Green Bay Packers 2010 NFL Draft: The Reasons Behind the Picks All Green Bay Packers All the Time

By Guest Author, Thomas Hobbes

So now that the NFL draft is officially over, tons of fans will converge on Packers web sites to air their grievances about not drafting a particular player or reaching for another.  They will hand out grades to teams and players alike; argue with other fans about what should have happened, and how the analysts have no idea what they are talking about.

I frankly am uninterested in such things; you’re typically not going to find out how good a draft class or a player is for 3-5 years and a player’s success has a lot to do with the team and the environment they get drafted in.

Nevertheless, every team drafts a player with a role in mind, and in this article I hope to analyze what role I think each player was drafted for; I am not concerning myself with what I think will likely happen, I have not placed a grade or an analysis of each player’s potential for a reason.

Bryan Bulaga – Projected Left Tackle – Round 1 – Pick 23 (23)

Rationale: A no-brainer pick for the Packers.  Unfortunately, the pick is so enticing and so logical that it gives Thompson no chance to maneuver in the 1st round. Fortunately the Packers didn’t over think the pick and grabbed a top 10 talent in an area of huge need without having to overspend.

I’m curious as to what Thompson would have done in hindsight if he had known that Charles Brown from USC would be available in the 2nd round.  I doubt Thompson could have drafted both, since Brown is projected only to be a left tackle.

Obviously Bulaga will have every opportunity to play left tackle; his position and contract will entitle him to that much, but Thompson could have gone to rush linebacker (Jerry Hughes of TCU or Sergio Kindle of Texas) in the 1st instead.  My personal opinion is that Thompson made the right choice, the value was simply too good to pass up.

Mike Neal – Projected Defensive End – Round 2 – Pick 24 (56)

Rationale: Probably the most contested pick of the draft for the Packers, the response on Bleacher Report was almost immediate starting with “who?” a huge amount of googling, followed by “I don’t get it” and then finally “uh ok, I get it but I don’t like it”.

Many fans criticized this pick, since Neal had a 5th round projection, but to me even if this was a reach this made sense; going by the big board over at (a site I really started to like due to its draft prediction algorithm), Neal was the 8th best 3-4 DE.  Of these, 4 were drafted above Neal (Ndamukong Suh, Jared Odrick, Carlos Dunlap and Joesph Linval), so he was one of the top 4 3-4 DE when the Packers selected.

Since very few teams play the 3-4 in college, projecting players will always be vague and different teams will project players differently.  Also, there was a run on DTs which might have forced Thompson to pull the trigger a little bit sooner than he had wished. This is by far the most interesting pick in my opinion as it actually says a couple of things about the Packers at the moment.

For one, Thompson is thinking about the economics ahead of team needs.  Cullen Jenkins and Johnny Jolly are both at the end of their contracts, both started out as DT in a 4-3 defense and were not entirely thrilled to being demoted to “team players” (like guards) with the conversion to the 3-4.

Obviously going 11-5 and having the #2 rated defense has a lot to do with them not speaking out, but I have a feeling that they still might want to get back to the “premium” position of a 4-3 DT, not to mention that other teams will likely offer more money to play 4-3 DT.  Jenkins is certainly going to attract a lot of attention if the Packers don’t resign him during the season, but Jolly on the other hand might make it back, the drug possession charge is a scare.

In the event that one or both of them leave the team at the end of the year, I assume Neal will be a starter in 2011.  Furthermore, the second thing that this pick says to me is that Neal will obviously be in the rotation at DE, which allows BJ Raji to focus on NT, where he and Ryan Pickett can rotate instead of having Raji rotate from NT to DE.

I assume that means the Packers are grooming Raji to be the starting NT (as expected) and that him playing DE was only a stopgap until they could actually get another 3-4 DE, which might be another strong reason why they drafted a DE so early.  What does this mean for Justin Harrell?  Actually I don’t think it means anything for Harrell; he was on his last shot anyways with the team and its not like Neal was drafted to replace Harrell’s production.

Morgan Burnett – Projected Strong Safety – Round 3 – Pick 23 (71)

Rationale: A very sensible pick considering our lack of depth at safety and Atari Bigby’s perceived fall from favor with the Packers (not to mention his contract expiring next year).  He’s probably the strong safety of the future, but he might make his appearance as a nickel corner in the event that Al Harris is unable to start.

