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Packers Need Offensive Linemen, Outside Linebacker

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Packers Need Offensive Linemen, Outside Linebacker

When it comes to ranking the perceived needs of the reigning Super Bowl champion Green Bay Packers, offensive line and outside linebacker come at the top of the list.

But if the Packers have a philosophy of drafting the best player available (sometimes referred to as "BPA") instead of drafting to fill a need, what's the use in analyzing positions of need, you might ask.

The reason for such an exercise is that in mere days the Packers will be adding nine new players to their roster barring any trades. By looking at each position and determining their relative strengths and weaknesses, we can see where the new players will fit into the team.

At some positions, a rookie may be able to step into the starting lineup right away. At others, they might be deep down the depth chart.

With that said, here's where I rank each position grouping in order of need from greatest to least:

  • Offensive line––Part of the need is circumstantial. Guys like Daryn Colledge and Jason Spitz are scheduled to be free agents, and there's no guarantee they'll return to the Packers. At the same time, Chad Clifton and Mark Tauscher will be entering their 12th season in the NFL and could be on their last legs. I also have a personal belief that the Packers haven't been a stronger running team in the past several years, because of personnel. Run blocking just hasn't played to the strengths of guys like Clifton and Colledge. The Packers have started to change that with guys like Josh Sitton. If they could draft some more players like Sitton, the ground game would be more effective. I personally love offensive linemen who are versatile, guys that can play multiple positions. I think that makes a guy like Georgia's Clint Boling a little more valuable, because he might be able to be a tackle or guard. The same goes for Wisconsin's John Moffitt who could be a guard or center. Draft them, get them to Green Bay and see where they fit in later.
  • Outside linebacker––In a 3-4 defense, outside linebacker can be a very productive position. Look no further than Clay Matthews. Also look at Pittsburgh with bookend outside linebackers who both have double-digit sacks year after year. The Packers currently have okay linebackers to play opposite Matthews in Brad Jones, Frank Zombo and Erik Walden, but I don't think any of them are elite talents. And what if Matthews gets hurt? Then they're in a world of hurt at that position. If a player like Akeem Ayers is on the board when the Packers pick at no. 32, he's going to be hard to pass up.
  • Return specialist––A lot has been made of the new kickoff rules in the NFL and how they'll decrease kickoff returns. That most definitely will be the case, but it's not as if kick returns will become completely extinct. As cold weather sets in, kickers won't be kicking the ball as far and there will be more kick returns. And punt return rules haven't changed at all. There will be just as many of those as usual. All things being equal, the Packers probably don't want their Pro Bowl cornerback Tramon Williams returning punts any more. They need a return specialist badly.
  • Wide receiver––As much as I personally would love to see the Packers have a more effective ground game, I realize the personnel they have suits the aerial attack. And it's just the way the professional game is headed: spread 'em out and throw it.With Aaron Rodgers running the show, you can never have enough weapons. Besides, James Jones is a free agent and Donald Driver isn't getting any younger. And it would certainly help if a new wide receiver could also help in the return game.
  • Defensive line––Much has been made about Cullen Jenkins' impending free agency and Johnny Jolly's legal troubles, but the Packers are better equipped to handle the losses than most realize. They drafted two defensive linemen last year in Mike Neal and C.J. Wilson who figure to help the Packers for the next several years. That said, it can't hurt to add depth. Ryan Pickett is getting to the age where he could see his productivity decline at any moment.
  • Running back––I like Ryan Grant and James Starks, I do. But they're very similar running backs. They're both one-cut, powerful runners that can grind out some tough yards. I think their weaknesses are generally the same: speed, receiving ability and pass protection. Brandon Jackson's strengths are pass protection and receiving ability, but he's a free agent. He may not be back. I still would like to see the Packers with a running back known for his speed, a guy who can get yards in the open field at the second and third levels. They haven't had that type of back in years.
  • Cornerback––Thankfully the Packers are pretty well stocked at cornerback with Charles Woodson, Tramon Williams and Sam Shields. But it's such an important position in the NFL, it never hurts to add more good talent. In today's NFL, teams like to throw the ball all over the field, and good cornerbacks are needed to shut down the pass. If either Woodson, Williams or Shields were to get hurt, the Packers will be in need of another good shutdown corner.
  • Inside linebacker––The need for an inside linebacker is based more upon the opinion that the Packers will eventually part ways with Nick Barnett. Right now they're loaded with Barnett, A.J. Hawk, Desmond Bishop and Brandon Chillar. But if the Packers happen to deal Barnett, they'll want to develop a new young linebacker to back the other players up.
  • Quarterback––With Matt Flynn, quarterback isn't a need. But it will be. If the Packers don't trade Flynn, he's likely gone in free agency a year from now anyway. Maybe Graham Harrell is his heir apparent, maybe not. Whatever the case, the Packers will be better off addressing the situation and grooming a new no. 2 this year as opposed to next year. That might be a luxury they can't afford, though.
  • Kicker––Mason Crosby is a free agent, and even though he may very well re-sign with the Packers, it can't be assumed. The Packers should be looking at options to replace Crosby and bring it training camp competition at the very least. They can probably accomplish this with an undrafted rookie.
  • Tight end––The Packers are in pretty good shape with Jermichael Finley, Andrew Quarless and Tom Crabtree all under contract for next season. But Finley is a free agent a year from now and may want to go to the highest bidder. Because the Packers draft the best available player regardless of position, it wouldn't be a surprise if they add a tight end. But if they do, that player will probably be far down the depth chart his rookie season.
  • Fullback––Like Crosby, both John Kuhn and Korey Hall are free agents. There's a good chance they'll both be back, but it's not a given. And the one guy that is under contract, Quinn Johnson, hasn't exactly lit the world on fire. It's not out of the realm of possibility that a rookie fullback could be better than all three of them.
  • Safety––With Nick Collins, Charlie Peprah, Morgan Burnett and Jarrett Bush at safety, there's not a huge hole at safety. If they do draft a safety or sign one as an undrafted free agent, that guy will have his work cut out for him to work his way up the depth chart.
  • Punter––Tim Masthay made leaps and bounds as the season went on last year. Unless there's an injury, I can't see him losing the job. Same goes for long snapper Brett Goode.
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Fan friendly comments only: off Comments (24) This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.

