Assessing the Packers’ Biggest Draft Needs

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Ted Thompson Packers

Despite Tom Silverstein’s shocking news that the Packers are interested in former Miami Dolphins’ defensive end Kendall Langford, chances remain high that the Packers instead address their defensive deficiencies through the draft.

In doing so, the question becomes which position should the Packers address first; an outside linebacker to put opposite Clay Matthews or another body to build up a much-needed pass rush. Or what about center if Scott Wells finds a new home via free agency and the Packers come up empty-handed with veteran centers?

Regardless of need, Ted Thompson is likely to draft the best player available when the Packers get on the clock, but it’s worthwhile to play the game.

While the Packers having glaring holes both on the defensive line and at right outside linebacker, addressing the issues of the defensive line will also help to alleviate additional pressure placed on the outside linebacker, as well as the defensive back field.

With a steady pass rush in 2010, the Packers were able to mask their weakness at the right outside linebacker position all the way to winning Super Bowl XLV. When Cullen Jenkins walked out the door to become an Eagle and the pass rush struggled, there were just too many problems to disguise. By fixing one issue, namely the defensive line, the Packers would again be able to compensate for weaknesses elsewhere, if not able to find a solution via free agency or the draft.

The news of Mike Neal’s suspension earlier this week was another hit to the Packers’ defensive line situation. Supposed to be the justification for letting Cullen Jenkins walk for a somewhat affordable deal, Neal hasn’t lived up to the hype and is getting dangerously close to the bust label, or even the Justin Harrell 2.0 label. It appears that Neal is not the answer, and the doubt weighs enough that it’s time to act.

While Langford would be a good addition to the rotation on the line, he won’t offer much in terms of the pass rush, the Packers’ biggest downfall in 2011. He is a run-stopper first and foremost and not known for getting after the quarterback.

The Packers need to address the defensive line and get a lineman who can and will get to the quarterback. That’s not to say if the Packers have a chance at a top outside linebacker they should pass him up, but just that the addressing the issues on the defensive line is a more desperate need.

If it’s not a pass rushing defensive linemen or a right outside linebacker, the Packers next biggest need is at the center position. Scott Wells is drawing quite some interest from teams, including visits to the Tennessee Titans and the St. Louis Rams. The Packers would benefit from having Wells back, but will not and should not break the bank for the 31-year old center.

Wisconsin’s Peter Konz has been a player mentioned if the Packers are searching for a center in the draft, but the Packers would likely have to trade up to get him. This is especially the case now that the Houston Texans, who draft in the 26th spot, are now in the market for a center following cutting their guy in Chris Myers.

A rare free agent signing prior to the draft could change everything, but as of now, the Packers’ biggest need is on the defensive line, followed by outside linebacker and center.

 

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Michael is a sports writer currently attending Seattle University. You can follow Michael on Twitter .

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  • Bearmeat

    I hope TT gets after Langford at DE or Wimbley at ROLB in FA.

    But if not (as we all should assume), then the DL has to be priority one.

    Agreed. Completely.

    • http://allgbp.com Jersey Al

      “as we should all assume” +1

    • CSS

      I don’t know that anybody can argue ROLB or DL wouldn’t be the biggest need for this club. That being said, there’s decent history out there over the last 5-7 years of solid rookie campaigns from OLB’s. There’s little to no impact 1st year defensive lineman.

      Just saying, it’s reasonable to expect impact play from a rookie LB. Very unrealistic to expect a difference making rookie defensive lineman.

      • PackersRS

        I’d go as far to say that it’s 70% chance this draft won’t have a big impact on how we do this season.

        What is reasonable is to expect big contributions from the 10′ and 11′ class. That means Neal, Burnett, Quarless if healthy, Starks, Wilson, Cobb, Green, House, Smith, all making a significant leap in terms of production. They all have at least 1 year of experience in this scheme, and the speed of the game should slow down for most of them.

        Maybe 1 or 2 rookies can have an impact on certain game situations, but to more than that should be counted as bonus and not obligation.

        It won’t be this draft that will decide whether we win it all or not.

        • CSS

          Exactly. Even if TT goes DL and OLB for every pick I’m ‘hoping’ for the occasional impact on sub-packages as a best case scenario and the ability to keep Pickett and Raji fresh.

          Defensive improvements, outside of free agency, are much more likely to come with healthy personnel, scheme flexibility and players from the 10′ and 11′ draft class taking that next step.

          • Mojo

            Could have sworn a one Mr. CM3 had an excellent rookie campaign.

            • CSS

              For every exception you can find dozens that are the rule. It’s not impossible, but it’s highly unlikely to get a game over game impact player at either of those positions as rookies.

