Category Archives: Vikes v. Pack

A Moral Victory of Sorts

In a 16-game schedule, moral victories are usually worthless or reserved for average to below-average teams. But, for this Packers team, Sunday’s performance was a moral victory.

The Packers were shorthanded (as they always seem to be) without Burnett and Hayward, and were starting a rookie LT and second-year, undrafted RT against arguably the best front-seven in football. Yet, despite a minus-2 turnover differential and a really poor day in the return game that left the offense in precarious starting field positions, the Packers held a lead at the halfway point of the 4th Quarter. They were just hanging ’round – alligator blood.

It was a resilient effort – which explains the moral victory. The Packers absolutely shut down the 49ers rushing offense, which was the 4th best last season. The front-seven played with tenacity and energy that has been sorely lacking in recent years. Claymaker was playing with reckless abandon (which ultimately proved costly with the late hit), Raji and Pickett were plugging the middle and making plays down the line, and Nick Perry was setting a hard edge. And I’d be remiss not to mention Jolly’s presence and solid play. It’s hard not to notice the energy he brings not only on the field, but also being a leader on the sideline.

On the other side of the ball, the Packers got nothing going in the run game – which, frankly, wasn’t all that shocking against that defense. But, I’d still call it a successful day for the young line. The biggest indicator of this is the fact that MM did not have to devote another blocker or two to help the young tackles. As a result, the offense was allowed to run their normal offense with multiple receivers sets and not worry about Rodgers getting blasted. And, let’s be honest, for the most part, Rodgers had time to make plays. With that being said, it was disappointing seeing that Sitton proved to be the biggest downfall at times – three penalties from him is unacceptable.

Ultimately, the downfall was our secondary – which, ironically enough, was hailed as our deepest position group coming out of the preseason. I’ll be the first to admit, this onslaught caught me off guard. Boldin is a nice player, but he’s not a 200-yard WR type. He absolutely killed us in the slot, abusing McMillian, Hyde, and Jennings. We simply did not have an answer.

Post-game comments suggest it could have been the result of our game plan to contain the read-option. Maybe. But, I think it had more to do with our inexperience in the back-end and he/them taking full advantage. The losses of Burnett and Hayward proved to be the difference. And unfortunately, both have hammy issues that seem to be the multiple-week variety.

So, the Packers start the season 0-1 again. But, Packers fans have to feel pretty good coming out of this loss. The Packers showed an intensity and resiliency that have been missing. A finesse team showed grit and toughness. And that bodes well going forward.

NFC Post-Draft Power Rankings

Following the NFL Draft, the Mothership released its post-draft power rankings. You’d think the most visible sports conglomerate in the country would hire writers that don’t get swept up in off-season moves like an average rube and offer a power rankings based off more objective facts. Alas, that is not the case. The Seahawks have suddenly become top-dog because of their off-season signings and drafting depth at DT and another RB (who will likely be third-string behind Lynch and last year’s mid-round draft “steal”). Does it add up? Not quite. Here’s our own “objective” NFC Post-Draft Power Rankings:

1. San Francisco – Best defense in the league. The loss of Dashon Gholdson is mitigated by their selection of Eric Reed. The addition of Boldin is a good move in giving Kaepernick a veteran that runs the right routes, goes up and gets the ball, and is tough as nails – i.e. everything that Randy Moss is not. The rube rule is: until they are unseated, the 49ers are the best in the conference. But, it actually applies in this case.

2. Green Bay Packers – Bias aside, this ranking is justified. The best QB in the game, paired with a deep and talented WR-core that will survive Jennings’ departure, now has the protection offered by what should be a legitimate rushing attack. A top offense just got more dangerous. The return of Desmond Bishop and Nick Perry – to a lesser extent – are significant upgrades for the defense. And the addition of Datone Jones has the potential of finally giving the Packers some inside rush. Remember, the Packers had the fourth-most sacks last season without Bishop and Perry, and Claymaker missed time. And, the Packers already sport one of the deepest and most talented CB-core in Williams, Hayward, Shields, and House. They have gone 26-6 over the last two seasons for a reason and their two playoff losses were to the eventual Conference champs.

3. Seattle Seahawks – Let’s hold off on the Super Bowl parade route just a bit here. There is no doubt that getting Cheech was a huge coup for them. He is probably the most electric player in the game with the versatility he brings to offense and special teams. And they already sport a great defense – one that can challenge SF for supremacy. But, the additions of Avril and Bennett cannot replace Chris Clemmons who is likely lost for most, if not all, of next season after suffering an ACL injury in the playoffs. So, the Avril and Bennett additions don’t make the defense better. In fact, neither are as good as Clemmons – so they either make the defense a little worse or they only barely replace the hole left by Clemmons’ injury – which probably explains why both were signed to short-term deals. So, the real difference between last season’s team that nearly got blown out by the Falcons (until the Falcons went into prevent-the-win mode) and the 2013 team is the addition of Cheech. I don’t think he is the difference between a second-round playoff loss and a Super Bowl.

4. Atlanta Falcons – Call me when Matty Ice earns that nickname and wins more than one playoff game. A 1-4 playoff record (including two losses at home as the no. 1 seed) with a 9:7 TD-to-INT ratio and 85.2 quarterback ranking earns this power ranking. And if we want to get deeper into the analysis, the Falcons already sported a leaky secondary and now lost both Dunta Robinson and Brent Grimes in free agency, leaving them with Asante Samuel (known more for his gambling ways than true coverage skills) and two rookies: Desmond Trufant and Robert Alford. In fact, this might be a little high for them considering the Giants potential re-boot and the early returns that RGIII is seeing in his rehabilitation.

5. New York Giants – No matter the missed playoffs last year. This is a team that is always dangerous with that defensive line and the potential for Eli Manning to play like a two-time Super Bowl MVP when it matters most.

6. Washington Redskins – This ranking is purely contingent upon the return to health of RGIII. Shanahan should be sued for his level of “care” for RGIII in that playoff game! One thing to keep in mind about this team, they get Orakpo and Ryan Kerrigan back, making what was becoming a good defense even better.

7. New Orleans Saints – Sorry, cannot help it. Brees will welcome back Sean Payton with open arms. There’s been a lot of turnover since their SB win. But, with Rob Ryan now running the defense, this is a team that could improve quickly and challenge ATL for the top-spot in the NFC South.

