Tag Archives: Ted Thompson

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?

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Cedric Benson… Yep, Cedric Benson

By now, you know that the Packers added former Bears first-round bust, Cedric Benson. With his hand somewhat forced by Starks’ latest injury, TT felt that he could “never have enough horses” and added the veteran to the stable of young backs. Many around Packers nation are wondering why Benson over former Packer, Ryan Grant. Frankly, the question should be, why even bother with Benson in the first place?

The reason why I am skeptical about Benson is that I simply do not see him as a good fit for the Packers’ system. The Packers offense obviously runs through Rodgers. The backs are asked to (1) pick-up the blitz, (2) get the yards that are available, and (3)  be adept at catching the ball out of the backfield. Focusing on the latter two, it is clear that Benson is a curious fit.

Although Benson has surpassed the 1,000 milestone the last three seasons, he’s accomplished this averaging 20 carries per game, resulting in under 4 yards per carry. To put this in perspective, here’s a list of notable runners that averaged less than 4 yards per carry last season: Peyton Hillis, Brandon Jacobs, BenJarvus Green-Ellis, and Michael Bush. Bush and Benson were the only backs last year to receive 200+ carries and average less than 4-yards per carry. Additionally, Benson has a career “long” carry of 46 yards. Essentially, Benson is the modern-day Leroy Hoard, who famously said: “if you need 1 yard, I’ll get you 3 yards. If you need 5 yards, I’ll get you 3 yards.”

Benson is best fitted for running between the tackles. There is hope that this attribute can result in Benson becoming the “closer” to ice close games. But, I’m not sure this closer role is merited. After all, he has 12 fumbles in the last two seasons. More to the point, though, is Benson’s fit in the Packers’ scheme. Something that has gone overlooked is that Benson comes from a smash-mouth team. The Packers, on the other hand, still have zone blocking principles in the run game. In a zone blocking scheme, the back is asked to stretch the field until he finds the hole, and then get into it and beyond before that hole closes. Successful running backs in zone schemes are built like Terrell Davis (sorry to bring his name up), not bulky and lumbering like Benson.

Benson is also not known for his hands out of the backfield. Over his career, he averages 6.9 yards per catch, with only 1 receiving touchdown. Outside of one 79-yard reception, his next longest reception is 24 yards. And he averages fewer than 2 catches a game. In such a pass-heavy offense, this becomes a liability. With Benson on the field, defenses likely will be able to narrow the play selection by ruling out screen passes and stretch runs.

The right fit for the Packers offense is James Starks, circa 2011 playoffs. He was perfect in that he got the yardage that was available and, as a bonus, he even made a few people miss. He was reliable enough in pass protection and he caught the ball out of the backfield well. For example, in the Super Bowl, Starks ran for a modest 52 yards, but did so on 11 carries. Even this little production kept the defense honest enough to allow Rodgers to utilize the play-action with a high degree of success. When Starks was offering this, the offense was clicking.

Unfortunately, Starks has been unreliable since that Super Bowl performance. And with his recent injury and Alex Green on a snap-count following last season’s knee injury, the Packers hand may have been forced in adding Benson. Thankfully for Packers fans, today’s NFL does not require a strong rushing attack in order to get to the Super Bowl. Just take a look at this list of starting Super Bowl running backs: Ahmad Bradshaw, BenJarvus Green-Ellis, Pierre Thomas, Joseph Addai, Willie Parker, Tim Hightower, Brandon Jacobs, Laurence Maroney, Thomas Jones, and Cedric Benson. Yep, Cedric Benson.

2012 NFL Draft: Act Three

The 2012 NFL Draft concluded in its traditional, ho-hum fashion. Because it is THE National Football League, the level of seriousness did not deviate and we as fans are led to believe that Round 7 is just as important as Round 1. The talking machine that is Mel McMortenson, Jr. tries to make the 6th round pick of cornerback Issiah Frey interesting, but, there is only so many ways to say, well, IF, everything works out, and I mean EVERYTHING (including the alignment of Mars with Saturn), this guy might be a serviceable NFL starter. All you need to do is look at our evaluation of the drafts for 2005 through 2011 to see that the “hit” rate in the later rounds is not very high. Even for a GM like TT who has his black belt in the NFL Draft.

Surprisingly both the Vikings and the Packers made some moves in Rounds 4 through 7. All the moves seemed to be based on sound logic, which is a nice departure for half of the BR rivalry. The following is BR’s review of each squad’s final push in the marathon that was the 2012 NFL Draft.

Minnesota Vikings

After taking the draft off on Friday, Schemin’ Spielman was back at it on Saturday. Who knows, maybe all the excitement of Round 1 wore him out for Rounds 2 and 3. And, maybe Josh Robinson, with a little coaching, will be the Vikes’ next great DB/PR. Though, missing out on Casey Hayward and Rueben Randle really could end up being Spielman’s only misstep in this year’s draft.

Going into Rounds 4 through 7, Schemin’ had a mittful of draft picks, including 3 in Round 4, 2 in Round 5, 1 in Round 6, and 3 in Round 7. 9 picks total. Schemin’ turned those 9 picks into the following: Arkansas’ WR corps (Jarius Wright and Greg Childs), Jim Kleinsasser 2.0 (Rhett Ellison), 2013 4th round pick, the rest of Notre Dame’s secondary (Robert Blanton), 2013 6th round pick, Audie Cole, Trevor Guyton, and Blair Walsh. Overall, a pretty good haul.

Wright and Childs are decent little receivers. There were two player available, defensive lineman Jared Crick and linebacker Ronnell Lewis, who might have been better talents. Plus, with Cheech Harvin firmly established as our team’s slot receiver, it is a little curious what role the Vikes envision for Wright. But, his talent is undeniable and both he and Childs could challenge for starting minutes this year.

