be a good idea. Additionally, Westbrook has always been one of the best pass catching RBs in the NFL and his receiving ability could really help to diversify an already diverse offense – making defenses especially wary of assignments when he’s in the game. I agree with reader Travis who points out that if Grant remained the lead back and Westbrook had a secondary role, Westbrook would probably be extra useful because he’d be fresh.
The team should definitely explore this possibility. Obviously he has to check out medically. Even if he does check out, there is risk because if he sustains another concussion (why, by the way, are concussions always “sustained” – why can’t I just say if he “gets” another concussion?”), he might be done. We’d just need to draw up a contract that minimizes our risk. Also, I agree with those suggesting that any contract offer should be incentive laden with the only financial risk being that he ends up having a great year and we end up owing incentives.
In the end, my verdict is to go after Westbrook pretty aggressively. The main reason I would do this is because of his experience. He’s been part of lots of deep playoff runs, he’s flourished under pressure and he is a very well respected player. While some of our young guys are now not really “young guys” anymore, we could still use a respected veteran presence like Westbrook – especially on our young offense. I’ve watched the Patriots add veteran RBs who most people thought were washed up and they were able to help the team. Veterans can bring stuff young guys simply don’t yet have – even if they are somewhat physically limited. What’s especially appealing in this situation is that I’m not even convinced that Westbrook is washed up yet.
Read here from Bleacher Report. Author Adam Bayer makes a case for going after this smallish WR/RB who is seriously fast/quick and has great hands. Bayer claims that “many sources” have indicated this guy is high on the team’s draft board.
I would like a guy like this on the team for several reasons. As Bayer points out, he might help with the return game. But he also would be an additional weapon on offense. Last year, I was very concerned when the Vikings drafted Percy Harvin because the guy was so dominant in college. The only surprising part of Harvin’s success last year to me, was that the Vikings figured out how to use the guy effectively. If the Packers had a super fast, shifty back who could line up in the slot occasionally or catch passes out of the backfield occasionally, our already difficult-to-defend offense would become a brutal-to-defend offense.
Conversely, I feel the same way, sort of, about picking up a physically huge WR. There is something about super huge and super small guys that on a very simple level, can cause significant match-up issues for defenses. TE Jermichael Finley is a good example of how extreme size causes instant match-up problems for defenses.