Green Bay Packers 2012 NFL Draft: The Reasons Behind the Picks Part I

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2012 NFL Draft

So now that the NFL draft is officially over, tons of fans will converge on Packers web sites to air their grievances about not drafting a particular player or reaching for another.  They will hand out grades to teams and players alike; argue with other fans about what should have happened, and how the analysts have no idea what they are talking about.

I frankly am uninterested in such things; you’re typically not going to find out how good a draft class or a player is for 3-5 years and a player’s success has a lot to do with the team and the environment they get drafted in.

Nevertheless, every team drafts a player with a role in mind, and in this article I hope to analyze what role I think each player was drafted for; I am not concerning myself with what I think will likely happen, I have not placed a grade or an analysis of each player’s potential for a reason.  I’ve also included who I think the rookies will be replacing, keep in mind I don’t necessarily think that a rookie will take a veteran’s spot (for instance I have Casey Hayward replacing Charles Woodson) only what type of role that rookie is like to take.

Nick Perry – Projected Outside Linebacker – Round 1, Pick 28 (#28 overall) – Replaces Erik Walden

Rationale: With no pass rushers taken until #15 (Bruce Irvin to Seattle), Ted Thompson probably just sat on his hands and waited for players to drop to him.  From a schematic standpoint I think Perry offers a good foil for fellow Trojan Clay Matthews III; Perry showed impressive strength (which is supposed to translate to explosion) at the combine with 38.5 inch vertical (tied for 2nd among defensive linemen and linebackers) and 35 bench reps (tied for 6th among defensive linemen and linebackers, though really he’s tied for 1st when you exclude defensive tackles) and while that didn’t translate to much of a power game on the field (though it could be argued when you are as fast around the edge as Perry is you’d probably neglect the power game as well), rookies typically get much “functionally” stronger with NFL weight rooms and trainers so Perry could be very good at setting the edge in the future.

With Perry now in the mix, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Matthews switch back to right outside linebacker, where he wouldn’t be up against traditionally stronger right tackles/guards.  I also wouldn’t be surprised to see Matthews play more middle field “spy”/late blitzer like he did in 2010; my feeling is that Capers was forced to always keep Matthews on the edge all of last season because there simply wasn’t any other consistent source of quarterback pressure, but now with the threat of Perry on the other side, Capers can go back to being a “mad scientist” and concoct outrageous defensive schemes to confuse offenses. Keep in mind, you don’t need another “Clay Matthews”, because you already have a “Clay Matthews” in Clay Matthews (this might be the best sentence ever); while it would be great if Perry ends up as an offensive terror opposite of Matthews, as long as he forces offense to account for more than just Matthews in terms of pass rush, Perry is a good pick, just look at what Cullen Jenkins did.

Jerel Worthy – Projected Defensive End – Round 2, Pick 19 (#51 overall) – Replaces Jarius Wynn

Rationale: Actually, I’ll admit that it’s debatable if Cullen Jenkins was solely responsible for the defensive collapse last season, but what isn’t debatable is that the combination of Jarius Wynn and C.J. Wilson certainly didn’t help matters; not that it’s entirely their fault considering that Mike Neal was supposed to take over but never really managed to see the field due to injuries.  Worthy is an interesting pick because he isn’t your traditional 3-4 defensive end; he’s best trait is his ability to beat the snap count, which is more helpful for breaking through to the backfield than holding up offensive linemen and setting the edge against the run (which is the traditional role of a 3-4 defensive end).

Where I think Worthy will truly shine, and probably why the Packers favored him over Devon Still is the sheer amount of time spent the Packers spent in the “corner okie” package, which is the Packers’ nickel package where a down linemen is substituted for an extra defensive back (usually a cornerback).  Before Cullen Jenkins left for Philadelphia he and Raji would often be the two down linemen left in the nickel package since they were best at splitting gaps and rushing the passer; last year without Jenkins teams were able to focus on Raji specifically which not only wore him down but also made him less effective.  Considering the evolution of the passing game and the fact that the Packers were in their nickel formation more often than not and it becomes paramount to be able to generate pass rush with only two down linemen.  While the coaching staff has vowed to play more base 3-4, they might not have a choice since so many teams are now putting 4-5 receivers out on the field at a time so having a effective pass rush while in the nickel is still very important.