MarkinMadison's picture

OL - Do you think Tauscher really has a chance at coming back? I agree that OL is the biggest need. I tend to think about OL in terms of inside guys and outside guys. C-G combo guys are fine, but I think that T-G combo guys can present real problems. Colledge I think is a great example of this. Not a real road grader G body like Sitton, not quite good enough skills to play outside.

I also agree that OLB is the second biggest need. It seems like the great 3-4 Ds have great OLB bookends. Pittsburgh was a great example. So was New England, at least a few years ago. The D really struggled when CM3 has been out or hobbled each of the last two years. CM3 has struggled with that hammy 2 out of 2 years in the pros. Kind of surprising for a guy who looks to be an absolute work-out junkie, but whatever the cause, he hasn't figured out a cure yet.

PkrNboro's picture

OL -- I kinda like the Watkins guy. He's a little older, but I don't think that will matter on the o-line. He could step in for Colledge immediately, and let McDonald acclimate for another year, backing up the G/C position. Lang and Newhouse can backup the tackle positions.

I doubt Tauscher returns, or Spitz either. I'm pretty sure Spitz had surgery to fuse his vertebrae (same as Harrell) -- with the stress to the backbone at that position, I don't see how he'll return. It's sad for both players, but back issues are serious.

OLB -- There's something about Ayers that seems "off" to me. His "measurables" don't compare to other players at his position -- it seems a desperate move to draft him, like he's a poor-man's version of what you really want. C'mon ! if he's the fifth-best player at a position of need, is he really worth a first round pick ?? It's like Ingram: hey! he's broken, but he's available!

I don't see TT going with Ayers or Ingram -- but he could likely draft a long-snapper and get away with it... which means life's good in Packerland !

mike's picture

really? I'd be totally down for either of those players if they fell to us. especially the former heisman winner

mike's picture

ps. love drafting at 32 no matter what!

ppabich's picture

I feel fairly certain the Packers will draft a WR in the first three rounds. Jennings, Jones and Nelson were all high draft picks, and i don't see that draft trend shifting to settling for later rounds. And i would like it if the KR was found with this pick as well.

OL, DL and OLB I kind of put on equal footing. All three of those areas need to be addressed, but they all seem pretty similar to me. None of them are a major need, but the high draft picks (other than WR) will likely go to one of those positions. Impact players at those positions are a luxury at this point. They all need to improve within the next two years though. Would anyone be surprised if guys like Miss St. Sharrod, tOSU's Cameron Hayword, or UCLA's Akeem Ayers come off the board at 32? I don't think so and thats why i view the needs similarly for this draft.

Other than that it's nice to be a Packer fan. If there wasn't a draft this weekend, we would still be Super Bowl favorites next season. How sweet it is!!

Wiscokid's picture

In short, you said we need to look at every position on the team. Not much of a surprise there. I kind of think that's what a GM does for a living. In the end Ted will let the board come to him and takes the player that he values the most at that point in time. By the time the draft ends, he will have taken at least one of each of those positions not so much because of a "master plan" so much "master of opportunity". If he ever tried to script the draft, that script would fall apart like a house of cards.

FITZCORE1252's picture

"In the end Ted will let the board come to him and takes the player that he values the most at that point in time."

You just described my prowling days. All you have to do is substitute a few words...

"Fitz" for "Ted"
"drunkest lady" for "board"
"drunkest lady" for "player"
"that he values the most at that point in time" add "to the parking lot"

Me and good Ol' Uncle Ted are pretty similar

Fini

GBP 4 LIFE

Wiscokid's picture

LMAO

PackersRS's picture

You see that he didn't say "drunk" but "drunkest".

Now here's the tricky part, that might actually compare you to TT, Fitz.

How the hell do you determinate who's the drunkest lady in the joint?

Sounds like a daunting task, though I'm sure, in the end, just like Teddy T making the pick, it presents its rewards in the end!

Oppy's picture

How the hell do you determinate who’s the drunkest lady in the joint?

