Packers Draft Picks Compared to their Current Players

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Jerel Worthy and the many position battles on the defensive line will be worth watching in training camp.

I’m reading Michael Holley’s War Room: The Legacy of Bill Belichick and the Art of Building the Perfect Team. It’s a great read so far and I regret not getting around to reading it until now (it was released in November). The book tells the story of how the Patriots dynasty came to be with excellent insight into modern-day NFL scouting, team building and football operations.

The Patriots evaluate college players by comparing them to a player that is already on their roster. This requires scouts to know the pro roster as well as they know the college kids they’re scouting, and ensures that scouts are looking for more than just how big, strong and fast a guy is. Factors like how a player fits into the Patriots’ overall scheme and specialized skill sets also are taken into consideration.

This strategy has proven effective for the Patriots over the years and also makes an excellent topic for a blog post. How do the Packers draftees compare to their counterparts currently on the roster? Of course, we don’t know as much about the draftees as an NFL scout might, but we can at least give this exercise a try.

Nick Perry vs. Erik Walden/Frank Zombo/Brad Jones
If a wooden fence post was compared to Walden/Zombo/Jones, most Packers fans would probably give the edge to the wooden fence post. In terms or raw talent, there’s not much comparison between Perry and the others. The only question is fit. Can Perry play outside linebacker in a 3-4 scheme? Or is he a better fit as a 4-3 defensive end?

The answer to this question is who cares? I know I just spent the opening paragraphs of this post talking about scheme fit and all that other stuff, but given the Packers desperate need for a pass rusher, they weren’t allowed to be too picky with their top draft choice. There’s no rule against the coaching staff adjusting the current scheme to fit the roster if needed, and that’s what Dom Capers will do if necessary with Perry.

Winner: Perry.

Jerel Worthy vs. C.J. Wilson/Jarius Wynn
Comparing current defensive lineman to drafted defensive lineman is a bit tricky because we’re not exactly sure what type of scheme or what specific assignments for each lineman Capers has in mind for the upcoming season. But for the purpose of this discussion, let’s compare Worthy to Wilson and Wynn. As of now, I’m assuming B.J. Raji and Ryan Pickett are locked in as the starters and the third spot is up for grabs.

The first word that comes to mind after watching tape on Worthy is chaos. Worthy causes a lot of it. There’s a misconception that the only purpose a 3-4 defensive lineman serves is to occupy blockers. That’s true a lot of times, but there’s more to occupying blockers than just standing there. It doesn’t do much good to occupy a blocker if that blocker is blowing you off the ball. You need to cause chaos. Take on the blocker(s), win your individual battle and mess up whatever the other team is trying to do.

Wilson and Wynn didn’t do nearly enough of that last season. I still have some hope that Wilson can be a contributor, but I don’t think Wynn is big enough to make much of a difference. Throw in the hope that Worthy can also put some pressure on the QB when spelling Ryan Pickett, and this is another battle won by the draftee.

Winner: Worthy.

Casey Hayward vs. Sam Shields
Now this is an interesting matchup. Shields looked overmatched last season when the ball was in the air and an aggressive play needed to be made. Too often, Shields shied away from contact and came up short. It drove Packers fans crazy, but remember, Shields is still new to the cornerback position. Don’t write him off just yet.

Aggression isn’t a problem for Hayward. He has no problem sticking his nose in there and mixing it up. The film also shows Hayward to be strong in man-to-man coverage, something Capers and the Packers obviously liked.

This is another matchup that’s tough to figure out because we’re not exactly sure what type of defense or lineup Capers will go with. Will Charles Woodson move to safety? Or if he stays at corner, will he play like a safety as he often does now? Will Hayward get some time at safety? We just don’t know.

For now, I’m going to give this machup to Shields. You can’t teach the raw talent that Shields’ posseses. Give him a full offseason of coaching and hopefully he can get back on track. This is one matchup that definitely could change between now and September, however.

Winner: Shields.

Mike Daniels vs. Wilson/Wynn
Another d-line matchup where we don’t quite know the rules of the game, thus making it hard to pick a winner. Either way, I think Daniels, Wilson and Wynn will be mostly sub-package players this season. We’ll see Daniels and Wynn (if he makes the team) on the field in passing situations and Wilson in short yardage.