This pick I think shows that the 11-5 record and having the #2 rated defense covered up the fact that the Packers are still converting to the 3-4.  Most of the players on the team were drafted as 4-3 players, specifically in the bump and run scheme employed by Bob Sanders, which is markedly different from the 3-4 defense that Dom Capers runs.

When you think about it, its actually quite surprising that the players managed to transition as well as they did.  With that being said, Atari Bigby doesn’t exactly fit the mold of a strong safety in the Capers’ 3-4; safeties are less of the typical “box safeties” and instead are asked to cover slot receivers or tight ends more often, so being a ballhawk is more important than being a hard hitter.

Atari Bigby is known for his hard hitting, and to an extent that’s probably the reason why he is hurt so often.  The Packers responded by drafting Burnett, who is a natural ball hawk and is 2 inches taller and faster (4.42 vs. 4.57 seconds) but not as good in run support.

I personally don’t think that Bigby has fallen from favor with the Packers, as it was obvious that the secondary was uncomfortable without him during the times he was out with injuries.  Nevertheless, like Aaron Kampman, Bigby didn’t really fit the scheme and I wouldn’t be surprised to see Burnett start over Bigby in the season opener.

Andrew Quarless – Projected Tight End – Round 5 – Pick 23 (154)

Rationale: Perhaps stemming from the success of Jermicheal Finley, the Packers select another “mismatch” tight end.  Actually I think this is a pretty smart pick.  One of the biggest problems that the Packers had with Finley is that his forte is his speed and height, which can be problematic when it comes to inline blocking.

As a response, many times where Finley was inline another tight end was also inline as a blocker.  This is disadvantageous since the defense knows Finley can’t block so they cover him and leave the blocking tight end open.  Now, instead of asking Finley to block, the Packers instead add another mismatch tight end on the other side in the double tight end sets.

The defense can’t really clue in on what’s going to happen; either one would be a mismatch problem if the run a route, and neither is going to be a good blocker so the defense can’t clue in on which one will be staying.  Or of course, both tight ends could be running routes in which case it will lessen the blitz as defenders will have to cover both tight ends.

Naturally the running game declines a bit as a result of the tight ends not being able to block, but the Packers are a west coast pass first team anyways, so I think that is a decent trade. In my opinion, if this works the way I am imagining it this was maybe one of the cleverest picks of the draft.

Marshall Newhouse – Projected Offensive Lineman – Round 5 – Pick 38 (169)

Rationale: It’s interesting that Newhouse was drafted without the Packers having established what they wanted to do with him (apparently they are debating whether he should be a guard or a tackle).  This means that he’s definitely an athlete who has yet to master the technical side of the offensive line.

This may be a little bit of a reach of reasoning, but I think this pick might have something to do with Daryn Colledge, who was unhappy with his second rounder tender after a disastrous attempt at left tackle.  For one, no GM is happy with a player publicly speaking out about not getting enough money especially when he didn’t warrant it.

Second, Thompson has always valued offensive lineman who can play multiple positions (including Newhouse), and Colledge lost a little bit of value in Thompson’s eyes when rookie TJ Lang outplayed him at left tackle.  Then add to that Jason Spitz lost his job at center to Scott Wells and is now going to compete for the starting left guard position.

As well as the fact that Mike McCarthy thinks that TJ Lang projects best at left guard, and Colledge quickly is becoming expendable or tradable.  Finally, Colledge was considered an athlete and less of a technician with a strong combine showing and the cheaper athletic Newhouse replacing him starts to make a little sense; my projection is that Newhouse will be a backup guard and Colledge might be on his way out.

James Starks – Projected Running Back – Round 6 – Pick 24 (193)

Rationale: A running back that was projected in the 2nd or 3rd round before a surgery derailed his senior season.  I believe that this pick is directly tied to the economics behind Ryan Grant’s contract.  After Grant held out during the 2007 training camp, the Packers were forced to resign Grant to a very incentive laddened deal.