Lewis is a Jimmy Kleinsasser-type FB/TE. He will do a little bit of everything and he will do it at 160%. Good teams need players like this. So, for a 4th round pick, this is solid value.

In the 5th round, Schemin’ got Detroit’s 2013 4th round pick because he found out they really wanted Tahir Whitehead. A solid trade. With one of the picks he stole from Cleveland, the Vikes drafted Robert Blanton. A versatile DB who will hopefully excel in nickel and dime packages and contribute on special teams. AGAIN, surprisingly sound logic in the 5th round.

In the 6th and 7th rounds, Schemin’ got an heir apparent for Ryan Longwell, Mr. Blair Walsh (kid has an absolute rocket leg – but – the mind of a hockey goalie on Prozac); another special teams All-Star, Audie Cole; and potential platoon mate for Brian Robison (essentially, he is really good at stopping the run), Trevor Guyton. While it is unlikely any of the players drafted in Rounds 4 through 7 will be Pro Bowlers, Schemin’ did a nice job of balancing the need for solid starters/reserves while filling the coffers for next year’s draft. We will do a complete recap later in the week, but, with Schemin’ at the helm, things are definitely looking up at Winter Park.

Green Bay Packers

The Packers continued to be operated by TT’s evil step-brother on day 3. How else do you explain him trading UP in the draft on three separate occasions?! Whatever got in to TT is a welcome change and appears to have landed some quality players to add to the roster that had few holes to fill.

With his two compensatory picks in round 4, the Packers selected DE/DT Mike Daniels from Iowa and Maine left-winger, I mean safety (thought Maine only played hockey up there) Jeron McMillian. Both players were unknown, but offer something the Packers need.

Starting with Daniels, he is undersized at only 6’0″ and 290 lbs. But, he is a quick, penetrating type DT/DE that should rotate in on passing situations. He is a hard worker and overachieving type player, the type of guy TT loves to draft. In his last two years at Iowa, he amassed 10 sacks from the DT position and was named to the second-team All Big-Ten, just behind the Packers 2nd round selection – Jerel Worthy. Although many casual draft fans may not know Daniels, it appears to be a solid selection, aimed at providing speed on the DL to get after the quarterback.

Jeron McMillian is a curious pick to say the least. Safety became a huge need when the Pack announced Nick Collins would not be returning. With only Peprah, Burnett, and Jennings on the depth chart, the Packers needed to provide additional competition. But, with numerous big-school players on the board, TT went back to the small-school route (remember, Collins was from Bethune-Cookman) to find a safety. There are few fans of this pick. McMillian is athletic enough, testing out as one of the fastest safeties at the combine. But, his stats are underwhelming against inferior competition. He evidently is a willing tackler in run support and has the range with his speed. Naysayers point to his propensity to jump on play-actions. From the get-go, he should be an immediate contributor on special teams and, with good coaching, should battle for the starting safety position opposite Burnett.

After these two picks, TT’s next scheduled selection was round 6. But, following his new M.O., TT traded up again with The Hoodie and reclaimed his original 5th round selection to select ILB Terrell Manning from N.C. State. Manning came out early, proclaiming he was ready. He’s 6’2″ and 237 lbs. and a solid rush defender. Manning is a physical presence that will fill out his frame more as he matures. He was graded out as a fourth-round projection, but fell to the fifth where TT jumped on him. Immediately, he will contribute on special teams and compete for added depth behind Mr. T-Rex, A.J. Hawk, and Bishop. If he had stayed in college for another season, he likely would have been drafted higher, making this selection a nice developmental pick that could pan out in the long-run.

With his remaining two supplemental selections in the 7th round, TT finally drafted two offensive players – OT Andrew Datko (Fla. St.) and QB B.J. Coleman (Tenn.-Chattanooga). As 7th round selections, I don’t have much hope for these two. But they present interesting projects. Datko was supposedly rated much higher heading in to his senior season. Injury issues led to his late selection. He’s a little soft, but at 6’6″ and 315 lbs., it’s definitely worth a 7th-round investment to find a backup tackle. Coleman initially started at the U. of Tennessee, but transferred when he was demoted. He is 6’3″ and 233 lbs. and has some prototypical QB skills that he should develop in MM’s QB school. Interestingly enough, he is represented by Bus Cook (you know, the agent for Mr. Brent Favre) and had been training with Brent leading up to the camp – meaning this is the first Packers backup QB he has mentored. (I have to admit I stole this line from twitter, but definitely worth it.)

Overall, TT had a great draft, adding starters, depth, and better overall team-speed on defense. Packers fans should be thrilled with this haul. One final note from this draft, according to the NFL Draft Trade Chart, TT trade-raped The Hoodie in the two deals with him. In the first deal with The Hoodie, where TT traded his 3rd and 5th round selections for the 62nd overall selection, the difference in value was plus-116.8. And in the second deal, TT received back his 5th round selection for a 6th and two 7th round picks, the difference in value was plus-11.7. Add in the plus-31 differential in the first trade up, and you can see why TT was preaching value with all three deals.

The fun of the draft is over. But, with great-to-solid selections by both BR squads, both fan bases have a newfound excitement heading into the offseason camps. Check back later in the week for a full NFC North breakdown to see how the local squads drafts stack up against the hated Bears and Motor City Kitties.

2012 NFL Draft: Act Two

Day 2 of the NFL Draft proved just as active Day 1 with trades up and down the two rounds. And, the two local squads flipped their tactics from Day 1 to Day 2. The Packers made two trades to grab two guys they covet, while the Vikes sat back, relaxed, and let a good player fall to them. Let’s take a look at how the two local squads fared.

