Musings on the Packers and the 2011 NFL Draft from Pigskin Paul
Complain all you want PACKERS faithful, but I think a 4th Round Compensatory Pick @ No. 131 is fair compensation for the loss of AARON KAMPMAN. Had he stayed healthy and put up double-digit sack numbers in Jax then they might have gotten a 3rd Rounder. But this slot is right in the TED THOMPSON wheelhouse and I would expect the odds to be high that he will be able to find a very useful player for the 2011 roster with said Pick.
For a team that has had issues for over a decade with their Return Game the recent rules change that moves the kick-off spot back up 5 yards allows the PACK to put a little less emphasis on filling that need (especially on KR) in the DRAFT. And at least until cold weather hits Green Bay in mid-November it should allow MASON CROSBY to significantly improve his touchback numbers. So perhaps the defending Super Bowl Champs now have one less urgent need to fill with a Rookie prospect.
Speaking of DRAFT needs… I tend to disagree with the hordes of PAKCER BACKERS who feel a top priority for the team is Drafting a pass-rushing OLB to compliment CLAY MATTHEWS. I am totally comfortable with a healthy competition between 3 relatively young players already on the roster for that starting slot opposite CLAY. That would be the healthy trio of FRANK ZOMBO (23), BRAD JONES (24) & ERIK WLADEN (26). Some combination of those 3 could serve the team quite well.
I think it should also be noted that in DOM CAPERS 3-4 scheme there will always be widespread use of Zone Blitzes to compliment MATTHEWS main talent. Check some film and see how many times CHARLES WOODSON was used in blitz packages last season. A his age that trend should continue.
While we are on the WOODSON role in the PACKERS D scheme of things, I’d like to throw out the possibility that another young CB could be relatively high in the PACKERS Draft plans. It seems clear to me that WILLIAMS, SHIELDS & LEE are all currently considered to be solid Corners for CAPERS’ scheme. UNDERWOOD has physical skills, but may be too immature and too much of a knucklehead to be counted on long term.
By Drafting a CB in the Top 3 Rounds the team might more-or-less move WOODSON to a S-type slot and part ways with ATARI BIGBY, who has been conspicuous by his absence all too often since getting his nice contract 2 seasons ago. CHARLES is still a valuable player both on the field and in the locker room, but he is getting to the stage of his career where CB coverage will be more and more of a challenge for him, His leadership, tackling and blitzing skills could be a better overall fit for a couple more seasons in the deep secondary, leaving the primary coverage chores to the younger CBs.
It would seem to me that a more likely early DRAFT strategy for the PACKERS might be to target another DL to augment their young but thin DL group. If CULLEN JENKINS is deemed too expensive to keep, JOHNNY JOLLY too unreliable to count on (bet the farm on that one folks) and HOWARD GREEN too old to have much permanent roster value then it’s reasonable to assume that somewhere in their TOP 100 selection slots the PACK might have a guy in mind from a position group that is arguably the most talented and deepest prospect pool. RAJI, NEAL, WILSON, PICKETT, WYNN and “HOT TUB” HARRELL could use another young, talented body or two to ensure a solid position rotation group for the 5-plus month potential NFL season.
Want a couple of guys to keep your eye on in the first 3-4 Rounds? In this order, I think the PACK should have interest in MUHAMMAD WILKERSON/TEMPLE, JARVIS JENKINS/CLEMSON & CEDRIC THORNTON/S. ARKANSAS in that order. Each of these guys has the potential to play multiple roles in CAPERS 3-4 Scheme, especially when they team goes to its Eagle-formation with only 2 true down linemen on the field. Talent and versatility are two cornerstones of the current PACKERS Drafting philosophy, and these 3 guys seem to fit that model nicely. And also don’t forget that the team under THOMPSON has had a propensity to select guys whom they have seen up close and personal in Mobile each Senior Bowl Week. JENKINS & THORNTON both performed well in Mobile back in January.
The PACKERS are in the same boat as the other 31 NFL teams, but the lack of a CBA means no teams will be able to hold the rights to any Rookies except those they Draft in April. The PACK, under the THOMPSON Regime, has made great use of the Rookie Free Agent avenue to fill their roster in recent years. Last year ZOMBO & SHIELDS were RFA. Those kind of guys will have to head to Canada or the UFL until the NFL labor issues are resolved. That might be a better fate than the Draftees whose rights are locked into NFL teams, but who will have no source of income since they cannot be signed under the current labor impasse. But it could have an adverse impact on a very productive source of extra talent for the PACK.
As the DRAFT unfolds you should be looking for a new dynamic when the proceedings get into the last two Rounds. Teams, who in the past, were sure they could sign certain guys they liked as Free Agents may now be forced into Drafting some of those players or risk not being able to get their rights later on. In most cases we won’t have much of a clue as to who the late Draftees are who might have gone undrafted in previous years, but it should be a prominent phenomenon in certain NFL Draft Rooms.
Despite all the rumors I have heard over the past two months I would be very skeptical if the team were actively seeking to trade MATT FLYNN. I’ll give you three basic reasons why I don’t think such a transaction will not happen.
First off, this should be a Super Bowl contending team again. FLYNN gave an indication of what he can do should A-RODGE go down again in 2011. A contending team cannot, in my opinion, head into the upcoming campaign with only GRAHAM HARRELL and a Rookie backing up a concussion prone RODGERS.
Secondly, despite FLYNN’s progress and potential he hasn’t shown enough yet to command a price that the PACKERS can’t refuse. At best, I think you might be looking at some desperate team offering up a Round 4 Pick, and maybe a conditional future Pick for FLYNN. I doubt that would entice THOMPSON to part with his young back-up.
Finally, and most importantly, barring a new CBA before April 28th there can be no trading of DRAFT Picks for current NFL players. Trades can only be consummated that involve DRAFT Picks for other DRAFT Picks.
Right now assume that FLYNN will remain on the PACKERS roster come May 1st.
My final thought for you at this point in time, is that I could envision WHITEY being in the mood to entertain a trade for his end of the First Round Pick. If Pick 32 comes around and TED, DORSE & REGGIE have multiple players on their Value Board who they like still available, there might be a temptation to move down a half dozen slots, or so, to pick up someone’s Round 2 Pick and an additional 3rd or 4th Rounder, much like back in 2008 when the team ended up with NELSON, BROHM & LEE in Round 2.
I see trading back as more likely than moving up for the PACKERS this year. But if a stud on the PACKERS Draft Board starts slipping into the teens, you know THOMPSON will consider going up to get his man, ala CLAY MATTHEWS two years ago.
Do not assume that the PACKERS are married to Drafting at the 32nd sot. During the THOMPSON regime moving around has been almost a yearly occurrence in one direction or the other.
Guest Author Pigskin Paul has been a Packers fan & student of the NFL draft for many years. Be sure to visit Pigskin Paul’s Website for more articles on the Packers and the NFL Draft.