The Green Bay Packers enter this week’s collegiate draft with a lot of uncertainty as there are several positions where the talent level needs to improve. Barring a trade, the Packers pick 26th in the first round beginning tomorrow night and have a total of eight picks in the draft. It is always fun for Cheesehead draftniks to speculate on which players Ted Thompson will target. Here is my take.
The Packers’ obvious weakness is their defense. That was also the case the previous year, but in spite of six defensive picks in the last draft, problems remain. The troubling inability of the Packers to stop the run was painfully obvious in the games late last season. The return of some key injured players will help, but the Packers need to find fresh talent along their defensive line.
The Packers currently do not have prototypically-sized (tall and 300 pounds or so) defensive ends to fit their base 3-4 defense. The 2013 draft has a couple exceptional examples of those types of players, but these few blue chip players will be long gone by the 26th pick. Likely available, however, will be Southern Methodist University’s Margus Hunt, a towering 6’8” hulk with freaky-like speed/strength/size. Hunt, born in Estonia, was formerly a shot put and discus champion. He began his football career late and will be 26 years old by the time the football season starts, so there are some caveats. Although raw with his football skills, Hunt has tons of physical abilities. If his speed and strength can be harnessed, Hunt could be an outstanding NFL defensive lineman.
North Carolina’s Sylvester Williams fits the bill of the physical, prototypical 3-4 defensive end and may be an option in case Hunt’s red flags prove too much. Williams is actually ranked higher than Hunt in most pre-draft publications and just might be a safer bet for the Pack’s #1 pick. Another option here could be UCLA’s defensive lineman, Datone Jones. Jones has pretty good size, has displayed versatility during a distinguished collegiate career, and offers some pass-rushing skills.
Replacing safety Charles Woodson is likely high on Thompson’s agenda and the Pack might go this route as well with that first pick. Jonathon Cyprien of Florida International brings a nasty attitude (in a good way) with his game. He is a human scud missile in full-attack mode, which is exactly what the Packers need. Cyprien has good size for a safety, good coverage skills and could start immediately at strong safety.
I hope Thompson is thinking defense with that first pick, but if an exceptional offensive talent slips through to #26, he may just snatch an offensive lineman, running back or even a tight end. Names that keep popping up in mock drafts are running back Eddy Lacy of Alabama and tight end Tyler Eifert of Notre Dame. Both are intriguing players. I am not sure Lacy is first-round talent. Eifert is, and could be an eventual replacement for the overpaid and chronically under-producing Jermichael Finlay. Eifert and Finlay on the field at the same time next year is an exciting proposition for the Lambeau faithful.
A couple years ago the Packer Partisan accurately predicted that the Packers select defensive lineman B.J. Raji in the first round. I haven’t come close to an accurate first-round draft prediction since. Let’s see if one of these guys gets the call in 2013.