The Green Bay Packers entered the 2010 NFL Draft with few needs, allowing them to select for value instead of need. Here’s a look at their picks.
Round 1, Pick No. 32: Derek Sherrod, OT, Mississippi State: Chad Clifton is one or two years away from retiring and the Packers are thin at the tackle position, so Sherrod was a no-brainer here. The pick allows the Packers to mix and match with last year’s first round pick Bryan Bulaga, who could stay at right tackle if Sherrod pans out as the left tackle of the future. Da’Quan Bowers, Akeem Ayers and Brooks Reed were all tempting options, but Sherrod fills a need and can learn for a year behind Clifton before taking over as Aaron Rodgers’ blindside protector.
Round 2, Pick No. 64: Randall Cobb, WR, Kentucky:
The Packers addressed one of their biggest needs Thursday night by selecting offensive lineman Derek Sherrod with the final pick in the first round of the NFL Draft. They have three picks on Day 2 (second and third round) and there is still plenty of talent that dropped out of the first round.
Much has been made of Ted Thompson’s recent philosophy change by trading up instead of down in the draft, and it could happen again tomorrow. Known for stockpiling late-round draft picks, Thompson has traded up in each of the last two drafts to select outside linebacker Clay Matthews (2009) and safety Morgan Burnett (2010).
With so much talent on the current roster and eight more draft picks in 2011, the Packers may be a candidate to trade up in the second round and grab a defensive end or outside linebacker who slipped through to Friday.
The top two candidates would be outside linebackers Brooks Reed and Akeem Ayers. Projected as first rounders in many mock drafts, both would be an upgrade at right outside linebacker over the likes of Frank Zombo, Erik Walden, Brady Poppinga and Brad Jones.
There were plenty of surprises in the first round of the 2011 NFL Draft, but everything was calm in Green Bay as the Packers selected offensive tackle Derek Sherrod with the final selection in the first round.
Sherrod started all 25 games the last two seasons at left tackle for the Bulldogs and his massive size had the Packers excited as to what he could do on the offensive line. His 35 3/8-inch arms and 11-inch hands were some of the biggest in the draft, and his 6-foot, 5-inch, 321-frame gives him prototypical size at left tackle.
The Packers obviously have not decided on whether or not Sherrod will play left or right tackle at the next level, but the pick gives Green Bay flexibility on the offensive line to mix and match the Sherrod and Bulaga at the tackle position.
Here is a scouting report on Sherrod, via ESPN.com insider and Scouts, Inc:
The NFL Draft is finally upon us, and for three days this weekend football fans can focus on the actual sport instead of labor negotiations that seem to be heading in the right direction. Past mocks can be found here, here, and here. This will be the final mock draft before things get going tonight on ESPN. As always, trades will not be taken into consideration because it is far to difficult to predict, and Ted Thompson never makes that easy.
Round 1, Pick No. 32: Derek Sherrod, OT, Mississippi State
It’s almost a guarantee that tackles Tyron Smith, Nate Solder, Gabe Carimi and Anthony Castonzo will be gone when the Packers pick, but that doesn’t mean Sherrod isn’t worthy of the pick. Selecting an offensive tackle would allow Sherrod to improve behind Chad Clifton for a year and would also keep Bulaga at right tackle if that’s where his best fit is. Sherrod is also capable of making the switch to the right side, which would put Bulaga at left tackle when Clifton hangs them up. Protecting Aaron Rodgers is of utmost importance and the Packers could have their tackles for the decade in Bulaga and Sherrod.
Round 2, Pick No. 64: Leonard Hankerson, WR, Miami
Donald Driver isn’t getting any younger and James Jones could leave via free agency this offseason, so drafting the ultra-talented Hankerson makes sense here. What Hankerson lacks in speed he makes up for with great hands, route-running and separation. At 6-feet, 1-inch he has good size and uses it well in traffic. Selecting Hankerson would allow Jones to walk this offseason, which he is almost assured of doing for starter’s money.
Round 3, Pick No. 96: Christopher Carter, OLB, Fresno State
When Ryan Grant was lost for the season just two quarters into the 2010 season, many wondered if the Packers could survive with Brandon Jackson and fullback-turned-bulldozer John Kuhn.
For 11 weeks that duo worked, but the return (and debut) of little-known seventh round rookie James Starks threw another wrench into the equation. A wrench that would pay dividends down the stretch in the playoffs.
As the Packers enter the 2011 offseason, Grant is expected to be ready for all activity once summer workouts begin and will battle with Starks for the starting gig. Jackson is not under contract but could be back as an excellent third down back.
