17

April

2013 NFL Draft: Trade-Down Scenarios for Packers GM Ted Thompson

Ted Thompson covets his draft picks. Who might he target in a trade-down?

Ted Thompson covets his draft picks. Who might he target in a trade-down?

Packers general manager Ted Thompson covets his draft picks like nothing else. He often trades down, gets the player he’s targeting and adds late-round picks in the process.

And at first glance, this draft appears tailor-made for Thompson.

The Packers hold the 26th overall pick in this year’s draft, and the team will certainly have plenty of options at that point. Perhaps Thompson would consider moving up if a player falls to a certain point in the draft, but in my opinion, moving down is a much more likely scenario.

There are a few scenarios in which I think the Packers would be wise to stay at No. 26 and make their pick. In the unlikely event that Kenny Vaccaro or Jonathan Cyprien fall to the Packers, either player would be a great pick. If Datone Jones is available at 26, he would also be an option.

But this year’s draft lacks star power at the top, and rounds two and three figure to be loaded with NFL-ready talent, especially at some of the Packers’ positions of need. Let’s take a look at five potential targets if the Packers trade out of their first-round pick.

#1) DE Margus Hunt – Southern Methodist

The Packers have a handful of guys on the defensive line that are effective in one specific area. Mike Neal is a solid pass rusher in the nickel, C.J. Wilson and Ryan Pickett are stout against the run, while B.J. Raji is probably the Packers’ best all-around defensive lineman.

But between Neal, Wilson, Raji, Jerel Worthy and Mike Daniels, the Packers lack a prototypical body type for a 3-4 defensive end. Margus Hunt would fill that void.

Hunt (6-8 277) has a monstrous frame to which he could afford to add 15-20 pounds and keep his explosiveness. He blew people away at the NFL Scouting Combine in February by clocking a 4.53 in the forty-yard dash and putting up 38 reps on the 225-pound bench press.

It’s definitely possible that the Packers would consider drafting Hunt at No. 26, but he’d be a much better value with one of the last picks of round one or one of the first few picks of round two.

16

April

2013 NFL Draft: Trade-Up Scenarios for Packers GM Ted Thompson

Who might Ted consider moving up for?

Who might Ted consider moving up for?

Packers general manager Ted Thompson is armed with eight picks in this month’s NFL draft. At this time last year, Thompson had 12 picks in his arsenal, which allowed him to double-dip in the second round to bring Jerel Worthy and Casey Hayward to Green Bay.

Thompson may not have as much ammunition to move up in this year’s draft, but moving up is still certainly a possibility.

If he chooses to trade up in the first round, there are a handful of players he could target. This year’s draft lacks true star power at the very top, but it’s extremely deep with potential Day 2 prospects.

But if Thompson sees a gap after the top player at a position of need, he could consider moving up to acquire him. The Packers have several needs on both sides of the ball, and with several other NFC powerhouses having been engaged in an all-out arms race this offseason, Green Bay with rely on the draft even more than usual.

Considering the draft has so much value on Day 2 this year, I believe the Packers are likely to move out of the first round entirely before making multiple picks in rounds two and/or three. But with a little over a week before the 2013 NFL Draft, let’s take a look at three players the Packers could target in a first-round trade-up.

#1) FS Kenny Vaccaro, Texas

Widely considered to be the No. 1 safety in this year’s draft class, Vaccaro could step in and be an immediate starter for the Packers. And if Thompson sees Vaccaro as the missing link, perhaps he could pull the trigger and move up in the draft to select him.

Coming into the 2012 season, the Packers envisioned Charles Woodson as their starting strong safety in the base 3-4 defense. But in the nickel sub-package, Woodson was slated to bump up to play slot cornerback. This role is nearly identical to what Vaccaro played this past season at Texas.

Some mock drafts have Vaccaro going as early as No. 10 to the Tennessee Titans. If that’s the case, it’s highly unlikely that Thompson would be willing and/or able to pony up enough assets to move into position to select Vaccaro.

8

March

Packers B.J. Raji in 2012: Warrior or Shrinking Violet?

B.J. Raji 2012

B.J. Raji

From the time BJ Raji was drafted in 2009, I’ve taken a special interest in this player. Maybe because he’s from a local town here in NJ, maybe because I was hoping he would be one of the linchpins for Dom Caper’s new 3-4 defense – the next “Gravedigger.”

I wrote a profile on Raji back in May of 2009, and later talked to some people who saw him in his HS playing days. “Really nice kid from a nice family,” I heard repeatedly, followed by, not sure if he has enough “mean” in his personality to thrive in the trenches in the NFL.

