2011 Draft Prep: Green Bay Packers Needs by Position – Quarterback
As we get closer to the 2011 NFL Draft, part of the analysis and speculation process is understanding the needs of the Green Bay Packers team. And even though Ted Thompson largely adheres to the “best player available” (BPA) strategy, the strengths and weaknesses at each position cannot be ignored.
Understanding the team’s needs is especially important in the later rounds and when signing undrafted free agents, since the hierarchy of talent is less defined. Additionally, the option of trading up or down the board is largely dependent on the types of players available at that moment.
Last year in the 2010 NFL Draft, for example, the Green Bay Packers traded their picks at 86 and 122 to the Eagles for the 71st pick. The subsequently used this to draft safety Morgan Burnett from Georgia Tech.
In short, Ted Thompson knew the Packers needed some depth at safety with Atari Bigby quickly fading from his career and no long-term replacements on the roster. The way the board was moving, they felt they couldn’t wait fifteen picks to grab Burnett, so they traded up.
This just goes to show how knowing your roster is as important as knowing the draft prospects.
In this article series, I will take a look at each position (or position group) on the current Green Bay Packers roster to see how each one currently stands. Strengths, weaknesses, depth, and uncertainties will all be examined to determine the urgency of need in regards to next season.
Without further ado, I present you with perhaps the easiest position to assess as of now: the quarterbacks.
#12 Aaron Rodgers
27 yrs. old / 6 yrs. exp.
Signed through 2014
#10 Matt Flynn
25 yrs. old / 3 yrs. exp.
Signed through 2011
#6 Graham Harrell
25 yrs. old / 1 yr. exp.
Signed through 2012
* Contract information acquired from RotoWorld.com
POSITION STRENGTHS: Aaron Rodgers.
I could almost leave it at that, but I won’t. It’s clear that Rodgers is the best thing to happen to the Green Bay Packers since, well, that other guy led them to two Super Bowls.
But beyond that, the greatest strength of the position is not necessarily in the players, but in Mike McCarthy.
His ability to teach, mold, and train young quarterbacks is a gift to the offense. Matt Flynn has shown he is a competent backup in times of emergency, and Graham Harrell, though untested in the NFL, has shown signs of having what it takes to do the job.
Through McCarthy’s tutelage, the quarterback position not only has quality, but also the depth to go with it.
Perhaps the biggest weakness of the quarterback position in the eyes of the draft is Matt Flynn’s arm strength. Despite Flynn’s ability to manage a game through four quarters, he is not really the best person to take over an offense otherwise led by Aaron Rodgers.
Mike McCarthy centers his offense around Rodgers, and one thing that Rodgers has is a big arm. Consequently, McCarthy likes to spread his offense down the field and take those calculated shots at big plays.
That said, Matt Flynn doesn’t really have the arm to fill Rodgers’ shoes, so to speak. We saw in the New England game that McCarthy had to change his approach to more of a “dink and dunk” game, which worked quite well. But it’s not the type of game plan they would prefer, and it’s not one they prepare largely for.
To really bolster this position, the Packers would probably prefer to have a backup quarterback whose strengths line up more with those of Aaron Rodgers.
What is going to happen to Matt Flynn after this year? This next season will be the last one on his contract, and you can bet that some teams have their eyes on him. During the game against the New England Patriots, Flynn’s inexperience was apparent, but he also demonstrated that he has the necessary tools to get the job done. He knew the offense, managed the game well, and stayed cool under pressure.
When it comes down to it, though, the Packers front office will need to determine what they want to do with Matt Flynn. He is a competent backup to Aaron Rodgers, but probably not for a long stretch of games. Of course, keeping him around will require an increase in salary on a new contract or extension, which might be a little too rich for Thompson given the position.
In all reality, Flynn’s situation could come down to the performance of one Graham Harrell.
Which brings us to the other uncertainty: how will we see Harrell improve, if at all?
Fans have not really seen what Graham Harrell is capable of at this point. And even though he worked on the practice squad for most of the season before being activated, the coaches won’t really see where he’ll be for next season until after training camp.
Truth be told, the labor unrest could be bad for Harrell if he doesn’t get the opportunity to learn in mini-camps and OTAs.
But getting down to brass tacks, if Harrell proves to be a reliable backup quarterback, then you can probably expect Flynn to be gone after this season. In such a case, the Packers may look to draft/sign another young quarterback in 2012 and continue the Master-Journeyman-Apprentice chain of quarterbacks.
URGENCY OF NEEDS: Low
Unless Thompson already has a trade planned for Matt Flynn (which is doubtful), there’s no reason the Packers will need to take a quarterback in this draft. They don’t seem to want to pay for a veteran backup, and really they have no reason to do so. McCarthy has done well in grooming his star in Aaron Rodgers, as well as backups Flynn and Harrell.
This position has the necessary talent and depth to keep Green Bay’s offense running without concern for at least one more season, and there are plenty of other positions that will have a higher draft priority next month.
Besides, for a team that only kept two quarterbacks on the 53-man roster, it would be out of character watching them try to fit four quarterbacks between the roster and the practice squad.
*** For further reading, check out “According to Hobbes: Packers Offseason Primer on the NFL Combine: Quarterbacks” by Thomas Hobbes. ***——————Follow @ChadToporski