Sunday, April 28, 2013

A Summary of the Packers 2013 NFL Draft Selections

By: Justis Mosqueda

Round 1 Pick 26:
Datone Jones DE UCLA
Jones's measurables compared to other Day 1 3-4 DL:

Before the draft I ranked the defensive line as the Packers number one need, but I didn't think they would address it high, if it wasn't in round one. The reason I say that is because their starters aren't bad: Ryan Pickett, B.J. Raji, C.J. Wilson. The issue was that everyone was set to be a free agent in 2014. C.J. Wilson (last year's starting RE), B.J. Raji (last year's starting NT), Ryan Pickett (last year's starting LE/only other player who can play NT on a starting level), and Mike Neal (third DE) are all off the Packers books after this year.

With their first pick, to my approval, the Packer went with Datone Jones, a 3-4 lineman who has the combo of athleticism, length, and strength, which is unmatched by anyone in this class outside Margus Hunt.

The question I have about Jones is regarding the nickel. What's he going to do on first and second down in the 2-4-5? Typically, the Packers run a LE-NT combo on those two downs, and Jones is clearly a RE. With the Packers running a majority of their snaps out of the nickel, the RE basically has the same value as a nickel CB (12th defender) in most defenses.

While the nickel fit is questionable, Jones is probably going to be the best LE the Packers have seen since Cullen Jenkins left for the Eagles after the Super Bowl run. Honestly, they were still looking for his replacement until this weekend. C.J. Wilson, last years starting RE, while not terrible, isn't great by any means, and he will most likely flip to LE, leaving Datone Jones-Mike Neal-Mike Daniels as the RE depth chart. Jones also needs to gain some weight, in my opinion. He gained weight for the combine but reportedly dropped down into the 270s again for his pro day. He's going to need to be closer to 300 than 270, if he wants to play all three downs. When McCarthy was asked about the subject, though, he stated, “Datone Jones has ability to be a 3-down-lineman.”

2013 projection: starting LE

Round 2 Pick 61:
Eddie Lacy RB Alabama
Lacy's measurables compared to other Day 2 RBs:

After trading back from #55, the Packers selected the free falling running back at #61. I think Lacy's draft process really hurt him. He went from being the number one ranked running back almost unanimously and running all over Notre Dame in the National Championship, to missing the combine due to injury and preforming poorly at his pro day. What's weird is the only drill he really did terrible in was the 3 Cone, which Bell also did bad in, but he went to Pittsburgh, even though he had way more wear on his tires than Lacy had by a huge margin. Lacy's been kept fresh. His first season as a full time starter was this year (backed up #3 overall pick, Trent Richardson, prior to starting.)

At first glance this is an amazing pick for Green Bay, but there's a reason Thompson traded back and didn't take him at #55. Lacy isn't a great fit in the Packers offense, but he's going to be good enough to start. Cedric Benson (gone), Ryan Grant (gone), Alex Green, and James Starks all started games last year at RB before DuJuan Harris really started to take over the show. Because of his lack of impact in the passing game, Harris didn't start a game until the playoffs. The Packers didn't really need a running back as much as they needed a three down back. They need someone the defense has to respect, a threat on 3rd and mediums so the defense doesn't just play two high, like they did all last year. Another way for Lacy to prove he is an every down back would be through the passing game. He ran routes a majority of the time during passing plays at Alabama, but if he can add a pass blocking dimension to his game, he might never come off the field.

Lacy brings that to the table, but I hope his vision is better than I give it credit for. If there was ever a RB that could get through college with a lack of vision and be highly touted, he would be thrusted into that spot by an offensive line like Alabama's. Vision is the key to the RB position in Green Bay's zone scheme. There have been talented players that lack vision that busted, like Brandon Jackson, in the past in this system.

While I don't think Lacy is a tremendous fit for Green Bay, he runs routes pretty well and is the most talented RB on Green Bay's roster already. That alone will get him on the field as the starter while McCarthy tweaks with the run offense to fit Lacy.

2013 projection: starting RB

Round 4 Pick 109:
David Bakhtiari OG Colorado
Round 4 Pick 122:
J.C. Tretter OC Cornell
Bakhtiari and Tretter's measurables compared to other Round 4 interior linemen:

Right when the Packers media members thought they had Thompson figured out, he threw a curve ball at them. With many wide receivers, like Quinton Patton, falling everyone thought that Green Bay was going to go WR with one or both of their forth round picks. This was based on the assumption that WR or FS were the biggest needs left for the Pack. With Greg Jennings already gone (along with their #2 TE Tom Crabtree), Jermichael Finley (#1 TE) and James Jones (league touchdowns leader in 2012) coming off the books in 2014, and Jordy Nelson (league touchdowns leader in 2011) coming off the books a year later, it seemed like Green Bay needed some youth to keep the arsenal of weapons goings. Ted Thompson wasn't having any of that.