8. Chicago Bears – There are a lot of questions surrounding this team. There is new leadership everywhere – front office, coaches, and the loss of Urlacher. Still, there is talent on this team with Quitler, Marshall, Forte, Peppers, Briggs, Tillman, et al. The addition of Bushrod – though overrated – is still an upgrade for the line and Martellus Bennett is a nice addition. The real key will be for this aging defense to hang on for another year. My prediction: they are perilously close to going through a rebuild, and need to start strong next year or else things could turn ugly, quickly.

9. Minnesota Vikings – Vikes’ unlikely playoff run was due, in large part, to AP’s superhuman efforts. The key is the play of Christian Ponder. He needs to further develop and become consistent. The jekyll-and-hyde play cannot continue. In the offseason, the Vikes did a tremendous job of filling critical holes in getting Jennings, Floyd, Rhodes, and Patterson. But, after the excitement wears down from sniping three first-rounders, these players all need to produce immediately for the Vikes to build off last year’s playoff run. If they don’t and Ponder is still inconsistent, it’s not out of the realm of possibility that the Vikes are this year’s Lions – i.e. make a surprise playoffs run only to finish with a poor record when facing a tougher schedule and facing higher expectations in the next season.

Packers Roob: I won’t get into my thoughts on Patterson. But, the following stats are interesting considering Patterson is known mostly for his athleticism rather than route-running:

Patterson – 6’2″, 216 lbs, 4.33 40-yard dash, 37″ vertical, 10’6″ broad jump

Charles Johnson (Pack’s 7th Rd. Selection) – 6’2″, 215 lbs., 4.38 40-yard dash, 39.5″ vertical, and 11’1″ broad jump.

Vikings Rube: I am glad you are not getting into your thoughts on Patterson. Also, it is a damn good thing that they do not play the game at the NFL Combine using lame tests like that. How boring?! Though, if they did, Player A: 6’3″, 223 lbs., 4.46 40-yard dash, 42.5″ vertical, and 11’5″ broad jump, might be a Hall of Fame quarterback. Instead, Joe Webb sold me a McMuffin this morning. Charles Johnson went in the 7th round because most draftniks did not see him being an NFL starter. The same cannot be said of potential superstar Cordarrelle Patterson. That is enough of that nonsense, back to the rankings.

10. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Lots of noise made this offseason. Should improve the secondary dramatically with the arrivals of Gholdson and Revis. And, they already have a good defensive line. If Freeman stops doing his best Ponder impression and reverts back to his sophomore year form, this offense should be able to produce with Freeman, Doug Martin, and Mike Williams.

11. Dallas Cowboys – Tony Romo. The reason why the Cowboys will forever be the bridesmaids and finish 8-8 or 9-7. Good, but always one-game out of the playoffs.

12. Detroit Lions – The Lions are one-year removed from a playoff run. They still have Stafford and, of course, Megatron is Megatron. IF Reggie Bush stays healthy, the line somehow improves dramatically, their terrible first round selection is actually good, and the rag-tag group of mutts in the secondary plays well, they can be a good team. Lot of IFs though.

13. Carolina Panthers – Cam Newton has to bounce back, right?

14. St. Louis – A sneaky good, bad-team – if that makes sense.

15. Philadelphia Eagles – The Dream Team!

16. Arizona Cardinals – You have to feel bad for Fitz.

Let us know what you think. Which rankings did we get right and which ones are we way off on?

The Packers Have a Running Game!?!

It’s a wrap. The 2013 NFL Draft is over. And the Packers made significant strides on offense, may have found Cullen Jenkins’ replacement, and added quality (hopefully) depth to the offensive line and a number of positions on defense.

But, perhaps the most important improvement from this draft will come from the Packers’ selections of Eddie Lacy and Johnathan Franklin. For the first time since Ahman Green (and, yes, I’m overlooking Ryan’s Grant’s short stint), the Packers should field a dangerous rushing attack. After falling into the consensus top-RB in Eddie Lacy in the second round, the Packers traded back into the end of the fourth to grab Johnathan Franklin.

Franklin's selection was surprising, but also very smart by TT. Now, the Packers have a legitimate running game that goes three-deep.

Franklin’s selection was surprising, but also very smart by TT. Now, the Packers have a legitimate running game that goes three-deep.

Out of UCLA, Franklin is 5’10” and 210 lbs. Powerful in his own right, Franklin is more the elusive, scat-back type. He’s a capable receiver out of the backfield and has just enough speed to break a long one. And he’s a high-character individual, aspiring to be the Mayor of Los Angeles after his playing career.

So, heading into training camp, the Packers will field three-headed backfield that should finally force teams to honor the run game. Eddie Lacy should be the starter and player to get most of the carriers. He’s built for delivering punishment and getting the hard yards; yet, he’s quick and blessed with a devastating spin-move. Franklin should ascend to the third-down role because he’s a good pass-catcher, can pick up the blitz, and good in the open field. And, we can’t forget DuJuan Harris, the breakout player over the last several games. He’s a bowling ball that runs as hard as he can every time he touches the ball. He showed burst, vision, and some good moves in limited playing time.

The importance of fielding a legitimate run game cannot be understated. It’s been 43 games since the Packers last had a 100-yard rusher. In the last three years, Packers’ running backs have 12-total rushing touchdowns and averaged the lowest yards-per-carry in the league.

Because a run game was nonexistent, teams regularly played some form of a cover-2, taking away the big-play threat that defined the 2011 season. The once-dangerous play-action game became nonexistent. And, as you might expect, the Packers offense was stagnant throughout the season. It is just too difficult to sustain long drives relying almost solely on the passing game. This leads to short drives – meaning the defense is on the field more – and inconsistent production on offense.

With all the excitement about Lacy and Franklin, we can't forget about DuJuan. He's the wild-card in this three-headed backfield.

With all the excitement about Lacy and Franklin, we can’t forget about DuJuan. He’s the wild-card in this three-headed backfield.

But now, the three-headed backfield will force teams to honor a run game. This brings the defenders closer to the box and the defensive line has to consider the run game before getting after the passer. To put it differently, guys like Jared Allen, Peppers, and Suh can’t just pin their ears back and get after it. A legitimate run games makes them play honest. In turn, that provides more time for Rodgers, opens up the field for the deep ball, and reinvigorates the play-action game. So, in a roundabout way, TT did protect his $110M man.

