The 2012 NFL draft is already a week in the books, and the wide-reaching consensus is that the Green Bay Packers made off like bandits during Ted Thompson’s favorite three days on the NFL calendar. While I’m sure you’ve already digested your share of opinions on the Packers’ haul, I was under the weather during the actual draft and never got the opportunity to share my thoughts on the entire class.
Without further ado:
OLB Nick Perry, USC (No. 28 overall)
6-3, 255 lbs.
I personally preferred Courtney Upshaw here, but it’s hard to knock Ted Thompson for taking the more explosive pass-rusher. Consider that the Packers registered just 29 sacks in 2012 despite facing more pass attempts than any other defense in the NFL. Perry should immediately help as a slippery edge rusher, and there’s a higher upside in him than Upshaw. I’m certain that Clay Matthews will gladly take the former USC Trojan under his wing, too. The Packers can’t afford for him to bust.
DE Jerel Worthy, Michigan State (No. 51, via trade with Philadelphia)
6-2, 308 lbs.
I was higher on Devon Still, who the Bengals picked one spot later at No. 52 overall. But Worthy was still a fantastic value in the middle of the second round, and I’m guessing the move up to get him at No. 51 wasn’t a difficult decision in the Packers’ draft room. If defensive line coach Mike Trgovac can keep Worthy’s motor running hot at all times, Green Bay might have one of the steal of the draft. There were times in the Big Ten over the last two seasons when Worthy was simply unblockable, and he’s athletic enough to replace what the Packers couldn’t last season in Cullen Jenkins. Keeping the motivation level high will be the deciding factor whether Worthy becomes a real player or not.
CB Casey Hayward, Vanderbilt (No. 62, via trade with New England)
5-11, 192 lbs.
My favorite pick in the entire Packers’ draft class, and it’s not close. In five years, I think we’re talking about Hayward as the best player Thompson picked in 2012. While not a burner by any means, Hayward possesses the instincts and ball skills to be an immediate contributor. He’s willing to make a tackle, too. That complete package should give Sam Shields all he can handle for the team’s starting nickel cornerback spot, and it might allow Dom Capers to slide Charles Woodson to safety more in 2012 than he has in the past. The sky is the limit for No. 29.
DL Mike Daniels, Iowa (No. 132)
6-0, 291 lbs.
I’ll be the first to admit that I had Daniels ranked as the No. 25 overall defensive line prospect in the Cheesehead TV Draft Guide. His size worried me for the transition to a 3-4 defense. However, the more you watch Daniels on film, the more you like the pick. He’s explosive off the snap, and I wouldn’t be at all surprised if Capers sprung him loose as an inside penetrator in the Packers’ sub-packages.
S Jerron McMillian, Maine (No. 133)
5-11, 203 lbs.
An unknown name, but Thompson has done well in the past with small school safeties. McMillian isn’t afraid to lay a lick and he’s a far superior athlete than veteran Charlie Peprah. There’s going to be an adjustment period for McMillian—just like there was with Collins—but there’s starting potential down the road. If he can pick up Capers’ defensive concepts in a hurry, there’s no reason to think he’ll spend the entire year on the bench.
LB Terrell Manning, NC State (No. 163, via trade with New England)
6-2, 237 lbs.
An injury plagued 2011 season cost Manning a chance to be drafted in the first three rounds. While he played primarily as a 4-3 outside linebacker, he’s getting slotted as an inside backer for the Packers’ 3-4. That might be his best fit. While most of Green Bay’s inside linebackers are run-thumpers, Manning will hold his own at the next level in pass coverage. Early on, he could carve out a niche as a situational player on obvious passing downs.
T Andrew Datko, Florida State (No. 241)
6-6, 315 lbs.
Many publications had Datko as a potential first rounder, but a recurring shoulder injury ravaged his draft status. Essentially, the Packers are replacing Chad Clifton—an old, expensive and injury-prone tackle—with a younger and cheaper version. If Datko can overcome his shoulder issues, there’s starting-caliber talent here down the road.
QB B.J. Coleman, UT-Chattanooga (No. 243)
6-3, 231 lbs.
The Packers finally get their replacement for Matt Flynn in Coleman, who joins Flynn as seventh-round developmental quarterbacks. While Flynn was further along as a player when the Packers took him fresh off a National Championship in 2008, Coleman has a much higher upside. He has prototypical size and a much better arm than both Flynn and current No. 2 Graham Harrell. Coleman will need a couple of years in the quarterback school, but he has the same golden opportunity in front of him that Flynn seized over the last three years.