The word “if” is used a lot when evaluating rookies before they’ve ever played a snap in the NFL. If Rookie A can learn the offense, he’ll be a star. If Rookie B fixes his technique, watch out. If Rookie C stays out of jail, he’s a pro-bowler.
The Packers 2012 draft class – like everyone else’s – features plenty of “if” guys, the biggest of which might be seventh-round selection Andrew Datko, an offensive tackle from Florida St.
When healthy, Datko was an excellent tackle in college. He’s tall, he’s agile, and he only allowed four sacks in his final three seasons. He was one of the more highly-regarded tackles in the nation before the 2011 season began and his future looked bright.
But here’s where the “if” comes into play: Datko has a bum left shoulder. Surgery before the 2011 season didn’t take and the 6-foot-6, 315-pounder only played in four games. It was his third surgery on the same shoulder since high school and Datko’s draft stock plummetted.
It’s not that Datko didn’t want to play. He showed his toughness by playing his entire junior season at FSU with a torn labrum. But the size, agility, intelligence and toughness wasn’t enough to impress teams who were scared away by the shoulder.
The Packers have a ton of linemen with left tackle experience. Marshall Newhouse appears to have the inside track at starting, but if needed, Derek Sherrod, T.J. Lang and Bryan Bulaga also have experience protecting Aaron Rodgers’ blind side. It’s not like the Packers desperately needed to add another left tackle to the roster, which makes me think Ted Thompson really sees something in Datko.
If Datko stays healthy, of course.
I suppose this is one of the luxuries of having a deep, talented and young team. Instead of constantly trying to plug gaping holes, you can take a chance on a guy like Datko, a player who might not play a position of need, but shows a lot of promise; someone with more serious ifs than other players.
Tom Silverstein of the Milwaukee Journal Sentiel wrote about Datko last month, and included this quote from Mike McCarthy:
“(He) would have had a lot higher grade if it wasn’t for his shoulder. Smart. Tough. I know everybody’s excited about him. You get into the draft process on when you’re going to take your chance medically because that is part of your decision-making. I think he’ll be an excellent fit in our offensive line.”
This might be the only time you see Datko’s name mentioned on this site for the forseeable future. He might not see the field in a regular-season game. If he plays a lot, it probably means something horrible happened to the Packers offensive line.
Datko’s goal for 2012 should be to make the team, bulk up, learn the offense and stay healthy. Emphasis on the stay healthy part.
If he does all of these things, who knows? Datko could be added to Ted Thompson’s list of out-of-nowhere solid draft picks.——————
Adam Czech is a a freelance sports reporter living in the Twin Cities and a proud supporter of American corn farmers. When not working, Adam is usually writing about, thinking about or worrying about the Packers. Follow Adam on Twitter. Twitter .