Casey Hayward – Projected Cornerback – Round 2, Pick #30 (#62 overall) – Replaces Charles Woodson

Rationale: First and foremost I should state that the Packers aren’t going to cut Woodson, but Woodson’s time as a cornerback are likely over.  Woodson is already essentially playing the strong safety even when there are two safeties on the field because it’s his strong suit.  When you think about it, what are strong safeties supposed to do?  They come up on run support and cover tight ends and slot receivers.  What does Woodson do really well?  Come up on run support and cover tight ends and slot receivers.  Frankly he doesn’t have the quickness or top end speed to match up on the outside anymore so it’s a logical progression to finally move him over to strong safety.  Add to that Nick Collins is no longer on the team and the fact that Morgan Burnett is more of a ball hawk free safety and you can see that the Packers don’t have much choice at the moment. I think it’s a given that Woodson is always going to be on the field, so if Hayward is a better player than any of the backup safeties it wouldn’t make any sense to keep Hayward on the bench and an inferior player at safety just to keep Woodson at cornerback, which he isn’t really playing anyways.

Where Hayward comes into play is that with Woodson finally moving to safety someone needs to take his place at cornerback, specifically as the 3rd cornerback.  Actually I think there can be a couple of permutations, either Tramon Williams moves into the “slot” corner (which he played for the majority of his career with the Packers) or they could stick Hayward directly in as the slot corner or alternate the two, for instance in normal packages Hayward would cover the typically inferior slot receiver inside while Williams stays on the edge but when facing an elite slot receiver they could swap positions with safety help pushed towards Hayward’s side.

Mike Daniels – Projected Defensive End – Round 4, Pick #37 (#132 overall) – Replaces B.J. Raji (sometimes)

Rationale: Mike Daniels is a little bit of an odd pick simply because he doesn’t really fit any of the defensive linemen positions in a 3-4, he simply isn’t big enough to take on double teams as a 0/1 technique nose tackle nor is he big enough to really set the edge as a 5 technique defensive end.  His strong suit is being able to split gaps and disrupt into the backfield, but again that’s not the premier skill of a 3-4 defensive end, so what does Daniels bring to the Packers?  Again it comes back to the nickel package.

Simply put B.J. Raji is one tired guy.  Physics and physiology simply dictate that a man who weighs 300+ pounds running into 600+ pounds of linemen play after play is going to get tired no matter what level of conditioning the player has.  Surprisingly Raji has survived remarkably well all things considered, but the Raji and Packers know that they have to give Raji a break at some point or something is going to give and unfortunately its likely to be Raji.  Ryan Pickett can sub in at nose tackle in the base 3-4 but one of the strange things about the Packers last year was that Raji was the “starter” at nose tackle while Pickett was the “backup” but Pickett was the “starter” at defensive end while Raji was the “backup”, so really both were always playing regardless of where they were and that means both never got off the field.  Add to that Pickett and Raji were often also in for the “okie” package and you start to see that Raji and Pickett probably played way more snaps than is realistically healthy for men their size.  So while Daniels is most likely not going to be a very good 5 technique defensive end, he might be a good situational pass rusher from the 3 technique.  Obviously Worthy will be part of that rotation while also presumably playing 5-technique defensive end, but Daniels can be added to the D-line rotation in certain situations (i.e. nickel formations) and hopefully let Raji and/or Pickett get off the field.

 

Stay tuned for next the next installment where I go through the rest of the Packers 2012 draft class.

 

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Thomas Hobbes is a staff writer for Jersey Al’s AllGreenBayPackers.com.

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  • Normthe1

    “Keep in mind, you don’t need another “Clay Matthews”, because you already have a “Clay Matthews” in Clay Matthews…”

    Yes Thomas, that is one of the best sentences ever written.