Of course, the key a successful run game is an offensive line that can open up holes. Not exactly our line’s strong point. Remember, though, the Packers will get back Bulaga at RT (or LT) and Lang will be fully healthy. EDS is an upgrade over Saturday. And it appears evident that the Packers are going to do whatever it takes to get better production out of the LT spot. So there is hope that the line-play will be better next season. And you can’t overlook the fact that talented running backs can take advantage of what the line does give them with better vision than the hesitant Starks and Green.

By all accounts, Datone Jones appears to be a great fit for the DE spot – a critical piece to the success of our defense. But, the additions of Lacy and Franklin should excite Packers Nation. An already dangerous offense just got significantly better. September 8 can’t get here soon enough!

No Time To Bask In First Round Glory: Vikings Day 3 Preview

Vikings management had a very quiet Friday evening. Ordered take out, caught up on Mad Men and Walking Dead episodes, and enjoyed the spoils from their Thursday night coup. However, this is not a group that will sit back and coast through the rest of the draft.

There is a still a lot of work to do.

But, news flash, the final day of the NFL draft is rarely the day where a team hurts its chances in the upcoming season. Picks in rounds 4 through 7 are almost meant to be wasted. I am talking like Amanda Bynes-shaving half her head wasted. Especially considering their success of their first round, the Vikings can get flat our reckless with their remaining picks and it will likely not impact their upcoming season.

Getting an inside linebacker would hopefully prevent the Vikings from doing something silly like signing Urlacher.

Getting an inside linebacker would hopefully prevent the Vikings from doing something silly like signing Urlacher.

That freedom to take a risk and make the pick they want, could help them. Right now, there are still a couple needs that would be nice to fill: ILB, S, and maybe a little project back-up for the offensive line. Here are a few names to keep an eye out for:

Kevin Reddick (ILB) – This senior out of UNC has all the physical attributes of a solid middle linebacker. He has had a few injury issues in college, but nothing systemic or concerning to the point where it should affect his draft stock. He occasionally fails to read the gap properly on runs, but in today’s NFL, that is not as serious of a shortcoming. What he does incredibly well is recognize routes in zone coverage. He would be a perfect fit in the Vikings Cover 2. The Vikings could use another linebacker who could cover and Reddick would be a perfect fit in that regard.

Duke Williams (S) – Another senior, this time from Nevada. Williams has had a few “personality” problems and that is one of the reasons he has dropped. The physical intangibles are definitely there. He is a very disciplined safety, something the Vikings could really use considering the recently-paid Aaron Rodgers abuses players who are not disciplined…oh…hey A.J. Jefferson…I did not see you there. Williams is not really a ball-hawk, but that is not something the Vikings have ever expected from their safeties. He does an excellent job laying wood to receivers down field and, in Allan Williams’s system, he would get plenty of opportunities.

Earl Watford (OG) – A three starter at James Madison, Watford is the perfect kind of high upside project that the Vikings can afford to take in the later rounds. His skill set grades out fairly well, though he is not the largest guard in the world. He is a fast player and does an excellent job getting to the right spot. Under the tutelage of what is a fairly veteran offensive line, think a little help from Charlie Johnson, Watford could turn into a very good football player down the road.

Those are just a few of the names you might heard called for the Vikings today. There are plenty of names to choose from and, considering how well Thursday went, any success today should be the gravy.

2013 Draft – TT Just Can’t Help Himself

Heading into day 2, the Packers were in good position to add a couple players that would help fill areas of need. Armed with 7 picks, the Packers had the resources to trade up to get a player they coveted, or sit back and let the value fall to them. Instead, TT reverted to his old self, trading back three times to amass a whopping 10 overall selections tomorrow. We’ll get to that later. Let’s deal with the good news first.

Lacy hoisting both arms in the air. An image Packers fans will hopefully get used to seeing!

Lacy hoisting both arms in the air. An image Packers fans will hopefully get used to seeing!

At the bottom of the second round, the Packers may have struck gold in getting the running back they have been so sorely missing since Ahman Green left town. Heading into the draft, most pundits had Eddie Lacy as the top overall running back – and for good reason. Lacy has great size at 5’11” and 230-pounds, but also has deceptive speed, capable of housing it when he breaks through.

For the very reasons I coveted Steven Jackson in free agency, Eddie Lacy will be a great fit for the Packers offense. He’s a tough runner that breaks through arm tackles and will finish runs hard. He’s a capable receiver out of the backfield and he’ll stick his nose in their in pass protection. And despite the tough and physical nature in which he runs it, he’s nimble on his feet, evidenced by his trademark spin-move that is video-game worthy. You know Rodgers is smiling with this selection (or maybe it’s the $40M he just pocketed today. Probably a draw.)

An area Lacy will immediately upgrade is short-yardage situations. For the past several years, the Packers have been pathetic in short-yardage situations. The result is that they will often spread the field out. Or, the alternative play-call, is the predictable, and less-and-less successful, quick draw to Kuhn – easily, my least favorite play. Now, with Lacy, the Packers have a power runner that’s talented enough to move laterally to find the hole, fast enough to get there, and tough enough to get the yardage – basically, all of which John Kuhn isn’t. This will be a welcome sight for Packers fans.

Lacy is also a running back that can wear defenses down in the fourth-quarter. Instead of relying upon Rodgers to pick up first-down after first-down through the air, the Packers have a back they can hammer an opponent to ice the game.

So, with all these attributes, what the heck caused him to fall? It’s a great question and certainly one that can give you cause for concern. The rumors during draft coverage were that many thought he was damaged goods, likely a byproduct of his inability to fully test out at the combine and the ‘Bama pro day because of a bum hammy. But, Lacy played through any injury he may have had.

What makes this injury concern more curious is that Lacy was always in a time-share at Alabama, which led to only 390 combined rushes and receptions in three years. This fact cannot be overlooked. Most running backs have short shelf lives. Getting a talented back like Lacy with such little wear and tear is a coup for the Packers. And this is part of the Alabama system, who recruits its back on this premise – namely, they will have reduced workloads in college by sharing carries so they can preserve their legs for the pros. Packers are the beneficiaries.

Finally, for those Sconnie alumnus clamoring for Monte Ball – Lacy was a great pick by the Packers. Lacy was the unanimous top back in pre-draft rankings by most scouts and pundits. He is a bigger and, frankly, more talented back than Ball. He has 390 combined touches to Ball’s 1,000+ combined touches. This fact cannot be overlooked. And they are different backs in that Ball is the shifty, elusive back, whereas Lacy is the powerful, yet still nimble back. The latter is a better fit for what this team needs. We have shifty, elusive backs in DuJuan Harris and Alex Green.