Due to his production this year Grant was awarded $6 million, and if he rushes for the same amount of yardage again, he will be due $9 million next year (for a comparison JaMarcus Russell is due $9.5 million this year).  Obviously the Packers are going to try to avoid paying him so much, and they have several options; in the worse case scenario Grant could be cut or traded.

The Packers could ask Grant to restructure his contract or take a pay cut, but again that’s unlikely that Grant will agree, he knows that the Packers have no leverage against him since there is no one on the roster that could replace him.  Finally in a subtler move, the Packers could acquire another running back to “steal” yards from him so that he doesn’t hit his escalators.

Initially, you might assume that the Packers would draft a player with complementary skills to Ryan Grant, like a change of pace back or a speedy or shifty back.  But instead, the Packers chose a running back that actually appears to be very similar to Grant; both have roughly the same size, weight and speed and appear to have very similar running styles as a one cut downhill runner.

So why draft a player that resembles Grant?  My feeling is that Starks is a direct competitor to Grant; best case scenario is that it pushes Grant to become a better back (its been reported that Grant does better when he is pushed with competition) and Starks manages to steal enough yards away from Grant to fail to hit his escalators (it will also increase Grant’s career since he won’t have to carry the load by himself).

At very worse, Starks might be the next starter, which isn’t impossible since productive running backs are easier to find in the later rounds than other positions and if you remember that Grant was initially an unsigned rookie free agent with the Giants.

C.J. Wilson – Projected Defensive End – Round 7 – Pick 23 (230)

Rationale: Probably another no brainer pick; at round 7 everyone is a developmental pick, and he probably was Thompson’s highest rated player; it creates a little bit of a log jam at DE, but wasting a 7th round pick and having to cut Wilson is not a huge loss.  This is just Thompson sticking to his BPA approach, nothing more.

Also sometimes what doesn’t get picked is often just as telling as what was picked.

No Pass Rush Outside Linebacker:

Rationale: While it looks like the Packers have signed a couple of undrafted OLBs, my feeling is that they were happy enough with Brad Jones to not have to draft an OLB.  I personally was also happy with Jones, but the fan consensus seems to be that the Packers should have added a dynamic pass rush OLB to the mix.  Again this goes back to the fact that the Packers haven’t fully transitioned to the 3-4 defense, so OLB is probably a target next year.

On a more interesting note, there has been some talk about either Brandon Chillar or AJ Hawk being moved from MLB to OLB; that could explain why Chillar got such a large contract.  Most assumed that Chillar was resigned due to his coverage ability, but apparently Chillar is being tested at the OLB (apparently McCarthy believes he’s got a shot).

AJ Hawk on the other hand played OLB at Ohio and was initially an OLB with the Packers, so him moving back could make some sense as well.  Finally that would give Desmond Bishop more of an opportunity to play MLB, since I believe he has warranted a shot from his pre-season outings.  My personal feelings are that Chillar and Hawk probably won’t be able to cut it as an OLB in a 3-4, but the Packer might think differently.

No Cornerbacks:

Rationale : Many fans were expecting a cornerback to be drafted.  Charles Woodson is getting older, and 3 CBs are coming back from knee injuries, including starter Al Harris.  I didn’t actually think that CB was much of a need and apparently neither did the Packers.  Charles Woodson was defensive player of the year so I’m sure he will be at worst passable this year.  Al Harris managed to come back from a ruptured spleen, so I wouldn’t count him out just yet this year, and at very worst, I think Tramon Williams is a serviceable starter.

What was really of concern was the depth behind Woodson, Harris and Williams, but Burnett could be asked to play nickel should the event arise. I also think Brandon Underwood has a chance of being a solid backup and Trevor Ford and Pat Lee are in my opinion, unproven.

No Special Team Players:

Rationale : Ironically, this was the most surprising development in the draft for me.  I thought for sure that a punter was going to be drafted.  There is absolutely no depth at punter and I thought the Packers were terrible enough to maybe be forced to reach for a player (even if this year was considered a bad year for punters).

