28

April

2011 Draft Prep: Green Bay Packers Needs by Position – Safety

In this next installment of our 2011 Draft Prep series looking at the Green Bay Packers’ needs by position, we are going to analyze how the safety position currently stands. Strengths, weaknesses, depth, and uncertainties will all be examined to determine the urgency of need in regards to next season.

This series is meant to help us figure out the needs of the team and how the draft could be used to improve the weaker areas. While Ted Thompson largely uses the “best player available” (BPA) approach, his decision to trade up or down the board is affected by what position players he would prefer to have. Additionally, the picking up of players in the later rounds and in undrafted free agency is often based on need, since the talent is less defined.

CURRENT PLAYERS:

#36 Nick Collins
27 yrs. old / 6 yrs. exp.
Signed through 2013

#26 Charlie Peprah
28 yrs. old / 5 yrs. exp.
Signed through 2012

#42 Morgan Burnett
22 yrs. old / 1 yrs. exp.
Signed through 2013

#34 Anthony Levine
24 yrs. old / 1 yrs. exp.
Signed to reserve/future contract

#43 Michael Greco
24 yrs. old / 1 yrs. exp.
Signed to reserve/future contract

#20 Atari Bigby
29 yrs. old / 5 yrs. exp.
Free Agent

#27 Anthony Smith
27 yrs. old / 5 yrs. exp.
Free Agent

* Contract information acquired from RotoWorld.com

POSITION STRENGTHS:

As I noted in the cornerback position evaluation, the Green Bay Packers have arguably the best secondary in the league. This could not be possible without a pair of safeties like Nick Collins and Charlie Peprah.

Nick Collins has been playing for the Packers since he was picked up in the second round of the 2005 NFL Draft. An unquestioned starter as the free safety, he has shown no signs of slowing down. Collins saw his third consecutive selection for the Pro Bowl in 2010, and his worth to the team was made clear during the final run of the season. His interception against the Chicago Bears in Week 17 was a game-clincher, and the interception of “Big Ben” Roethlisberger helped the Packers gain an early lead in Super Bowl XLV.

Of course, at the beginning of the season, Nick Collins was expected to do well. Charlie Peprah, on the other hand, wasn’t even expected to be a starter.

27

April

2011 Draft Prep: Green Bay Packers Needs by Position – Cornerback

In this next installment of our 2011 Draft Prep series looking at the Green Bay Packers’ needs by position, we are going to analyze how the cornerback position currently stands. Strengths, weaknesses, depth, and uncertainties will all be examined to determine the urgency of need in regards to next season.

This series is meant to help us figure out the needs of the team and how the draft could be used to improve the weaker areas. While Ted Thompson largely uses the “best player available” (BPA) approach, his decision to trade up or down the board is affected by what position players he would prefer to have. Additionally, the picking up of players in the later rounds and in undrafted free agency is often based on need, since the talent is less defined.

CURRENT PLAYERS:

#21 Charles Woodson
34 yrs. old / 13 yrs. exp.
Signed through 2014

#38 Tramon Williams
28 yrs. old / 4 yrs. exp.
Signed through 2014

#37 Sam Shields
23 yrs. old / 1 yrs. exp.
Signed through 2012

#24 Jarrett Bush
26 yrs. old / 5 yrs. exp.
Signed through 2011

#22 Pat Lee
27 yrs. old / 3 yrs. exp.
Signed through 2011

#28 Brandon Underwood
24 yrs. old / 2 yrs. exp.
Signed through 2012

#40 Josh Gordy
24 yrs. old / 1 yrs. exp.
Signed through 2012

Josh Bell
26 yrs. old / 3 yrs. exp.
Free Agent

* Contract information acquired from RotoWorld.com

POSITION STRENGTHS:

Many NFL analysts have said that the Green Bay Packers have the best secondary in the league, and it all begins with the cornerbacks. Charles Woodson, Tramon Williams, and Sam Shields are three players that no quarterback wants to face.

