Author Archives: Adam Czech | About Adam Czech: Adam Czech is a freelance reporter and a Packers fan living in the Twin Cities. Follow Adam on Twitter. Read more of Adam's writing on the Packers here.

20

April

Surviving Sunday: Packers News, Notes and Links for the Football Deprived

Surviving Sundays with no Packers Football

Surviving Sundays with no Packers Football

As we sit here waiting…and waiting…and waiting for the NFL draft to come around, now is as good a time as any to look back on Packers general manager Ted Thompson’s draft classes.

This draft will be Thompson’s 10th. Let’s rank his first nine classes best to worst, even if it’s still too early to judge some of the more recent classes.

  1. 2005. How do you not put the draft where Thompson selected Aaron Rodgers and Nick Collins in your top slot? I scratched my head when Thompson took Rodgers (apparently he couldn’t find a trade partner in time), but, unlike 23 other general managers, Thompson pulled the trigger and rescued Rodgers from the green room at Radio City Music Hall. It might have been a bit of a head-scratcher at the time, but now the Packers have the best quarterback in the league. The Packers would probably still have one of the best safeties in the league if Collins didn’t have his career shortened by a neck injury. Thompson’s first draft was 2005 and was a helluva way to start off as the new general manager. I suppose if you’re a glass-half-empty type of person, you could say Thompson’s drafts have all gone downhill since.
  2. 2009. After taking B.J. Raji ninth overall, Thompson traded back into the first round to nab Clay Matthews. He also picked up T.J. Lang in the fourth and Brad Jones in the seventh. Yeah, Raji fell off a cliff last season, but let’s not forget what he did to help the Packers win a Super Bowl. When Matthews is healthy, he’s one of the most dynamic defensive players in the game. Grabbing a starting guard in Lang and solid backup/fringe starter in Jones later in the draft gave 2009 a slight edge over…
  3. 2008. I probably would have given 2008 the nod over 2009 if not for Brian Brohm, a complete bust of a pick in the second round. But Thompson did end up finding his backup quarterback/oh-crap-what-if-Aaron-Rodgers-flops option later with Matt Flynn in the seventh round. Before finding Flynn, Thompson took Jordy Nelson, Jermichael Finely and Josh Sitton. Yeah, that’s a helluva haul.
15

April

NFL Draft Prospect Profile: CB Justin Gilbert

Justin Gilbert

CB Justin Gilbert

Packers prospect profile:  CB Justin Gilbert

Player Information:

Justin Gilbert,  CB, Oklahoma St.,  6-0, 202 pounds  Hometown: Huntsville, TX

STATS

NFL Combine:

40 time: 4.37

Vertical jump: 35.5 inches

225 lb. bench: 20 reps

Broad jump: 126 inches

News and Notes:

Second team All-American in 2013. … Averaged 26.8 yards per kickoff return, second all-time at Oklahoma St. … Six kickoff returns for touchdowns in college. … Picked off 12 passes during his career. … Fastest 40-yard dash at the NFL Combine among defensive backs. … One of three finalists for the Jim Thorpe Award given to the nation’s top cornerback. … Appeared in 51 games and started his final 39. … A former track star in Texas.

What they’re saying about him: 

  • CBSSports.com:  Gilbert changes directions fluidly and has impressive acceleration to handle deep coverage responsibilities against speedy receivers. Gilbert possesses prototypical height and overall frame for the position with broad shoulders and long arms. He extends well to snatch the ball out of the air and times his leap well. Gilbert is a willing tackler, who closes quickly and effectively…Gilbert can be physical and tough in press coverage, but his technique and footwork are inconsistent. He is too grabby in tight coverage, and his contact downfield will easily attract penalties at the next level.
  • NFL.com:  The most talented cover corner in this year’s draft class, Gilbert has size, speed and flexibility to blanket receivers at the next level. Also brings impact ability as a kick returner. Is capable of stepping into the starting lineup from Day One and playing at a high level if he adheres to a professional approach to the craft. Could stand to improve in run support.
  • Ninersnation.com: The tape says he may have a rough rookie year, but has potential to be pretty good. I’m souring on the idea of taking him in the mid-first round, though someone probably will. If he falls to 30, I’m OK with it, but not jumping up and down. In the 2nd I think you’re starting to talk about a real value with what he brings to the table, though there’s likely a fat chance of that happening.

Video:

 

Video Analysis:.

  • His speed is no joke. Appears to be as fast on the field as he was at the NFL Combine.
13

April

Surviving Sunday: Packers News, Notes and Links for the Football Deprived

Surviving Sundays with no Packers Football

Surviving Sundays with no Packers football.