Rookie free agent Dmitri Nance was a solid fill-in but projects as nothing more than a practice squad body.
All this begs the question as the NFL Draft gets underway tomorrow night: Is running back a need for the Green Bay Packers?
The Packers will surely address both lines and will look into improving their pass rush on the right side, and may even consider a wide receiver early in the draft, but could an early-round running back provide an answer for the future?
Starting from the ground up, Grant is one of the more under-appreciated yet successful running backs in the league. He finished ninth and seventh in rushing yards the last two seasons, and in 2007 rushed for 956 yards in eight starts. Those numbers say a lot considering Green Bay’s pass-happy offense.
His injury should not be of concern, considering he played 15, 16 and 16 games the last three seasons and a whole season off should have his legs fresh for 2011.
Starks made head turns when the playoffs came around, rushing for 315 yards in four playoff games and coaches like him enough to give him a chance to win the starting job outright. While there’s a chance he doesn’t become the clear-cut starter this year, the 25-year-old Starks was given rave reviews by the coaching staff before the public saw him, so there’s good reason to believe he could be the guy.
ESPN.com continued their position power rankings today by ranking the top quarterbacks in the NFL. Previous position rankings had Greg Jennings as the sixth best wideout, Clay Matthews the second best pass rusher and fourth best linebacker, Jermichael Finley the fourth best tight end, Mike McCarthy the fourth best head coach, Charles Woodson the third best cornerback and Tramon Williams the seventh best cornerback.
Today’s rankings had Aaron Rodgers ranked the fourth best quarterback, which is debatable to say the least.
Unsurprisingly, New England’s Tom Brady received six of the eight first place votes (78 “points”) while Colts’ quarterback Peyton Manning picked up the other two first place votes, finishing in second place with 72 points.
Drew Brees finished in third place with 62 points with Rodgers finishing with 59 points in fourth place.
None of the eight voters ranked Rodgers lower than fifth, with NFC North blogger Kevin Siefert ranking him second, in front of Manning and Brees. Rodgers also picked up four fourth place votes and two third place votes.
It’s hard to argue that Rodgers is better than Brady or Manning at this point, as their storied careers make them Hall of Fame-worthy and their respective teams are still yearly contender.
The debate comes up, however, when comparing Rodgers to Brees at this point. No knock on Brees, but at this point I’ll take Rodgers over him 10 times out of ten.
It’s no secret that New Orleans likes to throw the ball, as Brees threw 658 times last season, second only to Manning. That offensive style helped Brees pass for 4,620 yards and 33 touchdown passes in 2010, the latter of which led the league. There’s no denying Brees is a top five quarterback, but two stats set Rodgers apart in this debate.
Here is version 3.0 of my 2011 NFL mock draft for the Green Bay Packers. This mock will be different from the first two in that it will include wildcard picks. Ted Thompson has surprised Packers’ fans on more than one occasion and with so much talent on the current roster, the Packers can be flexible with their picks in 2011.
Version 1.0 can be found here.
Version 2.0 can be found here.
Round 1, Pick No. 32: Torrey Smith, WR, Maryland: The Packers have no glaring needs they must fill immediately, but they might be closest to needing a solid return man. Smith would do the trick. A combination of Tramon Williams, Jordy Nelson, James Starks and Sam Shields shared duties, but Smith would give the Packers a legitimate threat. He set the ACC record for kick return yards and has good size as a wideout. The Packers do not have a true speedster at wideout and with James Jones’ status in the air and Donald Driver aging, the slot could be a position of need in the near future.
Round 2, Pick No. 64: Sam Acho, OLB, Texas: This draft class has its fair share of top tier pass rushers, and while Acho isn’t one of them, he would still be a nice fit at outside linebacker. He’s a bit bulkier than a normal outside linebacker at 257 pounds, but that hasn’t stopped Acho. What he lacks in pass rushing he makes up for against the run, which is something the Packers struggled with in 2010.
Round 3, Pick No. 96:
Picking 32nd in the NFL draft is usually a good sign for your franchise, winning the Super Bowl and all, but it won’t do much help in the draft itself. Ted Thompson and the rest of the personnel in the war room will have their work cut out for them in the first round (assuming they keep the pick) and will see 31 players come off the board.
The Packers will have three options Thursday night to decide what to do with their first round selection. Here are the upsides and downsides to each option.
Keeping the pick: Staying in the first round has its obvious advantages: the top players in the class are available. This year’s crop of players set up nicely for the Packers to fill a potential need at offensive tackle, defensive end or outside linebacker, so there’s clearly upside. Last year’s 32nd pick, New Orleans Saints cornerback Patrick Robinson, was signed to a five-year deal worth $12.25 million, so money isn’t an issue, especially if the Packers think they have a steal. Options include, but are clearly not limited to, DE Cameron Heyward, OLB Brooks Reed, OLB Justin Houston, LT Derek Sherrod, and OG Danny Watkins.