Now, to the bad news. Last year’s Evil-TT where he traded up twice in the second round was apparently a one-hit wonder. In typical TT fashion, he traded back three times, collecting four more picks, leaving the Packers with 10 selections in rounds 4-7 – specifically 2 fourth-rounders, 3 fifth-rounders, 2 sixths, and 3 sevenths. As Vince Lombardi said – what the hell is going on out there?!

The Packers are a deep team with young talent. The last thing we need are ten more late round picks to battle for the last roster spots. We need players to fill areas of need that can compete now. By continually trading down, the talent likewise goes down. This was already a shallow draft to begin with, so trading down to amass extra late round selections makes little sense. And the fact the Packers traded out of the 3rd round immediately after Stedman Bailey (a WR often linked to the Packers) went, you have to wonder if TT got burned. I guess TT just can’t help himself come draft weekend. SMH.

Day 3 Preview –

So, now we have 10, count them, TEN, picks tomorrow. What the hell he does with them is anyone’s guess. I’m hoping the Packers trade up in the fourth to get a guy they covet and somehow trade some of these picks for picks in next year’s draft so we then have the assets to move up in next year’s draft – in the event Evil-TT wants to reappear.

There are several players leftover that would fill areas of need and offer good value. The best value in the fourth round appears to be on the offensive side of the ball. Barrett Jones is the guy I would love to see the Packers target. He’s a guy that started at every position on the line for three national championships at Alabama. He’d immediately challenge EDS for the starting C gig, and offer flexibility in the event of injury that Packers seem to like for their linemen.

If not Jones, then guys like Khaled Holmes (C – USC), David Quessenberry (OT – San Jose St.), Quinton Patton (WR – La. Tech), and Da’Rick Rogers (WR – Tenn. Tech) are players that could be targeted.

And for the defensive side of the ball, keep an eye out for the following players that may be one of the TEN selections the Packers have left: Joe Kruger (DE – Utah (brother of Paul Kruger)), Josh Boyd (DT – Miss. St.), Nico Johnson (ILB – Bama), Chase Thomas (OLB – Stanford), A.J. Klein (ILB – Ia. St.), Cornelius Washington (OLB – Georgia), Tony Jefferson (S – Oklahoma), and Earl Wolff (S – NC St.). Out of this group of players, I lean towards adding Boyd, Johnson, Thomas or Washington, and Wolff. They are good rotational players that would bring some good competition at all levels of the defense.

Finally, I’d be remiss not to mention that I would not be the least bit surprised if TT uses one of his TEN (still shaking my head) selections on a kicker. I don’t think I need to rehash the calamities of Crosby’s season. But, needless to say, it wouldn’t be the worst idea to bring in legitimate competition. Remember, the Vikes nailed a Pro Bowl kicker last year in the sixth round.

The top two kickers are from the state of Florida: Caleb Sturgis (Fla.) and Dustin Hopkins (FSU). Sturgis is compared to Phil Dawson – a longtime Cleveland Brown – whereas Hopkins is compared to Billy Cundiff. So we have a guy compared to someone from Cleveland – a sports town that God literally hates – or a guy that may have had the biggest choke job in recent kicking history. Give me the choker. Cleveland sucks. (You’re welcome for this sterling analysis.)

Packers fans will have lots to watch tomorrow thanks to those TEN selections. Enjoy and make sure to check back here after the draft for our recap.

2013 NFL Draft: Vikings Try Not To Over Think It

Thursday night in New York City the Minnesota Vikings made the most noise in what was billed as a pretty vanilla first round.

The Vikings brass got an unexpected surprise with their first pick, stuck with the script on a second pick, and made a big move for a third pick.

Floyd terrorized the SEC for three years, he will look to do the same in his new home in the NFC Norse Division.

Floyd terrorized the SEC for three years, he will look to do the same in his new home in the NFC Norse Division.

Defensive tackle Shariff Floyd was the big surprise of the evening. Mr. Floyd was supposed to be a top 5 pick. Then, after he did not go in the top 5, the draftniks were certain some team would get a great value in the middle of the first round. It was such a Pipe Dream that the Vikings would land him with their 23rd pick that we did not even think to include him in the Pipe Dream Category of our NFL Draft Preview. Somehow, the breaks went our way and he dropped all the way to us with the 23rd pick. You almost wonder if, when something like this happens, where a top pick starts to drop, if other GMs start to over think it. That crowd mentality where it is like, well, if they are not taking him, maybe there is something we missed in our evaluation. Supposedly, the knock on him is that he has short arms. Seriously, kid lost $10+ million last night because he has T-Rex arms. Talk about a bummer for him.

What is truly odd is that wingspan is really not that important of a measurable for a defensive lineman, particularly an interior lineman. It is more important that you have a strong base…check…quickness…check…and have strong hands…check. If you watch the highlights, Floyd does a great job of maintaining his gap presence and eating up blockers. Coming into college, he was a defensive end and that quickness is still there even though he plays inside now. Plus, he has a little nasty to him that all great defensive linemen need to have. And, that nastiness is only going to increase after more than two-thirds of the league passed on him in last night’s draft. Even though it was a bit of a no-brainer, the Vikings did not over think it and truly nailed this pick.

The Vikings hope that Xavier Rhodes can step in and be Antoine's replacement on the edge.

The Vikings hope that Xavier Rhodes can step in and be Antoine’s replacement on the edge.

With their second pick in the first round, the Vikings stuck to their script and selected Xavier Rhodes, a defensive back from Florida State who was also supposed to have been drafted. This former wide receiver plays with a chip on his shoulder. He is very strong against the run and should be a perfect fit in the Vikings Cover 2 system. With his size and ball skills, he should be a very good Antoine replacement, if not something more.

Rhodes is still a bit slow in recognizing routes and jumping plays, though the Vikings Cover 2 should help him in that regard. Plus, he is very strong against the run, can blitz off the corner with the best of them, and should only improve his coverage skills. Following Antoine’s departure, the Vikings’ foolishly thin secondary, I think Orlando Thomas was on the depth chart somewhere, needed a boost. So, it was not a shock that the Vikings selected Rhodes. And clearly the Vikings believed that corner back was a bigger position of need than ILB. Particularly with SEC stud and BR-favorite Alec Ogletree still on the board at 25, the move to get a corner back might be a little controversial. But, shoring up the secondary was deemed the greater priority, so that makes this the right choice.