Green Bay Packers 

Entering the 2012 NFL Draft, the Packers needed players at all levels on defense. With their first three picks, the Packers added a quality player to all three levels on defense. After landing an uber-talented, athletic freak in Nick Perry, the Packers needed to add some DL and secondary help on day two. As we discussed, armed with too many draft picks, it was time for TT to make a move and jump up in the 2nd round to get a player that falls. As if he read the article (and why wouldn’t he have?), TT did exactly that, TWICE, in the second round.

Sitting with the 59th selection, TT moved up to the 51st selection to select the falling Jerel Worth, DT from Sparty. Worthy is a mammoth of an individual, standing at 6’2″ and 308 lbs., who also can run the 40-yard dash in 5.08 seconds. He has tremendous get-off, known for his ability to anticipate the snap and wreak havoc in the backfield. He’s strong, powerful, and quick. Basically, he’s exactly what the Packers need on the defensive line.

Of course, he wouldn’t have been a second-round pick with this background if there weren’t some red flags. Worthy, like many big defensive lineman, had a tendency to take plays off in college. He flashes some dominance and then disappears for stretches at a time. And the downside to his get-off is that he was often flagged for offsides last season. You can be sure opposing offenses will take note and work on Worthy with the hard-count. Despite these few red flags, Worthy was absolutely the right player to trade up and target. He cost only the Packers 4th round selection – which is not a huge loss considering the Packers have two compensatory picks in the 4th round still. TT’s decision to move up was also well-timed as two other defensive linemen followed the Worthy pick, including Devon Still, the other Big Ten DL that was linked to the Packers. Worthy was the best prospect of that group, and a coup for the Packers to get in the middle of round 2.

Not resting on his laurels, TT moved back into round 2 when he dealt the 3rd and 5th rd. picks to The Hoodie for the 62nd overall selection. TT plucked Casey Hayward, CB from Vanderbilt. Hayward is 5’11”, 185 lbs., and runs a 4.57 40-yard dash. Mike Mayock, NFL.com’s draft guru, calls Hayward an instinctive corner, and has the second-best hands in the draft for a corner, behind the no. 6 overall selection, Morris Claiborne, which is backed up by his 7 INT’s last season. One more encouraging stat is that opposing offenses completed only 19.5% of the passes thrown his way, which is even more impressive considering he played in the SEC. Hayward’s downside is that he is limited in his man-to-man coverage skills. His overall speed is only average, which will cause him to struggle keeping up with the speedy, twitchy type WR’s – think Percy Harvin. But, he plays well in zone coverage, reads the Quarterback well, and trusts his instincts. Again, TT anticipated what would happen well, and jumped up to get Hayward before a couple other CB’s were selected, including one by the Vikings.

Realizing the need to grab quality players at critical positions, TT broke away from his M.O. and traded up to get two players that filled major voids. Packers fans should be thrilled with what TT accomplished with these two picks to go along with Nick Perry. The defense should be vastly improved. As a result, don’t be surprised if you see Greg Jennings do this (go to the :18 mark) early in the season because with these three picks, TT may have re-established the Packers defense as a top-end defense that can get them back to the Super Bowl.

Minnesota Vikings

Well, if the first round of the 2012 NFL was an overwhelming success for Viking fans, then, the 2nd and 3rd rounds were a disappointing return to the norm. In previous drafts, like many other bewildered/clueless GMs, the Vikings brass have spoon fed the notion that they got the guy they wanted. In the third round of this year’s draft, that meant the selection of UCF cornerback, Josh Robinson.

Robinson is an explosive athlete and, with the right coaching, could be a top end DB. The raw talent is definitely there. Unfortunately, this coaching staff does not have a great track record for coaching up the secondary. Plus, many draft experts have noted that Robinson was a great fit for a secondary that employs a scheme with an emphasis on man-t0-man defenses. This is the kind of guy to put on an island. His skill set (i.e. football smarts) might not transfer well to the Cover 2 that the Vikes try to run. This could be an issue. Instead of trying to trade up, Rick “The Schemin'” Spielman decided to stand pat and take the guy they wanted.

Unfortunately, this meant passing up on two or three guys who might have been  better fits for the Vikes. For instance, both Houston and the Hoodie were willing to trade out of the latter part of the second round. It likely would have only taken one of the fourth round picks that the Vikes had to move up and grab either Casey Hayward (that is right, THAT Casey Hayward), Rueben Randle (a WR with first round talent playing in a run-first system), or Trumaine Johnson (the guy STL took right before the Vikes). Hayward and Johnson were allegedly perfect fits for the Cover 2 scheme. Randle was exactly the kind of game-changing WR that could give a much needed boost to what could best be described as a one-man show. His skills, while unproven, were of the first round variety. And, he was only drafted a few positions before Robinson was taken. Yet, the Vikes laid back. Waiting for the guy they wanted.

Now, if there are talented, potential starters in the 4th round that the Vikings brass are targeting (think another offensive lineman and additional defensive backs), then maybe it was right to relax and wait for Robinson to come to them. However, if Robinson cannot be coached up, one of those guys who could not spell C-A-T if you spotted him the C and the A, or, if there are no hidden gems in the fourth round, then it will be a wasted opportunity to not repeat the successful strategy from round one, where the Vikes leveraged later round picks into higher picks in the current rounds.

In economics, there is a theory of evaluation simply known as the opportunity cost – the balance between scarcity and choice. For the Vikings, opportunity cost means weighing the scarcity of getting a guy like Rueben or Hayward, against the choice of keeping their 4th round picks. Ultimately, the maturation of Josh Robinson is going to determine whether the team made the right choice. Though, the opportunity cost that the Packers paid in the first round by not drafting Hightower or Upshaw might be exactly the same as the opportunity cost that could cost the Vikings a solid stater like Randle or Hayward.

Stay tuned for more on the final rounds on Saturday. That is, when things get really testy.

