Category Archives: 2013 NFL Draft

16

April

Packing The Stats: The Importance of Pre-Draft Visits

Packing the StatsSo it’s not exactly a busy week in the world of the NFL (try as they might to might to make it a year long sport), and there isn’t really anything going on until the draft; the Combine and Pro Days are essentially over, free agency has definitely hit that point where teams are now waiting to see what pieces they manage to pick up in the draft before signing anyone new and basically the headlines are now composed of DeSean Jackson missing the Redskins voluntary training camp (i.e. not all that voluntary after all so it would seem) and Aldon Smith trying his best to impersonate a terrorist at an airport.  Needless to say the media dull Packers are even more boring, apparently Aaron Rodgers and Randall Cobb are going to the Kentucky Derby…which is great and all but in all honesty I don’t really care.

There is however something going on that you should care about…if only a little.  That event is the annual tradition of pre-draft visits.  Essentially, every NFL team is allowed to invite 30 players from the college ranks to their facilities for whatever reason; sometimes potentially draftee’s are just going to get a medical update on an recent injury, some go through positional drills or even chalk board stuff (made famous by Jay Gruden’s QB camp series on ESPN) or even just a more in depth interview for the front office/coaching staff to really get to know a player.  Frankly, the Packers rarely make the news with their visits, as opposed to the Cleveland Browns, who essentially ignored the QB workouts and are instead inviting all big QB prospects for pre-draft visits instead (which is brilliant and idiotic all at the same time, got to love the Brown’s MO).

So who exactly do the Packers invite for visits and does this mean anything in regards to the draft as a whole?  Below is a list of every confirmed report of a pre-draft visit I could find going back 3 years (I chose 3 years because that’s all the data I could find, deal with it).  Also listed is each player’s alma mater, their ultimate draft pick and which NFL team initially signed them.  Two players, Jakar Hamiliton and Brandon Hardin (listed in italics) were both undrafted rookie free agents that initially signed with other teams but were released and then signed with the Packers.  I would wager that the Packers do indeed use their full allotment of 30 players, but some of these visits will never be reported (especially if they are unknown players with unknown agents), so keep in mind that this list is almost certainly incomplete.

14

March

Evan Dietrich-Smith Signs With The Buccaneers

Packers C Evan Dietrich-Smith

Packers C Evan Dietrich-Smith

Tom Silverstein has been a busy guy, first reporting on the resigning of defensive end/nose tackle BJ Raji and now reporting that center Evan Dietrich-Smith has signed with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

 

 

With that, the Packers now have a big question to answer this offseason, much like they did when they let Scott Wells sign with the St. Louis Rams.   JC Tretter becomes perhaps the de facto starter, which is a little scary considering he was a left tackle in college and broke his foot during rookie orientation last year, essentially giving him a redshirt rookie season.  Other options might include Don Barclay, who practiced at center during training camp last year with somewhat disastrous results or TJ Lang, who is rumored to be the emergency center (or at least Josh Sitton jokes that he is). Luckily, the Packers have some other options on the offensive line, with both Bryan Bulaga and Derek Sherrod likely being in the mix at tackle, either Don Barclay and/or David Bakhtiari could slide into the interior.

In terms of the draft, the Packers have never thought very highly of centers (Wells was a 6th round draft choice while EDS was a undrafted free agent), so it’s unlikely that they would draft a center high, rather they like to draft tackles who likely wouldn’t make it in the NFL and convert them to interior linemen.

The top free agent center is Alex Mack, who was designated the transition franchise tag for the Browns, likely meaning that the Packers will not try to pry Mack away from the Browns.  Again going back to Thompson’s history drafting and retaining centers, it appears as if the Packers front office views centers as largely fungible, meaning the Packers backup likely will be another low round draft pick or an undrafted free agent.  Another option might be to run the “Jeff Saturday” play, where the Packers sign a veteran center while they hope JC Tretter or Don Barclay gain enough experience at center to play next there next season.

4

March

Ted Thompson Green Bay Packers 2013 Evaluation and Report Card

Packers GM Ted Thompson

Packers GM Ted Thompson

1) Introduction:  I think the biggest mistake that fans make when criticizing front office personnel like general managers is using the same rubric and time frame as they use for for players.  Take Ted Thompson for instance, whose first pick for the Packers was a quarterback deemed too short with a weak arm when the Packers already had the best quarterback in franchise history.  Naturally, we’re having arguments now on whether Aaron Rodgers is better than Brett Favre (personally, I still think its Starr, but Farve and Rodgers should be legitimately in the conversation).

