I realize there hasn't even been a down played in the 2o10 regular season, and I'd be getting way ahead of myself by talking about the 2011 draft. The purpose of this exercise is more to examine the strengths and weaknesses of the current team.
With an entire training camp as evidence, most observers of the Green Bay Packers know where the team could use some help. It doesn't take a genius to see some potential pitfalls that could plague the 2010 version of the Packers.
Certainly, things may change over the course of the season given unexpectedly strong or weak performances and/or injuries. But let this only serve as a primer as to where the Packers may go in search of help in the draft or free agency (depending on the CBA) next offseason...
- Inside linebacker: With A.J. Hawk scheduled to make around $10 million next season, he figures to be let go prior to 2011. And even in the event that he may re-structure his deal, there's no reason to think the Packers couldn't use an upgrade at the position. Brandon Chillar and Desmond Bishop are also waiting their turn, but they have their weaknesses as well. Besides, Bishop is scheduled to be a free agent after this season, and there's no guarantee he's coming back. And even if he does, Bishop would be the youngest player at inside linebacker in his fifth year in 2011, and the Packers could use some new blood at the position.
- Outside linebacker: The performance of Brad Jones will go a long ways towards determining how much of a need outside linebacker will be by next season. But even if Jones exceeds expectations, the top backups remain Brady Poppinga and Frank Zombo who don't exactly install fear in opponents. Because outside linebacker is such an important position in the 3-4 defense, the Packers need more depth and another playmaker at the position in case of injury.
- Cornerback: Much like outside linebacker, the performances of Brandon Underwood, Sam Shields and Pat Lee will determine how much emphasis the team places at cornerback this upcoming offseason. The early returns are dubious at best. While Shields has displayed a lot of potential, neither Underwood nor Lee did anything during the preseason to think that they can be positive contributors in 2010. By chance that one or more of them exceed expectations, cornerback will be further down the list of needs.
- Safety: The Packers are seemingly set with Nick Collins and Morgan Burnett as their starting duo. Beyond them, Charlie Peprah and Derrick Martin have only shown to have value on special teams. It would be nice to have draft a rookie to develop that could possibly turn into a starting caliber player down the road.
- Running back: At a position that takes as much abuse as running back, it's always good to have another option in your back pocket. The Packers would beat the odds if they make it through the entire year with only Ryan Grant and Brandon Jackson at halfback. Sixth-round draft choice James Starks remains an option, but he hasn't had live contact in any game since the end of the 2008 season.
- Return specialist: The Packers are undertaking a risk with starting cornerback Tramon Williams on punt returns. Meanwhile, Jordy Nelson and Brandon Jackson have yet to show a spark on kick returns. With Will Blackmon gone, there's a job available for a guy that can both be reliable catching the ball and provide a threat returning it.
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