2012 NFL Draft: Act One

The first round of the 2012 NFL Draft was wilder than a substance fueled Charlie Sheen all-nighter. The picks came in so hot they actually had to queue selections to allow the television coverage to catch-up – which may or may not have been the most annoying part of the show. (This was not.) There was a flurry of trades within the first round with multiple teams jockeying for guys they think can help their team win. This included some shrewd activity, both early and late, by one of the Border Rivals squads. While the other Border Rivals squad sat back, relaxed, and enjoyed the High Life while he let the draft come to him.

The following is both a review of what happened during round one and what could happen in Friday’s sequel. To kick things off, let’s start with the surprisingly active half of the Border Rivals rivalry.

Minnesota Vikings

The Minnesota Vikings shrewdly swapped their 3rd overall pick for the Browns 4th overall and their 4th, 5th, and 7th round picks. This trade marked a departure for a Vikings management group that has never swung a deal like this, despite fans clamoring for it. As long as this author has been alive, the Vikes have never been the team to make the savvy, draft-day move. In fact, quite the opposite, this was the team that was late bringing its pick to the podium not once, but TWICE. And yet tonight, the Vikes made the perfect move, not once, but TWICE.

Trading down from #3 was perfect because they not only landed the player they wanted anyway, Matt Kalil, but they leveraged the Browns into coughing up three additional picks. Then, they used one of those picks, to finance a trade to get back into the first round and get the other player they really wanted, safety Harrison Smith.

Mount Kalil’s considerable skills have been detailed on this site’s pages here. His presence at left tackle actually improves the Vikes at two positions because now last year’s left tackle, Charlie Johnson, can move inside to guard. As for Smith, he is a solid safety who will consistently make the heady play. He may not be flashy, but, he will make the ordinary plays, extraordinarily well (shout out to John Gagliardi for that line). This kind of consistency will be a nice departure from the practice squad All-stars that manned the porous secondary last year.

Ultimately though, the difference between this year’s draft being good and great is going to come down to whether the Vikings can replicate their mastery of the move in rounds two and three. Most draft “experts” agree that, barring a Tom Brady or Marques Colston suprise, this draft is about 100 players deep. That means the odds are in your favor for getting a decent NFL starter in the first three rounds. For that reason, the Vikes should use their bounty of picks in the later rounds to try and trade back into the second or third rounds. For a team with needs all over the field, two or three more decent NFL starters will make all the difference.

Green Bay Packers

Staying true to his M.O., TT patiently waited until his selection and (most likely) picked the best player available. Thankfully, TT’s best player available also happened to be the biggest need for the Packers – another OLB to rush the passer and compliment The Claymaker. Going back to the well, TT selected USC’s Nick Perry (OLB) with the 28th overall selection.

Perry started his career at USC playing the Elephant position (the same position The Claymaker made famous) and then converted to a DE force. In his final season (red-shirt junior year), Perry recorded 55 tackles and 9.5 sacks, good enough to lead the Pac-whatever-the-number-is-now in sacks. Perry is 6’3” and 270 lbs. He ran a 4.64 40-yard dash (third-best for an OLB at the Combine) and benched 225 lbs. 35 times (good for 5th best out of all defensive linemen). The experts report that Perry’s biggest strengths are his burst off the ball, his overall quickness, which is especially impressive considering his size, and his relentless pursuit. Clearly, TT found another stud in the first-round, right?

Not so fast. Perry’s biggest weakness gives me cause for concern. He played primarily DE in college and any highlight package you see of Perry shows him with his hand in the ground. He undoubtedly has superior athleticism, but that’s not enough to win in the NFL. Even Perry proclaimed at the Combine that he’d prefer sticking his hand in the ground in a 4-3 over playing OLB in a 3-4. He knows how to get to the QB. But, it’s a complete guess whether he can fully play the OLB position in a 3-4 – i.e. can he play standing up, guard TE’s in open space, and not get lost in zone coverage. I have full faith in our coaching staff, most importantly Kevin Greene, to coach this young man up and get him ready – after all, they worked wonders with Frank Zombo in making him competent enough to start on a Super Bowl winning team. Still, it’s going to require some major coaching and there will certainly be some growing pains along the way to get Perry comfortable in his new OLB position.

In addition to this primary concern, I’m also a bit frustrated TT didn’t make a move to trade up and get a player – namely, Dont’a Hightower, a beast ILB from Alabama. The Hoodie traded a 4th round pick to move up and grab Hightower. It’s a nominal price, particularly since the Packers have three 4th round selections this year. I coveted getting a thumper ILB to pair with Bishop. And even if Hightower wasn’t the selection, it would have been nice to see TT move up to get a player he coveted given the low cost and superfluous picks we have this year. Along these lines, it was somewhat surprising TT went with Perry over Courtney Upshaw, OLB from Alabama. Upshaw seems to be the more proven OLB commodity having played that position in a 3-4 in college and for the best defense in the country. My guess is Perry’s superior athleticism pushed him over Upshaw and TT has full confidence in his staff to teach Perry the position.

All in all, I’m very pleased with the 1st round for the Packers. A position of dire need was filled with an unquestionably talented player. Perry comes from an elite program and is an instant starter for us. That’s what you want out of an end-of-1st selection.

As for the 2nd-3rd rounds Friday night, I anticipate TT will continue to devote picks to the defense. The Packers own the 27th selection in both the 2nd (59th overall) and 3rd (90th) rounds. Stocked with three 4th round selections and 12 picks overall, I anticipate TT will not simply sit back and wait like he did in the 1st round. There is plenty of talent left on the board and believe TT could make a move up to grab a player he covets. He did this two years ago when he sniped Morgan Burnett, and it’s a model he should follow again this year. The Packers do not need 12 new players to add to the roster. Instead, the Packers need impact-players, ones that TT targets, and trades up to acquire.