Trade the pick, move up:
NFL schedules for the 2011 season were announced today, and the Super Bowl-champion Packers were awarded with four primetime games, including games on Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Day. Here’s a look at how the Packers’ 2011 schedule breaks down.
Week 1: Packers vs. Saints — The Super Bowl champions usually open up the NFL season each year, and this year is no different. This should be a game full of offense and scoring, with plenty of adrenaline going for both teams. The Saints underachieved last season, falling to the Seattle Seahawks in the wildcard round while trying to repeat as Super Bowl champs. Expect a tough game, but it’s hard to see the Packers losing on Opening Night at home. Prediction: Win
Week 2: Packers at Panthers — The Packers will open the road portion of their schedule in Carolina, where there is a good chance they will face quarterback Cam Newton, who is expected to be taken first overall by the Panthers. Just 2-14 last season, the Panthers have a lot of rebuilding to do and probably will not get it done between now and Week 2. Prediction: Win
Week 3: Packers at Bears — In a rematch of last year’s NFC Championship Game, the Bears will surely be seeking revenge after the Packers celebrated their trip to the Super Bowl on their own turf. After the Bears’ rise to success the NFL’s oldest rivalry is back in full swing, and this should be a game that is decided late in the fourth quarter. It’s nice that the Packers travel to Soldier Field early in the season, when weather will not have an effect on the game. Prediction: Loss
Week 4: Packers vs. Broncos: — Aaron Rodgers and the Packers should have a field day in their second home game of the season, facing a Broncos defense that ranked dead last in all of football a year ago. Kyle Orton should still be the starter this early in the season, but this author admittedly is hoping to see Tim Tebow under center. Either way, the Packers should cruise. Prediction: Win
Week 5: Packers at Falcons — After a heartbreaking overtime loss in the regular season, the Packers extracted their revenge with a 48-21 thrashing of the Falcons in the NFC divisional round. It’s always tough to beat Matt Ryan in the Georgia Dome, but the Packers had a few miscues in their regular season loss that may have changed the outcome of the game. Prediction: Loss
Week 6: Packers vs. Rams — The Packers will face another young quarterback, Sam Bradford, in Week 6, and they should move to 3-0 at home. The Rams missed the playoffs last season after falling to the Seahawks in the final game of the regular season. They are targeting a wide receiver early in the draft that could give Bradford some power on offense. Prediction: Win
Week 7: Packers at Vikings — The Packers’ second primetime game of the year, their only Monday night game of the year, will pin them against the Brett Favre-less Vikings (for now). Minnesota is still searching for answers at quarterback and have interest in Donovan McNabb, but the Packers should shut down the Minnesota defense, regardless of who is at quarterback. That being said, never underestimate rivalry games on national television. Prediction: Win
Week 8: Bye week — Fantasy owners, take note.
Week 9: Packers at Chargers — This could be the Packers’ toughest game on the schedule, so it’s great that it’s coming off a bye week. The Packers have had success in San Diego, most recently a 31-24 comeback win in 2007. The matchup between Rodgers and Phillip Rivers should be a fun one to watch. The Packers will have to bring their best stuff if they want a chance to win this one. Prediction: Win
Week 10: Packers vs. Vikings — The Packers had to hang on to beat the Vikings at home last year, 28-24, and this one should come down to the wire as well. With no Brett Favre leading the way, the Packers’ defense will need to bring the heat while Rodgers attempts to keep up his recent success against their rivals to the North. Prediction: Win
Week 11: Packers vs. Buccaneers — The biggest surprise in the NFL last year, the Buccaneers are back on the national stage. A young core is headed by quarterback Josh Freeman and suddenly this game looks a lot more difficult than it did last season. No one can forget the Packers’ brutal loss in Tampa Bay two years ago to the then-winless Bucs, so hopefully 2011 is kinder. Prediction: Loss
Week 12: Packers at Lions — The Packers will play on Thanksgiving Day this season against an up-and-coming Lions’ team looking for an upset. Detroit always plays well on Turkey Day and this year should be no different. Rodgers was knocked out of last year’s 7-3 loss and will be looking for a little revenge. Prediction: Win
Week 13: Packers at Giants — Green Bay ruined the Giants’ playoff chances a year ago with a huge 45-10 win in Lambeau Field a year ago, so expect New York ready to go this time around. The weather should be chilly but the Packers have to hope they have the same luck in the New Meadowlands Stadium they did a year ago, when they shut out the Jets 9-0. Prediction: Win