    I doffs me lid…

    • Thomas Hobbes

      I laughed when I wrote that :D

  • Bart

    Good analysis, particularly as far as the defensive line is concerned. Keeping your playmakers fresh is indeed important and Worthy and Daniels (I agree fully with Vic Ketchman regarding Iowa guys) should help a lot given the likely high percentage of nickel that the Packers will be playing. As far as the secondary is concerned, I am slightly dismayed at the lack of love for Sam Shields after last year’s outing. Bear in mind that that was only Shields’ THIRD year at that position, one at which he played very well during the Super Bowl year. If only he had ‘regressed’ last year, there might be some merit to his being overlooked. However, Williams (someone whose talent ought not to be questioned) also had an off year and I think that the total collapse of the pass rush on the front end and the loss of a terrific playmakers on the back end in Collins is surely going to make any young DB more reticent on the field. In other words, there may be more help on the roster for the secondary than just the latest infusion of fresh blood in Hayward. I reserve the right to be wrong, but I suspect that Shields and House will soon reveal themselves to be more key components than people are presently giving them credit for at least potentially being. Just some food for thought.

  • BubbaOne

    Perry, Worthy and Daniels seemed ill fitting in Capers current schem and then I read this piece:

    http://www.packernet.com/blog/2012/05/01/4-3-under-and-the-elephant-rusher/

    Perry would play the Elephant like he did at USC. Walden and So’oto are also better suited for this than what they do now. Worthy/Daniels/Hargrove would be good fits for the 3 technique.
    This makes a whole lot more sense of the FA’s signed and draft picks. Plus it adhere’s to MM’s statement he wants to see more of the base pckg than the 2-4-5. Inside pressure needs to be an emphasis this year.

    • Thomas Hobbes

      I think Perry played the elephant position for his first year at USC but then was moved to “true” defensive end for the rest of his college career. Wouldn’t it make more sense for Matthews to be the LEO in the 4-3 (which he also played at USC) and have Perry as a strong side defensive end?

      As for playing in the 4-3 in general, I’ll ask this question: why would the Packers keep Capers after an abysmal defensive season only to ask him to switch to a defensive scheme that isn’t his forte? Why not just fire him and hire a true 4-3 defensive coordinator? Or at least hire someone who has experience running a hybrid 4-3/3-4 scheme? My feeling is that all the 3 technique defensive tackles that were drafted/acquired are more for the nickel than the 4-3

      • BubbaOne

        This is when you lose me as I’m not sure what the Leo is. The post helps me see how the players fit what is still considered a 3-4 scheme; Perry who isn’t good in space rushes the majority of the time.
        And as you pointed out I could see more pressure from the inside; CM3, Bishop, and Manning blitzing along w/ some one gap rushing from the DL additions.

        • Thomas Hobbes

          Here’s one definition that I’ve found: “Pete Carroll, a defensive-minded head coach, has brought a new strategy with him from Southern Cal: the “Leo” or “Elephant” position.
          This position is a hybrid-style defensive end who lines up in a two-point stance on the defensive line. To the casual observer, it will look like Seattle is in a traditional 3-4 defense – there are only three down linemen, but principles and gap responsibilities from a 4-3 defense remain the same.”

          Considering that Perry has reservations about playing in a 2 point stance, it makes more sense to me that Matthews would be the LEO/elephant and Perry would be the other “4-3 DE”.

  • Turophile

    I’m sure most fans have their own favourite players, just as many will ‘grade’ the team’s picks. It is fun and it is human nature. I doubt whether any but a vanishingly small percentage think what they say actually counts for much now, compared an appraisal three years down the road. This 3yr thing has been stated so often that by now you are preaching almost exclusively to the already converted.

    I think there is an equal argument that Perry is the one that should be a ROLB as opposed to the LOLB. He (Perry) is already strong, with a great first step and RTs are usually a tad slower than LTs, even in todays pass-first NFL, where the ideal RT is more athletic than in the past.