There are several DE prospects still lingering – Jerel Worthy, Devon Still, Kendall Reyes, and Jared Crick. Additionally, Courtney Upshaw, Lavonte David, Zach Brown, Ronnell Lewis, Andre Branch, Vinny Curry, and Olivier Vernon are OLB prospects that are still on the board. Finally, both Janoris Jenkins and Trumaine Johnson are CB’s that could interest the Packers. As you can tell, there’s a lot of talent for the taking in the second round. At least some of these players will start to fall. It’s time for TT to be aggressive and move up several spots to grab one of these players.

Prediction: I see TT going after the front 7 on defense again in the second round. If TT makes a move, he will go after Reyes or David. If he sits back and waits, the pick will be Crick or Lewis/Curry. In the 3rd round, he should try to get secondary help. One name to keep an eye out for is Casey Hayward from Vanderbilt. If he avoids the secondary, this may be the spot TT addresses the OL – either a guard (remember, T.J. Lang is a FA next year) or center.

For a change, both sides of the St. Croix should be pleased with the results from the 1st Rd. Friday night’s rounds 2 and 3 are just as important to both teams’ success. Enjoy the festivities and make sure to check back here for some reaction following the draft.

The Importance of the Draft

The 2012 NFL Draft is ready to take over our next weekend. Both local squads have either a lot or some holes to fill through the draft. The importance of the draft to next seasons success is vitally important to both squads. By now, we’ve all read the articles proclaiming who the Vikes and Pack should take. But, there’s been little discussion on the past success, or lack thereof, for the squads. This is what we, here at Border Rivals, have decided to analyze in order to offer a fresh take on the upcoming draft.

Dating back to 2005 – the first draft Ted Thompson presided over for the Packers – we’ve catalogued each selection made by the local squads. Each selection was given a rating of 0-6:

  • 0 – A complete bust. The player has contributed nothing or next to nothing in stats.
  • 1 – The player has played in some games and accumulated very little in stats.
  • 2 – A key backup that may occasionally start. This may also be used for a below-average starter.
  • 3 – An average starter – the definition of A.J. Hawk.
  • 4 – An above-average starter. This player starts every game and makes an impact in the game.
  • 5 – A player on verge of making a Pro Bowl. A difference-maker, but not quite to that elite level, yet.
  • 6 – Any player that has been selected to the Pro Bowl.

We then calculated the average rating for the players selected in each round over the years. This allowed us to determine the relative success each team has had in drafting players in each round. Finally, we determined the “hit rate” for the percentage of time each team has hit (any player rated 3 or above) on a player – no matter the round that player was selected.

Our goal in this analysis is to not only determine the average rate of success each team had from 2005 to 2010 (we did not rate players taken in the last draft because it’s too early to make determinations on many players), but then to also determine the success each team has had in each round – after all, each team should draft well in the first few rounds on a routine basis. We had hoped that by creating these objective standards for rating each player, our own subjectivity would be limited. Admittedly, some of the calls –  particularly on whether a player is a 1 or 2, or a 4 or 5 is subjective. Still, our analysis provides unique insight into showing the importance of the draft.

Green Bay Packers –

Since 2005, TT has unwaveringly relied upon the draft to build the Packers roster into the championship team it has become. Agonizing at times, this approach has clearly worked for TT. The roster is riddled with both early and late round selections that have developed into reliable starters.

Over the 58 selections in the 6 drafts between 2005 and 2010, TT has hit on 21 of those selections – good for a 36% clip. 6 of those 21 players have developed into Pro Bowlers, including one MVP and a second-place finish in the Defensive MVP vote: Aaron Rodgers, Clay Matthews, B.J. Raji, Nick Collins, Greg Jennings, and Josh Sitton (although he’s never been selected to a Pro Bowl, Sitton was voted the Offensive Lineman of the Year by the 2010 NFL Alumni – which deserves a 6 rating in our book). 3 players are on the fringe of making the Pro Bowl (a 5 rating) – JerMichael Finley, Jordy Nelson, and Bryan Bulaga. And two became above-average starters – Desmond Bishop and Mason Crosby.

There is no debating the fact that TT’s first selection – Aaron Rodgers – was his best. Frankly, it was also the gutsiest. Remember, the Pack still had a mid-thirties Brett Favre that had given no indication that he was ready to retire (and unretire, retire, unretire, and retire again). To take a QB with the first pick, knowing full-well that doing so would irritate – to say the least – the franchise player is a move only made by a person confident in his abilities. But, this was not the only bold move made by TT in the first round over the years. In 2009, TT moved back into the first round – giving up a number of picks – to acquire Clay Matthews to go with B.J. Raji – the 9th pick in that draft. Add in Bryan Bulaga (while also subtracting the Justin Harrell pick), and TT’s success in the first round is impressive with a 4.5 average rating.

TT has had equal success in the second and third rounds – averaging 2.89 and 2.8 respectively. He’s added Nick Collins, Greg Jennings, Jordy Nelson, and JerMichael Finley in those two rounds. TT’s fourth round number is an inflated 2.1 average because of the Josh Sitton selection. He nabbed the starting left guard, T.J. Lang, also in the 2009 4th round. Interestingly enough, TT’s worst round over the years has been the fifth round, where he averages a meager 1. The only players of note in this round are from the 2010 draft – Andrew Quarles (a 2 rating) and Marshall Newhouse (a 3 – admittedly, this may be a reach, but I’m convinced he’s the starting LT of the future, good enough for a 3 in my book). TT’s seventh round average is 1.33, with his best pick being Matt Flynn.

