Share & Connect
Thanks to a talent-rich draft, the annual ‘grading’ of teams’ performances in the NFL Draft has been a fairly generous one this year. If any division has polarized the opinion of the media, it is the NFC North. The Minnesota Vikings have been widely praised for their haul, although perhaps not too surprising, as any team would struggle not to draw praise for three first-round selections, while the Chicago Bears have been lamented for not filling certain needs and arguably reaching with their first-round selection of Kyle Long. That leaves the Detroit Lions and Green Bay Packers. Both teams have been praised for ‘solid’ drafts, but the latter’s general manager, Ted Thompson, may have struck gold with his current crop of rookies.
The Packers took UCLA’s Datone Jones with the 26th pick of the draft, and you’d struggle to find a person who does not like this pick. He has the ability to come in and start for the Packers immediately, and offers more dynamism on the edge than the likes of C.J. Wilson and Jerel Worthy. The pressure he will be able to generate on quarterbacks will help create space for Clay Matthews, who was often double teamed last season, and form a formidable one-two punch for the Packers’ defense. He has a lot to learn still, including improving his balance and agility, but he will make an impact on the Green Bay defense from day one. Check out the NFL Future betting odds at Topbet.eu for a great 2013 NFL season.
Thompson also addressed the Packers’ desperate need for a running back, selecting Alabama’s Eddie Lacy in the second round before also taking Jones’ teammate at UCLA, Johnathan Franklin, in the fourth round. Lacy was arguably the best running back in draft, especially for teams looking for a workhorse back who can be on the field for all three-downs. However, injury concerns caused his stock to drop considerably. Instead of passing up on the immense talent Lacy offers, Thompson drafted some security in the form of Franklin. The duo should help take some heat off Aaron Rodgers, although both will need to work on their pass protection skills.
The offensive line was another area that Thompson and his team needed to strengthen, and they did so in the fourth round, taking David Bakhtiari (Colorado) and J.C. Tretter (Cornell). Green Bay has already decided to move Bryan Bulaga and Josh Sitton to left tackle and left guard respectively, ensuring Rodgers to have the best possible protection. This means that Bakhtiari and Tretter will likely compete with Marshall Newhouse and Derek Sherrod at the right tackle position, although potentially either or both could move inside. Given Newhouse’s and Sherrod’s troubles at the left tackle position over the last two seasons, it will be interesting to see how they transition to right, but Bakhtiari could oust both players by the beginning of the season if he impresses enough in training camp and preseason.
The Packers also added a number of players later in the draft whose contributions will likely be limited to special teams in their rookie year, but defensive lineman Josh Boyd of Mississippi State could be groomed into an NFL-quality nose tackle in a year or two. He could push B.J. Raji for playing time while also helping out in the rotation in the meantime.
Most critics of the Packers’ draft attribute not taking a safety as the reason for their lower grades, stating it was the one need the Packers failed to fill, but is there really a need at the position? Charles Woodson’s departure does leave a void in leadership, but Green Bay has real ability and potential at the position. Morgan Burnett has developed into an efficient and trustworthy presence in the secondary, whilst both M.D. Jennings and Jerron McMillian have shown flashes of their potential, and could excel with added responsibility.
Thompson is revered around the league as one of the savviest GMs out there. If this class of rookies helps take the Packers back to the Super Bowl, and it would be no surprise if they did, then he will have more than earned the respect the rest of the league pays him.
Image credit: Green Bay Packers via Facebook