Instead, he went offensive line. Twice.

First was David Bakhtiari (Bock-T-R-E), a three year starter from Colorado, who declared a year early. After his redshirt season, he started 33 games for the Buffalo over three years. First starting at RT, he moved to LT his sophomore year, taking over for Nate Solder (1st round LT) who left for the NFL. If there is an offensive line type Thompson likes to target in the middle rounds, it's guys that can swing to at least three positions on the offensive line. While I don't think that Bakhtiari can play left tackle on the pro level like he did in college, I think he has the skill set to develop to a nice RT, or guard. I don't think that either of these picks are evidence the team has given up on Derek Sherrod (2011 first round pick). They seem more like depth/draft and develop players than "make up for a first rounder" type guys.

The athletic and mobile Bakhtiari was reportedly ranked as the #7 offensive lineman on the Packers big board. If nothing else he will be able to push Marshall Newhouse as the #3 OT, this year. Newhouse is a free agent next off-season, so I imagine if Bakhtiari does well we don't see Newhouse back, unless the market for him isn't very good. Some even think Bakhtiari could play center at the next level.

J.C. Tretter reminds me a lot of an offensive lineman the Packers already had: Evan Dietrich-Smith. EDS and Tretter both played left tackle in college, but both will most likely be remembered as athletic centers in the NFL. Tretter actually spent his first two years at Cornell as a tight end before swinging inside to left tackle. While the center position is often the toughest position to play mentally on the offensive line, we have got to assume the Ivy League grad has something going on upstairs and can be taught the position.

Unlike Bakhtiari, who was really a swing depth guy, Tretter is going to be play a position (center) which he has a legitimate shot to be in the running for. Evan Dietrich-Smith is really the only 53 calibre center on the team, and he's only on a one year deal after taking over as the starting center the second half of the Packers 2012 season.

While I don't think either of these guys should see the field in an injury-free world, they should be nice OL projects that have the potential to start between the tackles for Green Bay, within two or three years. It's hard to say exactly where these guys will play, because they seem to have the flexibility to play almost every spot on the line. Basically every OL Thompson has drafted was an OT in college, so I see no reason why these two left tackles couldn't swing inside to guard or center like many have before them.

2013 projection (Bakhtiari): second string guard
2013 projection (Tretter): second string center

Round 4 Pick 125:
Johnathan Franklin RB UCLA
Franklin's measurables compared to other Round 4/5 RBs:

Not only did Green Bay (a team which doesn't value RBs much) pick two running backs in the first four rounds of the draft, but they actually traded up to grab Franklin. After sending a fifth and sixth round pick to Denver, the Packers doubled dipped with UCLA players.

Heading into the day Franklin was arguably the best running back on the board. After Bernard, Bell, Ball, Lacy, Michael, and Davis went Day 2, no one selected a running back until this pick. 

Honestly, Franklin's got a shot at starting over Lacy long term for the Packers. While Lacy is more talented, but a questionable fit, Franklin is a smaller, faster back whose skills might actually translate better in a zone blocking system. Franklin's got experience in zone blocking in his years at UCLA, while Lacy was running with the power system at Alabama. Another way the two new Packers backs are different is their college workload. While Lacy just became a starter this year, Franklin is a four year starter who never rushed for less than 126 carries (almost had 300 this year alone.) Lacy only had one 100+ carry season his whole career.

Franklin, like Lacy and unlike the rest of the RBs on the Packers roster, also brings three down ability to Green Bay as he was effective as a pass catcher for the Bruins. Like Lacy, I'd like to see him block a little more.

I'm actually pretty surprised that Thompson made the move up for Franklin because he already took a running back and he doesn't draft players that are smaller than 5'11", typically. The fact that he traded up for him makes me think that they value this pick a lot. If I were Lacy, I wouldn't sleep on Franklin, and if I were James Starks or Alex Green, I just wouldn't be able to sleep at night.

2013 projection: second/spell/third down RB

Round 5 Pick 159:
Micah Hyde CB Iowa
Hyde's measurables compared to other Round 5 CBs:

Hyde was my second ranked player that I thought could swing from CB or FS for the Packers (behind David Amerson.) When this pick was first made I thought he was going to be a free safety, because the depth there is pretty bad. Morgan Burnett, a SS, played at FS when we were in the nickel/dime, which was a majority of the time. Joe Whitt, the Packers CB coach, let everyone know that Hyde is going to be a CB to start out for the team and work in the nickel, dime, and special teams.