Daniels also will be battling Daniel Muir, Anthony Hargrove, Mike Neal and Lawrence Guy for playing time once training camp heats up and/or a few of those players come back from suspension later in the season.

The d-line battles will be worth watching during camp, but for now, I’m going to give Wilson the edge in this matchup. I think there’s more talent in Wilson’s 290-pound frame than he showed last season.

Winner: Wilson.

Jerron McMillian vs. Charlie Peprah
This might be another matchup where Packers fans would take a fence post over the incumbent starter.

As much as Peprah drives me crazy, I can’t award this one to a kid from Maine. I can cross my fingers and hope that McMillian is the real deal and wins the job in camp, but I can’t declare that McMillian is better right now because none of us really know much about him.

I’m guessing McMillian will get a slot on special teams and the starting safety job is Peprah’s to lose.

Winner: Peprah (for now).

Terrell Manning vs. Brad Jones
Andrew Datko vs. Derek Sherrod
B.J. Coleman vs. Graham Harrell

  • Manning. Jones has had three years to grab hold and refuse to let go of a spot and he hasn’t done it. Youth wins in this matchup. We probably could also put Vic So’oto in this match and make it a three-way dance.
  • Sherrod. This one is lopsided. Datko could end up on the practice squad or move around the line if he makes the team.
  • Harrell. Coleman is a project that’s going to take a few years.
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Adam Czech is a freelance reporter and a Packers fan living in the Twin Cities. Follow Adam on Twitter. Read more of Adam\\\'s writing on the Packers here.

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  • Bubbaloo

    With CMIII moving back to the right side it may give So’oto more opportunities (playing time) IF perry is used as a DE in passing downs. It’s going to be a fun training camp to watch!

  • Ed Schoenfeld

    Great idea and great article. That’s one book I’m going to make sure to read.

    That said, I think some of the comparisons are a little off, or maybe better said a little incomplete.

    For example, Datko wasn’t really drafted to replace Sherrod. He should really be compared to Herb Taylor as a potential 4th OT. That comparison goes to Datko who has a lot more upside potential for the coaches to develop.

    Similarly, I don’t think Daniels is really competing against Wilson so much as he was drafted to replace Wynn. I think Daniels wins that match-up.

    Manning will primarily be an inside LB, so he should be compared to Robert Francois as well as Jones. I think Manning wins both those matchups, though Jones could stick around as a swing player between inside and outside LB who is (slightly) more durable than Zombo.

    Hayward is probably the most interesting pick from the team building perspective. Ideally the Packers would have picked a cover safety, but there was only one of those in the draft and he went very early. That said, Hayward is a guy who makes plays in coverage and gives the Packers 5 guys (Tramon Williams, Woodson, Burnett, Shields and Hayward) who can do that. Even if Peprah becomes a “starting” safety, he really becomes the 6th ‘cover’ D-back, which is a role he has filled without being overmatched, and Bush gets pushed into the 7th spot, where I am a lot more comfortable seeing him as opposed to nickel. (Yes, I think Shields will get back on track, just as on the D-line Wilson will benefit from having a full offseason).

    Anyway, great post and a real insight on what to watch for in the rest of OTAs and training camp.

    • Adam Czech

      Yeah, I really didn’t know who to compare Datko to, so I went with Sherrod. I know as much about Taylor as I know about Datko (nothing), so I wanted at least one player in each comparison with somewhat of a history.

      As far as the d-line, like I said in the post, it’s so far up in the air that it’s tough to make any comparisons. But it’s May, so I went ahead and took a few guesses and compared anyway.

  • Lucas

    Capers loves disguise. From the exact same defensive line-up/positions…Capers could use Woodson as a Safety with one play call and Corner with another. Same thing with Hayward. Both on the field…same look, different responsibilities. Who cares if Hayward is playing man from a Safety position? Or Woodson plays zone from the slot? Didn’t Shakespeare say something about a cornerback by any other name would blitz just as much? Imagine the chaos created…just like the comment made about Worthy.