Thompson was also roundly criticized for picking a cornerback to play safety from a college no one had ever heard of or drafting another wide receiver even when the Packers had fantastic depth but Nick Collins, Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb have all been fantastic players who have made Thompson look like a very smart man. Overall, Thompson should not be graded per game or even per season, but over a span of 5 years or more.

2) Profile:

Ted Thompson

  • Age: 61
  • Born: 1/17/1953 in Atlanta, Texas (There’s an Atlanta in Texas?)
  • Height: 6’1″ (man, he was a short linebacker)
  • Weight: 220
  • College: Southern Methodist
  • Rookie Year: 1975
  • NFL Experience: 10 years as a player, 22 years as a scout and front office executive

Career Stats and more

3) Expectations coming into the season:  High.  In the last 5 years the Packers have won the Super Bowl, been in the playoffs every year and managed a 15-1 season.  Added to that the Packers have always had one of the youngest and deepest rosters in football and always have had a very healthy salary cap situation.  Thompson also has reportedly great rapport with head coach Mike McCarthy and his staff and Packer’s “system” of draft and develop has benefited all parties more often than not.  The Packers were expected to win the NFC North again and make it to the playoffs.

31

December

Cory’s Corner: Eddie Lacy deserves Rookie of the Year

Eddie Lacy has been a bull this year as he leads the nation with 441 yards after contact.

Eddie Lacy has been a bull this year as he leads the league with 441 yards after contact.

If there was a tinge of doubt before, there shouldn’t be any now.

And no, I’m talking about Aaron Rodgers or Randall Cobb returning from injury — which by the way, was amazing.

I’m talking about handing Eddie Lacy the offensive rookie of the year. It should be all his, no questions asked.

He shrugged off a concussion, nagging right ankle and foot pain and asthma that flares up in winter. He came into an offense that was predicated by the pass and won over the hearts of Packers fans with his grit, coal-churning engine and his stubborn-as-a-mule mentality.

Lacy is the reason the Packers are in the second season. When Aaron Rodgers went down in Week 9, it was Lacy that remained the consistent performer on an offense struggling to find an identity. With a roller coaster ride of four different starting quarterbacks, Lacy has churned out 10 games with 20-plus carries and five with 23 or more.

And to think none of this could’ve happened. Packers general manager Ted Thompson passed on Lacy, who was projected to go in the first round last spring, with Datone Jones in the first round. After Giovanni Bernard, Le’Veon Bell and Montee Ball were taken, Thompson swooped in and took Lacy as the 29th pick in the second round. Lacy was the fourth of five running backs taken in the second round.

The reason Lacy has been such a welcome sight in Green Bay is because the running back position has been an afterthought for 10 years when Ahman Green ran for over 1,800 yards and scored 15 touchdowns in his third Pro Bowl season. Lacy closed out the regular season by running for over 1,100 yards, scored 11 times and he started one less game than Green but didn’t get a Pro Bowl sniff.

Without Lacy, the offense would’ve resembled a ship with unsealable holes. It might’ve been able to move the ball every once in awhile, but when the time would come to get those needed yards, that is where they would’ve been sunk.

20

December

Packers Periscope: Week 16 vs. Pittsburgh Steelers

The Past: I’ve mentioned notable games of the past in this series (the Ice Bowl, Aaron Rodgers dismantling of the Falcons in the 2010 divisional game), but perhaps the most important game in the last decade for the Packers was their win in Super Bowl XLV in 2010 against the Pittsburgh Steelers.  Not only did it cement quarterback Aaron Rodgers’ position as one of the NFL’s elite players but it also justified Ted Thompson’s 6 year “draft and develop” philosophy which brought the Packers back from a salary cap nightmare.  Fans will remember Clay Matthew’s “It is time” moment of stripping the ball away from Rashard Mendenhall which preserved a Packers 4 point lead in the 4th quarter, but perhaps the biggest defensive play came from defensive tackle Howard Green, who knocked quarterback Ben Roethlisberger’s pass into the arms of safety Nick Collins, who returned the ball for a touchdown and at least historically sealed away the fate of the Steelers right then (no team has gotten a interception returned for a touchdown and lost the Super Bowl).

Moving back further, the Steelers and Packers last regular season game occurred in 2009 which quickly became a shootout; Rodgers threw for an impressive 383 yards but Roethlisberger proved even more dangerous, finishing the game with an astonishing 503 yards.  It also marked the rise of Jermichael Finley, who moved from a up and coming player to a serious receiving threat, which would continue until his injury in 2010.