I skipped the sixth round so I could highlight it. I have always maintained that TT has made his money the most in the late rounds and even undrafted free agent pool. TT’s sixth round average of 2.1 is a testament to this. He has found four starters, two of which are above average – Bishop, Crosby, Johnny Jolly, and James Starks. He’s also added two decent backups in Korey Hall (a pretty solid special-teams player when he played for the Pack) and Jarius Wynn.

As the numbers demonstrate, TT has success through all rounds of the draft. He finds key players, whether they are starters or not, that contribute to the team’s success. It is only because of this draft success that the Packers are poised to become a Super Bowl contender for the next several seasons.

Minnesota Vikings –

In sharp contrast, the Vikes have relied upon free agency to build the team. This strategy brought them one classic-Favre-heartbreak from a Super Bowl berth in 2010. But, this strategy, along with poor results in the draft, help explain why the Vikes have the 3rd overall selection on Thursday night.

Over the 39 selections between 2005 and 2010, the Vikes have hit on only 11 of those selections, good for a 28% clip. 1 of the 11 is a Pro Bowler, AP, and only 1 more is on the verge of a Pro Bowl berth, Percy Harvin. There are only 2 above-average starters: Chad Greenway and Ray Edwards. The remaining seven players are Cedric Griffin, T. Jax, Sidney Rice, Phil Loadholt, Brian Robison, John Sullivan, and Jamarca Sanford.

Both AP and Harvin were the offensive Rookies of the Year, which, frankly, masks the Vikes’ poor track record. Even with those two ROYs, the Vikes average rating in the first round is still only a 3.4. The same year TT selected Rodgers, the Vikes passed on him twice to select Troy Williamson and Erasmus James. Both players earned a 1-rating. (We know Williamson was technically a starter, and thus, maybe a 3; but this is where subjectivity dictates a 1-rating. If you think otherwise, you must be Williamson’s mother.)

Over nine picks in the second round, the Vikes average 2.4, grabbing all 2’s and 3’s in this round. Not one player developed into an above-average starter. No, Sidney Rice’s one-season with Brett Favre does not make him an above-average starter. Worse, the Vikes average 1.7 for the 3 selections in the third round: Dustin Fox, Marcus McCauley, and Asher Allen. Yuck.

A 2.5 average in the fourth-round is respectable. This average is based on two players: Ray Edwards (who is no longer on the team anymore) and Brian Robison, his replacement, who has started only one full season.

From here, it gets ugly for Vikings fans. The Vikes average 0.86, 1, and 0.8 in 5th, 6th, and 7th rounds, respectively. Out of the 18 selections in these three rounds, only two became starters – John Sullivan and Jamarca Sandford – and the rest are either a 1 or 0.

Overall, the Vikes have drafted a bust or near bust in 20 of the 39 selections, a clip of 51%. This number, along with the only 1 Pro Bowler selected in this time frame, helps explain why the Vikes have needed free agency over the years to be competitive.

If there is ever a clearer answer to why the Vikes have the 3rd pick in this draft, while the Pack have the 28th selection and are only one year removed from a Super Bowl victory, that answer is the relative success each team has had in the drafts. Not only have the Packers hit on a higher percentage of their picks, but the Packers have also selected better quality of players, shown by the 6-to-1 ratio in Pro Bowlers selected.

And, here is our work so you can scrutinize yourself: Local Squads. We recognize there will be some debate about our ratings and/or system. Please keep the comments coming so we can fine-tune it as we move forward.

Why the Packers Aren’t Active in Free Agency

There will not be any Reggie White type signings for the Pack in the foreseeable future.

The Packers just completed one of its best regular seasons in franchise history. But, a 15-1 record guaranteed nothing, as the team fell in the first playoff game in miserable fashion. It’s clear the Packers are just a few difference-makers on defense from claiming its 5th Super Bowl title. So, TT should be active in getting those difference-makers in free agency, right? Wrong. Although it would be nice, the Packers simply cannot be active in free agency.

We all know TT has done a helluva job building this team through the draft. Undoubtedly, TT is one of the best in the league in mining the middle- to late-rounds for talented players that can contribute and develop into key members for the squad: JMike (3rd Rd.), James Jones (3rd), Sitton (4th), T.J. Lang (4th), Newhouse (5th), Starks (6th), Bishop (6th), Crosby (6th), and D.J. Smith (6th). The list only grows longer when you consider the undrafted free agents he has hit on. But, as with all things in life, this success comes with a cost.

Of the players identified above, most have received a healthy new contract to keep them around for the foreseeable future. And, that is the reason why the Packers simply cannot participate in free agency. To keep the core that won Super Bowl XLV together, TT must have enough money to pay them. And coming down the pipeline are not simply core players needing new deals. Instead, TT has the daunting task of figuring out cap-friendly deals to keep Greg Jennings, Clay Matthews, and Aaron Rodgers.

First up is Greg Jennings. The star receiver is in his last year of a 4-year extension he signed in 2009. Jennings will hit free agency at the ripe age of 29 and is one of the best WR’s in the business. If you’ve been paying attention at all to the free agency frenzy this past week, you know that WR’s have been getting absurd contracts. Consider, Josh Morgan – all 9 career TD’s in 4 seasons – is getting $12M over two years, $7.3M of which is fully guaranteed. Or, Pierre Garcon – he whose single-season career bests are 6 TDs and 947 yards – signed a 5-year, $42.5M contract, $20.5M guaranteed. (Sidenote – do you think other franchises have asterisks next to Redskins-signed players when agents use said contracts for favorable comparisons in negotiations? I’ve gotta think anytime an agent cites to a Dan Snyder contract, TT and Russ Ball smirk and say try again.) Needless to say, Jennings is in line for a substantial deal; one that is going to require TT and Russ Ball to get as creative as ever to not cripple the Pack’s salary cap for the future.

