Now that the dust has settled on the 2010 NFL draft, on the surface it appears the end result was more about acquiring depth than providing any major impact for this year’s Green Bay Packers.

The way the Packer secondary was dissected in games against Minnesota, Pittsburgh, and Arizona last season, Green Bay’s most urgent needs appeared to be on defense; specifically another pass rusher or cover corner. There was also a lot of pre-draft speculation that the Packers would try to move up and take one of a number of highly rated offensive tackles. But the way the draft unfolded, with seemingly more teams than usual moving around to target particular players, the Packers were able to stand pat and still land a premier offensive lineman, Iowa’s Bryan Bulaga who at one time was expected to go in the first 10 picks.

Personally, I was hoping that the Pack could add TCU linebacker Jerry Hughes to the fold. Hughes could have been a nice complement to right side linebacker Clay Matthews, preventing opposing teams from slanting their pass protection to his side as they did after Aaron Kampman was injured last year. After Green Bay selected Bulaga, Hughes went eight picks later to Indianapolis. I will be curious to see how Hughes fares with the Colts because they figure to use him in much the same capacity as the Packers might have.

It’s difficult to argue with the selection of Bulaga, though. His draft stock allegedly dropped because his hands and arms measured short of the ideal for a left tackle, but that hasn’t seemed to hinder current LT Chad Clifton or Miami’s Jake Long. While he won’t be expected to start with holdovers Clifton and Mark Tauscher still around, he was too good to pass up with the 23rd pick. Given that he came out of school early and battled a thyroid infection that sapped him of some of his strength last year, it probably would be beneficial for him to have a year to acclimate himself to the pro game. On the other hand, as offensive coordinator Joe Philbin pointed out, he’s just one injury away from being their starting left tackle. That’s no small factor considering Clifton’s history. And for the most part, the Packers have had pretty good luck with players coming out of Iowa. Philbin used to be the offensive line coach there and their blocking system is similar to what the Packers currently employ. Whatever one perceives to be the Packers biggest shortcoming, everyone in Packer Nation (up to and including GM Ted Thompson) knows that the number one priority for this franchise is to keep quarterback Aaron Rodgers healthy and happy. Without that, everything else becomes a moot point. No one wants to see Rodgers endure another 51 sack season. The pick of Bulaga should help insure that for years to come. If nothing else, the Packers are no longer one of the few NFL teams without a first round pick among their O-lineman.

The down side of the Bulaga pick is that it made it more difficult for Thompson to find any immediate help on defense. Unfortunately, none of the remaining pass rushers was to his liking and he opted for Purdue defensive tackle Mike Neal in the second round. Reportedly, the knock on Neal is inconsistency but that should be negated somewhat with the way the Packers rotate their D-lineman. As an end in the 3-4 scheme, he should benefit from moving to the outside. At the very least, he should provide some protection with the uncertain futures of Johnny Jolly and Justin Harrell.

Actually, one intriguing prospect that was still on the board when the Packers took Neal was Notre Dame wideout Golden Tate. It’s not the craziest idea that the Packers will soon need a successor to the aging Donald Driver. But I can just imagine the uproar that would have ensued had Thompson expended yet another 2nd round pick on a wide receiver. Sort of like how I’d feel if I were a Bronco fan and learned that they used a Number 1 pick on quarterback Tim Tebow.

In the third round, Thompson for the second straight year traded up to nab Georgia Tech safety Morgan Burnett. Burnett has good size and speed for a safety and a nose for the ball with his 5 interceptions leading the Yellow Jackets last year. Of all the incoming rookies, Burnett might have the best chance of starting as incumbent Atari Bigby’s position looks to be the most vulnerable. The last time Thomspon took a safety in the third round was Aaron Rouse, who had a promising rookie season but never fully developed and was eventually released. Hopefully, Burnett will have more staying power.

I was disappointed that the Packers didn’t take a chance on Florida St. safety Myron Rolle. The Rhodes scholar was once projected as a 2nd or 3rd round talent but lasted until the 6th round when he was taken by the Tennessee Titans. Apparently teams questioned his committment to football but I would expect such an individual to be inherently intelligent, goal oriented and self motivated. When did those traits become liabilities?

The rest of the Packers draft yielded another offensive and defensive lineman, a tight end and a running back, leaving little help for a defense that still has some holes. I was hopeful that Wisconsin’s O’Brien Scholfield might yet be available to the Pack in the 5th round but he was scooped up by the Arizona Cardinals in the 4th. That means that Green Bay is counting on the availability of Johnny Jolly and Al Harris for this season; a proposition that is not without some risk. They also did nothing from a personnel standpoint to address their woeful special teams. So while this draft may have provided a few answers for Packers fans, it left a great deal more questions for training camp.
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This was the first year the NFL draft was held in “prime time” over the course of 3 days. Despite much grumbling from many who traditionally held ‘draft parties’, look for that to continue as the TV ratings for the first round were up 50% from last year according to Commissioner Roger Goodell (sorry, Wally). As for the presentation of the draft, thank God for the NFL Network. For awhile, I was in serious danger of going into anaphylactic shock from listening to ESPN’s Jon Gruden telling us how much he loves EVERY SINGLE PLAYER!

