First thoughts on Packers Draft Season from Pigskin Paul

ALLGBP.com All Green Bay Packers All the Time
Ted Thompson is on the prowl...
Ted Thompson is on the prowl…

Before I get totally immersed in DRAFT information, including, but not limited to, the upcoming NFL COMBINE I thought it might be a good time to drop a few tidbits of information and opinion on the PACKERS off-season.

I can assure you that TED THOMPSON and his staff are involved up to their eyeballs when it comes to the off season scouting process in preparation for the 2013 NFL DRAFT, which is the lifeblood of this organization under the guidance of the Thompson  administration. Want some further proof of that statement look no further than the current official PACKERS roster posted at their official website http://www.packers.com . Taking away the announced retirements of DRIVER & SATURDAY the roster stands at 69 players right now. Of those 69, 36 are original draftees of the PACKERS.

But for THOMPSON, the 7 Round Draft is just part 1 of the annual talent acquisition process. The other part takes place (legally speaking) a second after the final pick of each draft concludes. That is when all teams hop on the phones and try to sign the highest ranked, or most interesting players not drafted but classified as having that something special that Green Bay is looking for. Another 10 players on the current roster were signed as Undrafted Free Agents by the Green & Gold.

It should also be noted that the PACKERS scouting personnel don’t always get everyone they are interested in to sign those UDFA contracts. So they keep a list of players they wanted but could not sign. Then the pro personnel staff scout these and other players during training camp as they attempt to make other rosters around the league. Every season a few of the ones that got away, get cut and are signed by the PACK. Another 18 players on today’s roster originally joined other teams as UDFAs, but were picked up by the PACKERS when they were released by said teams.

That means that out of 69 total players on the current roster 28 came into the NFL as undrafted players. Besides the PACKERS ability to find talent, one of the major tenets within the organization is that TED THOMPSON must have a coaching staff that prides itself on teaching and developing young players into NFL caliber veterans. Other than “stars” like RODGERS & MATTHEWS, there isn’t much talent differential at roster spots 20-50 for most NFL teams. It is more often than not the ability of coaches to teach and develop  players within a team’s schemes that leads to a deep and productive roster.

The PACKERS are adjusting to the loss of one of TED THOMPSON’s right hand men again with the departure of JOHN DORSEY to the GM’s job in Kansas City. Last year it was the departure of REGGIE McKENZIE to take over the reigns in Oakland. DORSEY was already back in Green Bay when THOMPSON was hired away from Seattle and has been the leader of the PACKERS college scouting efforts over the past decade. Consensus around the League is that DORSEY is overdue in getting a GM position. The move made great sense for DORSEY to leave Green Bay now that his two oldest boys are out of school. And it’s not too shabby since his current wife, Patricia, still works for a law firm in KC and has family ties as well.

I grabbed TED for a quick moment in the hotel lobby in Mobile and spoke with him about DORSEY’s loss. He expressed his happiness for John’s situation, and when I said it looked like extra grinding for him and his remaining staff, he said “We’re prepared. It’s what we do.”

And it is indeed what they do. I saw THOMPSON from the first day I set foot on a practice field back at the SHRINE Week, on Monday, January 14th, and he was still stalking the fields on Friday, January 25th in Mobile. I did not see him during the Senior Bowl game, but I would not assume he wasn’t still there somewhere. I also got confirmation from sources in Allen, TX that he was front and center at the TEXAS V. NATION weigh-in on Monday, January 28th. He doesn’t just send his staff out to scout, folks, he’s there himself with a hawk’s eye view of the proceedings.

The apple truly does not fall far from the tree. While in Mobile the only game execs I saw still scouting on the practice field that Thursday, other than LIONS and RAIDERS, were TED THOMPSON and JOHN DORSEY. They stood at opposite ends of the field still taking mental and written notes on what they saw.