It is the Vikings third pick of the first round that caused so much stir at the draft on Thursday night. For the second consecutive year, the Vikings traded back into the first round to take a player they wanted. Last year it Vikings moving back to draft All-Dude safety, Harrison Smith. The price for that move was their second and fourth round picks. This year, the big move was trading with New England and the Hoodie to take play maker Cordarelle Patterson. The price was the Vikings’ second, third, fourth, and seventh round picks.

Now, that may seem like a lot. In fact, it probably is a lot. But, the Vikings had 11 picks in this year’s draft. Trading four picks, even second and third round picks, for a guy that graded out as one of the top receivers in this draft, is not a bad deal. At worst, Patterson is a better than average return man and a change-of-pace wide receiver who makes explosive plays at or near the line of scrimmage. Think a Diet Percy Harvin. At best, he takes the role former played by Percy and runs with it. His height and jumping ability, which are ideal, make him more of a true wide receiver than Percy was, but he also has that burstability (patent pending) in small spaces.

The Vikings are hoping Jennings can put his Yoda mask on and impart his route running skills on the rookie Patterson. Beat the jam and a score a touchdown we will.

The Vikings are hoping Jennings can put his Yoda mask on and impart his route running skills on the rookie Patterson. Beat the jam and a score a touchdown we will.

The knock on Patterson is that he is not a great route-runner. This is where having a veteran like Greg Jennings is so critical. Jennings is one of the best in league at laying down tracks. And, he has already shown he is a solid teacher of that elite skill (see Cobb, Randall and Jones, James). If Patterson can learn from Jennings like Cobb and Jones did in Green Bay, watch out, this kid could be special.

Normally, this is the spot where we would preview the Day 2 action. However, because of the Vikings big move for Patterson, the Vikings do not currently possess a pick on Day 2. Though, as they have already shown, they are not afraid to make a move. Depending on what happens, I would not be surprised to see them package up their fourth, fifth, and a seventh round picks to get back into the 2nd or 3rd round. Particularly if they are as high on a guy like Te’o or the Honey Badger as the whispers around town suggest they are. Either way, if it is even half as fun as last night was, it should be a blast.

2013 NFL Draft: Ted Thompson Gets His Guy

In the 2013 NFL Draft, Ted Thompson did what Ted Thompson does – sit patiently and wait for the talent and value to fall to him. And value is what fell to him in the form of DE Datone Jones out of UCLA.

Datone Jones looks to finally fill that gap left by Cullen Jenkins.

Datone Jones looks to finally fill that gap left by Cullen Jenkins.

Heading into the draft, the most glaring need was reinforcements on the defensive line. With Pickett nearing the end, Raji’s contract set to expire, and Worthy’s knee injury likely costing him 2013, the Packers had to bring in more talented and physical players. Enter Datone Jones.

Jones is a chiseled 6’4″, 285-lbs. and has the frame to add some more good weight. He has great short-yardage speed and known for a great get-off – evidenced by the best 20-yard shuttle at the combine. And for what it’s worth, he ran a 4.8 40-yard dash.

Because of his size-speed combination, he brings some versatility that Dom Capers will exploit by playing him over the tackle on early downs before standing him up over the middle, or wherever for that matter, on passing downs. And what should endear him to Packers fans is his motor. Bringing an edge from his background growing up in Compton, he’s a guy that plays with a chip on his shoulder, trying to prove himself on every play. And despite this tough background, he was a proven leader for UCLA while learning from Jim Mora, a former NFL head coach.

The glaring cons with Jones are that he mostly relies upon that initial burst and, like a lot of young players, he needs to improve on keeping his pad level lower. My initial reaction to this: please don’t be another Jerel Worthy – a guy that relied singularly on his speed to get upfield. And when that failed most of the time, he was taken out of the play.

Additionally, I can’t help but be a bit concerned that he is a touch undersized at 285 lbs. Most 3-4 DE’s are 300 lbs because they need to take the tackle head-on in early downs to help set the edge and maintain gap integrity. The positive in this is that he’s a strong 285 lbs. and can add good weight if the coaches think its necessary, which dissipates this concern somewhat.

Overall, though, I am pleased with this pick. It was the guy TT clearly had rated highest amongst a strong crop of available players – and in Ted I Trust. Plus, some scouts have compared him to J.J. Watt, which is obviously quite lofty (and potentially blasphemy in Wisconsin). But, it’s that kind of potential and skill set that makes this such an appealing pick. Packers fans should be excited about this selection and happy the Packers addressed the DL in the first round.

Day 2 Preview – 

On day 2, the Packers hold the 23rd (55th overall) selection in round 2 and 26th (88th overall) selection in round 3. And as we discussed earlier this week, the Packers have plenty of needs to fill out its roster. With seven selections remaining, including 2 in the fifth round, I would not be surprised to see Evil-TT reappear to trade up in either round to nab a player TT covets.

I can make one guarantee about what will happen on day 2 – TT will select a WR or TE. It’s TT’s mantra: Jordy, Jennings, Terrance Murphy, and Cobb were round-2 selections, while Jones and JMike were round 3 selections. And with Jennings’ departure, looming contracts expiring with Jordy and Jones, and JMike’s future unknown, the Packers should bring in another weapon. Thankfully, day-2 should offer plenty of value at WR or TE.

Wideouts like Keenan Allen (Cal), Robert Woods (USC), Markus Wheaton (Ore. St.), and Quinton Patton (La. Tech) are viable options that would likely interest TT. Wheaton, in particular, is a guy to watch for in the third round. He’s got top-end speed with good hands and  toughness. He’s a bit undersized, but that’s never scared TT away. As for the TE’s,  Zach Ertz, the stud from Standford, remains, but he’ll be long gone before we can get him. Instead, I’m targeting Jordan Reed, the Aaron Hernandez clone, that can line up all over the field, literally: TE, slot, split out, H-back, and even RB. McCarthy would have some fun with him.

But, for round 2, I foresee the Packers sticking to the defense and continuing to target players that bring a level of toughness so desperately needed. In fact, my prediction is the Packers add another defensive lineman, probably a DT, in the second. With the likes of Tank Carradine (so much for that media hype I fell for) and Margus Hunt (SMU) offering terrific value at DE, and Jesse Williams (Alabama), John Jenkins (Georgia), Johnathan Hankins (OSU), and Kawann Short (Purdue) are still very quality DT’s, any of which would be great additions.

