The world of professional football has morphed from a fall sport into a twelve-month, round-the-clock spectacle with April becoming one of the most important months of the year. That is because the annual selection of collegiate talent takes place next week in New York. Clearly the two day, highly-watched event is the most important two days of the year for Packer General Manager, Ted Thompson.
As a result of last year’s disappointing season, the Packers get the # 9 selection in the seven-round event. In all, the Packers will have nine selections unless they trade for more (or less). In addition to their # 9 position in each round, they will have an extra third round pick, which they picked up by trading Brett Favre last year and an extra sixth rounder from another trade.
Thompson’s primary mission this year will be to restock the talent level for the about-to-be installed 3 – 4 defense. The new defensive coaching staff will be looking for talented young players whose talents match the new scheme. Successful 3 - 4 defenses require a stout nose tackle and at least one exceptional pass-rushing outside linebacker. The current roster doesn’t boast much talent in those areas so look for attention there next weekend.
There are a zillion mock NFL drafts and tons of information on the Internet these days. With the advent of youtube.com, pro football fanatics like me can view the highlights of college football players by simply typing in their name. No longer do just the coaches and the scouts have access to large volumes of player video. Now anyone with Internet access can be an expert!
So what is Ted Thompson going to do with that # 9 selection in the first round? I think he will take one of several defensive players, depending on who will still be on the board. B.J. Raji is a beast of a nose tackle. He is by far the best collegiate tackle and could instantly start for the Packers next year. He has character issues, however. Brian Orakpo is a highly-talented pass rusher with a non-stop motor and toughness to boot. He has a history of injuries. Some scouts have worries that he might not be flexible enough to play the 3 - 4 outside linebacker position. Everette Brown is an outstanding pass rusher from Florida State. The caveat on Brown is that so many Florida State defensive ends have flopped in the NFL, could he be another? Both Orakpo and Brown are “tweeners” size wise, which is exactly what the Packers are looking for to fill the open linebacking position opposite Aaron Kampman. Another possibility is Malcolm Jenkins, a big athletic cornerback with excellent football instincts. Cornerback is not such a priority, but he is a very good player who would quickly contribute.
Thompson almost assuredly will select an offensive lineman and cornerback or two in the lower rounds. The Packers’ starting cornerbacks and offensive tackles are getting a bit long in the tooth and will need to be replaced shortly.
The Packer Partisan predicts the Packer’s first pick will be Raji. Cheeseheads can watch and see if I am right or wrong. The fun starts at 3 p.m. on Saturday and it will be carried live on ESPN.