The Green Bay Packers added 11 new players to their offseason roster via this past weekend’s NFL draft. Packers GM Ted Thompson, as he does every year, maneuvered around and was able to add some additional picks to the stash that he began the draft with.
Heading into the draft, the team’s biggest needs were Defensive Line, Safety, Running Back, Wide Receiver, Tight End and Offensive Line. The team addressed the defensive line with two selections in the first five rounds. At running back, they added two players in the first four rounds and they selected two offensive linemen in the fourth. Any pick within the first five rounds should be expected to stick on the team’s final 53 man roster. The key word is “should” so I cautiously say that those three areas seemingly were covered.
While some GM’s draft more for need, Thompson’s philosophy has been more about taking the best player available on his board at the time. Two good examples are his selecting two offensive tackles within 10 draft slots of each other in round four and trading back into the fourth round to select running back Johnathan Franklin when he had already selected a top-tier running back two rounds earlier in the form of Eddie Lacy.
With that said and as has been the case in year’s past, Thompson did not address every position of need that the Packers had going into the draft. With so many teams jockeying and moving around constantly, it would be tough for any GM’s board to fall exactly how he wants and leave draft weekend with every hole plugged up. Three positions left with the biggest question marks are Safety, Wide Receiver and Tight End.
Mock drafts and big boards had the Packers possibly addressing this position in round one. It was unlikely that top-rated safety prospect Kenny Vaccaro would still be available when the Packers were set to choose at #26, so the biggest possibilities were Jonathan Cyprien, Matt Elam and Eric Reid. Reid was taken at 18th overall and was already off the board. Thompson clearly didn’t feel that Cyprien nor Elam were what he wanted in a first round pick and he drafted defensive lineman Datone Jones instead.
Judging by the reaction of many Packers fans on Twitter, not everyone agreed with this. But a gentle reminder here when it comes to the draft: Ted does what Ted wants. Last year, the Packers relied on a rotation of Charles Woodson, M.D. Jennings and Jerron McMillian to line up opposite Morgan Burnett at the other safety spot. Woodson was released and the jury is still out on both Jennings and McMillian.
Even with that being the case, I don’t see this as a dire situation for the Packers. It remains to be seen whether McMillian will make a jump in his progress from his rookie season, but if he can, that would put a feather in Thompson’s cap for knowing his current players and trusting in them. Jennings could be the odd man out or simply kept for his special teams contributions so I don’t figure him to be a big part of the equation. The team did draft cornerback Micah Hyde, who also lined up at safety during his collegiate career. It stands to reason that he will get a look at the safety spot during training camp.
And what about Woodson? Many have expressed their opinions on Charles and feel that he should hang up the cleats and call it a very successful career. But he clearly wants to continue playing and in the right situation, I’m not convinced that he can’t still help the Packers. That is, of course, if he and the team were to agree on a return and the terms made sense. He can’t play every down and he’s not a cover back anymore, so why waste the roster spot, right? Because he’s Charles Woodson. I’m not saying that it’s a certainty that the team needs to bring him back, but having a future Hall of Fame defensive back at your disposal this late in the game isn’t the worst scenario I can imagine.
The team lost two big pieces of their wide receiving core after the 2012 season when Donald Driver retired and Greg Jennings departed in free agency. The team will have a hard time replacing their leadership but they do need to replace the bodies.
For a team that has predicated itself on the success of the passing game, waiting until the seventh round to address this position only emphasized what drafting two running backs early already said: the 2013 Green Bay Packers will run the football. Still, I think Green Bay wants to carry five receivers. They have Jordy Nelson, James Jones and Randall Cobb set as the 1-2-3 punch. Jarrett Boykin is a holdover from 2012 but we need to see how well he has recovered from his late-season injury. My assumption is that he will hold onto the fourth spot.
That leaves at least one slot open. Does the team look to return man Jeremy Ross to fill that void or do they turn to one of their seventh round selections and hope they can crack the roster? It’s too early to tell. The team drafted Charles Johnson and Kevin Dorsey in the last round and as with any late round pick, there is absolutely no guarantee that one or either will stick. Sure, one of Johnson or Dorsey may flash during camp and be the fifth guy, but I’m not betting on it at this point. This is one position that will receive heavy attention during training camp to see who grabs that last spot or if the team decides to go with just four.
There is one reason why I added this positon to the list: Jermichael Finley. Finley will be the Packers starting tight end in 2013 and barring injury, he has this position fortified. Beyond this season, however, it’s anyone’s guess. There are various stances on whether Finley is back after 2013. I am of the belief that the chances are less than great. While tight end is not a position of immediate need, without Finley, it becomes a huge hole on this team. There is quite a disparity between Finley and the rest of the bunch in terms of being a capable receiving threat.
Andrew Quarless was the team’s #2 tight end until he suffered a severe knee injury late in 2011 that cost him the entire 2012 season. His return is a question mark. DJ Williams has rarely been seen and the jury is still out on him. Ryan Taylor’s biggest contributions have come on special teams and it’s unknown how well he would thrive in a more regular role. And then there is newly-acquired Matthew Mulligan. Until he dons the Green & Gold and is seen in action, the team doesn’t really know what they have in him. Hardly a clear-cut heir apparent if Finley leaves.
Again, this is not a need in 2013, but it is one that they could have opted to get after to give a potential replacement a year to develop in the offense.
It’s always tough so say how well a team drafted when none of the newly acquired have played a single snap. All we have to go on right now is Thompson’s history in drafting and hope that 2013 ends up being a draft that we are still talking about 3+ years from now.
There are also likely to be many roster moves between now and the beginning of the season and the Packers may end up finding other solutions to the above-mentioned need areas. Even with some big questions at key positions, it appears that Green Bay is in good position to continue to take steps toward another playoff run in 2013.——————
Jason Perone is an independent sports blogger writing about the Packers on AllGreenBayPackers.comFollow Jason Perone: