draft picks always look good on paper
by David H. DeLano
The 2002 NFL football draft is history and it looks to me
like the Packers did well with their selections. Of course,
I say that same thing every year at this time.
Mike Sherman pulled a surprise last weekend by moving up eight
picks in the first round to draft a player the Packers have determined
to be a gem. Javon Walker, a 6' 3" two hundred ten pound
wide receiver from Florida State, is that player. Walker is
a big, fast (runs the 40 in 4.38 seconds) athlete and will give
Brett Favre another weapon this coming year as the Packers move
towards overhauling their wide receiver corps.
Mike Sherman's decision to move up to get Walker was based upon
his belief that a couple of teams selecting between pick # 20
(Seattle's first round pick) and # 28 (the Packer's pick), would
likely choose Walker before the Pack's turn came. If Walker
were to have been selected prior to the Packer's # 28 pick, the
thinking was that there were no other impact wide receivers left
to be selected this year. So, Sherman boldly traded up with
Seattle at the cost of a second round pick to ensure getting
the player he wanted. I like Sherman's decisive management style
and I like the player selected.
Javon Walker has enormous physical ability. The knock on Walker,
however, is that he isn't smart enough to learn the Packer's
complicated West Coast offense. Walker took something called
the Wuderlic intelligence test and scored a 9 out of 50 possible
which isn't very good. The Packers, however, did their own intelligence
work on Walker and discovered that he has a slight learning disability.
Aware of that, the Packers feel there are effective alternative
methods of teaching to overcome Walker's learning disability
and thus they made the decision to draft him.
I listened to the post draft interview with Walker and I was
impressed. Articulate with a sense of humor, he handled himself
well with the press. Walker signed a professional baseball contract
coming out of high school and allegedly pocketed a signing bonus
of some $300,000. Two years of professional baseball was enough
for him though. He then decided to enroll in college and resume
his football career. The interesting thing is that Walker was
smart enough to invest his signing bonus from the baseball contract,
rather than spending it, as many young men would have done.
If he is smart enough to do that, methinks he is smart enough
to learn the Packers' offense. Look for some big performances
from this young man in the future.
With their remaining 5 picks, the Packers selected Marques Anderson,
a versatile defensive back from UCLA, Najeh Davenport, the top
rated fullback in the draft, Aaron Kampman, a defensive lineman
from Iowa, Northwestern (LA) QB Craig Nall and San Diego State
guard Mike Houghton. The only position where the Pack failed
to draft some help for a "need" area was linebacker.
This year's linebacker group was very weak though, so maybe
it was just as well they did not "stretch" to take
a player from that group. Look for the Pack to sign a veteran
free agent linebacker or two before training camp begins.
Reflecting back upon Packer drafts of the past, it is interesting
that some of the poorest drafts took place in the '60s during
the reign of none other than the greatest coach the game has
ever seen, Vincent T. Lombardi. Strange as it may seem, the
legendary Packer coach didn't draft that well. During his nine
years as a Packer coach, only a single player (Lionel Aldridge)
drafted during that period was able to earn a starting role in
his rookie year. Lombardi achieved his phenomenal success mainly
due to the efforts of players drafted prior to his arrival or
through trades. Lombardi, of course, more than made up for his
weak college drafts by squeezing every ounce of performance out
of his players through player development and motivational genius.
But back to the present the next step is to get the 2002 draftees
signed to contracts before the mini camps get into full swing.
With the possible exception of Walker, I wouldn't expect any
of the draft class of 2002 to become starters this fall. This
group does appear to afford the Pack some quality roster depth
to contribute to special teams and situation plays. Hopefully
these players will develop quickly and compete for starting jobs
in the near future. How good or how poor the Packer's draft
class of 2002 turns out to be can't be judged for years to come
but it sure looks like the Packer staff has done their homework
Another pearl of optimism for cheeseheads look for some meaningful
contributions from last year's draftees this fall. Specifically,
Jamal Reynolds, Robert Ferguson and Torrance Marshall. These
three players were noticeably quiet during their rookie campaigns
but they all have lots of talent, which is about to blossom into
performance this coming season. Butas is true with all draft
classesonly time will tell for sure.