Last season it was Mike Daniels. The season before it was Randall Cobb. If the Packers are going to contend for a Super Bowl in 2014, at least one player will have to make the leap from potential to breakout star.

Here are the top contenders:

WR Jarrett Boykin
Boykin is probably at the top of most people’s most likely to break out lists. He was successful last season and he has Aaron Rodgers throwing him the ball. Teams will be ready for him in 2014, though. If he’s going to make the leap, he’ll have to do a better job of getting separation.

DL Datone Jones
Unlike Boykin, Jones is probably near the bottom of most people’s lists. Fans soured on Jones late last season and, apparently, so did the coaching staff as fellow rookie Josh Boyd got more snaps down the stretch. I still have high hopes for Jones and I think he can fulfill those hopes. You need to be patient with young defensive linemen. They rarely break out in their rookie seasons. Let’s see what year two brings for Jones.

CB Davon House
We’ve been waiting for House to take the next step for a while now, haven’t we? If he doesn’t take it in 2014, he probably never will. House’s size appears to make him an ideal fit in Green Bay’s defense, but whenever he strings together some good plays, he follows it up with a couple of stinkers and winds up on the bench. With Tramon Williams, Sam Shields, Micah Hyde and Casey Hayward on the roster, House doesn’t have much room for error.

LT David Bakhtiari
We all groaned when Bryan Bulaga went down and the rookie Bakhtiari ended up starting at left tackle. By the end of the season, those groans turned into “Huh. That kid can play.” Yes, it was a good debut for the kid whose last name I hate spelling, but his ceiling is higher than just a feel-good, surprising rookie playing well in a tough spot. The Packers offense can be a whole lot better if Bakhtiari transforms from promising rookie to left-tackle anchor.

TE Brandon Bostick
Based on what little I’ve seen of him, Bostick seems to do everything well except catch the ball. He especially seems to struggle with drops in traffic. If he develops his hands, especially in tight spaces, I like what he can do in the passing game.

6

April

Surviving Sunday: Packers News, Notes and Links for the Football Deprived

Surviving Sundays with no Packers Football

Surviving Sundays with no Packers football.

Take a look at this NFL mock draft at Drafttek.com. There are three tight ends selected before a running back is chosen with the 50th overall pick.

Last year in the actual NFL draft there were two tight ends selected before the first running back was snatched off the board (Giovani Bernard at No. 37).

When I was growing up, running back was the glamour position. When we went out for recess to play football (this was back when you could still play tackle football at recess), everyone pretended to be Barry Sanders or Emmitt Smith, not some tight end. Most teams wouldn’t dream of taking a tight end over a promising running back in the draft.

Times have changed. Running back is a de-valued position in today’s NFL. That’s not breaking news. But has the de-valuing gone too far?

The top two teams in the NFC last season, Seattle and San Francisco, based their offense around bruising running games. The Packers turned to rookie Eddie Lacy to keep their heads above water after Aaron Rodgers broke his collar bone. Even with Tom Brady at quarterback, the Patriots pounded the ball on the ground early in the season, outrushing opponents in three of the first four games and starting 4-0.

Even on pass-happy Denver, with Peyton Manning at quarterback and a stable of exceptional receivers and tight ends, running back Knowshon Moreno finished with almost 1,600 total yards from scrimmage.

For a while, the NFL also appeared to be de-valuing the safety position, but that might be changing.

Only three safeties were picked in the first round from 2008-11. In the last two drafts, four safeties have gone in the first. In the opening days of NFL free agency, the top safeties on the board flew off the shelf for big money.

I think a lot of teams are emphasizing the safety position again because they see the importance of versatility in today’s game. Safeties are often best suited to handle multiple tasks: provide coverage over the top, match up against a tight end, play the slot, stop the run, drill whoever has the ball, occasionally blitz, etc. Take a look at the Seahawks and 49ers again — both were strong at safety.

30

March

Surviving Sunday: Packers News, Notes and Links for the Football Deprived

Surviving Sundays with no Packers Football

Surviving Sundays with no Packers football.

At this point in the NFL offseason, what would you say is your biggest concern about the 2014 Packers?

For me, it’s the safety position. When Morgan Burnett is the best safety on the roster, there are issues. Yes, the draft is right around the corner, but you never know if a) the Packers will be in a position to draft a safety who can start right away or b) if whatever safety they draft will be any good.

But forget about your biggest concern for the time being. What do you see as potential concerns that few people are talking about?

Because those are probably the concerns that will come to fruition in 2014. With all the roster turnover and other unknowns from year-to-year in today’s NFL, it’s impossible to predict in March what an NFL team might be scrambling to try and fix in November.

At this time last year, we were all worried about the Packers not being big enough to stand toe-to-toe with physical teams like the 49ers or Seahawks. Then halfway through the season, we were worried about the Packers being too big to compete with teams like the 49ers and Seahawks.

