Packers Andrew Datko: The Big If

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Andrew Datko
Packers seventh-round pick Andrew Datko.

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.

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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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  • PackEyedOptimist

    Datko, Coleman, McMillian, Moss,and Richardson are all guys who are “big if” players, the types who can make a GM look like a genius 4 years later, or not hurt the GM’s rep if they don’t pan out. Even if TT hits big on two of them, he will have added tremendous value to this crop.

  • Tarynfor12

    If his ability and he is as liked as much as said to be(other than the injury part)…this might encourage a PUP stint for Sherrod to start the year.

    • cow42

      Your English is getting better.
      What’s your first language?

      • Tarynfor12

        Allow me….If his ability and (IF) he is as liked…

        I forgot how incoherent you are at times.

  • Ron LC

    Like other injury-prone choices the Packers have made, it is unlikely that he will become a regular. At least, he was a #7 and worth a shot at that position.

    • Adam Czech

      Dr. James Andrews did Datko’s last couple of surgeries and said that what he fixed the first time looks fine. It was the tissue surrounding the surgically repaired area that needed to be cleaned up.

      I’m not a doctor, but that’s a positive sign (I think).

  • Mojo

    The problem with Datko is he plays a position with two work-in-progress guys in front of him. Newhouse is the presumptive starter and there’s no way they cut first rounder Sherrod, who would back up at both tackle spots. Bulaga is entrenched at RG. I don’t see them moving Datko to guard. So can you slip him through to the PS? Not if he plays well.

    Keep in mind the Pack are probably going to retain 6 WR’s. That means 8 o-lineman – tops is a possibility. With Sherrod just about guaranteed a spot and an EDS type needed for the interior, Datko needs to show some versatility or he’s likely to end up on some other roster.

    • Turophile

      Mojo, if the Packers keep 6 WRs they are not forced to keep only 8 OL. here is my current guess at a team split.

      OFFENSE QB 2, OL 9, WR 6, TE 4, RB 3, FB 1, total = 25.
      DEFENSE DL 6, LB 9, DB 10, total = 25
      SPECIAL TEAMS K 1, P 1, LS 1, total = 3
      GRAND TOTAL = 53

      Addressing the O line in more detail, we have the 5 starters, probably Newhouse, Lang, Saturday, Sitton, Bulaga, for the start of the regular season.

      For the backups, Sherrod is the swing cover until/if he can make LT his own. I have Dominguez as the Guard cover and either Dietrich-Smith or Genus as (mainly) the Center cover. Datko gets the last place (if his shoulder holds together).

      • Oppy

        As far as DB’s, I’m thinking:

        Williams, Woodson, Shields, House, Hayward, Bush. (6 Corners)

        Burnett, McMillian, (Bush as an emergency back up) and one out of Peprah, Jennings, Pellerin, Richardson (too early to tell at this point, I’d personally like Jennings , but unfortunately I think Peprah will be the guy, even though Capers wants his safeties to be interchangeable and Pep isn’t nearly the athlete that Burnett is, so who knows). (3 safeties, plus Bush) Pretty sure the Packers could hold these rooks on PS if they want to.

        That’d total nine DB’s. That roster spot saved could then be applied to the Dline.

        While I’d also like to see the Packers keep 6 WR’s this season, I could also see them only carrying the standard 5, and that roster spot also going to DL again, for a total of 8 defensive linemen this season.

      • Oppy

        EDS, even though he didn’t make the final 53 last year, is being trumped up as a big up and coming lineman this season (I don’t know if I buy it, but who knows), and the Packers are enamored with his ability to play both center and guard. I don’t know if Dominguez needs to be on the roster, if EDS is kept. If Genus makes it, it would be as a center, and that would allow the Packers to use EDS as the swing Guard if things get jinky during the season. If Genus doesn’t make it, I could see your scenario with Dominguez and EDS.

  • I bleed green more

    Just if he stays healthy this could one of TT best picks, he has had a nice group of them.

  • Tarynfor12

    Bulaga,Sitton,ED-S,Newhouse,Lang
    We know Sherrod has a spot and will not be cut,but if he isn’t ready to play and is PUPed and we keep 8 OL due to the 6 WR most feel will happen,there are 3 spots open for the OL.
    As much as Lang can kick out to LT along with Bulaga which I doubt would be done,why wouldn’t Datko surfice until Sherrod returns week 6-8 as a b/u to Newhouse.That still leaves 2 spots open for Dominguez,Taylor,Brooks,Allard etc.
    Just saying.

    • Tarynfor12

      Damm…forgot Saturday…changes things.

  • Jim

    No way they only keep 8 lineman, they will get the xtra spot for a wide receiver in the tight end position.

    • Mojo

      They kept only 8 last-year. I also get the feeling they want to keep an extra spot open on the d-line(instead of just 6).