As of yet no other punter other than Tim Masay and Chris Bryan has been linked to Green Bay.  A little less surprising is that a return specialist wasn’t drafted; fortunately it has been reported that the Packers are going to sign a couple of returners, most notably WR Sam Shields out of Miami.  He runs a 4.3 40-yard dash, and was the special teams player of the year for Miami.  Returners are rather hard to quantify, so seeing the Packers grab one in free agency is not all that surprising.

So there you go, maybe in 5 years I will go back and assign grades to the draft class and its players.  The things that I took out of this draft was that Thompson does in fact draft for need.  Not need for talent, which Thompson has been very adamant about not doing, but need for economics and need for scheme.

In other words, Thompson drafted for need considering the financial situation of his players next year and considering the transition to the 3-4 defense, which isn’t complete.  Of course, all my analysis is pure conjecture based on what I think is logical and the historical tendencies of the Packers organization and Ted Thompson.

What do you think?



Thomas Hobbes is a staff writer for Jersey Al’s


37 thoughts on “Green Bay Packers 2010 NFL Draft: The Reasons Behind the Picks

  1. Thomas,
    I think you have offered one of the better analyses I have seen of the Packers’ 2010 draft and you have offered interesting insights into each draft pick. I also like the fact that you kept it pretty positive so you are either a kool-aid drinker (heaven forbid) or you see the genuine potential of the 2010 class.
    While I find it hard to accept that the Packers’ hierarchy didn’t see cornerback or OLB as a need (after all I am a fan)the more I read from yourself and others the more I am getting excited for the upcoming season.

    1. I also though this was a solid look at the draft from a different perspective, which is why I wanted to present it to you hardcore Packer fans out there…
      Please share this with other Packer fans…

    2. Thanks, I don’t actually believe it will end up this way, that would be far too optimistic and far to perfect (I wouldn’t mind of course). I shy away from trying to predict potential, you aren’t really going to know until a couple years. My point was to try to analyze the reasoning behind each pick, I think the draft this year was for the future and not for a Super Bowl win right now (the omission of a CB and OLB being drafted I think proves that point). To that end, I think each player comes in with a role in mind.

  2. Interesting thought on whether TT would have waited for Brown in the second round. I think Ted would have still gone for Bulaga. He likes versatility on the line and, as you mentioned, Brown was projected as only a left tackle.

  3. Very interesting, Thomas. I pretty much agree with your whole analysis. Hadn’t thought much about the 2TE mismatch. I disagree that Finley can’t block, but that’s not the point.

    and I’ve recently thought that we might be actually quite full at CB… Capers was known for using a S at nickel and dime situations, and with Burnett the possibility is there. With the young, unproven guys we have, we just might have a very deep secondary. Even without Harris back, a nickel composed of Woodson, T. Williams, Pat Lee/Will Blackmon/Morgan Burnett, Bigby and Collins is very respectable. So would be the dime with these players…

    Add the fact that our DL will be 100% all the time, with the newfound depth of it, and we’ll get constant push at the line, allowing our ballhawkers to do what they do.

    And the depth at OL, as well as Quinn Johnson having a full year to have learned the playbook (the difference in the running game with/without him was astonishing last year), well, I’m a happy man.

    1. Well I will say this much about Finley, he isn’t a great blocker yet (and really very few tight ends come into the league with great blocking skills). Can he be a very respectable blocker in the future? Certainly if that is his goal. But just from a measurables standpoint, he is never going to be spectacular at it. He really lacks the size to be a great inline blocker, but if he bulks up he’s bound to lose some speed, which defeats the purpose. One possible solution is to basically give up on the blocking in favor of speed, which could be the reason why Quarless was drafted.

      1. With the pass-happy NFL that now exists, we could be looking at the end of the blocking tight end. Finley could be the prototype for the tight end of the 2010s

  4. Well done break down of the players and there filling needs.
    With the Neal pick IMO it does address Pass Rush.
    They had LITTLE push from the DE’s last year, they did a good job against the run but little in pass rush.
    Neither Jolly or Jenkins really fit the mold of a 3-4 DE.
    Jenkins more so then Jolly both neither are the prototypical 3-4 DE.
    Neal, Wilson both do, also Talley shows promise there.
    Raji is NOT a 3-4 DE, he does not have the lateral agility, length and movement skills to play the position, but is PERFECT for the NT spot.
    Raji and Pickett rotating at NT is going to make them both better and more effective in both the run and game and pass rush.
    When either of the NT’s have to be double teamed it makes it easier for the DE’s to make plays.
    You also have to look at the defensive package where Capers use’s only 2 Defensive linemen.
    You now have more linemen Jenkins, Neal, Wilson that fit that package.
    I think it is another misunderstanding that the Dlinemen are NOT asked to rush the passer. That they are just asked to take on blockers.
    There main job maybe to take up blockers, but they also need to be able to create pressure up the middle of the line.
    I really don’t think the starters from last year fit that role as well as they should.

