Hat Tip to Lester A. Wiltfong Jr., Esq., G.Ph.D. (Doctor of Gridiron Philosophy) for suggesting the topic after winning last weeks Tuesday Bears Trivia!
While the success of Our Beloved Bears (and any team in the NFL) hinges largely on our success in the NFL Draft, it also depends largely on the success of our division rivals in the same way. Green Bay won the Super Bowl Championship last year largely on the strengths of their successes in the draft both in their starters and in their depth after seeing so many starters exit via injured reserve.
So how strong was the Packers Draft this year? Follow me to the clearing at the end of the jump and we'll take a look together......
The Packers Ted Thompson was one of the focuses of my earlier series on the top NFL draft philosophies, and for good reason. The Pack are built almost entirely on the draft. 19 of the starters of the Packers Super Bowl squad last season were drafted by the Pack or picked up as undrafted free agents. And of the 65 players that spent time on the Packers roster last year, only 9 were drafted by a team other than Green Bay. That, combined with the success of the Packers, is a better compliment to Thompson's job performance than anything else I could write.
Check out their first five draft picks:
In the first round, the Packers grabbed Derek Sherrod. Sherrod (6'5" 321 lbs) is well known on these boards as the offensive tackle many of us were hoping would fall to Chicago (as most of us never dreamed that Carimi would fall all the way down to the Bears at 29). The Packers had to be almost as happy with the tumble of the top offensive linemen as Chicago was. In Sherrod, The Pack have their replacement for Chad Clifton, who has been less and less effective as injury and age have caught up to him. Sherrod has long arms, a good initial burst and quick feet, good agility and fluid movement. He mirrors defenders well and does a great job against speed rushers. He has more problems with bull rushers, and has issues with his balance, as well as too often giving up leverage. Sherrod helped Mississippi State run an average of 219.3 yards per game on the ground, an area that the Packers have been weak in for a few years, now. But Sherrod has some strength concerns and some questioned his ability to transition to the NFL as a finesse Tackle. Sherrod's upside is huge and his weaknesses are fixable in the weight room and with some coaching. And he was still the best offensive tackle prospect left on the board. I'd give this pick an A-.
In the second, the Packers nabbed Kentucky WR Randall Cobb. At 5'10 and 191 lbs, Cobb is not exactly a large receiver, but is still being projected as a possible eventual replacement for the also aging Donald Driver and as a primary special-teamer to start (A guy not expected to start taken in the 2nd round? By on of the best minds in drafting? hmmm...). Cobb has good speed (mid 4.4 40-yard-dash), runs good routes and has great hands. He understands his role well, and has a quarterbacks view of what a wide receiver should do. In fact, he played QB in high school, and started his college career at the position. Kentucky still utilized that skill even this past year, as Cobb threw 3 TDs out of the wildcat formation. He's explosive in space, but falls easy to tackles, and he may not have the strength to be a primary receiver in the NFL. The weight room might be able to correct that problem, though. Overall, I'd give this pickup a B+.
The third round saw the Packers address their running game with Hawaii RB Alex Green. The 6' 225 lb running back was a a beast in the pass first Hawaii scheme, becoming only the thirds Warrior to rush for over a thousand yards and the first since 1982. Green also logged 17 TDs, just two shy of the Hawaii record. Green runs a 4.45 40, has fantastic balance and vision, and good strength. Green was taken as insurance for the third down situational back, as Brandon Jackson is a free agent. With Ryan Grant in the last year of his contract, Green stands to be in position to be part of a two back rotation with James Starks in the future. Green is thickly built, runs with good burst through the hole breaks tackles and wraps up the ball well, but has a tendency to run too upright and his agility is questionable, especially in start and stop situations. This wasn't a bad pick, but I'm not sure that it was a good grab, either. I'd rate this a C.
The fourth round saw the Packers grab up Windy City Gridiron favorite Davon House from New Mexico State. The 6'1" 200 lb corner dropped all the way to the end of the fourth round, and the Packers capitalized. House is an aggressive corner that some projected as a FS in the NFL. He has good speed and mirrors receivers well. He likes to move receivers to the outside and does a good job of keeping inside position. He does have problems with double moves and gets lost in crossing routes. He also has problems with faster receivers running quick slant routes. House won't likely start any time soon in Green Bay, and will be primarily a ST player as he develops, but he could end up being a huge steal. Grade? C+
The Packers kind of confused me with their 5th round selection of DJ Williams. The 6'2" 245 lb TE from Arkansas is kind of an odd choice. Williams is a fin pass catching TE, but the Packers have Jermichael Finley and they use very few 2TE sets. The confusing part is that Williams is a horrendous blocker. Not for lack of effort, mind you, but for lack of size, bulk and technique. He just doesn't have the ability and is easily shed by defenders. He does possess good hands, decent speed and agility and will help with the passing game if given the opportunity. It's possible that the Pack are looking at him as a H-Back type player, but then, you expect an H-Back to be able to block. The pick just doesan't make a lot of sense to me. I give it a D.
All in all, because of the depth the Packers already have, it will be difficult for all but Sherrod to have any kind of immediate impact. That says less about the quality of this draft than it says about the quality of the players already on the team. Still, it seems to me that the Packers could have taken a few players that would have had a more immediate effect on the team in the early rounds than they did. But I expect the Packers to be active in FA at a few positions, and for some of these Picks to be more "future investments", which a team can afford when their roster is as deep as the Packers roster is.
There you have the first 5 picks of the Packers 2011 draft. What are your thoughts on the Packers draft picks thus far, and will it have much impact on the Bears this season? And drop in on Wednesday to view the analysis of the Packers last five picks.