Week 14: Packers vs. Raiders — Oakland will leave sunny California for what is sure to be a snowy Lambeau Field in this one, but no weather conditions should change the outcome of this one. Rodgers and the Packers have been excellent at home in December (6-1) and 2011 should be no different. Prediction: Win
Week 15: Packers at Chiefs — Arrowhead Stadium is one of the toughest places in the NFL to get a win, but the Packers will give it a shot when they head to Kansas City in Week 15. The Chiefs underperformed last season but have a young defense and are only going to get better under Todd Haley. Expect this one to be a defensive dogfight. Prediction: Win
Week 16: Packers vs. Bears — Merry Christmas! The Bears will travel to Lambeau Field on Christmas night for what is sure to be one of the most highly anticipated games of the year. Both teams should be in contention late in the season, and there’s a chance this game could decide the NFC North. The Bears will also be looking for a win after last year’s loss in Lambeau allowed the Packers into the playoffs and, well, we all know the rest. Prediction: Win
Week 17: Packers vs. Lions — The Packers finish the season with three of their last four games at home, and if history is any indicator they should be fine. The Packers closed the year with the Lions in 2007 and 2008, and won both handily. Then again, let’s hope the Packers have nothing to play for at this point and are resting starters for another long playoff run. Prediction: Win
Predicted record: 13-3
The Packers toughest stretch of the year happens early. Three of the first five opponents are vs. New Orleans, at Chicago, and at Atlanta, so the Packers will need to come out of the gates hot.
The easiest stretch of the season comes at the end of the season. The last quarter of the season includes vs. Oakland, at Kansas City, and vs. Detroit. If the Packers can give themselves room before this stretch they should be golden to finish the year.
For dates and times of each game, click here.
For comments from Mike McCarthy, click here.
Ted Thompson has surprised Packers’ fans with his first pick on draft day on many occasion, whether it was Aaron Rodgers in 2005, Justin Harrell in 2006, or even Jordy Nelson in 2008. But if there’s one thing that brilliant sterling silver Vince Lombardi Trophy has taught us, it’s to never doubt the White Wizard.
That being said, one can only assume the Packers’ first pick will either be an offensive lineman, a defensive end, or an outside linebacker.
Here’s a wish list Packers’ fans should hope for on draft day with the 32nd pick in the first round. These are all realistic projections (aka, outside linebacker Von Miller is probably at the top of the Packers’ draft board, but there’s a zero percent chance he is there when the Packers pick. The same goes for Tyron Smith, etc.) This also assumes the Packers keep their first round pick, which we know Thompson very well might not do.
1. Nate Solder, OT, Colorado: There are a few tackles on the board who could fall in the draft, just like Bryan Bulaga did last season, but Solder would top the list. I project Wisconsin’s Gabe Carimi to be gone at this point, but Solder, Boston College’s Anthony Castonzo, and guard Danny Watkins could be around. Solder is a prototypical bookend left tackle and would allow Bulaga to stay at right tackle. The two also could be interchangeable and would give the Packers their tackles for the future, which is just as important as any position in keeping Aaron Rodgers standing. Add Castonzo to this top part, as a left tackle would do wonders at No. 32.
2. Mike Pouncey, C, Florida: His brother Maurkice putting together a Pro Bowl rookie season means he shouldn’t fall to No. 32, but if he does the Packers would have a star in the making. He’s versatile enough to play either guard position, and probably would move to left guard to replace Daryn Colledge. He has all the tools inside and should be just as good as his older brother.
3. Cameron Jordan, DE, California:
Round 1, Pick No. 32: Justin Houston, OLB, Georgia: The Packers’ top two needs, by this author’s estimation, are the offensive and defensive line, but Houston’s value is too good to pass up at the end of the first round. One of the most intriguing aspects of Houston’s play is that he has experience playing both defensive end and outside linebacker. For a 3-4 outside rusher, that should give him a head start as he makes his case for a starting gig in August. He’s one of the best pass rushers in the draft and, if he continues to fall down the board, would make a great addition opposite Clay Matthews.
Round 2, Pick No. 64: Jerrell Jernigan, WR/KR, Troy: Who? Ted Thompson tends to go with the biggest need in Round 2 after selecting the best player available in Round 1, and as crazy as it sounds the Packers’ biggest need could be kick returner. Jernigan ran a 4.46 40-yard dash and would, at the very worst, be the answer to the kick return needs. If James Jones leaves to get starter’s money, Jernigan would fit in perfectly as a speedy slot receiver behind Greg Jennings, Donald Driver, and Jordy Nelson. This is a huge wildcard pick given his questionable size (5-feet, 9-inches; 185 pounds) but then again, so is every pick in the NFL Draft. This could be a steal. In a nutshell, he is explosive.