    It does look like sub packages will be onfield more often, with frequent two and four man fronts. DL gap responsibilities should shift in these packages toward either a pure one gap penetrator style, or even a combo where some have two gap and some one gap responsibility, allowing Worthy and Daniels to do what they do best.

    With Hayward it is difficult to predict if his future is the slot corner or safety. Many scouts have pointed out his man to man coverage limitations and his less than stellar speed, but with his elite instincts (and very good hands), he can learn to be a playmaker in the slot or (if he could add 15+lbs) as a ballhawking safety. I don’t think of Hayward as a strong safety or free safety, just a safety who can do both, as required.

    • Thomas Hobbes

      Actually when I think about it more, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Matthews and Perry swap even in the same series, just to confuse offensive linemen, just like Woodson did in 2009 where he would align all over the place just to mess with quarterbacks, if Perry shows some versatility I could see Capers doing the same thing with Matthews and Perry.

      As for Hayward, the Packers so far have stated that he will be a cornerback and I have no reason at the moment not to believe them so that’s where I think he’ll be at the moment. Will he be a future safety? I wouldn’t eliminate that option, but I would assume that cornerback is the Packers preference and why they drafted him.

  • Ron LC

    I’m just going to sit back and enjoy the talents of Perry as he steps into a huge role in the D. Same can be said of Worthy.

    Hayward and Daniels – to be determined. I see very good potential. I definetely see where they could out-perform members of the current D. Any step up will be a step in the right direction.

  • Stroh

    Heyward is perfectly suited to play the slot, where you need quickness more than speed, instincts and tackling ability! Those are exactly how you would describe him and his combine number bear this out. However, to say the slot reciever is somehow inferior in talent is just ridiculous! They have different abilities and strengths than outside recievers, but that in no way makes then inferior! Just different… Also there is a large difference between strength and explosion (look it up)! Trying to wade thru these poor comments/analysis makes the rest of the post hard to read and take much out of! And siting another blogger is hardly conducive to your credibility.

    • Stroh

      Ooops, you didn’t site another blogger a comment did, my bad on that. But on that alone.

    • http://allgbp.com Jersey Al

      perhaps “inferior” wasn’t the right word, but i think what Thomas was trying to say was that the #1 receivers on most teams are not slot receivers.

    • Tarynfor12

      What I read was,inferior slot receivers as opposed to the more elite slot receivers,I read no mention of #1 receiver.
      So are we talking Welker or C.Johnson,both #1s but for different reasons.

    • Thomas Hobbes

      Welcome back Stroh! I’ll make a quick argument: I think that the best “out-wide” receivers could probably play the slot if they were asked to (Jennings has done this on multiple occasions), but at least in my opinion, the best slot receivers rarely have the ability to play outside. Just my opinion.

      As for the strength/explosion comparison, I would argue that traditionally the vertical jump has been used as a measurement of explosion, with the assumption that how high you jump can translate into how fast your first step is. I included upper body strength since I feel you need a lot of upper body strength to hold the edge and shed blockers.

    • Oppy

      Playing the slot is often more of a challenge that playing on the edges vs. the #1 and 2 WRs.

      On the outside, the CB has a second defender- the sideline. It limits the WR’s options, and you can use it to squeeze the receiver as well.

      When playing the slot, the entire field- and thus, the entire receiving tree- are at the receiver’s disposal. If a CB isn’t on top of his game, he can be absolutely victimized when covering the slot receiver.

      • Thomas Hobbes

        Well how about we just agree that slot receiver and wide receiver are two different skill sets.

        But to keep matters interesting, let’s hold off and look at what sort of deal Wes Welker (I’d argue he’s the best slot receiver in the game right now) gets, if it’s close to Andre Johnson/Calvin Johnson/Larry Fitzgerald etc then we can say that slot receivers are just as good as wide receivers, if he gets a lot less then slot receivers aren’t as important.

