With the 2013 NFL Draft in the books, here’s one thing to take away from each position on the Packers roster now that 11 draft choices and a handful of college free agents are headed to Green Bay…
Mike McCarthy must feel comfortable with B.J. Coleman as a developmental quarterback––At the start of the fourth round, the Packers had their choice of Ryan Nassib, Tyler Wilson and Landry Jones if they wanted them. They then let the last three rounds of the draft pass by without taking a quarterback either. Confidence in Graham Harrell is at an all-time low. Coleman will compete with Harrell for the No. 2 gig this offseason. Matt Brown of Illinois State appears to be an intriguing option as an undrafted free agent, but coming out of the FCS level of college football, his highest hopes are as the third-string quarterback in his rookie year.
The Packers aren’t paying lip service to the running game anymore––By taking both Eddie Lacy and Johnathan Franklin, the Packers showed they are serious about bringing some balance to their offense. Even if either Lacy or Franklin happen to get injured (knock on wood), they’ll still have a Mercedez-Benz while the Lexus is in the shop. And if they’re both healthy, look out. They’ll provide a thunder-and-lightning or smash-and-dash aspect to the ground game. I’m still in awe the Packers got Franklin. They haven’t had a back with his breakaway speed for a long, long time. And how good does DuJuan Harris look as the No. 3 option right now?
Despite losing Greg Jennings and Donald Driver, the Packers are still in good shape at receiver––Getting another top-flight wide receiver would have been nice, but it wasn’t a necessity. They still have Randall Cobb, Jordy Nelson and James Jones to rely upon. The seventh-round additions of Charles Johnson and Kevin Dorsey are picks with upside. Neither had a good quarterback throwing them the ball in college, and they’ll look leaps and bounds better with Aaron Rodgers at the helm. All the Packers have to do is hope one of them develops into a fourth or fifth receiver in their rookie year and hope for more in future seasons. I’m not sure why, after grabbing Johnson with their first seventh-round pick, they wouldn’t take a chance on Da’Rick Rogers instead of Dorsey. At that point in the draft, he’s worth the risk. And they probably still could have signed Dorsey as an undrafted free agent.
Tight end will be a top need in 2014––It’s difficult to envision Jermichael Finley in Green Bay beyond 2013 no matter what happens this season, and while that opens the door for a guy like Andrew Quarless and D.J. Williams, the Packers will likely go back to the drawing board at tight end in the 2014 NFL Draft. Among the undrafted free agents the Packers signed, Jake Stoneburner of Ohio State is among those with the most potential. He’s not an in-line tight end and might be able to stretch the field if he can get his head on straight.
The cream will rise to the top––By adding two fourth-round offensive linemen, the Packers just added a lot of competition to a much-maligned unit. It appears as if David Bakhtiari will get first crack at staying at tackle in the NFL, and at only 21 years old, there’s a lot of growth potential in the Colorado product. Meanwhile, J.C. Tretter looks destined as an interior offensive lineman, and whether it’s at center or guard, only time will tell. With Patrick Lewis and Lane Johnson added as undrafted free agents, there’s plenty of competition. Those who want one of probably eight spots the Packers will have on their 53-man roster will have to earn it.
Finally, Raji will get a break––Even though the future of the defensive line could look drastically different in 2014 with five players entering a contract season, it’s going to be a crowded position for the time being. For a team that uses two defensive linemen sets as much as the Packers, there should quite a heavy rotation to keep guys fresh this upcoming season. Raji no longer has to be a three-down player, even though he has the ability to do so and occasionally will. Ryan Pickett and C.J. Wilson are the dedicated run-stuffers while Mike Daniels and Mike Neal are the designated pass-rushers. And Datone Jones will do everything asked of him.
One injury away from being a disaster––By taking Nate Palmer in the sixth round, this appeared to be one position where Ted Thompson may have “outsmarted” himself. Palmer only took one NFL visit and didn’t look to be on the radar of other NFL teams. Even if the Packers were really, really enamored, couldn’t they have waited until the seventh round to take Palmer? Taking a chance on a Joe Kruger or Michael Buchanan seemed to make more sense and worth the risk, given it was the sixth round. The Packers are banking on Clay Matthews and Nick Perry, two players who missed time with injuries last season. That leaves Palmer and Dezman Moses as the top backups. They might show promise, but whether they can be productive three-down starters in the NFL is another matter.
Don’t believe everything you hear––Despite reports that the Packers were considering trading Desmond Bishop this past weekend, there was probably more smoke than fire. When healthy, Bishop is the best inside linebacker on the roster. Sure, there’s plenty of teams who would sign Bishop off the street like D.J. Smith, but not many who would give something up via trade for a guy who spent an entire year on injured reserve. And don’t discount Terrell Manning. The Packers traded up to take him in the fifth round last year. He’s one of those candidates who will make the biggest leaps from Year 1 to Year 2.
Micah Hyde will give Jarrett Bush a run for his money, quite literally––Bush is set to make $1.7 million in 2013 and over $2 million in 2014, quite a large amount for a guy who plays primarily on special teams. It looks as if the Packers will give Hyde every opportunity to be a cornerback, but like Bush, he could be one of those players who provides depth at both positions. And while Hyde sits behind Tramon Williams, Sam Shields, Casey Hayward and Davon House in 2013, there will be an opportunity for him to become a special teams regular.
Morgan Burnett just became the next signing priority––By not taking a true safety during the draft, the Packers are placing a lot of faith in the likes of Jerron McMillian, M.D. Jennings and Sean Richardson. While they may be justified in doing so, they also left themselves vulnerable at the position. With Burnett set to become a free agent after the 2013 season, the Packers can’t afford to let him slip through the cracks. If I were the Packers, I would have offered Oklahoma safety Tony Jefferson the largest signing bonus possible after the draft ended. I have no evidence to prove they didn’t, but you would have thought they would have made a bigger effort to add depth at the position at the very least.
Giorgio Tavecchio is the closest thing to competition to Mason Crosby as the Packers will get––Oklahoma State’s Quinn Sharp was available in the seventh round if the Packers wanted him. He’s a little scattershot from a personality standpoint, but he’s got an absolute cannon for a leg. As it stands, Tavecchio is the only other option if Crosby continues to be erratic. It seems unlikely Tavecchio would unseat Crosby for a job, but the offseason and training camp will paint a better picture.
Brian Carriveau is the author of “It’s Just a Game: Big League Drama in Small Town America,” and editor of Cheesehead TV’s “Pro Football Draft Preview.” To contact Brian, email email@example.com.