  • BubbaOne

    The knock on Belichick is he doesn’t draft well. That he’s much better at bringing in vets and getting the most out of them.
    That said, I haven’t given up on Walden, So’oto, Zombo, or Jones. I’m not saying they’re better than Perry just that circumstances got in the way of them producing. Walden had his best game of the year vs the Lions just before the domestic charge derailed his season. Zombo went from one injury to the next the whole year. So’oto’s back injury showing off in the weight room set him back when he needed the time to adjust from DE to OLB. And MM alluded to Jones being miscast as an OLB when he really needs to play ILB.
    W/ Perry’s lack of lateral speed I wonder if Capers alters his D where to limit him dropping in coverage. This change would also benefit Walden and So’oto allowing them to concentrate on rushing the passer.

  • BubbaOne

    One of the biggest competitions may be at ILB. Opposing TE’s and RB’s used and abused our coverage. TT drafting Manning, Jones and Lattimore seeing reps inside, and returning Bishop, Hawk, Smith, and Francois will make for an intriguing camp.

    Q’s:
    Can the team really afford to pay Hawk if he’s just a two down player?
    The only way I can see a team accepting Hawk in a trade (they’re not going to cut him) is if the Packers also sent cash to offset his salary. Is this allowed in the NFL?

    • PackersRS

      Interesting that none of them was touted as a great cover ILB.

      Hawk will get the nod till someone proves they can make calls better than him, and be as asignment-sure as him. Yeah, he doesn’t make plays, and he gets dragged, and he’s slow to react, but somehow coaches prefer that to having a guy making the wrong call or being in the wrong place in a critical time.

  • PackersRS

    Great post Adam. Again, it’s a little too soon, but I can’t find fault in the reasoning.

    Kind of changing subject, I found it really interesting what Shields had said in one interview about the tackling problem.

    He said that he had never tackled before. When you think about it, the first time in his life that he played defense was the last year in college.

    This does not exclude the attitude problem, there were more than a couple times last year that he simply did not attempt a tackle. But the kid has had only two offseason workouts as a defender, his last season in college and as an UDFA. And his first season, he made some key tackles, against the Jets’ punter to force a 4th down was the most memorable one.

    I really believe he can become an elite CB, but he is still beyond raw. I’d wager Heyward has more experience as a CB than Shields.

  • Turophile

    I always think its best to think of the final number at a given position first and then try and work out how things will fall. My guess is that the Packers keep 7 D linemen this year. It maintains that competition beyond the start of the season and gives maximum rotation at a position where guys can wear down quickly.

    Pickett, Raji, Worthy and Daniels are close to locks this year. I think Neal and Merling (assuming he commits to conditioning work) might make the team with last place going to Wilson. Missing out on the final 53 are Wynn, Hargrove, Muir, Jones and Guy.

    The best competitor for Hayward is, imo, House. Both will push for the Dime back this year, or even the nickle if Woodson ends up as more of a safety.

    Normally I’d give the win to House (who has an extra year in the system), but because of the last years lack of opportunities pre-regular season and because of Haywards super instinctive skills, I’d go with Hayward to win this fight.

    As for Datko’s opposition, at present it may be right to compare him with Taylor (as Ed Shoenfeld suggests) and assume he stays at tackle, but with the shortage of quality guys at guard, he could equally be fighting Dominguez, Brook and Cook for the no.3 guard spot.

    Certainly if Datko looks good, stays healthy and can play both OT and OG, his chances of making the team go up enormously. That applies in spades if the Packers are assuming Lang will leave the team to seek more money, after 2012.

  • Turophile

    Also worth saying is that I love how this site always has interesting articles, day after day, even in the quiet times. That takes a lot of effort and dedication. I applaud you all for it.

    • http://allgbp.com Jersey Al

      That’s about the nicest thing you could say – Thanks!

    • Adam Czech

      Thanks, man.

  • PackEyedOptimist

    A month or so ago, one of the Packers coaches (or TT or one of the scouts) commented that this is how the Packers make their draft decisions as well: Which prospect has the best chance of winning a roster spot? It will be interesting to see which young non-rookies elevate their game due to the competition. I think House may even end up starting.

    • Adam Czech

      Not only winning a roster spot their rookie seasons, but eventually replacing a current starter sometime down the road (i.e. Hayward-Woodson).