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:
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.