        • Bearmeat

          If you’re right RS (and I think you are), then GB is screwed right now – unless FA bridges the gap.

          Neal can’t be counted on at this point. Anything he gives us is a bonus. Quarless and Green are probably not going to contribute due to severe injuries last year.

          Smith can only contribute if TT/MM can swallow their pride and finally bench Hawk. Unless he improves drastically, (IMO his ceiling just isn’t that high) he will simply not be an impact player.

          You’re right about Burnett, Cobb and Starks. But can Starks stay healthy? And will TT/MM actually do the right thing and trade/release Driver?

          Quite simply, either mid level FA or high impact rooks on DL/OLB and maybe S is a must. Or we’re going to get to the playoffs and get bounced immediately. Again.

          • Bearmeat

            Excuse me. 3rd Paragraph should read:

            Smith can only contribute if TT/MM can swallow their pride and finally bench Hawk. And unless WILSON improves drastically, (IMO his ceiling just isn’t that high) he will simply not be an impact player.

            None of these things are likely IMO.

            Hey Al – can you add an edit button??

            • http://allgbp.com Jersey Al

              As, I’ve mentioned before, an “EDIT” button does exist. But you have to login with a username. Otherwise, anyone could edit anyone else’s posts. If you don’t have a login, just go to “register” on the right under “Join/Follow”.

          • PackersRS

            All you listed are very concrete possibilities.

            But it should be noted, and I think it was CSS who said so (pardon me if I’m getting the wrong poster), almost everything that could go wrong last year, regarding the defense, went wrong.

            With Tramon Williams back and Sam Shields improved in press coverage (matter of technique that the coaches didn’t have time to adjust to midseason), the Packers will get the press coverage, the one area they excell, back, which in itself will help tremenduously.

            Add the possibility of having Nick Collins back, and with the improvement of Burnett, the secondary goes back to it’s 2010 form, if not fully due to the decrease in Woodson’s play, to a more than respectable level.

            The pass rush is the primary area of concern for everybody, and for a good reason, but the coverage unit, regardless of the pressure from the front 7, performed extremely poorly last year.

            Another issue that should be highlighted is that, with all the deficiencies from last year, the circumstances of our premature exit were very unique.

            Don’t underestimate the impact of Philbin’s son’s death a week before the game. It clearly took away the focus in the preparation. Another big factor was the unusual number of turnovers lost by an offense that preaches ball security as it’s most important element, which I don’t believe was a coincidence.

            The defense was at fault, without a doubt, but IMO it’s wrong to pinpoint it as the clear factor for the Packers’ postseason demise in a game in which the potent Packers’ offense generated 2 tds (1 in truth, discarding garbage time) and lost 4 turnovers.

            It would be great if the defense was as good as 2010, and I do believe that we will improve significantly from last year, but this team is built around the offense, which is one of the best if not the best in the league.

            More importantly, this team as it is is good enough to win another SB, as long as it plays to it’s potential. It did not against the Giants, but discarding what they accomplished last year and the year prior because of that single unique game is a big mistake. Sorry for the long post…

            • BubbaOne

              RS, Good post.
              Collins loss was bigger than Jenkins; he covered up a lot of sins by the secondary. I don’t think I want Collins back b/c of the concern for permanent injury. W/ th weak S class I think TT may draft a CB to play S.

            • Bearmeat

              It was actually me who said those things RS. And I stand by them.

              BUT I also expect TT to infuse either DE or ROLB (hopefully both) with a massive talent upgrade in some way shape or form. It was a huge problem throughout the year last year, and it will be again without immediate help.

              And I agree with the weirdness about the NY game – but honestly, I don’t think GB would have won it all anyway last year. They didn’t have that ‘killer’ instinct that they gained at the Pats game in 10 and never lost.

              WE. NEED. MORE. TALENT. AT DE/ROLB. IMMEDIATELY.

              sorry for the caps – but that’s how strongly I feel about it.

              • PackersRS

                I feel the same way you do. If you don’t get better, you get worse.

                I just believe that we won’t get much production from the rookies, and I don’t think we need to in order to win again.

                But finding a completement to Matthews and adding a body at DE, if not for the added rotation, certainly as a replacement for Pickett, is something they can’t delay. They either find the solution for those positions this year, or we’re gonna have serious problems in the near future when Woodson and Pickett aren’t able to produce.

    • Ron LC

      Roger that!

      • BubbaOne

        Besides the edit button please change what happens when I forget to fill in the
        name, email fields. It tells me to fill them in but wipes out the msg I typed.

        • http://allgbp.com Jersey Al

          As, I’ve mentioned before, an “EDIT” button does exist. But you have to login with a username. Otherwise, anyone could edit anyone else’s posts. If you don’t have a login, just go to “register” on the right under “Join/Follow”.