I discounted those comments for the most part. Surely the Packers wouldn’t have spent a top-10 draft choice on him if the Packers didn’t think he was a potential star.

B.J. Raji made the Pro Bowl in 2011, probably based on the rep earned by his 8 sacks and strong sophomore season  in 2010 (film study here).  Ironically, though, he just wasn’t that good in 2011.

Raji’s 2012 season for the Packers was noticeably better than 2011, but one major thing was missing; consistency.  It seemed to these non-expert eyes that as the season unfolded, Raji had some very strong performances, and some downright awful ones.

Raji terrorized the Bears (film study here) late in the season and a few weeks later was bounced around like a pinball machine by the 49ers offensive line. With those two offensive lines being on opposite ends of the talent scale, a thought crossed my mind; were’s Raji’s “good” performances all against “bad” offensive lines and vica versa?

While a film study would be the optimal way to examine this hypothesis, that kind of free time eludes me, especially with all our NFL Draft prep going on. So, I decided to go to the folks that examine every player on every play over the course of an entire season; Pro Football Focus.

For a little background, lets first take a look at how Raji has graded out over his first four seasons in the NFL.

Year OVERALL Pass Rush Run Defense
       
2009 -4.8 -5.5 1.8
2010 15.1 12.7 -4.3
2011 -20.8 -2.4 -21.2
2012 6.5 2.8 5.9
27

February

Packers News: Johnny Jolly to be reinstated by NFL

Packers DL Johnny Jolly

Packers DL Johnny Jolly

Packers defensive lineman Johnny Jolly has been reinstated by the league following a three-year suspension for violating the NFL’s substance abuse policy.

Jolly was released from prison in May after serving six months of a six-year sentence on drug charges. After avoiding jail time following a similar charge in 2008, Jolly was arrested in October of 2011 and charged with possession of a narcotic compound containing codeine, which is a felony. He was already suspended by the NFL at the time of his arrest.

Jolly hasn’t played football since 2009, but the Packers could opt to bring him back to camp and compete for a roster spot. He was a restricted free agent at the time of his suspension, so Green Bay still holds his rights at the $2.5-million tender he received in 2010.

After being a two-year starter at Texas A&M, Jolly was selected in the sixth round of the 2006 NFL Draft. He played four seasons with the Packers prior to being suspended.

Brian Carriveau of Cheesehead TV tweeted a picture of Jolly’s reinstatement letter, which the defensive end posted on Instagram. His article ran before other media outlets ran with the story, and the news became public.

Pete Dougherty, of the Green Bay Press-Gazette, confirmed the story on Wednesday evening via Twitter.

Before his suspension, Jolly was a solid starter for the Packers. His last season, 2009, was likely his best as a professional, in which he recorded a one sack and the only interception of his career off Bears quarterback Jay Cutler. Now 30 years old, Jolly faces tough odds to return to football shape.

Green Bay has reportedly shown interest in signing 49ers defensive end Ricky Jean-Francois and Giants defensive end Chris Canty. With the availability of Jerel Worthy for 2013 up in the air, the Packers may be in the market for multiple defensive linemen, and there’s certainly a possibility that Jolly would be given a chance to make the roster.

 

——————

Follow @MJEversoll

Marques is a Journalism student, serving as the Sports Editor of UW-Green Bay\'s campus newspaper The Fourth Estate and a Packers writer at Jersey Al\'s AllGBP.com. Follow Marques on Twitter @MJEversoll.

14

February

2013 Packers Position Group Analysis: Defensive Line

Next up in the AllGreenBayPackers.com’s positional group analysis is the defensive line, who while showed some improvement from their disastrous 2011 season was still probably the reason behind their playoff collapse this year.

Where Are We Now

Here are the current suspects;

  • BJ Raji (1st round, 2009)
  • Ryan Pickett (1st round, 2001)
  • Mike Neal (2nd round, 2010)
  • CJ Wilson (7th round, 2010)
  • Jerel Worthy (2nd round, 2012)
  • Mike Daniels (4th round, 2012)
  • Philip Merling (2nd round, 2008, cut week 4)

So that’s where we are.  Thompson has made quite an effort to shore up his defensive line, with three 1st or 2nd rounders in the last four years.  However, despite Thompson’s focus on the defensive line, not much good has happened.  BJ Raji hasn’t been as dominant a force as he was in the 2010 Superbowl season, Mike Neal is essentially starting his sophomore campaign with all the injuries he suffered and rookie Jerel Worthy looked like a raw rookie before suffering an ACL injury.

