Here are the areas of the team I hope are addressed in the draft (in order of priority):
- Offensive Tackle – One of the biggest concerns I have going into the 2009 season is offensive tackle. Both RT and LT are very important positions for any offense. A shoddy player at either post can really interfere with the effectiveness of an offense. I’ve been saying for a few years now that I think Chad Clifton is pretty much done. He was very good at one time, but the last few years (even during his “Pro Bowl” year – that was a you-should-have-been-in-previous-Pro-Bowls nod), he’s been borderline bad. We may be able to squeeze another year out of him, but I’d be doubtful beyond that. And if Tauscher doesn’t come back, I have concerns about any existing players taking over. Maybe one of them would do fine but I think it would be smart to strongly consider taking a quality OT with one of our first 2-3 picks in this draft. (I’d be happiest with any of the b ig 4 – Andre Smith, Eugene Monroe, then Jason Smith or Michael Oher).
- Defensive Line – I’ve noticed a good number of Packer fans are lobbying for BJ Raji. I wouldn’t mind that pick, but I don’t think it’s as much of a need as OT or LB…or DE. I still think Ryan Pickett will end up doing well as THE guy in the middle of the 3-4. He was not great last year but I think he’s the kind of guy who will play better for a better coach – and I’m pretty sure Capers will be better than Sanders. I don’t think it would be a bad idea to add depth behind Pickett – I just would do it with a later round pick. I am presently more concerned re the DE position. Right now, we have a recovering-from-major-injury Cullen Jenkins and I don’t know, probably Johnny Jolly as our DEs. Jolly seemed to take a step backward last year and of course, the uncertainty with Jenkins is a concern. I think we should consider taking a DE with one of our first few picks. (I’d watch for Tyson Jackson here).
- Linebacker – Considering we’ve switched from a 4-3 to a 3-4, I’d also like another LB or two in the mix in case any existing players really struggle with the transition. I also just think we need a better overall selection of players because the present group is average at best. One thing I do feel better about now with Capers at the helm is the likelihood that he’ll offer a more honest assessment of the LB talent we have. I think Poppinga and Hawk got free passes last year (actually Poppinga for 3 years now) despite really weak play likely because several loyalists were being stubborn. I’m hoping Capers may be more willing to look harder at Lansanah and Bishop. Still, I think we should draft 1-2 LBs in this draft and maybe even use one of the first 2 picks for him. (Guys to watch for are James Laurinaitis and Larry English and Rey Maualuga – by the way, this post was drafted initially before reading Bob McGinn’s 4/25 article stating that these 3 guys are guys TT likes. The other guys I have to think will be tempting for TT is Connor Barwin and Clint Sintim. Barwin is the tallest LB at 6’4″ and was one of the fastest at 4.56. There is some thought that he would be an ideal OLB in a 3-4.)
- Running back – there are some good RBs in this year’s draft apparently. I think Grant will bounce back this year and his part of the running game will probably be good again. But I’m not dazzled by his back-ups. Brandon Jackson isn’t terrible, and it could be argued that Wynn may in fact have the most potential. But based on the decent possibility that Jackson and/or Wynn don’t progress this year, I think this group could use more competition – ideally in the form of a very fast/shifty scat back type. If Grant can wear defenses down, this guy could tire them out by making them chase. I wouldn’t be too surprised if TT drafted a RB on the first day. (Cedric Peerman or Andre Brown).
- Cornerback – draft for the future here. We need a another CB or 2 heading into this year because it’s possible Woodson/Harris may see a decline in their play soon – and because as olders guys, they may be more prone to injury. I’d take a CB in mid to later rounds as the CB group this year is not considered to be that great. (They apparently like Bradley Fletcher from Iowa.)
- Tight End – This may seem to be too high a priority for TE, but the reason I placed it here is because this is a year there seems to be major talent at the position. Donald Lee is a bit above average, Humphrey may still be good but doesn’t seem to get the chance and Finley strikes me as one of those guys who will continually frustrate. Again, I can admit that overall, TE is not a desperate need, but I think it would be smart to use a mid-round pick on TE. (People will mock, but I would take a chance on Travis Beckum. He has great hands, he’s fast and he benched more than any TE at the combine. While blocking needs help, he has the strength and athleticism to learn how. I’d also look at Chase Coffman – he was very good in college and of course his dad Paul rules).
- Safety – I have concerns about Bigby’s injuries from last year and his overall lack of contribution. I felt like Rouse took a step back last year when he had the opportunity to shine and Collins’ frequent injuries concern me (though he often bounces back). I have heard that newly acquired Anthony Smith has at least the physical talent to be quite good, but I wouldn’t bank on it if Pitt didn’t think retaining him for a relatively low salary was worth it. I would look for a safety in the middle rounds and I would place a specific emphasis on finding a heady player – one reputed to pick things up quickly (though Marquand Manual was supposed to be like that and he sucked). (That’s why I wanted to pick up Jim Leonhard earlier – he’s a smart player whose consistent playmaking is not a coincidence – the guy is very good.)
- WR – again, considering Driver and his decent contract may not have much time left in Green Bay, I can see the team looking for another Jennings-like steal at WR in the middle rounds of the draft. (Watch for 6’6″ freak Ramses Bardin).
- Punter – while I doubt TT would use a draft choice on a punter, we could use competition here to ensure that we don’t have another disastrous year at the position.
- Fullback – We could use a later round pick on FB – not convinced our two FBs do as much to help the running game as they could. (Watch for Tony Fiammetta only because his name sounds like a FB name and someone TT would like.)
- Offensive Guard – If McCarthy stops shuffling everyone around this year, I imagine Colledge and Spitz (or Sitton if Spitz moved to center) may end up being at least serviceable. And the addition of Duke Preston may end up being a wise, quiet move as he could find himself a starter. Still, I wouldn’t be bothered if we used a pick on an OG.