Next, we have the Claymaker. Matthews is still only 25, but has already established himself as one of the best defensive players in the game. He was second for Defensive MVP in 2010 and is the best defensive player that has donned the Green-and-Gold since Reggie White. If you thought last season’s defensive efforts were meager, just imagine if the offense didn’t have to devote two players to Clay every snap. It’s not a pretty thought. Matthews’ rookie contract expires in 2014. He’s in line for a massive contract extension. Super Mario Williams just got a 6-year, $100M contract, and this, off a season he finished with a knee injury. Last season, Da Bears (still suck) signed a 30-year-old Julius Peppers to a 6-year, $84M deal, with $42M guaranteed. When Matthews hits free agency, he will only be 27 and hardly have had a poor season (assuming he’s healthy (knock on wood!!!)). This contract might be particularly difficult. I would not be shocked if the Pack slap the franchise tag on Clay to give them extra time to figure out a deal.

Free agency is a no-go when you need to resign this Orca in the next year or two.

Finally, and probably the reason why Claymaker’s contract may be on the back-burner for a while, Rodgers is in line for a new contract. Savvy as always, TT signed Rodgers to a healthy extension back in 2008 when Rodgers had yet to even complete his first season starting. Obviously, the contract extension was a shrewd move. And, Rodgers still has 3 years before he reaches free agency. But, to say Rodgers has outperformed his contract would be the understatement of the year – remember, if the Pack had franchised Flynn, the franchise number for Flynn would have been more than Rodgers’ 2012 salary. TT will look to sign Rodgers to a deal to keep him in Green-and-Gold for the rest of his career (or at least until his good years are past and the Vikes will overpay out of desperation). Drew Brees’ contract (whenever he signs it) will set a new benchmark for elite QBs. Right now, Mr. Bundchen is playing on a 5-year, $78.5M deal, of which $48.5M is guaranteed. Whenever Rodgers reaches a new deal, I imagine it will reach 9-figures.

Long story longer, if you weren’t keeping track (and I’m not sure I even did), keeping those three players alone will likely cost the Packers upwards of $200M+. And that doesn’t even account for B.J. Raji, Sam Shields (assuming he doesn’t regress like last season), Bryan Bulaga, JMike (again), and Mike Neal (kidding) to name a few others that will also likely need to be resigned.

TT’s drafting prowess is the reason the Packers are set to become the team of the decade. To do so, though, TT must forego free agency in order to ensure he can resign the best players. So, those hoping the Packers will make a run at Kamerion Wimbley, consider: do you want Wimbley or the cap room to ensure the core of our team is together? I think it’s a no-brainer when you look at the big picture.

An Exercise in Futility

TT is averse to free agency, but this could be the year he breaks that trend.

Let’s be honest, talking free agency strategy with Ted Thompson running our squad has been mostly an exercise in futility. The way TT pinches pennies, you’d think he was Mitt Romney’s financial advisor. But, the few times he has dipped his toes in the free agency waters, he’s hit it big by plucking Woodson and Pickett. The Packers have few needs, and free agency might be a good route for TT to fill a need or two.

For starters, the Packers have approximately $6.9 million in cap space presently, which includes an added bonus of $1.6M thanks to Jerry Jones and Dan Snyder. That’s not a lot to wheel and deal, and I expect TT to create more cap space in the coming days. The two obvious candidates are DD and Clifton. Both players have been great players and representative for the Packers throughout their careers. But, it’s a cut-throat business and the Pack have younger and better players that need to see the playing field in their place – Cobb/Gurley and Newhouse. TT has always been one to cut a player one season too soon than too late (see Cullen Jenkins), and I expect this will be no different. Frankly, I’d love to see TT cut Mr. T-Rex arms (Hawk). I have no clue what the cap repercussions may be in doing so (if you can find this information out, please comment and I will update accordingly), but he’s a dud and replaceable. Regardless, if the Packers handle DD and Clifton, they would be sitting with approximately $12M – more than enough ammunition for TT to get to work in free agency.

Even though our defense is in desperate need of some upgrades, the biggest priority in free agency needs to be retaining or replacing Scott Wells. Numerous reports indicate Wells harbors vitriol towards the Packers because they attempted to replace him in years past and refuse to pay him top-5 money for his position. Wells may be in for a rude awakening, though, once he gets to free agency. After all, the same reasons the Packers have continually tried replacing him – short, stocky, and not a road grader – still exist. In fact, his value is probably the greatest with the Packers than any other team because of his familiarity with the system and it being a pass-oriented attack. I wouldn’t be surprised if he ends up resigning with the Packers once he sees his market is not nearly as big as he anticipates. This situation reminds me James Jones from last year in that respect.

In the event Wells signs elsewhere, there are a number of available centers in free agency. Chris Myers from Houston is regarded as the best available center. He comes from a zone-blocking scheme and led their top-ranked rushing attack. He’s also over-30, though. An interesting prospect is Samson Satele from Oakland. He’s younger at 27 and anchored the 2nd and 7th ranked rushing offenses the past two seasons. Otherwise, the Pack will have to look to the draft to replace Wells. A pair of Sconnie’s are regarded as two of the best available centers in the draft – Peter Konz (1st round grade) and Kevin Zeitler (guard, but might be better suited for C).

After Wells, then it’s a matter of finding the right fit for the right price on defense. Obviously, the Packers could use upgrades or depth at every position on defense. And, to beat you to the punch, Mario Williams is out of the question. He’s going to demand the biggest contract in NFL history for a defensive player, and the Packers have too many players to resign in future years – Matthews, Rodgers, Jennings, and Raji to name a few. So who, exactly, could the Packers target? Well, who the hell knows, but here’s a few names to keep in mind as the free agency madness gets into full-swing:

Mark Anderson – OLB for the Pats. He resurrected his career with the Pats this past season, recording 10 sacks. At 29, he’s still relatively young and would be an instant upgrade opposite Matthews. He won’t demand top-dollar, either, and would be the savvy, under-the-radar type move that may appeal to TT.

