I must first apologize to any of my loyal CheeseheadTV readers (if there exists such a thing) regarding my posting here during the 2013 NFL draft. My priorities were fixated at Bleacher Report (you can read all my work for the draft here) and providing semi-readable tweets from Thursday through Saturday, leaving precious few opportunities to provide a meaningful commentary here.
You likely didn't notice, as the always-great Brian Carriveau kept you informed and entertained better than I ever could have dreamed. (This gives me a great opportunity to congratulate Brian for his outstanding draft coverage in 2013. Did anyone provide more Packers-themed draft features over the last couple of months? I think it goes without saying that anyone who frequents this site learned a great deal from the never-ending work Brian has done since February.)
As an offering of my own forgiveness, I decided to burn the midnight oil to give you my early reaction to all 11 of the Packers' picks over the last three days.
Here it goes:
1.26: DE Datone Jones, UCLA
Somewhat surprisingly, the Packers' dream pick fell right into their laps on Day 1. Jones, who I had as my No. 1 overall player on my first-round big board, fills an immediate need along the defensive line as both a base starter and pass disrupter in the nickel. Admittedly, I thought Jones could have been long gone by No. 26. The more you watched him, the more you liked what he brought to the table. No need to trade down when an impact player at a need area falls to your selection unexpectedly.
2.61: RB Eddie Lacy, Alabama
In terms of talent, the Packers might as well of had two first-round picks. Lacy fell in this draft in large part because of medical worries, but there's little doubting how his talent translates to the next level. He weighs 231 pounds but has the feet of a a back 40 pounds lighter. The Alabama offensive line was dominant, but Lacy created his fair share of yards. Watch his tape against Georgia in the SEC Championship Game. He's a creator when he needs to be. I did have legitimate worries about him in the first round—and I placed him at No. 7 on my big board because of the question marks—but at No. 61 overall, Lacy was a no-brainer. As a cherry on top, the Packers were even able to move down six spots and still get the game-changer at running back. Ridiculous value plus pressing need equals home run for Green Bay.
4.109: OT David Bakhtiari, Colorado
Bakhtiari was a player I did some homework on early in the process, mostly in preparation for #MockTwo (excuse the formatting). In the online simulation, I took Bakhtiari at No. 152 overall in the fifth round and felt very good about it. I won't knock the value here because I have no knowledge of the Packers' draft board. But here's one reason to really like the pick: It sends a kick in the pants to Marshall Newhouse, who should now have serious competition at left tackle this summer. The Packers need to get better at left tackle if they want any chance at competing with the 49ers and Seahawks in the NFC, and this pick should be a step in the right direction up front.
4. 122: OL J.C. Tretter, Cornell
Tretter is very intriguing. A former quarterback and tight end made into a left tackle, Tretter's path to the NFL sounds a lot like Oklahoma's Lane Johnson, who went in the top 5 to Philadelphia. He's athletic out on an island, but he's not as tall as you'd like in an offensive tackle and his arm length (33 3/8") won't do him any favors in shielding against the better edge rushers. Still, you like his upside and versatility to play potentially all five positions along the offensive line. At the very least, the Packers committed to providing more quality competition in front of the NFL's richest man, Aaron Rodgers.
4.125: RB Johnathan Franklin, UCLA
Maybe the toughest question to answer about the Packers' draft is which running back was a better value. Franklin, who many had as one of their top two running backs in this class, inexplicably dropped to the 125th pick, where the Packers moved up to get him at tremendous value. Now, a team who couldn't manage to get a running back over 500 yards last season will enter the 2013 season with two potential difference-makers in the backfield. All along, my comparison on Franklin has been Frank Gore. He jumps off the tape as a slippery, one-cut runner with impressive short-area quickness and balance. You also have to like the way he participates in the passing game and his willingness to throw his body around in pass protection. Lacy, Franklin and DuJuan Harris blow the doors off any running back combination the Packers have had during the Aaron Rodgers era.
5.159: CB Micah Hyde, Iowa
There's so much talent and depth at cornerback that's it worth wondering how Hyde fits in, especially short-term. But Tramon Williams has regressed since 2010 and Sam Shields remains unsigned long-term, so maybe this is more of a protection pick. While the Packers plan on keeping Hyde at cornerback, there's probably potential for Hyde to transition to safety. His tape doesn't show a lock-down man-to-man cover guy. In my amateur opinion, he was much better in zone settings where he could read-and-react to plays happening in front of him. His ability to return punts next season could help keep Randall Cobb out of the danger zone.
5.167: DL Josh Boyd, Miss. State
With so much uncertainly along the defensive line in both 2013 and beyond, it was never going to surprise me if the Packers took two defensive linemen in this draft. Not only is Jerel Worthy (knee) iffy for next season, but five defensive linemen will become free agents following 2013. Veteran Ryan Pickett is one of them, and it's only a matter of when, not if, Father Time starts creeping up on the 33-year-old. Regression is an unpredictable force at this point in careers. Boyd should provide a run-stuffing rotational body in 2013 and a potential Pickett replacement down the road. Also, his 32 reps at the combine were among the best at his position. His length and strength should play well up front.
6.193: OLB Nate Palmer, Illinois State
The Packers had to draft an outside linebacker at some point in this draft. While the longer, more versatile Michael Buchanan appealed to both Brian and I, it's hard to argue with Palmer's production over the last two seasons. He clearly knows how to get after the passer, and he'll now learn to rush standing up from outside linebackers coach Kevin Greene. It's a good fit. Palmer and Dezman Moses are an intriguing set of backups for Clay Matthews and Nick Perry.
7.216: WR Charles Johnson, Grand Valley State
Johnson will either be a workout phony or a legitimate seventh-round sleeper. I'm not sure there's much grey area in between. At 6-2 and 215 pounds, Johnson ran two sub 4.4 40s and had a vertical leap of almost 40 inches. That's a rare combination of size, straight-line speed and leaping ability. The Packers now need to get Johnson's receiving acumen on the same level as the physical attributes. If they do, look out. Johnson oozes potential.
7.224: WR Kevin Dorsey, Maryland
The Packers worked out both Johnson and Dorsey in the pre-draft process, and they obviously saw enough in both to consider gambling on each player in the seventh round. But what does Dorsey offer that Johnson doesn't? Maybe Thompson is hoping one of the two will turn his elite physical skills into a capable NFL receiver. The receiver depth chart is a messy mix of talent at the bottom, which should make for a fascinating camp battle this summer.
7.232: LB Sam Barrington, USF
The Packers essentially replaced recently-released linebacker D.J. Smith with a very similar player in Barrington. Both are somewhat short, well-built thumpers who project best inside. Barrington might have more flexibility to move outside, but the two look like the same player on tape. On a side note, the whole releasing Smith deal still smells funny to me. What was the point? It wasn't money driven. Sure, he flunked his physical, but it's also April. The season doesn't start for another five months. The Chargers had little problem with his medicals and picked up him less than 24 hours after the Packers released him. Weird.
What did you think of the draft? I gave out immediate grades to every pick for Bleacher Report, but only because my bosses made me. I don't think you can grade a draft just hours after the picks are made. I'll say this; it's a good to very good draft on paper. But it still gets an incomplete grade in reality. Let's wait the necessary three years and then grade the 2013 class.
Zach Kruse is a 24-year-old sports writer who contributes to Cheesehead TV, Bleacher Report and the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. He also covers prep sports for the Dunn Co. News. You can reach him on Twitter @zachkruse2 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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