Charles Woodson, the 2009 AP Defensive Player of the Year, was undoubtedly Ted Thompson’s best free agent signing ever. He is the Packers’ Troy Polamalu – a guy who is everywhere and does everything on the field. Though his man-to-man cover skills have receded, Woodson’s ability to disrupt plays from the line have made him invaluable.

In his past three years with the team, Woodson accumulated 18 interceptions, 10 forced fumbles, 7 sacks, and 6 touchdowns. He is also credited with 48 passes defended in that span of time.

26

April

Packers Prospect Profile – WR Randall Cobb, Kentucky – 2011 NFL Draft

1) Profile:

Randall Cobb

College: Kentucky

Position: WR

Height: 5’11″ Weight: 191 lbs.

Born: August 22, 1990 From: Alcoa, TN

2) High School / College Highlights: At Aloca High School, Cobb was a standout both on and off the field. As a four-year member of the track team, Cobb finished third in Tennessee in the 100-meter dash his senior season with a time of 10.75 seconds. He also was an All-District basketball player his junior and senior years, and a member of the academic honor roll.

Even with all those accolades, football was still the sport where Cobb excelled the most. He earned All-State honors during his last two years, quarterbacking the Tornadoes to a 27-3 over that span. His senior year, the dual-threat quarterback was picked as Tennessee’s “Mr. Football.” Rivals still only rated him as the 18th best prospect in Tennessee, and Scout.com gave him just a two-star rating.

Once at Kentucky, however, Cobb proved his worth. He made the SEC All-Freshman team in 2008 by playing at quarterback, receiver, running back and returner. Cobb was named All-SEC First Team his final three seasons at Kentucky, and an All-American his senior year (2010).

3) College Stats: 144 catches for 1661 yards and 13 TD’s; 228 rushes for 1313 yards and 22 TD’s; 44 kick returns for 1081 yards; 63 punt returns for 619 yards and 2 TD’s; 62 completions for 689 yards and 5 TD’s

4) NFL Combine Results: 4.46-second 40-yard dash, 16 bench-presses at 225 pounds, 33.5″ vertical leap, 115″ broad jump, 7.08-second 3-cone drill, 4.34-second 20-yard shuffle, 11.56-second 60-yard shuffle

5) Strengths/Weaknesses: Cobb is as versatile a player as there is in the 2011 NFL Draft. While his main position in the NFL will be receiver, Cobb has the ability to line up at running back, punt and kick returner or quarterback in the Wildcat formation.

As strictly a receiver, Cobb is best suited to play in the slot. He never shies away from contact and isn’t afraid to go over the middle to make plays. Once he gets the ball in his hands, Cobb is tough to get down. His history at running back and compact frame allow him to break tackles and gain yards after the catch.

25

April

2011 Draft Prep: Green Bay Packers Needs by Position – Inside Linebacker

In this next installment of our 2011 Draft Prep series looking at the Green Bay Packers’ needs by position, we are going to analyze how the inside linebacker position currently stands. Strengths, weaknesses, depth, and uncertainties will all be examined to determine the urgency of need in regards to next season.

This series is meant to help us figure out the needs of the team and how the draft could be used to improve the weaker areas. While Ted Thompson largely uses the “best player available” (BPA) approach, his decision to trade up or down the board is affected by what position players he would prefer to have. Additionally, the picking up of players in the later rounds and in undrafted free agency is often based on need, since the talent is less defined.

CURRENT PLAYERS:

#50 A.J. Hawk
27 yrs. old / 5 yrs. exp.
Signed through 2015

#55 Desmond Bishop
26 yrs. old / 4 yrs. exp.
Signed through 2014

#56 Nick Barnett
29 yrs. old / 8 yrs. exp.
Signed through 2012

#54 Brandon Chillar
28 yrs. old / 7 yrs. exp.
Signed through 2013

#49 Rob Francois
25 yrs. old / 1 yrs. exp.
Signed through 2012

#48 Cardia Jackson
22 yrs. old / 1 yrs. exp.
Signed to reserve/future contract

#57 Matt Wilhelm
30 yrs. old / 8 yrs. exp.
Free Agent

* Contract information acquired from RotoWorld.com

POSITION STRENGTHS:

As it stands right now, the Packers are stacked at the inside linebacker position.