So what do we think TED is looking for in this draft class? He’ll recite to you his standard mantra of Best Available Player at a position of need, all other things being equal. But as I have written about for over two months now, do not be surprised if WR is a high priority for the team in April. Anyone doubt me any more on my  prediction that both DRIVER & JENNINGS will not be on the Green Bay roster in 2013? I got some strange looks from some of my Draftnik colleagues in both St. Pete and Mobile when uttering those assertions last month. Their standard response to me was that they still had COBB, NELSON & JONES at WR, as well as FINLEY at TE. I agreed but pointed out that 4 receivers is not enough for a MIKE McCARTHY offense, and that at any given time during the past season 1 or 2 of those players were injured and inactive for games.  I am not predicting a reach on THOMPSON’s part come Draft week, but if a highly ranked WR is still on their Draft Board at Pick 26 I don’t think they would hesitate one second to pull the trigger.

At the top of my WR wish list for them is DeANDRE HOPKINS/WR/CLEMSON/Jr. He’s a big play receiver with great hand/eye coordination, and would fit a lot of what the PACKERS offense likes to do. We’ll check his numbers in Indy later this month, but the back-up point guard on the Clemson basketball team is the kind of combination athlete/player that WHITEY usually covets.

On another note, I hear an awful lot of folks clamoring for OL help in this next Draft to better protect the Franchise: AARON RODGERS. He does need better protection, but consider this scenario if you will. If the football injury gods choose to smile on the PACKERS in 2103 they could be stacked at OT, where most people think they are hurting. BRYAN BULAGA, DEREK SHERROD, ANDREW DATKO are all hoping to be back 100% for next season. That could allow for NEWHOUSE and BARCLAY to compete at both OG &  OT. The only weak spot could be at OC, where I think the jury is still out on EVAN DIETRICH-SMITH as a starter. This could allow the team to select an OC in the middle rounds come April.

By the way, as of right now, the PACKERS have 7 Picks for the next DRAFT, their original picks in all seven rounds.

I think most PACKER-backers would agree that 2012 was a very frustrating and disappointing season for the teams defense again. DC DOM CAPERS seemed unable to dial up much magic to get his troops off the field on 3rd down most of the time. Check the film if you are a details nut, and you will find the team spent an awful lot of time in 2-4-5 defensive alignments. After 1st down, the Defense is not a 3-4 scheme at all any more.

In a most interesting interview after the Play-Off loss to the Niners, DL Coach MIKE TRGOVAC spoke to J.S. beat writer TOM SILVERSTEIN about his charges and admitted that he feels the PACKERS down-lineman have a serious lack of  “length” to work with in blocking passing and sight lanes of opposing QBs. To be honest I hadn’t given that a whole lot of thought until he brought it up, but sure enough a look at their current roster reveals a serious lack of height along the DL. Green Bay’s tallest two defensive linemen, C.J. WILSON & MIKE NEAL, stand 6’3” tall. Everyone else is either 6’0, 6’1 or 6’2. None of these guys is going to tower over the people blocking them. It’s not just height, since arm length can be a major factor in the equation, but the two often do go together in a person.

Will the team try to address this “need” as opined by TRGOVAC? Would CAPERS find a way to utilize taller/longer players? I’m not sure how much help it might really amount to if 2-man lines continue to be the soup of the day on Sundays in the Fall. Will TRGOVAC be coaching elsewhere for offering up the observation? Can’t say I have the answer here, but I for one will be watching to see how this plays out… if it does at all.

Now for my last current player observation point at this time… look for the team to get younger again this off-season. DRIVER (38) and JENNINGS (30 to be), won’t be the only 30 and over players to walk the PACKERS plank, so to speak. I would suspect that the salary cap and some disappointing on-the-field results will lead to the purging of some other current roster residents by draft time. Here is my short list of vets who may not wear the Green & Gold much longer:

CEDRIC BENSON/RB

RYAN GRANT/RB

Not a very long list is it? But there may be a few surprise names unless some contract concessions can be worked out. This group will also depend greatly on how certain players are progressing back from surgery/injury issues.

A.J. HAWK, could be in trouble if the team thinks both BISHOP & SMITH will be back 100% healthy at ILB for next season. He’s already playing on a reduced dollar contract. Would he accept another pay cut?

JOHN KUHN/FB, got a big contract just a couple of years ago, and though he’s a fan & team favorite he makes way too much $ for his role on the team.

