14

May

Green Bay Packers 2012 NFL Draft: The Reasons Behind the Picks Part II

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2012 NFL Draft

So here is part II of the reasons behind the draft picks (see part I here)  Again, I’m not assigning grades to the draft or to the players because I don’t believe you can tell whether or not a player will pan out within the first 30 something days.  What I am interested in is what the Packers were thinking of when they decided to draft a player; with that in mind, this is what I think the Packers want to accomplish with each draft pick and which player each rookie could be potentially be replacing.

Jeron McMillian – Projected Strong Safety – Round 4, Pick #38 (#133 overall) – Replaces Pat Lee

Rationale: First off let’s be honest here, I don’t think we have the next Nick Collins in McMillian; I was actually very surprised that McMillian was drafted at all by the Packers simply because he doesn’t fit into the mold of what the Packers look for in safeties.  The Packers are probably more interested in playing two free safeties (which there really wasn’t one this year in the draft), consider their preferred pairing of Collins and Morgan Burnett (who ironically never really played together): both have good ball skills and the ability to jump passing routes.  What McMillian does best is run support, which is almost the exact opposite of a ball hawk.   Then again even if McMillian is the next Collins I highly doubt that the Packers can afford to stick him out there in his first year, which is even more reason why I think Woodson will have to make the move to safety.

What McMillian can do, and almost immediately, is play on special teams.  One of the less covered bits of news in the offseason was that cornerback Pat Lee was not resigned by the Packers but was curiously signed by the Oakland Raiders; many assumed this was just because of new Raiders GM Reggie McKenzie’s background knowledge of Lee, but I think its apparent that Lee is always going to be a liability in coverage so more realistically McKenzie wanted his special teams ability.  Lee actually was the gunner opposite of Jarrett Bush and it’s an important position, just look at who was the Packers priority signing this offseason (and it wasn’t Matt Flynn).  My assumption is that the Packers are hoping that McMillian contributes immediately to special teams as a gunner while refining his coverage technique and perhaps becomes a starter on the defense in the future, but anything more than special teams ace in his first couple of years is probably wishful thinking.

Terrell Manning – Projected Inside Linebacker – Round 5, Pick #28 (#163 overall) – Replaces AJ Hawk (sometimes)

Rationale: While Manning played weak side linebacker in college, the Packers have stated that he’ll most likely move to inside linebacker and presumably backup AJ Hawk and Desmond Bishop with D.J. Smith.  What’s a little more interesting is that again Manning really doesn’t fit the mold of what the Packers look for in middle linebackers.  The thing that strikes me as the forte of Bishop and Smith is that they tackle so well, especially in the run game (you could also say that it’s Hawk’s “strong” suit as well as it sure as hell isn’t rushing the quarterback or dropping back in coverage).  Manning on the other hand has shown glimpses as a nascent pass rusher and in what I’ve seen of him he has also dropped back into coverage quite a bit.

People were pretty happy with the backup combination of Smith and Francois last season, so why draft another backup middle linebacker?  It again goes back to the nickel package.  While Desmond Bishop emerged as essentially the #2 option for rushing the passer behind Clay Matthews, Hawk has never shown much acumen for the getting to the quarterback (though I do feel when the Packers run the double A gap rush, Hawk is the one who usually holds up the blockers for Bishop, so really it probably wasn’t his job all that often to rush the quarterback) and Hawk has never been all that great at dropping back in coverage (see 8 interceptions in 6 years) so if Manning really shines during the preseason, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Bishop take over play calling and line up next to Manning in the nickel, who can either rush the passer or drop back into coverage.  Presumably Manning isn’t going to be able to fill this role in his first year, so figure to see him contribute immediately on special teams (as most rookie linebackers do) and slowly work his way into certain packages and maybe in the future take over for Hawk.

Andrew Datko – Projected Right Tackle – Round 7, Pick #34 (#241 overall) – Replaces Marshall Newhouse

Rationale: With Chad Clifton’s release due to failing a physical and Marshall Newhouse presumably getting first crack at taking over as the starter the Packers were in need for a back up right tackle to play behind Bryan Bulaga and drafted Datko, a talented but oft injured tackle that conceivably could play both edges.  I like this pick since Datko’s stock obviously dropped due to his injury history and the Packers were able to get a quality player at a bargain price; much like James Starks, who was another potential high draft pick who missed his senior year due to (ironically) a shoulder injury was scooped up by the Packers and became the starting running back in his second year.  Regardless of whether or not you think Starks is the back of the future, he has definitely lived up to his draft status as a 6th round pick.