The funniest thing I read all weekend was a comment about Neal from one “expert” suggesting that he ‘might not fit the Packers’ scheme’. Maybe I’m foolish, but I’m going to assume that the Packers’ coaching staff has a better idea of what might fit their scheme than some distant observer. And while we’re on that subject, don’t pay too much attention to the media grades assigned to a team’s draft choices. It may be fun to speculate about it and indeed, a cottage industry has sprung up from the pursuit. But it takes at least two years, if not longer, to fairly evaluate a draft class. Most of the time the teams themselves don’t know for sure what they have until they get these guys on the field in full pads because if they did, they’d never make a mistake on draft day. And it’s much easier to have an “impact draft” when you suck to begin with.
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Props to the Milwaukee Bucks. Their convincing victory at the Bradley Center last night eliminated the very real possibility of getting swept in their playoff series against the Atlanta Hawks. On a personal note, I’d like to offer my congratulations and apologies to Bucks General Manager John Hammond. At the start of the season, I wondered how the Bucks would again avoid the lottery, yet they went on to win 46 games and yesterday Hammond was named ‘Executive of the Year’ in the NBA. Nothing like a little crow for breakfast on a Sunday morning.
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I didn’t get to see the Bucks victory because I wasted Saturday night at Miller Park. What a difference a day (and a city and opponent) makes. After outscoring the Pirates 36-1 over 3 days in Pittsburgh, the Milwaukee Brewers came home to get thumped in two uninspiring performances against the Chicago Cubs.

With an 8-9 record, the only thing consistent about the Brewers is their inconsistency. Ryan Braun is hot, Prince Fielder isn’t. Outfielder Jim Edmonds seems to have been a good pickup while the jury is still out on Carlos Gomez. Pitcher Dave Bush has been solid and Jeff Suppan has been Jeff Suppan. They finally got a decent start out of Doug Davis last night but, even when Davis is going well, you don’t get a comfortable feeling.

Unfortunately, my fears about shortstop Alcides Escobar are being realized. Escobar has committed 5 errors thus far, which puts him on a pace for about 40 on the season. That’s unacceptable for any player, much less one who’s always been touted as a defensive wizard. The Brewers seem content to pass off his infractions as rookie mistakes, but this is a continuing pattern that Escobar exhibited throughout his minor league career. Even last night, Escobar failed to stop two hard grounders that could have saved runs had he kept them on the infield. Sure, they would have been tough plays but they were well within his supposedly magnificent range. For 3 years I’ve been hearing what a great defensive shortstop this kid is but I’ve yet to see much evidence of it on the field. Obviously, Escobar is still very young and may well grow into the position. Bench coach Willie Randolph helped to make 2nd baseman Rickie Weeks into a competent fielder so he should be able to help Escobar. But given the reputation that he came up with, it’s certainly going to take more work than I anticipated.

Hopefully, the Brewers can salvage something of the weekend with today’s finale against Chicago and get ‘healthy’ again when Pittsburgh comes in for the next series.

Thanks for reading. Enjoy the rest of the (rainy) weekend.

 

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  • http://www.facebook.com/pages/Packers-Therapy/113896815298853?ref=sgm Chris

    “In the third round, Thompson for the second straight year traded up to nab Georgia Tech safety Morgan Burnett.”

    I didn’t know they drafted Burnett two years in a row…?

    OK, snarkiness aside, I wanted to note how refreshing it is to read some thoughtful, measured commentary on the Packers draft. As you note, none of us know how good or bad this draft was and we won’t have a real idea until at least three years hence. The tone of the piece supports that notion.

    I, too, would have liked to see GB snag Schofield. But the notion–expressed in a reader comment on the MJS blog–that Ted Thompson somehow made a mistake that will “haunt” him by not selecting Schofield is simply whack. GB did not have a fourth round pick (the round in which Schofield was drafted) and it would have been careless to use a third on a guy coming off an ACL who was projected no better than a second when fully healthy. Also, I certainly wouldn’t have wanted TT to expend additional draft choices to trade back into the fourth–to get ahead of Arizona, the team that picked Schofield–in order to acquire an injured player.

    I also liked the idea of acquiring Rolle, the Rhodes Scholar. Deep down, though, I wonder if the questions about his “commitment” are code for an unexpressed bias about players who are “too smart:” Will he be a trouble maker, asking all kinds of questions and challenging coaching authority? Will he be reading The Economist when others in the locker room are reading Sports Illustrated? (That is, assuming they are reading anything at all.) Can a smart guy really be a tough, hard-hitting football player? We all have biases; I expect NFL front office personnel are no exception.

    Finally, bravo for speaking what other seem reluctant to say about Al Escobar. He might turn out to be everything so many have proclaimed, but to this point the jury is clearly out. For the Brewers sake, I hope he develops as expected. Of course, if he does, he will probably be playing in a major market six years from now.

  • http://mike BigSnakeMan

    Burnett was the choice so nice, they drafted him twice.