The Present: The Steelers have been effectively eliminated from the playoffs; the Cincinnati Bengals have run away with the AFC North and are almost definitely going to win the division this year.  Baltimore trails behind Cincinnati, but also has a shot at a wild card berth.  Pittsburgh unfortunately only is predicted to get in as a wildcard team .8% of the time according to Football Outsiders, effectively making this game more of a statement game more than anything else.  Furthermore, the Steelers have always been a very deliberate and conservative organization and the coaching staff has not been rumored to be on the hot seat, this game probably does not have much meaning to the Steelers, aside for maybe extracting some revenge against the Packers for their Super Bowl loss.

19

December

This season, Eddie Lacy over Le’Veon Bell an obvious choice

Eddie Lacy and Mike Daniels celebrate Lacy's fourth-quarter touchdown against the Dallas Cowboys.

Eddie Lacy and Mike Daniels celebrate Lacy’s fourth-quarter touchdown against the Dallas Cowboys.

Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin made headlines earlier in the week when he said it was an “easy” decision to draft former Michigan State running back Le’Veon Bell over Alabama bruiser Eddie Lacy.

“It was an easy decision for me,” Tomlin said Tuesday, per ESPN. “Obviously, Lacy’s a top-quality back, but probably it’s a matter of preference — just like I’m sure Cincinnati went through the same discussions and thoughts when they took Giovani Bernard in front of both of them.”

Bernard, Bell and Lacy have each enjoyed a successful first season in the NFL, albeit in different ways. Bernard has served in predominantly a complementary role with the Bengals alongside BenJarvus Green-Ellis, while Bell and Lacy have been “the guy” for their respective teams for as long as they’ve been healthy.

It will be several years before we’re able to determine who’s the best running back from this year’s draft class, but the best running back from the 2013 class–in 2013–is Lacy.

Bell–the 48th pick in April’s draft–has proven to be a well-rounded back who can play all three downs, but Lacy–the 61st pick–has emerged as one of the most reliable runners in the NFL with the Packers, possibly on his way to being named this year’s NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year.

Throwing out the Washington game in which Lacy suffered a concussion on his first carry, Lacy has played 12 of a possible 14 games, while Bell has played in 11. Lacy is averaging 85.6 rushing yards per game compared to Bell’s 58.7 and his 4.1 yards per carry trump Bell’s average of 3.3.

As a rookie, Lacy has been the definition of a “workhorse.” The Packers put an emphasis on running the football this season and have leaned on Lacy even more since Aaron Rodgers suffered a broken collarbone Nov. 4 against the Chicago Bears, as Lacy has carried the ball 20 more more times in nine of the past 11 games. Bell has carried the ball 20 times just three times, while Bernard has yet to hit that mark in a game.

15

November

Packers Periscope: Week 11 vs. New York Giants

The Past: The two teams that always seem to cause the Packers trouble in the past couple years are the San Francisco 49ers and the New York Giants.  Packers fans obviously remember Brett Favre’s last pass as a Packer going to a Corey Webster in the NFC Championship game in 2008; Packers fans will also remember the Giants manhandling the Packers in the 2011 playoffs when quarterback Aaron Rodgers was surprising only average while the defense finally collapsed and lost the game for the team.

However the last meeting between these two teams was perhaps the most lopsided; the Giants won 38-10 in 2012 season again embarrassing the Packers.  Outside of one spectacular 61 yard touchdown pass to Jordy Nelson, Rodgers was largely ineffective, going 13 for 24 for 158 yards and an interception.  The running game didn’t do the offense many favors either, totaling 82 yards with a 3.7 ypc split between Alex Green, James Starks and John Kuhn.  The defense stuck to their “bend but don’t break” philosophy, but missing both Charles Woodson and Clay Matthews, allowed 3 Eli Manning touchdowns while the Giants running game ground the Packers down with 31 carries for 147 yards from Ahmad Bradshaw and Andre Brown.

With the loss, the Packers fell to 2nd place in the NFC North while the Giants snapped a two game losing streak and got back into the NFC East playoff race.  However a loss to the resurgent Redskins (headed by rookie sensation Robert Griffin III) the next week followed by a loss against Baltimore in week 16 eliminated them the NFC East crown and a loss by the Lions to the Bears at the end of the regular season eliminated them from the playoffs all together.

During the offseason, multiple changes were made including the release of starting running back Ahmad Bradshaw and the notable drafting of right tackle Justin Pugh, defensive tackle Johnathan Hankins and quarterback Ryan Nassib.  Overall, the 2013 draft class has been disappointing of late, Pugh ranks 56th out of 76 eligible tackles, Hankins has played 74 snaps the entire season while Nassib still hasn’t supplanted Curtis Painter (yes, that Curtis Painter) as the backup quarterback.