If the Packers look outside the DL, I still think they stick to the defensive side of the ball. With only two linebackers and three safeties taken, there are plenty of talent remaining that would fit the bill. Guys like Arthur Brown (KSU) and Kevin Minter (LSU) would challenge A.J. Hawk (or Brad Jones I guess) at ILB, and John Cyprien (Fla. Intl.), D.J. Swearinger (S. Car.), and J.J. Wilcox (Ga. Southern) would bring more competition to the starting safety spot opposite Burnett.

My fearless predictions: Round 2: John Jenkins and Round 3: Jordan Reed – TT trades up into early round 3 to get Reed.

Packers had a successful day 1, nabbing a talented and tough DE that should do well paired with Clay, Raji, and Perry. And if the Packers snag another defensive linemen, the Packers may start to develop a fearsome line that can create some havoc.

As always, enjoy the draft and be sure to check back here for our day 2 review and day 3 preview. Go Pack Go!

But Drafting A Wide Receiver Has Worked So Well In The Past…

Beginning with Nate Burleson in the 3rd round of 2003, the Vikings have drafted 11 wide receivers in the last ten years. Just take a minute to review this who’s who of pass catchers:

Sidney showed flashes of talent in a Vikings uniform. That or Lord Favre is just really good at football.

Sidney showed flashes of talent in a Vikings uniform. That or Lord Favre was just really good at football.

  1. Nate Burleson
  2. Keenan Howry
  3. Troy Williamson
  4. Sidney Rice
  5. Aundrae Allison
  6. Chandler Williams
  7. Jaymar Johnson
  8. Percy Harvin
  9. Stephen Burton
  10. Jarius Wright
  11. Greg Childs                                                                                                                                                                                                 

Now, there is a name or three on that list (Burleson, Rice, and Harvin) who has made some noise in the league. Harvin is the only stud. Though, Burleson and Rice are a’ight. But, for each name on the a’ight list, there are three names who have made considerably more noise in the fast food industry slinging Big Macs.

As the 2013 NFL Draft approaches, the misinformation coming out of Winter Park is that the Vikings are considering nabbing a wide receiver with the 23rd or 25th pick of the first round. In one of the deeper wide receiver drafts, with no clear cut stud, and not exactly a stellar history of scouting wide receivers, spending a first round pick on a wide receiver might not be a prudent move.

Instead, this Vikings fan hopes that management targets one of the following guys (our range goes from Pipe Dream to Resigned Fate):

Pipe Dream

Dee Milliner (CB) – Look, it is called Pipe Dream for a reason!! Milliner is the kind of corner back that will have Vikings fans saying, “Antoine who?” He is a gritty player who is not afraid to mix it up. His closing speed and smarts are perfect for a corner playing in a zone defense like the Vikings Cover 2. And, even though character has never been a motivating factor for this organization…oh…hey Chris Cook…Milliner is a humble kid who leads by example. Even if it meant trading up to do it, we do have something like 32 draft picks in the last four rounds, landing this premiere corner back would be a great start to the draft for the Vikings.

Star represents a perfect fit for the Vikings with pick number 23. Top 5 talent who just needs a system where he can thrive. Kevin meet Star, Star this is Kevin.

Star represents a perfect fit for the Vikings with pick number 23. Top 5 talent who just needs a system where he can thrive. Kevin meet Star, Star this is Kevin.

Star Lotulelei (DT) – Remember, Pipe Dream people!? Most draftniks do not have Star dropping any lower than the high teens. However, his health might be just enough of a concern for him to slide to the Vikings at 23. He is a versatile play-maker that demands a double team in the interior. Learning from a seasoned vet like Kevin Williams, a player who’s game he emulates, would be a great start to his career. His upside is that he is a Pro-Bowl level players who could anchor this defense for the next 10 years.

Perfect Storm

Alec Ogletree (ILB) – The Vikings need a linebacker and Alec Ogletree is a dude. No getting around it. He fills a pressing need, the middle linebacker position, and he has the athleticism and skill to anchor the defense for years to come. He cut his chops in the SEC and presents a very low risk, high reward pick. Perhaps most importantly, Ogletree has the quickness to get to his drops in the Vikings Cover 2 system. That is something the Vikings have not had out of their middle linebacker since the early days of Ejay Henderson.

D.J. Hayden (CB) – The consolation prize in the Dee Milliner sweepstakes. Hayden is a play-maker. He has the ball skills to be an elite corner back in the league. He does not have the run-stopping, drop-you-like-a-rock hitting capability, but he can mix it up when he needs to. Considering he is slotted to go in the late teens early 20s, getting him with the 23rd pick would be a nice get. Considering the quarterbacks in our division, adding another weapon in the secondary could make taking that next step a reality.

Cordarelle Patterson (WR) – Fine, I could not resist. Here is your wide receiver. Cordarrelle has everything you could want in a wide receiver. He is big, strong, fast, and his hands are the size of has trash can lids. The knock on Cordarrelle is that he might struggle to spell C-A-T if you spotted him the C and the A. The NFL is a cerebral game. If he were a quarterback, an intelligence deficiency would be a problem. Joe Webb, get out of here. This is my column space. And, even though wide receivers do not need to be as cerebral as quarterbacks, they need to understand coverages so that they know which hot routes to run. The hope is that the Vikings, most importantly veteran free agent signing Greg Jennings, could teach him that. At least, that is the hope…

Resigned Fate

Sylvester Williams (DT) – This is the guy most “experts” have the Vikings selecting. He is a solid player. Oddly enough, the knock on him is his vertical. Evidently, he is not much of a leaper. Though, for a defensive tackle, I am not sure why that is a concern. And, even though he will turn 25 this season, he can contribute immediately and be a steady presence in the middle. He is probably never going to the Pro Bowl, but he will also not make plays that will hurt the team. Plus, like with Star, learning from a veteran like Kevin Williams will only help him in the long run.

Oh Manti. Just a riddle wrapped in an enigma battered in a mystery. The most famous cat-fish of all time. Kid has talent. But will he be able to move on and use it...

