Experience in late f irst round a benef it
Executive assesses needs entering draft
Green Bay — That 21⁄ 2- to 3-hour wait in the first round of the NFL draft has become standard operating procedure for general manager Ted Thompson and the Green Bay Packers.
In chronological order, the Packers’ opening selections were picks 24, five, 16, 36, nine, 23, 32, 28, 26, 21 and 30 in Thompson’s 11 drafts.
Green Bay’s scheduled choice at 30 in 2008, Thompson’s fourth year, became 36 when the Packers traded down with the New York Jets.
When the first round convenes, the Packers are scheduled for the 27th selection.
“Twenty-seventh, huh?” an NFL executive in personnel said last Friday. “Boy, it must be nice picking down there every year. I would say he has tremendous experience picking in the bottom half of the first round.”
Between Aaron Rodgers in 2005 and Damarious Randall last April, Thompson has had his share of hits and misses with his opening move.
As usual, the Packers have more selections than their general allotment. The count this year is nine, including two compensatory choices in Round 4. A year ago, the Packers had their original seven plus a pair of compensatory picks in Round 6.
Eventually, the Packers drafted eight players, deviating from the script only by trading their seventhround choice to New England for the right to move up in the fifth and take quarterback Brett Hundley.
After studying the Packers’ current depth chart, the personnel man viewed the front seven on defense as the foremost need.
“Their biggest needs to get to the Super Bowl would be to address the defensive line with the 27th pick, whether it’s an outside rush guy or a 5-technique,” the executive said. “Pass rush is really key for these guys, but they need to address the offensive line and the defensive line.
“They can get by at the skill positions, although I do think they need to address running back. In my mind, I’m addressing the defensive line, running and offensive line, in that order.”
With the same general manager, coach and quarterback for more than a decade, the Packers are seeking their first championship since the 2010 season.
“If Green Bay is healthy and with Jordy (Nelson) coming back, and they address some of the things they need to address and they hit on them, they’re in line to compete for a Super Bowl,” the scout said. “When you look at the starters there’s no voids.”
The executive agreed to assess the status and degree of need at each of the Packers’ positions:
Wide receiver: “Let’s see. Jordy comes back. The one thing about last year with Jordy going down is they were able to get some guys playing that otherwise wouldn’t have been able to play. They’ve addressed it with Davante Adams and Ty Montgomery, he’s supposed to be moving up. If Jordy’s 100%, I think they’re good.”
Tight end: “When you pick a tight end in the third round, that’s a starter. Richard Rodgers isn’t really the vertical threat that they’ve had in the past. They signed Jared Cook so they got ahead of the position. The draft is very thin at tight end. They probably knew that and signed Cook because they don’t feel they’re going to be able to address that need in the draft. They still could if it falls right. Best man available. But at least they’ve got it covered if the draft doesn’t fall their way. The Packers paid him a lot of money (one year, $2.75 million) to fill a need.”
Tackle: “Originally I was thinking maybe Taylor Decker would be there at (No. 27). I see him moving up now. People are realizing there’s no tackles after the (top) ones. There’s developmental guys but not guys you think can come in and start. Very thin on the OL. I don’t see any offensive lineman worthy of that high of a pick (No. 27).”
Guard: “Getting a little old in the tooth with (Josh) Sitton and (T.J.) Lang. They’re picking an offensive lineman right in that third-fourth range. It’s just a matter of who they come up with.”
Center: “They’ve gotten away with just average centers in their scheme. It’s not a pressing need when you just took a guy (Corey Linsley) in the fifth round. I think they’re OK. (JC) Tretter walks next year and they try to extend Linsley.”
Quarterback: “I loved that kid (Scott Tolzien). They picked a guy (Hundley) last year. If they like him, they could cut to two. They might be thinking about saving a position there.”
Running back: “They’re getting a little old there with (James) Starks. (Eddie) Lacy’s contract will be up. In the draft it’s a very weak position. They could address it in the second, third or fourth round to get some depth. I just don’t think the value is there. Maybe they do. I think they’re worried at running back. I just don’t know if this is the year they can get it done at the right price.”
Fullback: “Fullbacks are like fine wine. They drafted a guy last year (Aaron Ripkowski). I guarantee he’ll be better this year. That position is being developed in the pros, not college. Once you go that route, this guy should be the next (John) Kuhn. Kuhn is emergency. People get through the draft and then if they realize they haven’t addressed their needs there’s another wave (of free agency).”
Defensive end: “They’re looking at (Josh) Boyd and (Datone) Jones. Isn’t he a first-round pick? They can’t get him in the starting lineup? This is the year of the 5-technique. You need a defensive lineman, they’re going to get a pretty damn good player at the 27th pick. They can address 5-tech.”
Nose tackle: “I would say it’s a need. I don’t know how you play the run if you don’t have a good nose tackle. To me, once a guy (B.J. Raji) says he’s done, do you really want that guy on your team? Aren’t you looking to move forward? How can I rely on a guy who has no desire to play? This is a tough game. Look. Obviously, he’s got a lot of personal issues, and he’s got to sort through it. If he says mentally he’s not there, you can’t count on him.”
Outside linebacker: “I think they’re going to try and hold the fort outside with Julius Peppers and (Clay) Matthews and (Nick) Perry. Peppers is a freak, man. Freaks go forever. How long did Charles Woodson go after he left (Green Bay)? Could (Peppers) get a new contract? He doesn’t look like he’s 36.”
Inside linebacker: “They took Jake Ryan last year. It’s not the year for inside backers. They’re going with what they got. I like Ryan. He had a knee so he’s going to be stronger, more physical. I think they’re fine with him inside. I don’t really know Sam Barrington. Is (Carl) Bradford doing anything yet? I loved that kid coming out. This is a very, very thin year for inside linebacker. It needs to be addressed, there’s no question.”
Cornerback: “I think they’re as solid as anybody in the league. (Damarious) Randall is a first-round pick. (Quinten) Rollins should come into his own and push Sam Shields. I’m sure they’ll add another one.”
Safety: “They addressed it the year before with Ha Ha Clinton-Dix. You picked Morgan Burnett. You got Micah Hyde. They’re in position that if they draft a guy it’s only to push the guys ahead of them. They have to feel comfortable with their secondary.”
Kicker: “Same kicker (Mason Crosby) they’ve had for (a long time). No change.”
Punter: “You can always bring in competition. But I was at that combine, boy, it was ugly. Might have been the worst (punting) I’ve ever seen.”
Return specialist: “They’ve got Randall Cobb, (Jared) Abbrederis, Hyde. It’s not a good year in the draft for primary return guys, either.”
Long snapper: “I actually thought (Rick) Lovato was one of the top guys last year. It’s hard to bring competition in but (Brett) Goode has got to get healthy. That’s No. 1. Goode becomes Lovato, an emergency guy.”
The Packers are expected to move on after nose tackle B.J. Raji announced he’s taking a football hiatus.