JARRETT BUSH/DB/ST   The PACKERS seemed to acknowledge that he can’t actually play in the secondary and cover anyone & phased out his playing time as the season wore on. So he became purely a special teamer by season’s end. The problem is that he’s a 7-year vet and guys like that make minimum of almost $1million. That can buy you  2 /2012 Rookies.

That’s it for now PACKERS fans. Time to get on track with TED THOMPSON and start the impossible task of trying to figure out how MR. COVERT is developing his 2013 DRAFT strategy.

Note: You can read more from Paul on the Packers and the NFL Draft on his website, Pigskin Paul’s Place.

  • http://allpackers.com Nick Perry

    Thanks, nice article. I cant help but think of TRGOVAC speaking on the Packers drafting of Worthy and Daniels in the 2012 draft. Both best suited for a 4-3. Both short for 3-4 lineman. Both eaten up by bigger physical offensive lineman, and both “Have Juice” according to TRGOVAC. Now I have no idea how much if any influence TRGOVAC has in the draft process, but I do know that Devon Still, a 6’5″ D-Lineman, was available to the Packers when they picked Worthy. I remember wondering why Worthy over Still when the pick for Worthy came. I’m not a huge fan of Capers but he can only do so much with these guys T.T. drafts. We spent our 1st 6 picks on defense last year and it will take time to see how it all shakes out. I’d have taken Courtney Upshaw over Parry and Still over the Worthy but time will tell.

    • Lucas

      LOL…”Nick Perry says: “…Upshaw over Parry…

    • Stroh

      Agree about Still over Wofthy. As for Perry/Upshaw I would rather have Perry. He tested better and is the better pass rusher. Upshaw didn’t shoe much and his only advantage is he played 34 OLB at Bama. In the long run I think Perry will be the better player.

      Curious w yor screen name you would prefer Upshaw.

      • http://allpackers.com Nick Perry

        Hope you’re right about Perry Stroh. I loved him as a D-End at USC. Saw him play several times since I live in Los Angeles. The say Lamar Woodley took 2 years before you really started to see results. I hope the reason we saw less of Perry in weeks 2 through 5 was the wrist and not his play.

  • Ron LC

    To summarize, the Packer goal has to be Super Bowl or Bust this year. They need to upgrade both lines NOW. The LB’s, especially the backups need serious upgrading. A very good RB would be nice instead of the running by committee aproach.

    The big question is, can all that be done though the draft only? I think not. They need to sign some FA’s that actually will play this year. Last year there were multiple signings, but only one made to the field and he turned out to be a bust.

    In the near future the “Cap” could very easily throw the team into chaos. Negotiataing pay cuts and releasing more experienced players in order to pay the likes of AR $20 mil plus, CM3 $10 to 12 mil (more ?) and Raji $8 to $10 mil. Hopefully the “Cap” increases enough to avoid wholesale cuts of more experienced players and fill-in with UDFA’s and other team’s cast-offs. We saw this year just how bad that worked out against the “big mean nasties” like SF and NY. Your 18 player cast-off number on the current roster is scary. That’s almost 30% of the roster. The potential for an all-pro coming from this group is infantesimally small.

    Which leads to GB’s propensity to have mass amounts of injuries to starters and are forced to use players who can’t play the scheme, especially on D. They need to find out why these injuries are occuring at such a high level. I heard some discussion on “Sports Radio” yesterday that Worthey and Jordy might not be ready for the start of the season. Cripes they haven’t even started UTA’s.

    • ThomasMagnumPI

      I would rather have TT assemble a team that is a contender to go all the way every year than a flash-in-the pan team that sells out to win NOW (see 2011 Eagles).

      To me, that means building from within and getting production from the guys that are still playing on their rookie deals, even if that means waiting til year 2-3 of their deal. That also means drafting players to contribute in 2014 with this year’s draft class–not necessarily freaking out over upgrading a particular position because of the last game played in this year’s playoffs.

      • Dobber

        I think you hit the key right there on rookie deals, or deals signed early on in promising careers at “not quite superstar” dollar amounts.

