(Before we begin: This will be my last post related to the 2010 draft. I want to thank you all for following us over the past month. We’ve had a blast and we hope you have, too. I’ll be taking a couple of days off after this and will check back in with you guys and gals later in the week.)
For seemingly months, I told anyone who would listen that the Green Bay Packers needed to “hit a home run” with their 2010 draft.
There are two reasons why I would say such a thing:
A) The Packers are so, so close to being a Super Bowl-caliber team.
B) Green Bay has a general manager (Ted Thompson) who absolutely detests free agency. Not necessarily a bad viewpoint, but when you take such a stance, your drafts pretty much always have to be top-notch.
When you look at what the Packers did in this draft, though, you’d be hard-pressed to find many round-trippers.
Think I’m upset? Guess again.
Now that I’ve had a few days to examine what Green Bay did – and why it did it – I think it took an incredibly smart approach. The Packers opted for a safe, smart draft. The seven players that comprise this class won’t, unlike last year, make many draft analysts stand up and applaud. And if you hated Thompson before, this class isn’t going to change your opinion of the man.
Look a little closer and you’ll see that this group has the chance to make a rather significant impact, both next season and for years to come.
Some people were upset with the selection of tackle Bryan Bulaga in the first round. They’ll point to players like wide receiver Dez Bryant and outside linebacker Sergio Kindle and tell you one of them should have been picked instead. Bryant and Kindle are certainly “sexy” names who bring their fair share of home-run power, no question about it.
But offensive line – particularly left tackle - was, arguably, Green Bay’s biggest area of need heading into the draft. Yes, Chad Clifton was re-upped. And, yes, he’s still more than able to get the job done. He could break down at any second, too. Even if he doesn’t completely fall apart, he’s money in the bank to miss at least two to four games next season (likely closer to the latter). What happens if he gets hurt? Do you really want to try Daryn Colledge over there again? Or – gasp – Allen Barbre, currently the team’s third-string LT?
Give me a break. Adam likes to say that offensive linemen taken in the first round have the lowest bust rate of any position on the field – and he’s right.
And as I’ve said before, protecting Aaron Rodgers has to be the organization’s top priority for the next decade (or more). He simply can not endure any more 51-sack seasons. He won’t hold up. No one could. Bulaga, at some point this season, is going to play. He will be solid and come 2011, he’s going to take over the job and own it for the next 10 years. He won’t make the highlight reels like Bryant or Kindle will, but he’ll make sure Jared Allen and Julius Peppers don’t, either.
People will tell you that Thompson should have opted for an outside linebacker or cornerback after the Bulaga pick. I can’t lie – part of me agrees with those people. But I also see why he focused on defensive line and safety in rounds two and three instead.
Thompson decided the best way to help Green Bay’s linebackers was not to add more linebackers, but to add more beef upfront.
Look, we all love the four main guys on Green Bay’s d-line right now. We also can not ignore the fact that those four guys wore down significantly as the season progressed – and that was with all four of them staying healthy for the most part. Mike Neal (second round) – along with C.J. Wilson (could be yet another seventh-round steal) – will allow the Packers to have a legitimate rotation at that position now. The players will have more energy, meaning the line will be better equiped to control blocks, both late in the game and late in the season.
The non-Clay Matthews players at outside linebacker (Brad Jones, maybe Brandon Chillar, etc.) have the talent. The picks Thompson made on the line now ensure they will have space to run in, as well. Even average linebackers can become playmakers if given the space.
Why safety over corner? Well, the Packers already have an outstanding starting duo in Charles Woodson and Tramon Williams. The rest of that group is riddled with injury concerns, yes, but the safety group – while not as heavily dissected by fans/media members – was even more of a question mark.
Simply put, Atari Bigby is nothing more than slightly above average. He gets hurt a lot and when he’s healthy, often gets caught out of position or flatfooted in coverage. The Packers could not go into 2010 with Bigby as the unquestioned starter. They needed depth, at the very least, as Derrick Martin and Jarrett Bush are the current backups. Morgan Burnett (third round) is a ballhawk with natural ball skills and the ability to deliver the big hit. I believe he will take over the starting strong safety spot by week six.
He didn’t address corner or linebacker in the later rounds, either, but I still like what Thompson did with the rest of the draft. Tight end Andrew Quarless (round five) has the upside to warrant a fifth round selection, even with his character concerns. If the coaches can light a fire under this guy’s butt, Donald Lee’s time in Green Bay is up. Guard Marshall Newhouse (round five) will provide depth and allow the team to rid itself of one of its failed “projects,” either Breno Giacomini or Barbre.
Running back James Starks (round six) is a proven pass-catching threat. Had he stayed healthy last season, he likely would have been a second or third round pick. That’s great value that late. And I’ve already mentioned Wilson, a two-time first teamer in Conference USA.
I opened this post with a baseball reference, and now I’ll close it with one.
It’s clear to me that Thompson looked at his roster and decided he had his home run threats already in place (Rodgers, Greg Jennings, Jermichael Finley, Matthews, Woodson, Nick Collins, etc.). Even with those heavy hitters, though, he found some holes in the lineup – some easy outs, if you will.
He used this draft to fill those holes. The easy outs have now been replaced with solid singles and doubles hitters.
Those players will only serve to make the home run threats that much more dangerous. As a result, the Packers appear to be a team that can kill you at any spot in the lineup.
In other words: Strap in, kids. This season’s going to be fun.