The 75th annual NFL collegiate draft is in the history books. The Green Bay Packers have made their personnel selections as they attempt to upgrade the team for the 2010 season. There were surprises, as always, so here we go with analysis.
The first surprise came in round # 1 when the guy I thought might fall to the Packers at pick # 23 was taken at # 13, and a stud offensive lineman, many felt to be a top 10 pick, fell into the Packers’ lap. Thus, it was a no-brainer for General Manager Ted Thompson to call Bryan Bulaga’s name with the Packers’ first selection. Bulaga is a top-notch left tackle talent who honed his considerable talents at Iowa. He left Iowa after his junior season and will eventually take over the Packers’ left tackle position as Chad Clifton’s career winds down. Clifton is under contract for 2010, but Bulaga may be too good to keep off the field in 2010; he just may start his Green Bay career at left guard. Cheeseheads should be delighted with his arrival after witnessing the beating Aaron Rodgers suffered last year.
More surprises came in rounds # 2 and # 7 when Thompson opted for defensive ends. The Pack is currently staffed with competent defensive ends in Cullen Jenkins and Johnny Jolly. But, both of those guys have only a year left on their contracts and perhaps that influenced Thompson’s selections. Or maybe the fact that Jenkins and Jolly were “forced” into defensive end roles last year when Dom Capers installed his 3 – 4 defense. The 3- 4 defensive end position is not their “natural” positions.
Nonetheless, these were strange picks when there are glaring needs at cornerback and pass-rushing outside linebacker. Number 2 pick Mike Neal out of Purdue is super strong. Both he and # 7 pick C.J. Wilson (East Carolina) appear likely to make contributions as back-up rotational improvements to the line, but not initial impact makers.
I liked Thompson’s third round selection a lot as he traded up to get safety Morgan Burnett. Burnett starred at Georgia Tech, where he also left after his junior season. He is a good all-around talent and could be a starter alongside Nick Collins in 2010.
Forfeiting their fourth pick to get Burnett, Thompson next selected Penn State tight end Andrew Quarless in the fifth round. Quarless has first-round talent but has a history of boneheaded off-the-field problems. He swears those issues are behind him but time will tell.
The Packers’ second fifth round pick, Marshall Newhouse, is an intelligent and versatile offensive lineman out of TCU. Underperforming holdovers Daryn Colledge and Allen Barbre likely now become expendable with the upgrades of Bulaga and Newhouse.
Running back James Starks, taken in the sixth round, is a real gamble as he didn’t play a down of football in 2009 due to injury. Starks, who played collegiately at the University of Buffalo, is big and fast and has lots of potential.
Missing from this year’s draft was relief for our aging cornerbacks and a speed rusher. Ted Thompson remarked that he felt the return of the existing players in these areas was satisfactory. I am not so sure about that. Also missing from the draft selections are a kick returner and a punter… both big need areas.
In summary, it appears that this year’s draft is somewhat of a mixed bag. Hopefully some of the voids noted above will get filled when the Packers sign undrafted free agents later this week.