        This is a young-player’s league, now, and there needs to be a constant influx of effective, but lower-priced talent to take the stress off the salary cap so you can keep the ARods and the CMIIIs.

        The days of the Terry Bradshaw Steelers and Steve Young 49ers, teams led by established and long-serving vets, are gone. It’s now a league about a small number of leaders and effective, but interchangeable, parts.

        • BartyS

          It may be young-player’s league but the team that just won the Super Bowl, the Ravens, started numerous players over thirty, including Reed, Lewis, Suggs, Boldin, McKinnie, and Birk.

          There is a lot to be said for veteran contributors.

          • ThomasMagnumPI

            And what do you think the ’13 Ravens are going to look like? They are losing most of their team this offseason.

            Noone is saying that Rookies > Vets, it’s just that the cap numbers become unmanageable when the roster is constructed in that way.

    • Lucas

      30% of the roster may seem like a lot, but I like the point made that there is not a lot of talent differential in players 20-50. Utilize those spots with cheaper players that fill roles instead of trying to make those 30 players into “pending future starters”. That’s a much more financially sound and efficient use of the roster space. 30% sounds like a good amount, considering 30 players is roughly 60% of the roster.

  • Chad Toporski

    Unless they are top picks, OL generally don’t start their first season, except as injury fill ins. As Paul said, TT has been trying to boost the line, but things beyond their control have kept them out of the game.

    • ThomasMagnumPI

      What about a legitimate in-line TE in the Gronkowski mold? I guy that can run block to help open up the run game and create fits for the pass defense is one aspect that we haven’t had in quite some time. It is pretty easy to argue that GB doesn’t use a traditional TE, but I feel that is because they don’t possess a difference maker that plays in that manner.

      I think that the top 2 TEs (Eifert and Ertz) should definitely be in play for GB, regardless of whether Finley is on the 2013 opening-day roster or not.

      • Dobber

        I still find myself thinking that replacing the Driver/Jennings combo with a TE of this type and finding a WR with potential (both through the draft), and playing more two-TE sets is intriguing…and could go a long way toward improving the running game.

        • Lucas

          I had made this type of comment in earlier draft conversations. MM doesn’t just live in 4 or 5 wide sets. He can create offense with the weapons provided. Let’s just make sure he has the weapons.

      • Lucas

        I would like that should TT slide back from the first pick. Both players don’t strike me as late first rounders. If TT were to take one with the first pick, I trust his evaluation over my own.

        • ThomasMagnumPI

          Agree with all of this. I think I say it every year, but I really like the idea of trading back from the late first to the early-mid second round, plus something. The trouble is, I would imagine most GMs see it this way too, and unless there is a player that a GM really likes available at 26 it is going to be tough to pull off.

          A 3 pick combo in the 2nd round consisting of an Ertz/Eifert, Margus Hunt and Barrett Jones/Travis Frederick (pardon any name butchery) is intriguing to say the least.

          • Stroh

            Neither Ertz or nor Eifert is considered a Gronk type TE. Both are tall and lanky more like Finley than Gronk. When you find an athletic 6’5 270 lb TE let me know. But those don’t come around very often. Both the TE in this draft and for that part in all of college football are far more recievers than TE’s these days.

            For all the flak Finley takes as a blocker, he’s actually alot better then people give him credit for. He graded out as a better run blocker than Crabtree, according to ProFootballFocus, who allegedly is the best blocking TE the Packers have.

            Hunt is never going to be a 34 DE, he’s more of a 43 DE and is a horrible run player. If we get a 34 DE in the 2nd, Kawann Short is the better 34 DE and I wouldn’t mind waiting till the 4th and getting Bennie Logan. Both are much better against the run than Hunt ever will be. Don’t need a 6’8 DE that gets thrown around like a rag doll in run D.

            • Leo

              Hunt is proyected as a 3-4 DE, he needs to improve his technique, gain a few pounds and play lower. I like him.

              • Stroh

                Alot of people seem to. Couple things about Hunt.
                1. He’s a former Elite Decathlete. Those guys are mesomorphs. They have thin hips and legs, not a good base for a 34 DE. He’ll have trouble gaining much more weight.
                2. He’s 25 years old, which means he’s a full grown man already. And as a decathlete you know he’s been training his entire life. So based on his age and training status he is probably as fully developed as he’ll get.