The cornerback position is pretty crowded at this point. Tramon Williams, Sam Shield (who's working on a long term deal), Casey Hayward (stud rookie nickel CB in 2012), Davon House, and Jarrett Bush all could be on the roster next year. House has been highly praised by the coaching staff, too, but his shoulder injury, similar to Tramon's, has been holding him back as of late. Jarrett Bush is a special teams ace that swings between safety and corner, much like Hyde is projected to do. If I had to guess, I would say Hyde's role will be closer to Bush's than a true CB. After Bush, now 28, started at CB Week 1 for the Packers, he saw very little playing time. He's going to to cost $1.68 and $1.99 million in salary cap over the next two years, and while that not very much, Thompson always is trying to take advantage of his cap situation. A cheap replacement to Bush could come in handy when Green Bay tries to extend quality players who become free agents next year.

Hyde isn't the fastest player in the world, but he seems like the effort guy. He played special teams his freshman year and was Iowa's ace player in that corp. From then on he was a starter, even starting a couple games at FS before flipping back to CB. He's also a good tackler, something the Packers need in the secondary if they plan to stay out of the wrong side of highlights this year. He did have an arrest in college, but Thompson must have not thought it was that big of a deal.

2013 projection: fifth CB/special teamer

Round 5 Pick 167:
Josh Boyd DE Mississippi State
Boyd's measurables compared to Robert Woods's:

Josh Boyd out-weighted Robert Woods by 109 pounds at the combine and they basically had the same 3 Cone time. That's all I really have on that one. Boyd and Mike Catapano were the two DE prospects I really wanted the Packers to give a shot in the later rounds. While Green Bay took a DE in Round 1, Jones is more of a RE and Boyd is more of a LE. This move could mean a number of things. I thought the Packers would have leaned LE over RE in the first round. The reason I thought so was because the depth chart doesn't look good for the future. Ryan Pickett is the starting LE, he's making around $8.4 million this year, is heading into 2014 as a free agent, and will be 34 by the end of the year. The Packers second LE going into the draft was Jerel Worthy, a 2012 rookie that got injured at the tail end of last season and may have to start on PUP. After that there was nothing. While the Jones pick probably does mean a flip from RE to LE for 2012's starting RE C.J. Wilson, he's nothing amazing, and he's also a free agent in 2014. So basically, every LE on the roster is most likely leaving in 2014 or is injured to start 2013.

While many have speculated that he was going to be a NT, he had to gain a significant amount of weight to get to 310 and is probably going to get lighter, than not. I feel like he's going to be the third NT behind Raji-Pickett, but really won't see that much time on the field there, although he's stated that he thinks he can play a little of DE and DT in the 3-4.

If his agility times tell us anything, it's that he's athletic for his size. Assuming that losing about ten pounds would make him even more athletic, you can guess that he could get a rush on 3rd down from the LE or NT spots. Combo that with his motor and strength, he's going to be a nice backup/situational lineman for the Packers in the future. He might even have the ability to start if Worthy doesn't pan out. A base nickel with Datone Jones-Josh Boyd-Mike Neal with Clay Matthews or Nick Perry coming off the edge could generate some nice pressure. People forget how great of a season he had with Fletcher Cox next to him last year, another player the Packers were high on. With Cox gone it allowed SEC offensive lines to target Boyd as the only real threat on Mississippi State's defensive line. Very few win that battle, and I think that's why Boyd's stock dropped his senior year.

2013 projection: second/third string DE/reserve NT

Round 6 Pick 193:
Nate Palmer OLB Illinois State

After signing Clay Matthews to a long term deal and taking Nick Perry in the first round, you would think that outside linebacker wasn't a big need for the Packers, but you'd be wrong. It isn't so much the quality, it's the quantity of outside linebackers that's the issue.

Outside of Matthews and Perry (who is recovering from a rookie injury), the Packers really only had Dezman Moses on the roster at OLB. The Packers #3 OLB was Erik Walden last year, and he split to Indianapolis for a lot more money than he would have netting in Green Bay. Brad Jones has some experience playing OLB, but after resigning for what seemed to be a huge amount (3 years $11.75 million) the Packers have decided he's more of an ILB. That left, like I said, Dezman Moses, a 2012 UDFA, as the lone OLB outside the two Packer first round picks.