    It will be fun to watch as more and more players are added that are a better fit for the 3-4 Defense.

    The best thing about having the youngest team the NFL is the development of the players all ready on the team.
    The worse thing is living with that development at times.

    One thing I saw the other day is that ALL of TT’s draft picks the last 3 years are still in the NFL, that changed yesterday with Thompson retiring but that is a AMAZING stat in the NFL.

    1. Thanks for stopping in, Yoop. A push up the middle in the QB’s face would have done wonders against Minny, Pittsburgh and Zona.

  5. I agree, the problem with the Neal pick in particular is that the team had the #2 rated defense last year, so it covers a lot; that being I think Jolly and Jenkins did an admirable job, especially considering it was their first attempt at being 3-4 DE. I also agree that I think Caper’s more exotic psycho and big okie packages will benefit with stronger and quicker defensive linemen, so I bet we will be seeing more of those in a couple years (it would probably be too optimistic to assume that Neal and Wilson will be good enough this year).

    The second problem, which I think will get Neal a lot of gripe from fans is that the position he is being ask to play is far from a premium position. So even if he is a stud, he’s not going to have the numbers to back up his selection; he’s probably not going to have many sacks, tackles or tackles for a loss compared to other lineman specifically from 4-3 defenses(though he might have an interception, how Jolly and Jenkins managed to grab one a piece is beyond me). Fans and analysts are quick to quantify based on statistics, and his “lack” of production is bound to be used against him by fans who are angry at the pick.

  6. Love your analysis, and positive spin on things. While I agree that this draft was largely for the future, I don’t believe that Ted isn’t trying to win right now. I think TT believes that we already have a super-bowl caliber team, and the picks for the future are to keep a good thing going. The defense was #2 last year, and will likely improve this year. No one in the league throws a better ball than Aaron Rodgers right now, and he’ll continue to improve with experience at manipulating th e defense, and “throwing guys open.” I can’t wait for this season to start.

  7. Great reasoning behind all of the picks. After careful thought and much less coffee, I get the Mike Neal selection. With Jenkins and Jolly both potentially gone after this season, Ted had to think for the future. His team is built to win now, but in typical Thompson fashion was thinking for the future. The head scratcher was actually a no-brainer.

  8. Nice analysis Thomas. As with every draft you don’t know until the guys hit the field. Aaron Rodgers was injury prone in his Favre backup years and many said he was a bust. Things changed and now 05′ is a great draft year.
    First Colledge was a monster lineman, then Spitz, then Moll, then Barbre – all sub-par performers. Along comes Sitton and Lang and surprise a couple of good linemen. See what I mean. So, throw me into the category that says, the draft can never be evaluated until years later.

    The only issue I have with this years’ draft is taking Neal in #2 and the safety in #3. I’m convinced they could have done better at Safety in #2 and Neal would have still been there in #3. Hence, we would have had a #4 pick.

  9. I get it, I had them taking him on a few of my Mock drafts.
    To me Neal is one of the BEST fits for the 3-4 DE in the draft. He moves like a linebacker and is VERY strong.

    I was like you and wanted a OLB taken high in the draft.
    But I also think that there are players on the team and one UDFA that will take care of that.
    Jones will continue to develop, and I think Obiozor could the be the biggest surprise coming out of the off season.
    But I want you to take a close look at Tim Knickey the UDFA from Steven F Austin.
    He is a polished pass rusher, and a WAY above average athlete.
    6-4 253# 4.63 40, that’s .01 slower then Matthews, 4.12 short shuttle that is quicker then Matthews, 6.91 3 cone drill again .01 slower then Matthews, 33.5 vertical and 9’8″ broad jump.
    Knickey’s numbers show what kind of athlete he is so close to Matthews and we have saw what that kind of athletic ability can do.
    And Knickey had those numbers 12# heavier.
    What is interesting is Knickey is also a walk on like Matthews and earned his playing time.