If anything I would expect Datko to receive a “medical redshirt” if he indeed makes the 53.  My reasoning is that offensive linemen are essentially useless on special teams (where the majority of rookies make their living for the first couple years), the fact that there’s no indication that he can play any of the interior line positions (though I’m sure we’ll see Campen give him a shot as per tradition), and with so much invested in 1st round pick Derek Sherrod, who will almost definitely be the backup swing tackle if healthy.  If Datko makes it to the 53, I’d be willing to bet that he’ll be one of the first players inactivated every game and in all honesty, it might be for the best.  With more time to properly heal and the benefit of a NFL weight room and training staff, Datko might finally have the luxury to full regenerate from the shoulder injury that has dogged his career.

B.J. Coleman – Projected Quarterback – Round 7, Pick #36 (#243 overall) – Replaces Graham Harrell

Rationale: The Packers have always believed in the principle of “draft and develop” and nothing epitomizes that more than at the quarterback position.  Aaron Rodgers sat behind Brett Favre for 3 seasons before becoming the starter, Matt Flynn sat behind Aaron Rodgers for 3 seasons before becoming a starter (presumably in Seattle) and Graham Harrell has sat 2 seasons behind Rodgers and Flynn and now has a chance to take over as the #2 quarterback.  B.J. Coleman becomes the next quarterback on the ladder, and again is another low-risk, high-reward pick by Thompson since Coleman likely fell due to shoulder injury he sustained during his senior season.

One way or another either Coleman or Harrell will likely be the backup to Rodgers next season, with the other likely spending time as the “3rd quarterback” stashed on the practice squad (and going along with the current trend in the NFL, only two quarterbacks will likely be kept on the active roster).  My assumption is that Harrell will likely win the spot, not only does he have way more experience with the Packers offense than Coleman, but Harrell also impressed during the pre-season last year and I would think that the fact that the Packers did not sign serious competition for Harrell likely means that they are happy with Harrell’s development so far.  On the negative side, if Coleman is kept over Harrell, Harrell likely will not stay on the practice squad; Harrell already has turned down offers from other teams to stay with the Packers (and was rewarded by landing a roster spot near the end of the season), but Harrell is near the end of the 3 season practice squad maximum, so he needs to make an impact now.  Unfortunately, Harrell is also in the last year of his contract, so if Harrell does end up lighting it up like Flynn did in his last year, the Packers may be in the same spot again in 2013.  The Packers do have one advantage over Harrell that they didn’t have with Flynn is that Harrell will be a restricted free agent, so it’s likely that Harrell will be here for at least another 2 years.

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Thomas Hobbes is a staff writer for Jersey Al’s AllGreenBayPackers.com.

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13 Responses to “Green Bay Packers 2012 NFL Draft: The Reasons Behind the Picks Part II”

  1. John says:

    Datko was rd 7 not 6

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  2. Oppy says:

    Good stuff, covered everything.

    The only two things I see differently are that I’m not sure why McMillian wouldn’t be allowed to take a starting position in this defense. Nick Collins was given the reigns as a rookie, as was Morgan Burnett. I think if McMillian quickly picks up the defense, it is possible he could be given the opportunity to start, assuming that his physical attributes are a vast improvement over Peprah and/or MD Jennings. I wouldn’t label it likely that he gets the nod, but I don’t think it’s as far from possible as you might.

    Lastly, I don’t know if Datko was picked to replace anyone- clearly, he has the potential to overcome his shoulder issues and really be a huge steal (projected as a possible 1st rounder before his latest injury sidelined his season)- I think the Packers really needed one more talented OT to keep the musical chairs syndrome at bay. We’ve got Bulaga and Newhouse. Everyone after that is a question mark, medically or otherwise. I think the Packers finally decided that they will do whatever they have to so TJ Lang isn’t used as the OL whipping boy/hole plugger when someone gets knicked up. Lang’s development at LG suffers, plus a lesser talent gets jammed into the void he leaves behind, etc and so forth. I think Datko is going to be looked at as a very valuable backup to keep the entire line healthy and grounded.. But I agree, you can’t rule out the possibility he may, in time, vie for a starting job down the road.

    Really happy with the pieces added this year. Can’t wait for training camp.

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    • Thomas Hobbes Thomas Hobbes says:

      Unless Datko doesn’t make the 53 he by default has to replace someone, and most likely it will be someone in his position; obviously Chad Clifton is no longer on the team, and with Marshall Newhouse taking over, a “backup” tackle position is open.