Practice, PackersRS, Practice.

jeremy's picture

She was the one who would go home with him...

lebowski's picture

Maybe the one who says "determinate" :)

PackersRS's picture

I don't know why I bother using that word. I get it wrong every single time.

FITZCORE1252's picture

"She was the one who would go home with him…"

DING-DING-DING!

tony's picture

The good thing about the Packers' situation is that they're in a position to take a good player who's slipped. If a good DL, WR, OL, or OLB slips, the Packers can take him with virtually no risk. And if they don't, trade the pick so some idiot can draft Ryan Mallett and collect picks. Unless they take a QB, nothing will piss me off.

Wiscokid's picture

Exactly

brett63088's picture

Nice write up Brian, and I agree with 95% of it but I do disagree with some things.

*I really don't see James Starks & Ryan Grant as very similar players. Grant may have better straight line speed but Starks has much better lateral mobility, and does a much better job of making guys miss. Grant may hit the home run a bit more often than Starks will, but Starks is going to break more tackles, and make more guys miss, while still having the body to churn out the tough yards. He's also much better out of the backfield as a receiver, much more complete RB IMO.

*At OLB, I like Zombo quite a bit more than a lot of people. He's a really good fit at LOLB, which would allow Clay to flip back to the right side where I think he's the most natural fit. I really think Clay playing on the left side last year took a toll on him as the season went on, going up against all those mammoth Right Tackles. I like Ayers too, just question whether or not he has the mindset that a guy like Kevin Greene is going to want at LB. While I love his versatility, and think he's the most complete LB in this Draft, he seems to be too much of a finesse player and just isn't physical enough. If we pass on Houston on the 1st, I don't think we'll take an OLB until Day 3. The value just doesn't match up for me, but I do really like Mario Addison(Troy) and Gabe Miller(Oregon State) in the mids/late Rounds. Also, I look for Brad Jones to get some reps at ILB in Chillar's Nickel LB role this offseason. Jones is a real smooth athlete and I'm not sure Chillar is going to be back. He has now suffered 3 major injuries on the same shoulder during his career, so who knows how he'll recover.

Good stuff though Brian, just my .02 cents.

Nerdmann's picture

Agreed, Starks is way shiftier than Grant and is a threat receiving. Dunno why people think Grant is faster than Starks. Starks can get to the corner, Grant doesn't. Starks can also make the first guy miss.

Oppy's picture

Brian,

As far as Kicker- "They can probably accomplish this with an undrafted rookie."

This would be true most seasons, but considering that unless something changes in a hurry we won't be looking at a free agency period- that includes undrafted free agents- anytime soon.

The longer this ugliness goes on without resolution, the worse off it is for all these undrafted "street" free agents. The NFL teams and scouts aren't even going to be able to hold a conversation with any of these kids once the draft is done with, and if the owners and players don't get something worked out soon, who knows when free agents signings will occur. Less time than usual to evaluate an unproven-in-the-NFL undrafted free agent kicker could be a harrowing proposition.

MarkinMadison's picture

If the judge doesn't grant the owners a stay today I suspect that teams will start moving on free agents tomorrow and will start seeking trades. There are too many teams that are needy at the QB position, far more than great QBs in the draft. I think this will leave several teams feeling like they must make a move via free agency or trade. We'll see what happens with the judge today, but I think that the end is in sight. Tomorrow could be the beginning of the wildest draft ever.

Tarynfor 12's picture

After watching the Parcells special on the draft rooms last night,if a team doesn't have a list of players for ANY position to bring in and or sign as an UDFA during their camp,when ever that may be,they haven't done their job.

Scouts and other personnel have finished this years draft and are already working on next years.

Agents for these possible UDFAs are the ones getting hurt,as scouting reports are done on players and won't change until they hit the field or get hit/caught by the LAW while in waiting. IMO as always.

BubbaOne's picture

Brian, Aaron had already written an article on who we need: 9 BPA's

http://cheeseheadtv.com/blog/drafting-for-need-good-football-players

Aaron talked about "improve from within". We have NO idea what the org. thinks about not only the reserves but guys on PS. So our perceived needs could be a complete myth. I laugh when people say TT needs to take a certain position 1st or 2nd round esp after saying they know he'll take the BPA. Last year the biggest needs were OLB and CB. Didn't happen. The continued focus on needs as it relates to TT is an exercise in futility.

BTW---This is who TT WILL draft: http://cheeseheadtv.com/lounge/mock-draft-2011-greenbay-packers

Chad Toporski's picture

I think Brian already addressed this in his article intro:

"But if the Packers have a philosophy of drafting the best player available (sometimes referred to as "BPA") instead of drafting to fill a need, what's the use in analyzing positions of need, you might ask.

"The reason for such an exercise is that in mere days the Packers will be adding nine new players to their roster barring any trades. By looking at each position and determining their relative strengths and weaknesses, we can see where the new players will fit into the team."

BubbaOne's picture

"By looking at each position and determining their relative strengths and weaknesses..."

You're making my point for me. We're making the determination and as TT pointed out we really don't know what we're talking about and some even know squadouche.

BTW-it doesn't keep me from opining.

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