Round 3, Pick No. 96: Chris Hairston, LT, Clemson: The Packers have plenty of depth on the offensive line, but outside of Chad Clifton, Bryan Bulaga, and potentially T.J. Lang, they’re thin on the outside. Hairston would be a project at left tackle, with the capability to move to right tackle, but it would give the Packers more options to work with around Bulaga. Hairston played well in the East-West Shrine Game but will need to work on his conditioning and footwork before he sees the field. That being said, his size and potential would make him a nice third round pick.
Round 4, Pick No. 129: Cortez Allen, CB, Citadel:
No one knows if there will be an NFL next season, but that didn’t stop the league from announcing the preseason schedule for the (potential) upcoming season.
For the third straight season the Packers will open the season against the Cleveland Browns, this time in Cleveland. In 2009 the Packers won 17-0 in Lambeau Field while last season the Browns came out victorious, 27-24 in the opener. The date and time for the game have not yet been decided, but it will take place sometime between Aug. 11 and 15.
Lambeau Field will officially open for the Super Bowl Champions when the Packers host the Arizona Cardinals. Date and time have not been decided, but will be played between Aug. 18 and 22.
Outside linebacker Clay Matthews followed up his stellar rookie campaign with an even better sophomore season, racking up 13.5 sacks and 60 tackles and finishing second in the AP Defensive Player of the Year voting. Making his production even more impressive was that, opposite Matthews, four players saw significant time due to injuries.
Frank Zombo, Brad Jones, Erik Walden and Brady Poppinga all saw time at right outside linebacker, with Jones and Poppinga being lost to season-ending injuries. There’s no question the Packers have plenty of depth at outside linebacker and, as is the case at a couple positions, there will be some tough decisions when Ted Thompson has to cut the roster to 53 players.
Zombo, an undrafted rookie free agent in 2010, is probably the best of the bunch with the brightest future, while Walden performed admirably after being signed in late October. Jones, a seventh round choice two seasons ago, has potential as well but projects as a back-up. Poppinga may make the roster as depth and a good special teams body, but that remains to be seen.
After selecting offensive tackle Bryan Bulaga in the first round, Ted Thompson went away from “expert rankings” by selecting Purdue defensive end Mike Neal in the second round. Known more as a workout freak rather than an on-the-field talent, skeptics had a field day with Thompson’s selection of Neal.
Despite missing a good chunk of the season with a torn rotator cuff, Neal provided depth when the Packers lost Johnny Jolly in the offseason and Justin Harrell in Week 1. In 2011, the Packers will again need to look on the defensive line early in the draft.
Two main reasons justify this need. First, Cullen Jenkins was not given the franchise tag, which would have awarded him around $12 million, and is likely to find a much larger payday elsewhere than the Packers are willing to give him. The Packers’ best lineman from a year ago had a career-high seven sacks, despite playing much of the season with a wrapped broken hand.
Second, Johnny Jolly is again in serious legal trouble after again being arrested on drug charges. His days in a Packers uniform are over, and there’s a good chance he doesn’t play in the NFL again.
The Green Bay Packers were ecstatic that Iowa left tackle Bryan Bulaga fell to them at pick No. 23 a year ago, and while it wasn’t the sexy pick fans hope for in the first round (Sergio Kindle was a popular want), it gave them stability on the offensive line that proved valuable in their playoff run.
One year later, the offensive line is better but could still use an upgrade and is the biggest need for the Super Bowl champions. Lucky for them, there are plenty of linemen toward the back end of the first round worth looking at.
Center Scott Wells, right guard Josh Sitton, and Bulaga are the three spots on the offensive line the Packers feel comfortable moving forward with in the future, with left tackle Chad Clifton nearing the end of his career and left guard Daryn Colledge serviceable, at best.
T.J. Lang has been on the cusp of starter-worthy the past two seasons and still provides versatile depth, while rookies Marshall Newhouse and Nick McDonald project as back-ups at this point. The same goes for Evan Dietrich-Smith, while Jason Spitz has battled injury last season.
The main question for the Packers is whether or not Bulaga can ultimately move to left tackle when Clifton hangs his cleats up. Draft experts had concerns about his (relatively) short arms, but his smooth feet and size should give him the capability to be Aaron Rodgers’ blindside protection in the future.
That being said, the Packers could go with a tackle with the 32nd pick and not have to move Bulaga from his right tackle position, where he played last season.