      As for McMillian, I hope I am wrong, but history does say that most 4th round picks aren’t immediately ready to start, Collins was expected to start as a 2nd round pick (as Hayward and Worthy will be expected to contribute immediately this year). I was surprised that Burnett got the start so quickly.

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  3. Turophile says:

    I think McMillian has a number of likenesses to Nick Collins. Very few safeties have Collins speed, but Jerron ran a 4.35 40 at his pro day which means he has great range. Jerron is a smart guy too and he will put a good hit on you. I’ll admit he is just under 6ft, but he is solidly put together.

    Even more important look at the dreads man. I’d like to see more flying dreads in the backfield (I miss CB Al Harris).

    While he will need work on coverqge skills I think he can be groomed to be an excellent free safety for Green Bay.

    One thing worth mentioning with Datko. He may have had dislocated shoulder problems, but no team is better versed in understanding how to deal with swelling/sore limbs than the Packers after all that time with Clifton. He has a better chance here than most other places and that is despite the Packers overall talent on the O line.

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    • Thomas Hobbes Thomas Hobbes says:

      I do agree that the defensive backfield needs more dreads, does Tramon Williams’ hair count? Also I would assume that McMillian would more likely be the “strong safety” and Burnett would be the “free safety” though really they probably will switch back and forth through out the game

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  4. Jersey Al Jersey Al says:

    McMillian is a Packer because the player they really wanted, Christian Thompson from S. Carolina State, was taken a few picks before by the Ravens. The Packers considered Thompson as a possible Nick Collins clone, and if they hadn’t already moved up twice in the draft, may have tried to do so to land Thompson.

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    • Thomas Hobbes Thomas Hobbes says:

      wow, where do you hear this stuff? I want connections too! :D

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    • Turophile says:

      They wanted C.Thompson, that is interesting. Like Thomas Hobbes said, you do hear some intriguing things.

      Thompson does have what you want physically and he plays with violence, but comes over as being a little lacking upstairs.

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  5. Yoop says:

    I think you are wrong about McMillian. But I suppose I should see the same kind of reaction to him even at a 4th round pick that we saw with Collins as a 2nd round pick. The Collins pick was bashed by many. Small school no body that should have been picked WAY later.
    Physically McMillian is closer to a Collins clone then anyone else in the safety class, in fact a quicker as fast more agile prospect then Collins coming out.

    Yes he played more up at the line of scrimmage, but played deep middle well also.
    With the tackling problems the team had last year his addition does not surprise me.
    But just with his god given physical abilities he can do more on the field then Peprah.
    I totally disagree on him taking time to get on the field at Safety. He has a very high Football I.Q.and a position coach that has done wonders with his players.

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    • Thomas Hobbes Thomas Hobbes says:

      He was drafted in the 4th round for a reason, and while it will always be a disadvantage to play at a small school, the NFL is a big enough business now that really no stone is left unturned. If he truly is ready to be a starter, why wasn’t he picked earlier? Again I hope I’m wrong but I see him contributing later than sooner.

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  6. Yoop says:

    Well he was drafted way earlier then most thought he should be. The round a player was picked does not factor into it for me, specially not making a position change.
    If that was true we would never see a Tauscher, Shields, Grant and a lot more players start there first years.
    In this draft class there was two possible first rounders and BIG drop after that at the safety position. So was being a 4th rounder a bad thing?
    Him being ready right now to be a starter? NO. I don’t care if he was a 1st round pick I’d say that.
    As I said physically he has the tools, his Football I.Q. is quite good and his position coach is one of the best in the NFL.
    He was VERY productive in college and is experienced. 3 year starter.
    The only thing limiting him is the play book and that is not something that should be a problem for him at all.

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    • Thomas Hobbes Thomas Hobbes says:

      For all the Tauscher’s Shield’s and Grant’s in the world, there are plenty more Schauladeraff’s, Underwood’s and Johnson’s. The round in which a player is drafted isn’t really all that important, but how many players is drafted in front of him has to be taken into consideration, or else why bother drafting in the 1st round at all? If you could consistently find players like Arian Foster, James Harrison or Tramon Williams, then you wouldn’t have to draft at all. Could McMillian start as a rookie? It’s possible but probably unlikely. Could Perry start as a rookie? It’s possible but also highly likely. Again this has nothing to do with what type of player Perry or McMillian will become in the future, only their chances of starting and contributing immediately.

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