Green Bay Packer General Manager Ted Thompson took major steps in rejuvenating the Packs’ roster over the weekend with a stunning coup of collegiate talent scooped up in the 2009 draft. Thompson’s first-round pick, nose tackle B.J. Raji, set the tone for the event. Raji is a huge man who is extremely quick for his size. He dominated at the college level and should be able to step in and greatly contribute this fall. Look for Ryan Pickett to get moved over to defensive end to make room for Raji. Raji has the talent to become a difference maker in the NFL for years to come.
Then, in a move totally out of character, Thompson traded the Packers’ second and two third- round picks to the Patriots in exchange for drafting at the 26th spot in the first round to select former USC linebacker Clay Mathews. Mathews, whose father and uncle had long and distinguished NFL careers, is a versatile, speedy linebacker who projects nicely into the Packers’ “open,” outside-rushing linebacker position. Like Raji, Mathews should add instant value to the Packers’ defense. Mathews has an ultra-high motor and has excelled at pass rushing and on special teams.
After sitting out rounds two and three due to the trade, in the fourth round Thompson picked up T.J. Lang, a versatile offensive lineman who brings an injury-free history, lots of playing experience and a nasty demeanor from his college experience at Eastern Michigan. Thompson addressed the Packers’ aging offensive tackle situation again in round five by plucking from the vine another versatile offensive lineman, Jamon Meredith from South Carolina. Like Lang, Meredith has lots of collegiate experience. Both have good size and should be candidates to compete for spots on the Packers’ roster.
The Packers’ other fifth-round pick went for former LSU fullback Quinn Johnson, a powerful “sledge-hammer” type blocker who formerly was a linebacker. While not a premium position, the Packers’ could use an upgrade at fullback and Johnson just might end up as the starter in 2009.
The Packers’ last three picks were Jarius Wynn, a defensive end from Georgia, Brandon Underwood, a cornerback from Cincinnati, and Brad Jones, a former Colorado linebacker. Wynn has the frame to possibly develop into a 3 – 4 defensive end. Underwood has good size and excellent speed, and Jones started for three years in a 3 – 4 defense. All three of these guys address a need for the Packers and thus have a chance to make the squad.
Ted Thompson has become a whipping boy for many disgruntled Cheeseheads for his propensity to trade down in past drafts, his relative inactivity in free agency and the handling of the Brett Favre exodus. The Packer Partisan has not joined the howls for his scalp mainly because I thought he was mostly wise in avoiding overpaying for free agents, and because he was right on jettisoning Favre. Thompson now deserves kudos. Thompson drafted smartly this year with attention to both value and need. This group, by far, is the most impressive of the last five years of Thompson’s drafts. Out of this group I can foresee three, maybe four starters next fall in Titletown. Nice job TT!