Kamerion Wimbley – OLB for Oakland. He’s under contract with Oakland, but his contract will require the Raiders to cut him soon. He’s 28 and is very athletic and talented at 6′-4″ and 255 lbs. He had 7 sacks this past season, and 9 the year before. In six full seasons, he has 42.5 sacks. Needless to say, he’d be a great compliment to Matthews. Unfortunately, his price tag will probably be too steep for TT.

Adam Carriker – DE for the Skins. He’s a former high draft pick that hasn’t panned out. But, he’s still only 28, and at 6′-6″ and 315 lbs., he could play at NT or DE in the 3-4. Starting in 15 games last season at the nose tackle position for the Skins’ 3-4 defense, he notched 5.5 sacks. Like Anderson, he’s not going to garner much immediate attention and should come on the cheap.

Tracy Porter – CB for the ‘Aints. Tracy Porter happens to be one of my favorite non-Packers player because of this play. Don’t forget, Porter is the player that iced the Super Bowl win with the late pick-six on Manning. He clearly does not shy from the big-moment and, at 26, he’s a player with a lot of potential still in him. Porter’s problem, though, has been staying healthy, having never survived a full season. And because of this, he might come cheaper than a young cornerback with his potential might otherwise.

Reggie Nelson – S for the Bungals. Nelson was another former high-draft pick that never made it with his original squad. He’s a safety the Packers may want to target for insurance in case Mr. Pick-Six cannot return. Nelson had a solid season last year with 85 tackles, 4 picks, and 2 sacks and fumbles apiece.

Do you sense a theme in the players listed above? It was intentional. Outside of Wimbley, they are players under-the-radar and not splashy. That’s how TT operates, and if he decides to dabble in the free agency pool, expect him to target these types of players – good fits at the right price. But, considering his last foray into free agency was the huge signing of Duke Preston, well, I’m tempering my expectations.

Players to watch at the NFL Combine

The NFL Offseason officially begins next week in Indianapolis at the NFL Combine – you know, the only interview done in tights and briefs. Despite their 15-1 regular season record, the Packers have plenty of positions they could use upgrades – basically anywhere on defense! While you’re watching highlights, reading updates, or listening to the talking heads (don’t try lying to yourself, we all know we are going to be doing this, even though we’d like to deny this fact), here are a few players Packers fans should keep their eyes on. And these are intended not to be the obvious candidates that would be great picks if they fell to us.

Vinny Curry – Curry is a fringe 1st-rd. pick according to the experts on the ole interweb, and a player not many people have heard of. Curry is a DE/OLB hybrid from Marshall. He’s 6’4″, 260+ lbs., and apparently is a “refined pass-rusher,” according to Mel Kiper’s Hair. He posted 23 sacks the past two seasons. Other reports indicate he has some real speed off the edge and has been compared to Cameron Wake. The Combine will be important to show off his athleticism and whether he has the ability to make the conversion to OLB.

Nick Perry – Perry is a player shooting up many draft boards and the Combine is likely only going to make it occur quicker. He’s a 6’3″, 250 lb. junior DE/OLB hybrid that had 9.5 sacks last season for USC (hmmm… could TT go back to the well?). Like so many of these young hybrid players coming out of college, Perry has very little experience working in space. He, too, has a great speed off the edge, and reports indicate he’s a hard worker that came from a tough upbringing in Detroit. Things to watch – reports indicate he is undersized for his position, and may have shorter arms (recall how much this fact has negatively impacted Bryan Bulaga… oh wait.)

Whitney Mercilus – Again, a DE/OLB hybrid out of Illinois. He led the nation in sacks (16) and forced fumbles (9) last season. Clearly, a player of this ability would be nice opposite the Claymaker. But, Mercilus screams one-hit wonder (think Vernon Gholston). In 2009 to 2010, he recorded 24 tackles and 2 sacks… total. The Combine will be the perfect place for him to display his athleticism, and his value will likely shoot up too high for the Packers selection. And for the record, a report has compared him favorably to Jason Paul-Pierre.

Dont’a Hightower – Hightower was the catalyst for the best defense in college last season (and perhaps the last decade-plus). He is an absolute beast ILB and would be the ideal replacement for A.J. “T-Rex Arms” Hawk. I was very pleased with D.J. Smith’s performance last season, but at this point, let’s get the best players available and sort out where each player will play later. Who knows, if Smith improves and we grabbed Hightower, moving Bishop to OLB might be a possibility. But I digress. Hightower is a thumper. Reports seem to indicate that he may be a tad bit slower than some would like. If this is true – i.e. he doesn’t test out well at the Combine – he could fall into TT’s lap, and would be a coup for the Pack.

In addition to these few specific players to watch for, there are a number of very good DE prospects to look for at the end of the 1st rd.: Fletcher Cox (Miss. St.), Jerel Worthy (Mich. St.), and Devon Still (PSU). In the secondary, look for Mark Barron (S – Alabama), Janoris Jenkins (CB – N. Alabama), and a second-rd. prospect in Trumaine Johnson (DB – Montana). Regarding T. Johnson, allegedly he’s a big and athletic guy that looks the part, but has some mental shortcomings – i.e. he’s a mental midget and may be quite fond of himself. His interview will go a long way in how high he climbs on the draft board.

In order to win one for the thumb, the Packers need to desperately upgrade several positions in its defense. As we know, TT is averse to upgrading the roster through free agency (to put it mildly). Hitting on their first several picks in the upcoming draft is crucial. The NFL Combine is where this process begins.