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.
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.
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.
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.
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.