  • Raji: Raji spent considerably more time as a defensive end this year than as a nose tackle (536 snaps at DE vs. 123 at NT) and overall as I’ve written in my previous articles this is probably the best move for the Packers as defensive ends are much more important to a 3-4 defense than nose tackles.  While Raji definitely had a better season than his lackluster 2011 campaign, it still pales in comparison to his 2010 season where he earned the nickname “the freezer”.  One distinct possibility is that Raji is starting to wear down due to all the snaps that he’s had to take since there were no other viable DL around, but the addition of Worthy, Neal and Daniels will hopefully allow the Packers to have a decent DL rotation.
  • Pickett: Pickett again was a consistent performer in the middle, while he’s never going to really get the sacks or tackles to make fans notice, he does hold up double teams and do the dirty work for the rest of the defensive linemen and linebackers.  However at 33 Pickett is certainly in the twilight of his career but surprisingly is playing more snaps ever year since 2009; this obviously can’t continue to happen for a guy at his age and size so chances are good with Raji perhaps spending the majority of time at DE, we could see the Packers look for a replacement at nose tackle.
26

January

Packers Draft Season Commences: Getting Better in the Trenches

Packers NFL DraftThe new season starts now. As Packer fans our season ended earlier then anyone wants. Now after all the Fire the coaches, maybe still going on for some, the players are not this or not that talk lets look at where the Packers are and where they might be going.

Mike McCarthy has said many times it is not as bad as some think and was not as good as some think.

For me when you look at the two teams in the Super Bowl this year you see two things, two of the better or best Defensive lines and Offensive lines in the NFL. Both Super Bowl teams have a high number of first round draft picks on both sides of the ball.

You can have all the skilled position players you want, but the games are won and lost in the trenches. San Francisco’s offense was able to keep the Packers offense off the field, in both games they played this year, the 49ers had a the ball on offense way more then the Packers. In the Playoff game the 49ers had the ball for over 38 minutes. The Packers were just beat by the more talented team. The outcome of every game at the highest levels of the NFL comes down to a hand full of plays by the best players, this is where that talent make a difference..

The talent and the types of formations the 49ers have used these last two years is really quite impressive. Since 2005 the 49ers have selected players at the #1, #6, #7, #10, #11, #17, #22, #28, #29 and #30 spot in the first round. All but one of those players are still on the team. Now that #1 player most likely will not be back this next year, but he did take them to the NFC Championship game last year at QB and had a good record this season before being injured, and the new QB was picked at the #36 spot.

In that same time frame the Packers have picked at the #24, #5, #16, #36, #9, #26, #23 , #32 and #28 on those again one player is not on the team. But for this season three of those picks were injured and did not play in the final game or much if any of the season.

20

June

Packers Could Go “Psycho” With Linebacker Talent

Dom Capers

Dom Capers might just go "Psycho" this year.

There has been some chatter recently about undrafted rookie Dezman Moses and the eyebrow-raising attention he has received from fellow defensive players. Though yet to put on “the pads,” the Packers linebacker has created quite a stir among fans, who have been desperately waiting for some good news when it comes to the team’s defensive front. One tangent to this story, however, is what it could mean for the “return” of the so-called “Psycho” package.

For those not in the know, the Psycho is a nickel package employed by Dom Capers in Green Bay’s defensive scheme. It is a 1-5-5 formation, meaning there are one defensive lineman, five linebackers, and five defensive backs on the field. The idea is to create confusion among the quarterback, the offensive line, and any backs responsible for picking up the blitz.

By overloading the line and creating some pre-snap movement, the defense makes it hard for the offense to set their protections. It also gives the opposing coaches something extra to plan for during the week.

(This blog post at Blitzology does a nice job of highlighting the pass rushing flexibility of the Packers’ nickel packages, including the Psycho.)

Dom Capers’ use of the Psycho package dates back to his days with the Jacksonville Jaguars (1999-2000), but he first unveiled it with the Green Bay Packers in 2009. They had immediate success against the Chicago Bears that December, creating chaos for Jay Cutler and keeping their offense off-balance.  Of course, just like any play, the more it’s used, the less effective it becomes.

“The more you do it, the more people start to identify — they see who you’re rushing and who you’re dropping,” Capers said in 2010. “You have to have the ability to change those things up.”

Which brings us back to our point . . . Could a rise in linebacker talent mean a return to fame for Green Bay’s Psycho defense?

To be clear, the Psycho package didn’t actually go away at all, as the Packers did use it last year. In going from their base 2-4-5 nickel set, it really only means replacing one of the lineman with a linebacker. Last season, inside linebacker D.J. Smith was the extra player, while Jarius Wynn became their lone defensive lineman.

But it lacked the punch of previous years.