I remember back before the 2010 season being worried about an undrafted rookie named Sam Shields serving as the Packers nickel cornerback. An undrafted rookie playing a key role on a team with Super Bowl aspirations. That’s insane!

Then Shields goes out and has a good season and picks off two passes in the NFC Championship to send the Packers to the Super Bowl.

I wouldn’t be at all surprised if Burnett is playing well once November comes around, a young safety is holding his own next to Burnett, and the Packers problems at safety are problems no more.

Teams can make grand plans to plug holes in March, and fans can do the same on blogs and social media, but once the season starts, all bets are off. A few key injuries or important players underperforming ruins the most thought-out plans.

My under-the-radar concern for the Packers is offensive tackle.

David Bakhtiari had a good rookie season, but what if he doesn’t take a step forward in 2014? Or what if the injury bug strikes him down in his second year like it did to Casey Hayward in his second season?

23

March

Surviving Sunday: Packers News, Notes and Links for the Football Deprived

Surviving Sundays with no Packers Football

Surviving Sundays with no Packers football.

Mike Tanier is one of my favorite, and one of the most underrated, NFL writers on the web. Earlier this week he had a brilliant idea that I am now going to rip off, expand, and give a Packers’ slant.

Tanier tried to come up with the worst mock draft ever. He did a pretty good job, too. Most of his selections made little sense and would probably cause fanbases to unleash a stream of Twitter rage should their teams actually draft any of the players Tanier suggested.

For the Packers, Tanier selected LSU quarterback Zach Mettenberger. Why? Because the Packers need a backup quarterback and what better place to find one that in the first round of the NFL draft!

Tanier’s worst mock draft ever only lasted one round and covered all 32 NFL teams. I’m going to take a shot at creating the worst mock draft ever for all seven rounds, but only pick for the Packers.

Will I strike gold and recreate the awfulness of the Justin Harrell first-round selection in 2007? Do I have the knowledge and foresight to find someone as terrible as Jerron McMillian in the middle rounds? My goal is to have draft pundits lauding me for finding the next great awful player in the second round like Ted Thompson did with Brian Brohm in 2008.

Here we go:

1st round
Tre Mason, RB, Auburn
Because when you have Eddie Lacy, James Starks, Jonathan Franklin, DuJuan Harris and glaring holes on defense, you should definitely draft another running back in the first round. Perhaps if the Packers stock their roster with running backs, Aaron Rodgers will become expendable and Thompson can trade him to Seattle for the Seahawks entire defense. Oh, and any time you can draft a running back in the first round who “lacks exceptional skills” and is compared to Marion Barber III by NFL.com, you have to do it.

2nd round
David Yankey, G, Stanford
Who cares if Josh Sitton and T.J. Lang are doing fine at both guard positions? The Packers need more guards! And drafting Yankey might entice the Packers to move Lang to center, because whenever the Packers start unnecessarily shuffling offensive linemen around, it always works out well.

21

March

Why Haven’t the Packers Signed S Chris Clemons?

Free agent safety Chris Clemons seems like a logical fit for the Packers.

Free agent safety Chris Clemons seems like a logical fit for the Packers.

The Packers need a safety. Chris Clemons is a decent safety still on the NFL free agent market. So why haven’t the Packers signed Clemons?

Clemons isn’t a star, but he’d be an immediate upgrade over what the Packers already have. He hasn’t missed a start in two seasons and has 187 tackles, three interceptions and 12 passes defended over that stretch.

He won’t light up receivers over the middle like Earl Thomas, but Clemons has range and can cover. That’s what the Packers need.

If you’e into advanced metrics, Pro Football Focus ranked Clemons as the 19th best safety in the NFL in 2013 and the ninth best safety in pass coverage, one spot behind big-money free agent Jarius Byrd.

Morgan Burnett and M.D. Jennings were ranked as the 63rd and 67th best safeties, respectively. In pass coverage, Burnett came in 58th and Jennings 74th.

So what gives? Clemons seems like the type of player Packers general manager Ted Thompson would bring in. He’s still young, he won’t cost too much, and he’s a solid player.

Perhaps Thompson just doesn’t want to pay a safety again after committing so much money to Burnett. Maybe Clemons has injury concerns we don’t know about. There’s always the possibility of Micah Hyde moving to safety. Or maybe Thompson just wants to do what he always does: bring in someone through the draft.

I’ll be interested to see if Clemons to the Packers gains any steam as free agency advances. I’d be surprised if it doesn’t.

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Adam Czech is a freelance reporter and a Packers fan living in the Twin Cities. Follow Adam on Twitter. Read more of Adam's writing on the Packers here.

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