Nick Barnett is a well-seasoned veteran whose hair is almost as big as his reputation. He was a starter for Green Bay from day one, and has been an anchor at the position for the past eight years. He led the team in tackles for five of those years, set the single-season franchise record with 194 tackles, and ranks third in franchise annals with 986 career tackles.

Then there’s A.J. Hawk, the Packers’ top 2006 draft pick who finally seemed to make his mark this season with Barnett out of the picture. For the first three years, fans became increasingly frustrated with a performance that belied his first-round draft status. Finally, we have seen that his communication skills, good study habits, and great work ethic were a gigantic asset to the team. And for his efforts, Ted Thompson rewarded Hawk with a brand new five-year contract.

23

April

Packers Prospect Profile — CB Jimmy Smith, University of Colorado

1) Profile:

Jimmy Smith

College: Colorado

Position: CB

Height: 6’2″  Weight: 205 lbs.

Born: July 26, 1988 From: Fontana, CA

2) High School / College Highlights: While playing along side USC recruits Allen Bradford and Shareece Wright at Colton High School, Smith excelled at safety, cornerback and receiver. A three-time All-League selection, Smith was pegged as the No. 57 overall athlete prospect by Rivals.com and the 53rd ranked safety by Scout.com.

Once at Colorado, Smith started 27 games at cornerback spread over four seasons. While only intercepting three passes in his career, Smith was an All-Big 12 First team selection his senior year and a Second teamer his junior season.

3) College Stats: 47 games (27 starts), 163 tackles, three interceptions, 18 pass breakups, three fumble recoveries

4) NFL Combine Results: 4.46 second 40-yard dash, 24 bench-presses at 225 pounds, 36-inch vertical jump, 123-inch broad jump, 6.93 second 3 cone drill, 4.06 second 20-yard shuffle

5) Strengths/Weaknesses: Smith has the size, speed and coverage ability that makes NFL teams salivate at the thought of having him in their secondary. He’s more than comfortable playing press coverage, and his size makes this a very valuable attribute.

And while he didn’t necessarily put up flashy numbers in college, quarterbacks simply stopped throwing his way later on in his career. In fact, only 52 passes were attempted against Smith during his senior season. Four of his brothers played college football, and Smith has the kind of cockiness that you see in the elite NFL cornerbacks.

However, Smith has some serious red flags that have turned him off to NFL teams. Smith failed a drug test in 2007, and he was arrested twice for possession of alcohol as a minor.

His attitude problems could also be an issue. Jeff Lewgold of the Denver Post said that teams “think [Smith] might want to be a celebrity more than he wants to be a good NFL cornerback.”

6) Fit for the Packers: With Charles Woodson slowly running out of good years, the Packers need to start thinking about finding an eventual replacement. Tramon Williams and Sam Shields will be around for the foreseeable future, but defensive coordinator Dom Capers liked using three-cornerback sets with Woodson playing the slot and near the line of scrimmage. It’s yet to be seen if Williams or Shields could fill that role, but you’d have to bet against it.

22

April

2011 Draft Prep: Green Bay Packers Needs by Position – Outside Linebacker

In this next installment of our 2011 Draft Prep series looking at the Green Bay Packers’ needs by position, we are going to analyze how the outside linebacker position currently stands. Strengths, weaknesses, depth, and uncertainties will all be examined to determine the urgency of need in regards to next season.