        • Oppy

          ..From a WR standpoint, it takes more talent to work with less real estate and limited route options on the perimeter and be productive than from the slot.. From the slot, a lesser talent has more options and room to work with, so, I wouldn’t expect a slot receiver to get paid as much as a #1 or #2 who typically the perimeter.

        • Oppy

          After re-reading my original post and your response, perhaps I should clarify that I was originally making a statement about the difficulties DB’s face in coverage, comparing slot coverage to the perimeter coverage, NOT the WR’s themselves.

  • alex parkhurst

    The Packers run a 3-4. What if the draftees combined with the veterans produce a defense of its 11 best players that would indicate a change to a 4-3. Would the Packers do this?

    • Thomas Hobbes

      It would be hard to argue that the rookies are best suited for a 4-3 as they haven’t played a down in the NFL yet. Furthermore, at least for rookies, just because they played a 4-3 in college doesn’t necessarily mean that their best position is in a 4-3 either. As for the veterans, I’d have to say 3-4. In terms of the veterans, the secondary is basically a separate matter , so could Clay Matthews play 4-3 DE? would you switch AJ Hawk back to 4-3 OLB? Would Perry be the other DE, if so who do stick as the other outside linebacker, Zombo/Walden/Lattimore/So’oto? Can Bishop function as a 4-3 MLB and potentially run cover 2 like Brian Urlacher?

  • PackEyedOptimist

    I think Perry will play the weak side, simply because he lacks experience and skills for covering a TE. Matthews has great coverage skills, and offenses are going more and more to the TEs recently.
    I’m excited to see Hayward, but I think it’s really jumping the gun to think he’ll start as a rookie; I agree with Bart: I believe Shields or House is a more likely starter (if Woodson doesn’t). It would be great to see Pickett and Raji splitting NT and Worthy and Daniels (and Neal?) splitting the nickel rush job. We’ll see if they develop that fast. Unfortunately, we still don’t have ANY traditional 3-4 DEs. (Ah, Justin Harrell, ye did us wrong…)

    • Thomas Hobbes

      I’m not convinced that Perry should line up based on the TE. For one, the TE is now often lined up out of the formation and secondly with so many pre-snap reads and formation changes, if Perry can’t cover a TE, I guarantee teams will start trying to run TEs at him.

      I agree with you, but I would argue that Shields was already a starter since Woodson was usually inside as the slot corner. I wouldn’t be surprised to see House come out on top of Hayward though.

      Finally, I’d be happy to see Raji on the sideline a bit more, whether that means more time for Worthy or Daniels. As for not having any traditional 3-4 DEs, don’t you think that’s an indication of something? If Ted Thompson hasn’t drafted or acquired a traditional 3-4 DE, then maybe they don’t want traditional 3-4 DEs. I don’t know if that’s true but logical dictates such.

    • homerunsimpson

      Pickett, Wilson and Guy aren’t traditional 3-4 DE’s?

      • Thomas Hobbes

        In all honesty, I don’t know really what Pickett is because he’s played 4-3 DT (with the Rams), 3-4 DE and 3-4 NT all pretty well. Wilson could probably manage as a 4-3 DT and who knows about Guy right now

  • Shavager

    Hawyard’s opportunity will increase the more tackles Shields misses–he was the worst tackler on defense, Peprah wasn’t much better in coverage or tackling-could see MD Jennings or McMillian get some playing time. I expect Walden to get cut along with either Jones, Francois or Zombo in the final analysis for LB position-camp will be competitive. HGreen’s likely gone now, Daniels, Muir provide younger talent, more competition for D-line. Expect either Wilson or Wynn are cut, maybe both if Neal stays with roster. Worthy and Perry should have immediate impact, even if minimal, for QB pressure–add a good run game to keep opposing offense off the field more and Packers defense stats will greatly improve to protect leads late in games.

    • Thomas Hobbes

      I rather take a corner who intercepts the ball over a corner who can tackle, just look at Asante Samuel, he’s made a very productive career out of not tackling, and if Shields develops into a Asante Samuel type player, I’d be okay with it. As for the cuts, I’d wait until preseason games start before we start talking.