                As a former Strength and Conditioning Coach, I believe he is never going to get big enough to be a 34 DE. At that height and age if he hasn’t learned to play lower its unlikely he’ll learn it at this point. His build (mesomorph) isn’t the type to be really thick in the hips and legs like you want a 34 DE in order to take on double teams and hold his ground. I’m not just saying this as my opinion, w/ a degree in Ex Phys its what I was trained and taught to study in athletes.

                I saw someone compare him to Calais Campbell and thats a joke. Campbell was 20 yrs old and still developing and he always played w/ good pad level. He was able to put on another 25 or 30 lbs, in my professional opinion Hunt won’t be able to. Only basis is to compare is height and that Hunt played 34 DE in college. IMO he won’t be able to in the NFL.

              • ThomasMagnumPI

                Nice analysis of your thought process on Hunt, Stroh.

                I’ve never seen the guy, but I think it would be much more likely for him to learn to “play” (lower pad level, technique, etc.) than to change his body type.

                If he just doesn’t have the frame for it, then he doesn’t have the frame for it though.

                FWIW, http://www.nfldraftscout.com/ratings/dsprofile.php?pyid=103696&draftyear=2013&genpos=DE has him listed at 6’8″, 277lbs–not too far off from JJ Watt’s scouting numbers of 6’5″ 290lbs http://www.nfldraftscout.com/ratings/dsprofile.php?pyid=76434&draftyear=2011&genpos=DE .

                Of course, he is nowhere the football player that Watt was coming out of college, but he is a guy that the GBP actually have a chance of getting, without trading up.

              • Stroh

                You can’t change his body type. Thats what I’m saying. He is what he is… To me the best comparison is Jared Allen who is 6’6 270. The ht/wt ration fits alot better than w/ JJ Watt. And Allen would never be cast as a 34 DE, almost more of an 34 OLB. Its even pretty difficult to “teach” a guy, especially that age, to play lower. Thats something that has to become habit pretty early. It can be improved, but at this point I think Hunt will always struggle w/ leverage in the run game due to his age and background. If the Pack was a 43 team and needed a DE I think he would be a good pick, except for his run D. He has good potential as a 43 DE/pass rusher.

    • Scott 1956

      Chad, I don’t agree. TT has been drafting O-Linemen every year. Most years more than one. And outside of Sitton, they aren’t very good. Bulaga had a horrible first year, then a good 2nd year, and last year he started off terribly, evened out, then got hurt. So either TT cannot draft good linemen, or Campen is not very good as O-Line coach. And seeing their line was OK when they had Clifton, Tauscher and Wells, my guess would be Campen is the weak link!

  • Bildar

    I am hoping Ogletree or Minter are available for round 1. There is a good chance Hawk is gone. I really cannot think of too many big plays from our Inside Linebackers, and isn’t that what is expected in the 3-4. The dline needs to get healthy and experienced.

    We also have a ton of prospects at Tackle and some of those guys have to be working hard, knowing that they might be gone. Still taking a project like Long (oregon) or Pugh (syracuse) in the 2nd makes sense to me – those guys cold be franchise left tackles. I also wouldn’t have a problem going d-line here.

  • James

    Real good article, Al…
    Some very good insight.
    It sounds like you travel a lot. It’s good you can be close to the scouts to give, us avid Packer fans a little view of what they are doing before the combine and draft day.
    I am curious of why you avoided another over the hill player being paid premium cap dollar money in your article…Charles Woodson? What do you do with him?

  • FireMMNow

    good stuff paul. good to hear a little inside information from mobile and the texas vs. the nation game. i love that TT is there in person. it has to make it easier on the scouting department. I was also told a couple years ago that the steelers and packers spend twice as much on their scouting departments as most teams. seems to be paying off.

    and i agree with Trgo that more length is needed on the DL. The packers DL has never made the transition to a true 3-4 DL with solid prototype 5-techs. the great 3-4 defenses have them. when you have those types of players you can dictate to the offense. the 2-4-5 is a reactionary defense.

