19

July

The Packers New Evolutionary Chart: From John Kuhn to D.J. Williams

One of the little quirks that set the Packers apart from any other team in the league at the moment is the Packers’ extensive use of fullbacks.  Where else but Green Bay can a fullback have the fans screaming his name every time he gets on the field?  Last year, the Packers turned some confused heads by keeping three fullbacks on the roster when some teams only keep one, that’s something straight from the Vince Lombardi and Jim Taylor era.

The Packers use the fullback position as something of a jack-of-all-trades player; for instance, John Kuhn alone played the role of blocking fullback, wing-T fullback, short yardage back, halfback, blitz pickup 3rd down back, personal protector on punts, kickoff jammer and to add to that he was a threat on the red zone as a receiver.

Unfortunately, in the Mike McCarthy and Aaron Rodgers era, this plan backfired a little. In essence, the 3rd fullback stole a roster slot from the halfbacks, and when starter Ryan Grant went on IR after the season opener, the Packers were left scrambling for depth behind Brandon Jackson. The Packers managed to hide the issue with a late surge from James Starks and consistent short yardage from fullback turned folk hero John Kuhn. But the problem still remained, the Packers running game was never the same.

But lessoned learned, and probably in a way that many might not have considered; in the 2011 NFL draft, the Packers selected tight end DJ Williams from Arkansas in the 5th round and Ryan Taylor from UNC in the 7th round.

DJ Williams is an interesting prospect because other than the fact that he lacks the prototypical height and size of an elite tight end, he has the skills to be very successful in the NFL and save for his height probably would have been drafted considerably higher.  The winner of the Mackey Award and Disney Spirit Award in 2010 left the collegiate ranks as the leader in catches and receiving yards for tight ends and translates best in the NFL as a “move” tight end or H-back in a west coast offense.

Ryan Taylor, while not as accomplished a receiver as Williams is also a H-back; he set a single-season record at UNC for a tight end with 36 receptions and is also known for his special teams prowess as a former linebacker and special teams captain while at UNC.

4

May

3 Main Themes Emerge From Green Bay Packers 2011 NFL Draft

The 2011 NFL draft is now officially over, and its time to take a look at what the Packers did.  Over the next couple of weeks, fans and analysts alike will sit in front of their computers and grade each team’s draft class; in my opinion this is completely absurd for two reasons.

For one, these players haven’t played a single snap in the NFL yet and no one knows exactly how these players are going to pan out; if anyone did the draft would be a pretty boring affair.

And second, the inherent flaw in grading is that it’s based on a big board typically made by an analyst or the fans themselves.  There are only a few people privy to the actual boards of the 32 teams, and I’m willing to bet that none of the boards you see online are even remotely close to the real things.

Nevertheless, one fact that must be true is that every team drafts with a logical purpose; whether drafting purely on talent, athleticism, speed, need or value, it would be simply foolish for a team to draft a player without an idea of what to do with him and how that player fits into the team.  With that in mind, in the following article I hope to analyze what the Packers were thinking when they drafted each player.

Overall Impressions:

  1. The retooling of the defense is basically complete: Teams set a tone with the players they draft and this year it was all about giving Aaron Rodgers more help.  Many people have forgotten that the Packers are only two years removed from completely changing their defensive scheme from a 4-3 bump and run scheme under Bob Sanders to a 3-4 zone blitz scheme under Dom Capers.The 2009 and 2010 drafts were very defensive heavy, with BJ Raji and Clay Matthews III being drafted in the 1st round in 2009 and Mike Neal and Morgan Burnett being taken in the 2nd and 3rd round in 2010.  This was simply based on the fact that many of the players acquired pre-2009 weren’t ideal for a 3-4 defense (such as DE/OLB Aaron Kampman).  In comparison, the 2011 draft was definitely an offensive draft, with the first 3 picks on the offense and 4 offensive skill positions being addressed overall.