          That would also solve the second issue, since once you login, you won’t be asked for any more info when you post a comment.

          • Bearmeat

            Have I mentioned my computer idiocy before? ;)

            Sorry Al. I really enjoy the blog!

            • http://allgbp.com Jersey Al

              no problem and thank you!

  • Mojo

    Whatever form of man, fowl or beast that can create a pass-rush is what’s needed. Once that happens the other defensive units miraculously improve.

    If we go into the next year with about the same or less rush than last year, then another promising season will be washed down the drain.

    • http://allgbp.com Jersey Al

      fowl? Maybe an angry rooster?

  • QOTSA1

    I really hope they don’t spend a high draft pick on a center. If they don’t get Wells back there are still plenty of free agent centers available.

    Other than Pickett and Raji, their D line needs a complete overhaul.

    And although Packer fans have been saying this for a couple years now, I think they use a high draft pick on OLB to play on the other side of Matthews.

    • ThomasMagnumPI

      Given how many holes GB has to fill, I would hope that they choose to trade out of the first round unless there is a single prospect that is truly the apple of their eye. I would much rather see them spend two early/mid 2nd round picks on defensive front 7 guys than a first and whatever they can find later on. Of course, this would leave them with little opportunity to draft a C who would be ready to start week 1. Hopefully TT would have enough trade ammo to pull his off (pick 28, 60 and 92 would probably be enough).

      • ThomasMagnumPI

        Also, what about trading James Jones down to Miami to help fill the gaping hole left at WR? With the free agent market nearly exhausted, maybe GB could get a decent price for him.

        • http://allgbp.com Jersey Al

          Jones has minimal trade value, in my opinion. better off keeping him as insurance.

          • ThomasMagnumPI

            I guess the actual GMs know what his value is than we do, but I would think that he would be worth more to Philbin in Miami this year than he was in free agency last year. If his trade value simply isn’t there, then I would have no problem whatsoever with the packers keeping him as a top-tier WR3, signed for a very reasonable contract.

            • http://twitter.com/jrdulka Michael Dulka

              I agree that if the value is there, then make the move, but I don’t see Jones gaining enough to make it worth it. It’s a nice idea though.

      • QOTSA1

        If there is nobody the Packers like at 28, I would have no problem if they could convert their 1st round pick into a couple of 2nd rounders.

        But, I think this draft has enough DL & OLB talent that there will be someone they like at 28. Either Perry, Branch or Mercilus at OLB or Still or maybe Worthy at DL.

        The Packers should have 12 draft picks so they could always trade up.

        • ThomasMagnumPI

          In terms of moving up, all those 4th round and later draft picks really don’t amount to much. They are important, however for building depth, core special teamers (which i feel GB did well to address last year) and developmental prospects. Also, since rookie contracts are cheaper than those for vets, it helps in keeping money free to resign or extend players like Rodgers, Jennings, Lang, Raji, Matthews and Wells.

      • PackersRS

        Yeah, the more I read about this year’s draftees, specially in the areas of need, the more I’m convinced the best move would be to trade down from the 1st round, and up from the 3rd.

  • Bearmeat

    BREAKING NEWS:

    Scott Wells to the Rams. For too many years. For too much $$.

    Time to add C to the wishlist in FA/Draft.

    Well, it’s not like it wasn’t expected.

    • ThomasMagnumPI

      +1. It’s got to be much higher of a need than just for the wish list now…

    • http://allgbp.com Jersey Al

      I’ve had center as a #4 need on Drafttek for awhile now. Even if they signed Wells, it would have been time to draft a potential successor.

      • ThomasMagnumPI

        Hey al, any chance that you could put a “reach” designation on a couple of high-quality defensive linemen in the 1st round for one of the drafttek mocks,just to see how that shakes things up? Maybe stick Konz with that tag as well, just in case he slips a couple of spots??

        I would like to see what happens with that 2nd round pick if GB went defensive line in the 1st.

  • DWhitehurst

    If we’ve rightly come to the conclusion that the makeup of this year’s draft class in terms of plateaus would suggest that teams like the Packers picking towards the bottom end of the 1st round would do better to trade down from the 1st and/or trade up from the 3rd round for extra 2nd round picks, then the Packers wouldn’t be the only team seeking to do this. No doubt, if TT thinks trade-up/trade-downs will be best help the team, he’ll do so. Yet, given the Packers may not be the only team trying to do this, we better not assume that TT will be ABLE to pull-off such trade-downs/trade-ups, at least ones which are at relatively “fair value”. TT will be conservative and not ‘desperate’–as distinct from teams like the Falcons or Redskins–and I personally appreciate it and think it is the best in the long run.