  10. Ron LC from what I have heard and read Neal was going to be picked by Miami @ #73 Packers moved up ahead of them to get him.

    Burnett was the BEST safety even at #56. Burnett was the #3 or #4 Safety in the draft behind Berry and Thomas.
    I had Allen and Burnett tied, with Burnett being the better athlete.

    Mays was NOT an option.

    1. “Mays was NOT an option.”

      To anyone that watched any tape of him, that is.

      To those who measured how high he could jump and how fast he could run, he was…

      1. I don’t know, my feeling is that he wouldn’t have fit in the Packers but he could fit in with some other teams, ones that employ a more “in the box” safety stressing more on run support than in coverage. If Mays had fallen into the 3rd, I wouldn’t be too surprised to see the Packers pick him, regardless of his lack of ball skills, at that point, his value was probably too good to pass up.

  11. The only thing I can find that is a negative, is that he came from a small school.
    Played DE at Steven F Austin but at the Texas vs Nation game he showed he can play standing up and drop into coverage.
    Had some injury problems his senior year but played through them and still was productive.

    I have said he will make the team, he has the work ethic anf chip on his shoulder to do just that.

  12. The only thing I can find that is a negative, is that he came from a small school.
    Played DE at Steven F Austin but at the Texas vs Nation game he showed he can play standing up and drop into coverage.
    Had some injury problems his senior year but played through them and still was productive.

    I have said he will make the team, he has the work ethic and chip on his shoulder to do just that.

  13. Packers drafted Neal in their original spot (2.56), they did not move up for him.

    The Packers did move up (to 3.71) for Burnett. As the top safety on their board, they did not want him going to Chicago.

    Thomas, thanks for the excellent post showing the Packers’ reasoning behind the picks.

    Jersey Al, Knicky’s negatives are he is from a small school (Stephen Austin), was not at the combine, and did not do a lot of bench press reps (I think 15) at his pro day.

    It might take him a season to develop the strength, but I really lisk his short shuttle at 4.12. Another small school steal for Packers’ scouting department.

    1. I think what yoop was saying was that they had to move up when they were going to take Neal, because another team would have taken him before the Packers 3rd round pick was up. As opposed to “move up” as in a trade…

      Thanks for the info on Knicky…

  14. Unrelated news. Brent Fahvray has been told he needs ankle surgery. And the Vikings agony begins. WAH HOO!

  15. Burnett is going to surprise everyone this year. He’ll outperform every safety in the draft except possibly Berry. However, Berry is going to be thrown into a position where he’ll have to be a team leader and with being a rookie that won’t be easy. Also Burnett is surrounded by veterans like woodson and collins to help him learn. He’s coming into a defense where the whole team is still learning so he’s not alone in this process. Plus, it helps that he is getting reps with the starters since Bigby is being so ignorant.

    So onto Starks… He will also be a standout rookie as long as he gets himself some playing time. I have to say I disagree that there’s nobody else who’s a potential starter at HB. Brandon jackson????? He’s proven himself to be good. It wouldn’t dissapoint me at all to get a 2nd round pick out of Grant. We’d still have two solid HBs- Starks and Jackson. With a couple of years of getting the majority of the reps Jackson could be better than grant. He’s aleady more elusive.

    It’s pure BS to say that we need a OLB. Jones comes in halfway through the year as a rookie and still plays solid. Plus we have poppinga, obiozor, and possibly knicky.

    This is my order of draft picks (best to worst)
    1 Morgan Burnett
    2 Bryan Bulaga
    3 James Starks
    4 Mike Neal
    5 Marshall Newhouse
    6 Andrew Quarless
    7 C.J. Wilson

    P.S. Burnett said he wants to hit Brett Favre so he can tell his grandkids he hit Brett Favre… 🙂 🙂 🙂

    GO PACK! Jets 10 Packers 24 (superbowl 2011)

Comments are closed.