The special teams of the Green Bay Packers were the weak link on last year's Super Bowl-winning team and haven't really been a force for years.
So it's no surprise that the Packers tried to address their special teams in the 2011 NFL Draft.
Temper the optimism, however. I've written this same article before, notably back in 2007 when the Packers drafted James Jones, Aaron Rouse, Allen Barbre, Desmond Bishop, Korey Hall and Mason Crosby among others.
Any improvement they've brought to the special teams has been marginal.
Oh well. History be damned. Here's how the 2011 Packers draft class is going to rescue the special teams:
- First round: Derek Sherrod––If Sherrod backs up a healthy Chad Clifton in 2011 as expected, he won't see a lot of playing time. But there's always one thing asked of the sixth and seventh offensive linemen suited up on game days that don't see the field otherwise: block on field goals and extra points. It gives Clifton and his weary knees and joints a breather for five plays a game or so.
- Second round: Randall Cobb––The special teams contributions from Cobb will be obvious. Barring injury or an out-of-body experience from someone else on the roster, Cobb will be asked to take on the role of return specialists for both kicks and punts. It's something he did especially well at the University of Kentucky and will be expected to provide for the Packers as well. He can hold on placekicks to boot. With his threat to run, pass or hold out of a field goal formation, he could be a threat.
- Third round: Alex Green––Green wasn't asked to play a lot on special teams at Hawaii, but more than likely he will in the pros. If he's on the 45-man game-day roster, and he's not playing three downs on offense, he's going to be asked to contribute on special teams somewhere.
- Fourth round: Davon House––As a full-time starter at New Mexico State pretty much since his freshman year, House didn't factor into special teams in college. However, his speed indicates that he could be in the NFL. While running a 4.50 40 at the Combine and reportedly faster at his pro day, House may be a factor on coverage units or as a jammer on punt return. Like Green, if he's on the 45-man game day roster and he's not starting, he better be able to play on "teams."
- Fifth round: D.J. Williams––Similar the other players before him, Williams wasn't a big factor on special teams at Arkansas, but he has the size and speed combination that makes him a candidate for those units in Green Bay. And the fact that he'll probably be required to play on special teams isn't lost on him. "The roster is not near as big in the NFL as it is on college football, and a lot of players play on special teams," said Williams. "I think if you can excel on special teams, it can change the outcome on an entire game. I'm very excited to contribute any way possible: special teams, offense, defense, it doesn't matter."
- Sixth round A: Caleb Schlauderaff––Known for being a fairly athletic player, Schlauderaff would likely be asked for field goal and extra point duty if he can make the team. He could also be asked to play on kickoff return if he's mobile enough as well.
- Sixth round B: D.J. Smith––As a player who made 525 career tackles at Appalachian State, the Packers hope he'll have the same nose for the football on special teams. And with inside linebacker being one of the deeper positions on the team, Smith can focus almost exclusively on "teams." He'll only be asked to play defense in case of injury, so he can devote himself to being the best he possibly can at chasing down return men.
- Sixth round C: Ricky Elmore––Elmore said he was the backup long snapper at Arizona and is confident in his abilities. "I'm a utility guy," Elmore told Cheesehead TV at the NFL Combine. "I can long snap, I can play special teams."
- Seventh round A: Ryan Taylor––If there was one player who drafted almost solely for his special teams acumen, it's Taylor. He faces an uphill battle getting playing time at tight end, but if he can be a core "teams" player, he'll increase his chances of landing a roster spot. He said he received his school's special teams award all four years at North Carolina and has 28 career tackles. To show how versatile he is, he played both ways in college, spending some time at linebacker as well.
- Seventh round B: Lawrence Guy––Guy's combination of size and speed make him a valuable commodity. At 6-4, 305 pounds and being able to run a sub-5.0 40-yard dash, Guy could be a factor at places a big man is needed on such as defending kicks and punts along the line of scrimmage.
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