With defensive end Jerel Worthy now officially a member of the New England Patriots, the Green Bay Packers have given up on yet another member of its draft class of 2012.
Since the completion of the Worthy trade, much discussion has broken out about whether or not that draft class is one of if not the worst draft class the Packers have had since general manager Ted Thompson took control of the team’s football operations in 2005.
On paper, it doesn’t exactly look good for Thompson. First round pick Nick Perry has not become the pass rusher Green Bay had hoped to help complement Clay Matthews and has battled injuries his first two seasons in the league. Worthy, a second round pick, was just traded and was in danger of not making the roster due to injuries. Jerron McMillian, Terrell Manning, Andrew Datko and BJ Coleman, taken in rounds four through seven, all are no longer with the team.
All is not lost, however. The Packers’ other second rounder in 2012, cornerback Casey Hayward, and fourth round defensive end Mike Daniels can redeem the class of 2012.
Hayward had an incredible rookie season with six interceptions and 53 tackles. At a time in which Tramon Williams struggled, the emergence of Hayward was a pleasant surprise and gave the Packers great hope he could be the team’s next stud cornerback after Charles Woodson moved to safety in 2012 before being released by the Packers in 2013.
Unfortunately Hayward fell victim to the injury epidemic that plagued Green Bay his sophomore season. A hamstring injury allowed him to play in only three games last season before he was placed on injured reserve in November. It was a disappointing end to what was hoped to be a breakout season for Hayward, but with his return to health alongside Williams and the newly re-signed Sam Shields, Green Bay figures to have one of the best cornerback trios in the league.
Daniels meanwhile could very well end up being the diamond in the rough of the 2012 draft class and arguably also might be one of Thompson’s shrewdest draft picks. After having 12 tackles and two sacks in 14 games his rookie season, Daniels broke out last season with 23 tackles and 6.5 sacks while playing in all 16 games. His sack total was second to Clay Matthews who had 7.5 while battling thumb injuries most of the season. For a defense that relies on its linebackers to get most of the sacks, the Packers got a lot out Daniels which was a godsend thanks to injuries to the linebackers last season.
Being a disruptive pass rusher is only part of what Daniels brings to the table. He has gone on record multiple times that the Packers defense is tired of being “pushed around” and that the Packers need a more violent mindset on defense and for fans who are sick of seeing the defense pounded into the ground year after year, this is music to their ears. Daniels very well could be one of the league’s breakout defensive players this season.
Perry also shouldn’t be given up on yet either but it is most certainly a vital season for him. Missing some time early in camp didn’t help his case though. Not only does he have to stay healthy, he also must contribute and that may be a tall order for Perry given how much time he missed his first two seasons.
While the 2012 draft class certainly will not go down as one of Thompson’s best, especially after the players have seen only two years in the league before being given up on, the Packers can sill salvage something in Hayward and especially Daniels. General managers don’t need to hit on 100% of their draft picks and the draft is the ultimate crapshoot.
You’ll win some and you’ll lose some when it comes to the NFL Draft. While 2012 wasn’t his finest hour, Thompson may have gotten enough out of that class to help solidify two positions on defense.
Given his shaky history on selecting defensive players, sometimes that’s good enough to be a win.——————
Kris Burke is a sports writer covering the Green Bay Packers for AllGreenBayPackers.com and WTMJ in Milwaukee. He is a member of the Pro Football Writers of America (PFWA) and his work has been linked to by sites such as National Football Post and CBSSports.com. Follow @KrisLBurke