Oh Manti. Just a riddle wrapped in an enigma battered in a mystery. The most famous cat-fish of all time. Kid has talent. But will he be able to move on and use it…

Manti Te’o (ILB) – Alright, so here we are. Resigned fate territory. Manti is a hunyuck. Either because he got cat-fished on the national stage by a dude poorly pretending to be chick or he lied about a dead girlfriend to give his Heisman candidacy a boost. Either way, hunyuck. And, he looked brutal in the Alabama game, missing assignments and failing to fill the gaps up the middle. Though, in his defense, it was not like he had anything else on his mind. Te’o has incredible, you-cannot-teach-that instincts. Sure, he might be a bit slow for a middle linebacker, but speed can be gained with good workouts and smart angles. Instincts cannot. He fills an immediate need for the team and is surrounded by former teammates (Rudolph, Smith, and Sullivan) and that atmosphere might just help everyone forget about his little romantic kerfuffle. If Manti drops, there is a pretty good chance that the Vikings scoop him up with the 25th pick.

Kevin Minter (ILB) – This is the, “I guess that Manti thing was more serious than we thought” pick. In case you forgot, the Vikings need a middle linebacker. Minter led LSU’s defense for the past three years. Not a real vocal guy, he still manages to hold others accountable. Draftniks have called him a pro’s pro. He also is a step slow, but again, has great instincts. Plus, he honed those instincts in the SEC, so the increase in speed at the next level should not phase him. Could contribute immediately and has the upside to be an elite linebacker for years to come. If I have to go resigned fate, this is the guy I want.

With two picks in the first round, the Vikings need to fill some pressing holes (ILB, CB, DT, and…gulp…WR). Even though the heavy lifting usually comes in the later rounds, as the Vikings brass showed last year, if you can hit on two first round picks (Kalil and Smith), it can turn around your team right quick. Here is hoping they stick with that same winning formula.

Packers Need to Hit On This Draft

It’s the end of April and you know what that means!?! No, it doesn’t mean more snow, though Mother Nature has a menacing way of telling Punxsutawney Phil to pound sand. It’s the three-day event in which Ted Thompson makes his money. Because TT refuses to dabble in free agency, the Packers must hope to improve through this upcoming draft. And improve the Packers must.

The Packers sieve-like defense created a new phenomenon: Kaepernicking.

The Packers sieve-like defense created a new phenomenon: Kaepernicking.

A 26-6 regular season record with back-to-back NFC North titles is a run most teams would thoroughly enjoy (I know my compadre in ‘Sota would enjoy some sustained success after being trapped in Loserville, U.S.A. for the past several years.) But after winning the Super Bowl in 2010 with a team full of players entering their prime, expectations have been high for this Packers team. And back-to-back ugly losses in the playoffs to the G-Men and 49ers has left a sour taste in most fans mouths.

What the two playoffs losses have revealed is a Packers team that will be a perennial playoff team so long as Rodgers is playing, but is a team that still needs to improve – in many areas – to be a true contender. Now, this may be a tedious distinction because clearly the Packers are contenders with Rodgers. But, as built, the only way the Packers can win in the playoffs right now is if Rodgers reverts to supernatural Rodgers (playing the Vikings with Joe Webb at QB helps too). As good as Rodgers’ is, this is asking a lot.

In order to become a true contender, the Packers need to get tougher, nastier. Last year, TT devoted his draft to improving the defense, with an emphasis on getting “fast-twitched” and “quick” players. But in doing so, guys up-front like Worthy and Daniels were miscast in the 3-4 and had little impact. The result is the Packers’ front-seven on defense lacks toughness and grit.

With that in mind, I fully expect the Packers to draft players designed to bring that toughness and nastiness to the defense. Here is my list of positions of need:

1. DE/DT – With Worthy essentially lost for this upcoming season, the Packers enter 2013 with only Mike Neal boasting any type of pass-rushing acumen out of the DE position. Yup, Mike Neal. The Packers desperately need a difference maker out of the DE position. Similarly, B.J. Raji has continued to perplex fans and coaches with his flashes of dominance surrounded by spells of invisibility. And with a looming contract, the Packers need to have a backup plan to not only spell Raji to reduce his workload, but also in case Raji bolts in free agency.

2. MLB – I don’t hold out too much hope that TT will devote a high selection on MLB after signing Brad Jones to that ridiculous contract and still retaining Mr. T-Rex, A.J. Hawk. But, the Packers need to improve its MLB play. It cannot afford to have two more seasons like Hawk just had – i.e. no forced turnovers, tackles several yards down the field, and poor coverage. Some hope Terrell Manning can become the man (poor pun intended). But, I’d love a selection like Ogletree if he is available in round 1 – a sideline-to-sideline difference maker.

3. Safety – Morgan Burnett has proven to be a reliable and ever-improving safety. But, the Packers have yet to replace Collins – which is no easy task. M.D. Jennings and McMillian played just alright when given their opportunities last season. Neither showed enough to justify not selecting a safety in this draft – even if it is a high selection.

4. Wide Receiver / Tight End – TT has always done a good job of restocking the cupboards for Rodgers. With Jennings’ departure, Driver’s departure, and JMike’s uncertain future, it’s all but a guarantee the Packers will select a WR or TE on day two. Thankfully, TT has a terrific track record in selecting a WR or TE in rounds 2 and 3: Jennings, Jordy, Cobb, Jones, and JMike.

5. Offensive Line – There is no debating that the Packers need stronger play out of the LT than what Newhouse gave them last season. But, after spending first-round picks on tackles in 2010 and 2011 in Bulaga and Sherrod, I will be surprised if TT spends another top pick on OT. Plus, with Barclay’s solid production down the stretch, the Packers have 4 OT’s that give them some flexibility if they are willing to move Bulaga to LT. And as for the inside, Lang and Sitton are signed to long-term contracts, meaning they have solidified their positions. And EDS was recently signed, giving him the lead for the starting center gig. I expect the Packers to add some reinforcements in the mid- to late-rounds.

As for the first round, it is hard to pin-down exactly where the Packers will go. My guess is the Packers address the defensive line with the first pick. I am drawn to the potential of Margus Hunt (DE from SMU). At 6’8″, he has a unique blend of size and speed. He was a workout warrior at the combine, but its debatable whether that translates to the field. But, the potential is intriguing enough to warrant his selection at the end of round 1. Otherwise, there is a bevy of DT’s that will be considered: Sylvester Williams (UNC), John Jenkins (Georgia), and Jonathan Hankins (OSU).

I'm falling for the hype. I want Carradine in the first round!

I’m falling for the hype. I want Carradine in the first round!

My sleeper pick is Matt Elam, the diminutive, yet fearsome Safety out of FL. He is known for being a good tackler that is willing to lay the wood. He’d fill an area of need and, again, bring that nasty temperament so desperately needed. And my dream selection is Tank Carradine. I may be falling for the media-driven hype, but this kid was an absolute beast for FSU and was a likely top-pick had he not hurt his knee in November. Where, exactly, he’d fit in the Packers system is an unknown because he’s around 270 pounds. But, many believe he can bulk up and play DE, or slim down and play OLB. In either event, he’s a tenacious, hard-nosed player that can get after the QB.

Like last year, we will offer instant analysis for the Packers and Vikings selections each night and preview the next day’s rounds. And considering my prediction (kind of) of Casey Hayward last season, it’s readily apparent TT values the insight and analysis I sent him last season before the draft – or at least that’s what I tell myself. Enjoy the draft!

 

 

In Ted We Trust. But…

Ted's first pick proved to be his best. But, is his draft-and-develop philosophy now holding the Packers back?

Ted’s first pick proved to be his best. But, is his draft-and-develop philosophy now holding the Packers back?

To be clear from the start, I am a Ted Thompson apologist. He inherited a team rife with aging and overpaid veterans, along with a cap figure that left little wiggle room. He tore it down before rebuilding it into one of the best teams in the league on an annual basis. And to top it off, Thompson used his first ever draft pick on Aaron Rodgers – mind you, Favre was still a near-elite QB that wanted more weapons to make one final push for a SB. Instead, Thompson trusted his board and his philosophy, and took the best player available. It proved to be the best selection he ever will make. But, making that selection was gutsy for a new GM. So, yes, I’m an apologist and will always respect and trust Ted.

But, that trust is being pushed.

The Packers are in a precarious position in that there are 2 looming contracts that are about to set new benchmarks. Rodgers will sign the most expensive contract in league history, and he deserves it. Rumors have Rodgers set to make 1/6 of the Packers total cap figure. And the Claymaker may well approach the most expensive defensive contract in league history; he, too, deserves it (Don’t buy into the theory that his nagging hamstring warrants a reduced wage. He’d get a near max deal on the open market if he ever were to hit it. He’s not named the Claymaker without a reason.) The Packers could be having nearly a quarter of their cap devoted to two players in the near future – potentially as soon as the beginning of this coming season. (And this also explains why the likes of SF and Seattle are able to be such players in free agency – $700K salary to Kaepernick and $600K to Wilson. Makes a difference.)

Then, the Packers need to continue to retain its core players, many of whom have expiring contracts in the near future: B.J. Raji, Sam Shields, Jordy Nelson, James Jones, JerMichael Finley, Morgan Burnett, and Desmond Bishop. It’s a daunting task to figure out how to get all or most of these players retained in order to keep the critical core of this team together.

Of course, Thompson planned for this, which explains the nearly $20M in cap room currently available – likely ready to be shipped to Rodgers and/or Clay. This also explains why Thompson has yielded the free agency spotlight to others – again.

So, Thompson cannot be a major player in free agency. But, the Packers are not completely hamstrung by the cap either. They just have to spend their money wisely. And this is where I’m losing faith in Thompson, for two reasons.

First, Thompson does not dabble in free agency, at all. Teams in the Packers’ position – i.e. one of the SB favorites every year – has only a few holes that need to be shored up to solidify its chances at the SB. Filling these holes can be accomplished by adding a veteran – at the right price – via free agency.

For instance, the Packers run game has been nonexistent for years. Combinations of Ryan Grant, Brandon Jackson, James Starks, Alex Green, and Cedric Benson have been unable to take advantage of one of the most lethal passing attacks in the league, which should open up plenty of space for the run game. This offseason, Stephen Jackson signed a 3-year, $12M deal with Atlanta. Yes, he’s old. But’s a rare breed of running back that inflicts the punishment rather than taking it. Plus, even if his play is on the decline, it’s still a step-up from what our running game has been. A thunder-lightning combo of S. Jax and DuJuan Harris could have finally ignited the running game. At $4M a year, it was an affordable deal that would have paid huge dividends.

Similarly, the Packers defensive line needs immediate upgrades, especially with Jerel Worthy’s late season injury making his return this season doubtful. The Packers have been unable to find Jenkins’ replacement since his departure. And, predictably, the defense has struggled mightily with the lack of pressure being a major reason why. This offseason, both Chris Canty and Cullen Jenkins signed team-friendly deals. Either would have improved our line play.

Thompson rarely takes this approach. And, I believe, failing to will prove costly come playoffs.

Second, Thompson has developed a nasty propensity to resign his own players at inflated values. A.J. Hawk was inexplicably signed to a huge contract extension following the 2010 Super Bowl run. Hawk proved to be reliable, but reliability doesn’t justify the amount of money Thompson gave him. Eventually, he became the 5th highest paid player on the team. Hawk rewarded the Packers with two consecutive seasons without a turnover and being the definition of an average starter. Thankfully, he took a big pay cut this offseason, but such a contract certainly limited the Packers’ maneuverability.

The starting ILB that was part of the reason why Kaepernick single-handedly defeated the Packers now is the 10th highest paid player on the team.

The starting ILB that was part of the reason why Kaepernick single-handedly defeated the Packers now is the 10th highest paid player on the team.

Unfortunately, Thompson didn’t learn his lesson. Just recently, the Packers resigned Brad Jones – the former special-teams, third-string LB – to a 3-year, $11.25M deal, $3M guaranteed. He is now the 10th highest paid player on the team. To put this deal into perspective, Jones is making just under what S. Jackson will make. Who’d you rather have? A bruising running back that routinely accumulated 1,300 total yards for one of the worst offenses or Brad Jones, a special-teamer and backup LB?

And in case you think this overvaluation is strictly limited to linebackers, John Kuhn is scheduled to make $2.35M next season.

There is simply no excuse for these types of deals. Thompson, always the penny-pincher when evaluating outside talent, needs to be consistent and evaluate his own players in the same fashion. Hawk, Jones, and Kuhn – though valuable players to a 53-man roster – can be replaced without a drop-off in production at a much lower cost, clearing up room that could be better spent to fill in the holes on the roster.

Thompson’s draft-and-develop philosophy allows for sustained success. But, drafting-and-developing – especially when you continually draft in the lower part of each round – rarely yields the type of immediate impact players needed for Super Bowl contenders. Thompson must invoke a better balance of drafting-and-developing combined with dabbling in free agency.

With Rodgers at the helm, the Packers will always be one of the best teams in the conference, routinely challenging for a Super Bowl. But, the window of opportunity continues to shrink with each passing year. Do we trust Ted to put the Packers in the best position possible to succeed in January and February?