The new season starts now. As Packer fans our season ended earlier then anyone wants. Now after all the Fire the coaches, maybe still going on for some, the players are not this or not that talk lets look at where the Packers are and where they might be going.
Mike McCarthy has said many times it is not as bad as some think and was not as good as some think.
For me when you look at the two teams in the Super Bowl this year you see two things, two of the better or best Defensive lines and Offensive lines in the NFL. Both Super Bowl teams have a high number of first round draft picks on both sides of the ball.
You can have all the skilled position players you want, but the games are won and lost in the trenches. San Francisco’s offense was able to keep the Packers offense off the field, in both games they played this year, the 49ers had a the ball on offense way more then the Packers. In the Playoff game the 49ers had the ball for over 38 minutes. The Packers were just beat by the more talented team. The outcome of every game at the highest levels of the NFL comes down to a hand full of plays by the best players, this is where that talent make a difference..
The talent and the types of formations the 49ers have used these last two years is really quite impressive. Since 2005 the 49ers have selected players at the #1, #6, #7, #10, #11, #17, #22, #28, #29 and #30 spot in the first round. All but one of those players are still on the team. Now that #1 player most likely will not be back this next year, but he did take them to the NFC Championship game last year at QB and had a good record this season before being injured, and the new QB was picked at the #36 spot.
In that same time frame the Packers have picked at the #24, #5, #16, #36, #9, #26, #23 , #32 and #28 on those again one player is not on the team. But for this season three of those picks were injured and did not play in the final game or much if any of the season.
For the Packers to take that next step and it is not as big a step as some think, both the lines need to be addressed.
For the offensive line, it is easier then the defensive line. Bulaga will be back, Newhouse improved through out the season so I don’t look at him as a liability and a off season for both Datko and Sherrod go a long way toward making that a much better tackle group. Lang, while better then Colledge, needs to be pushed, hard. Sitton might be the best lineman of the group, he was elevated to the ProBowl this week and he deserves that.
Center needs to be addressed either though development or the draft. I would like to see Barclay either at center or guard to push Lang. Barclay did a good job filling in, but had help on nearly every down in pass protection, I am not saying he is bad in pass protection, I think he showed decent feet, a good hand punch, and can sink his hips and play with leverage. I am saying he is not an NFL level OT and he showed good run blocking. He has the anchor needed on the inside of the offensive line and the movement skills of a OT. For me that makes a damn good C or LG. EDSmith needs to be upgraded at center. He did a good job, but that position needs to be so much better.
The #1 center in the draft is Barrett Jones from Alabama. I have watched him quite a bit and really like the way he plays. He also fits the Packers in that he has played OG, LT, and Center for the Tide and did it at a high level. He did have foot surgery after the season so you have to be real careful about making him a first round pick for a team that needs help on both sides of the ball on the lines.
For the me the #2 center is Travis Fredrick from Wisconsin. Fredrick would make a nice second round pick for the Packers. He can also play either center of guard. After that, I would rather see them develop someone like Barclay instead or if someone like Barclay could beat out Lang at LG move Lang to Center, something I talked about quite a bit earlier in his time with the Packers. Lang was a LT in college so he has the movement skills needed at Center.
Later in the draft I like some LT prospects. Xavier Nixon 6-5 311# Florida in the 5th or later, and one you might not hear much about is Manase Foketi 6-5 333# West Texas State.
The Dline is a different animal. IMO Raji and Pickett should never play DE. The best use of them is at NT and just rotate them. To do that the team needs to get much better at DE. Wilson is a decent run stopper, Neal if healthy and it looks like he might actually be able to stay that way, with some actual playing time can be a good option. Worthy will be slowed in his development with his knee surgery, Daniels is nothing more then a rotational, situational player. They need to draft multiple DE’s and more of the Prototypical type 3-4 DE’s.
One of the prospects I like in this draft is Marcus Hunt 6-8 280# SMU, Played in the 3-4 in college, and is a physical freak. He can pass rush and run stop and is a HUGE threat on special teams in blocking kicks. Hunt is the type of 3-4 DE the Packers need. He is worthy of that #26 pick and fills a need along with moving up to the level of ranking.
I will do another piece on Linebackers shortly, but just for fun here is a mock draft I did the other day taking the needs of the Lines into consideration.
Ok lets start this with TT making moves, He trades down with the Bengals giving up his #26 pick for the Bengals # 37 and #55 picks.
With the #37 pick TT selects Marcus Hunt DE SMU 6-7 280#. The prototypical DE they do not have now. A physical freak that can pass rush, stop the run and block kicks on special teams.
#55 Travis Frederick, C Wisconsin 6-4 338#. Considered the second best Center in the draft. Can play Guard and Center. Fills a big need with a big man.
#57 Chase Thomas, OLB Sanford 6-4 245# The depth at OLB has to be improved and some one has to push Perry. All the others are not worth even mentioning on the team now.
#90 Tony Jefferson, FS Oklahoma 5-11 212# Can play either safety spot and play in the box or deep. Face it Burnett is still learning, MD is not the answer, McMillian has the tools but need to progress and off season will be big for him. This pick adds the depth and competition.
#121 Kiko Alonso ILB Oregon. 6-4 246# A very good fit the the Packers 3-4 ILB. I don’t have to say anything about needing to improve the ILB’s and Bishop and Smith are not the answer.
#154 Kwame Geathers, DT Georgia 6-5 355# Can play both 3-4 DE and NT. Someone has to spell Raji at NT and Neither Raji or Pickett should ever play DE again.
#185 Rex Burkhead, RB Nebraska 5-11 210# Just hard nosed football player.
#218 Manase Foketi, OT 6-5 330#. Well worth a higher draft pick. I doubt he will still be here, but that is where he is ranked now. A steal and great depth, I would want to see him at both OT and OG.
What do the teams in the Super Bowl have? Two of the better or best Olines and Dlines in the NFL. This draft goes a long ways towards making that so for the Packers. And improving the Linebackers.
Thanks for this post to draft-season contributor Don Christensen, known as “Yoop” on the TalkinPackers forum.