This series is meant to help us figure out the needs of the team and how the draft could be used to improve the weaker areas. While Ted Thompson largely uses the “best player available” (BPA) approach, his decision to trade up or down the board is affected by what position players he would prefer to have. Additionally, the picking up of players in the later rounds and in undrafted free agency is often based on need, since the talent is less defined.

CURRENT PLAYERS:

#52 Clay Matthews
24 yrs. old / 2 yrs. exp.
Signed through 2013

#51 Brady Poppinga
31 yrs. old / 6 yrs. exp.
Signed through 2012

#93 Erik Walden
25 yrs. old / 3 yrs. exp.
Signed through 2011

#59 Brad Jones
25 yrs. old / 2 yrs. exp.
Signed through 2012

#47 Diyral Briggs
25 yrs. old / 2 yrs. exp.
Signed through 2011

#58 Frank Zombo
24 yrs. old / 1 yrs. exp.
Signed through 2012

* Contract information acquired from RotoWorld.com

POSITION STRENGTHS:

I can’t tell you how many times the past two years that I’ve heard or said, “Clay Matthews is a beast.”

He alone propels this defense to a new level. Opposing offenses work up their game plans in a concentrated effort to take him out of the equation, because he is the biggest threat to the quarterback. Matthews’ motor never stops running, his lightning fast break off the line is a nightmare to blockers, and there’s just something intimidating about that long mane of hair.

Okay, so maybe I made that last one up. But in all seriousness, Clay Matthews boasts 23.5 sacks in his first two seasons with the Packers. Ted Thompson made one of the best moves in his career as a GM by trading up in the 2009 NFL Draft to grab him.

Now, despite the lack of a stud player “opposite Matthews” (as you so often hear), there is a lot of strength in the depth of this unit. The cliché may be that this team won the Super Bowl with the players, but they also made it through the season with them.

21

April

Packers Prospect Profile — CB Cortez Allen, The Citadel

1) Profile:

Cortez Allen

College: The Citadel

Position: CB

Height: 6’1″ Weight: 196 lbs.

Born: October 29, 1988 From: Ocala, FL

2) High School / College Highlights: For his first three years at North Marion High School, Allen was strictly a track star. His senior year, however, he gave football a try and was an immediate standout. North Marion improved from 6-6 in 2004 to 10-4 during Allen’s senior season in ’05, and Allen was named to Florida’s Class AAA All-State, All-City and All-District teams.

Still a raw recruit, Allen saw playing time in only five games his first two collegiate seasons, including being redshirted after just one game in 2007. Once Allen took over the starting spot mid-way through 2008, however, he would never again give up it during his final 2.5 years.

After intercepting three passes in 2009, Allen was named a Third team All-American and Second team All-Southern Conference. He followed up that performance with two interceptions in 2010, good for a Second team All-American and All-Southern Conference selection.

3) College Stats: 39 games played (28 starts), 121 tackles, five interceptions, 16 passes broken up, two touchdowns, one blocked punt

4) NFL Combine Results: 4.51 second 40-yard dash, 18 bench-presses of 225 pounds, 35.5-inch vertical jump, 129-inch broad jump, 6.76 second 3 cone drill, 4.01 second 20-yard shuttle, 10.87 second 60-yard shuttle

5) Strengths/Weaknesses: With his big frame and long arms, Allen is adept at playing press coverage, and he used these skills to be a dominant cornerback at the Citadel. In his 28 career starts, Allen only allowed 69 completions (35.03 percent) and three receiving touchdowns with an average of 4.42 yards per pass attempt.

He wasn’t just a shutdown corner either. Allen contributed as an active supporter against the run, and he made no qualms about playing special teams. In fact, Allen recorded 13 tackles on special teams during his career. Finally, Allen played well in the East-West Shrine game and didn’t seem overwhelmed by the occasion.

Despite that performance, Allen is still a raw prospect with very little experience against big-time competition. And while he certainly has plenty of short-area quickness, Allen lacks the straight line catch up speed that most of the top flight cornerbacks possess.