    • ThomasMagnumPI

      Taking a cue from SF’s defense, Aldon Smith is almost unstoppable when his big brother, Justin Smith, is healthy and effective. Once Justin went down with his triceps injury, little brother was decidedly ordinary.

      Maybe it’s time to find Matthews’ big brother after all. Can Margus Hunt be that guy in 2014? If there is a good chance that he can, then drafting Margus at the end of the 1st round doesn’t seem like a reach at all.

  • Scott 1956

    Constantly being told how much quality depth this team has, and then watching 10-13 players be replaced every year, makes a lot of us think that there isn’t that much talent on this team. They have the best QB in the league. They have great WR’s. But they have a horrible O-Line, 2nd most sacks, and they cannot run the ball, one of the worst running teams. The D-Line is below average. Raji on his best day is average. He doesn’t hold the point of attack like good nose tackles do. Pickett is OK. But he doesn’t move well, side to side and cannot generate a pass rush. Wilson, OK run defender, not much else. Worthy? Who knows, he may have been getting better, but that ACL will keep him out most of the next year. The LB’s outside of CMIII and Bishop are awful. Nothing more than scrubs. And TT should know better. He was a LB. The DB’s are really pretty good. But I think it’s time Woodson steps down. He’s lost 2 steps, and cannot cover without holding, which seems like he gets called for 3 times per game. McCarthy has to be reminded every year that he must run the ball more. Check past seasons, he has one press conference after a loss, when he declares we must run the ball more. EVERY YEAR! And he shouldn’t go anywhere near a challenge flag. Rodgers can make up for a lot with his WR’s, but when you face a playoff team, at least the last 3 we lost too, the defense cannot stop them, and they are able to slow Rodgers down enough for the Packers to get beaten pretty badly!

    • Chad Toporski

      “Constantly being told how much quality depth this team has, and then watching 10-13 players be replaced every year, makes a lot of us think that there isn’t that much talent on this team.”

      Welcome to the new era of free agency and the cap. This is no longer the 90’s, where teams could stockpile great players year after year.

  • BubbaOne

    Paul,
    Thanks, I always get new info from your reports.
    I believe TT will get an extra 4th and 7th round comp pick for losing Flynn and Wells while signing Saturday. They are all in the 4th round range of comp but IIRC the most comp for a 35 or older player (Saturday) is a 5th rounder.
    I agree the team may be fine at OT. and may even be set at OL w/ who they have returning including the 3 PS guys. Do you think Lang can play OC? Van Roten?

  • http://PigskinPaul.com Pigskin Paul

    Great to see all the discussion. My favorite time of year is under way. I wnt to make one more comment of the CAPERS D & Packers LB corps.
    For what CAPERS wants to do I don’t think he has enuf LB talent to pull it off. His ILB group can’t cover RB & TE coming over the middle very well & that is critical. Other than CLAY they don’t pass rush well. Let’s hope NICK PERRY is healthy & shows he’s the real deal in 2013, and BISHOP is back @ 100%.

    Pigskin Paul

  • http://rustartups.wordpress.com Enedina Lagnese

    I enjoy you because of all your valuable labor on this web site. Debby enjoys making time for internet research and it’s really obvious why. I learn all relating to the powerful mode you give vital guidance by means of this blog and therefore boost contribution from website visitors on the topic then our simple princess is really being taught a whole lot. Enjoy the remaining portion of the year. You’re performing a very good job.

  • http://zakazat.linzaproo.tk Reatha Molone

    Greetings from Los angeles! I’m bored to death at work so I decided to check out your website on my iphone during lunch break. I enjoy the info you provide here and can’t wait to take a look when I get home. I’m shocked at how quick your blog loaded on my phone .. I’m not even using WIFI, just 3G .. Anyways, good blog!

  • http://dleedon.org/video/ dleedon

    Its such as you learn my mind! You seem to know so much about this, like you wrote the e book in it or something. I think that you just could do with some % to pressure the message home a bit, but instead of that, that is fantastic blog. A great read. I will certainly be back.