With the selection of Nick Palmer the Packers have basically secured their Matthews-Perry-Palmer-Moses OLB corp, unless for some reason a UDFA flies up during the preseason.

Palmer is an Illinois transfer that left due to playing time issues. While at Illinois he was a Big Ten All Academic team member. He played two years for the Illini before heading off to Illinois State, but not before breaking his foot in a scooter/car accident. Like many Illinois natives, unfortunately, Palmer grew up as a Chicago Bears fan.

At Illinois State, Palmer played a hybrid DE/OLB role. A DE in the 4-3, an OLB in the 3-4. The reason for this was his small size, reportedly around 220, but he's got that up to 248 by his pro day and still flashed good numbers. Those numbers earned him his one and only visit with an NFL team, the Green Bay Packers.

Palmer is a good, athletic pass rusher (17 sacks in two years at ISU) that lost very little by gaining almost 30 pounds this offseason, at least by numbers standards. If he is the same football player with an added 30 pounds to his frame he will have no problem rotating in Dom Capers's defense. Most likely a second stringer, he's going to be able to help on special teams, too.

2013 projection: second string OLB/special teamer

Round 7 Pick 219:
Charles Johnson WR Grand Valley State
Round 7 Pick 224:
Kevin Dorsey WR Maryland
Instead of nabbing a dropping WR in the 4th, when Thompson double dipped on offensive linemen, the Packers got two project WRs in the seventh round. Much like OLB, the Packers didn't have quality problems with WRs, but they had quantity issues. The Packers two starting WRs, Nelson and Jones, have lead the league in touchdowns the past two years, and the Packers slot WR, Randall Cobb, broke the team record for all purpose yardage in only his sophomore year. With Jennings departure, though, the Packers were only left with two other receivers from their 2012 season: Jarrett Boykin and Jeremy Ross. Jarrett Boykin was viewed as a UDFA who should have been drafted in 2012, but he only caught five passes his rookie season. Jeremy Ross, also an UDFA rookie in 2012, saw a majority of his time on special teams, where he became a returner late in the year. He had no catches last season. The Packers top three could be the best three, but the rest of the roster only had three combined catches in their combined careers.

The first WR chosen was Charles Johnson, a small school prospect from Grand Valley State. Thompson has plucked players from small schools repeatedly, so this was nothing new (Nick McDonald, a former GVSU lineman, was on the Packers roster for a while as a UDFA.)

Both of the receivers have medium height and weight, and extraordinary workout numbers. Charles Johnson even ran a legit 4.3 twice at his pro day. Both were also brought in for visits at one point by the Packers.

Johnson started out at Eastern Kentucky (an FCS school) before being suspended, enrolling at a community college, and ending up at Grand Valley State (a D2 school.) The suspension raises some flags, but everything must have gotten cleared up during his visit in Green Bay. His body control is part of the reason he was able to catch 31 touchdowns in only two years at GVSU. Many small school guys that have crazy numbers don't show dominance over weaker competition. Johnson totally blew his competition out of the water.

Kevin Dorsey is very much the same as Johnson but very different, as well. Dorsey put up crazy workout numbers (Maryland WR's like Darius Heyward-Bey have done so in the past) and took a visit to Green Bay, but his production is the opposite of Johnson's success. After only racking up 18 catches his first two years, Dorsey started to breakout his junior year with 45 catches. His senior year, though, three quarterbacks got injured (not including O'Brien, who transferred to Wisconsin), which ended up making a freshman linebacker move to QB and start. He finished with only 18 catches. You can blame him for not getting open, but it must be hard when you are on your fourth best quarterback on the roster, again not including O'Brien. He did the best he could with the limited catches, though, tallying up 17.3 yards per catch.

In reality both of these receivers could make the roster, or both could be cut by the third preseason game, depending on how many the Packers plan on holding on their roster. Thompson took two freak athletes with very different senior years and is hoping one sticks.

2013 projection (Johnson): fourth WR/special teamer
2013 projection: sixth WR/special teamer

Round 7 Pick 232:
Sam Barrington ILB South Florida

Confusion at the ILB position started the day before the draft in Green Bay. D.J. Smith, who was a spot starter his first two years in Green Bay, was cut after a failed physical, but he was signed by San Diego shortly after, leading many to think the physical meant little to nothing. The Packers wanted Smith out. It continued on Day 3 as rumors of a trade for starting ILB Desmond Bishop, who has been recovering from an injury that kept him out of almost all of 2012, started swirling.

Brad Jones, a weak-side ILB like Smith and Bishop, was brought back this off-season after being projected to leave for a starting job. All of this lead me to think the Packers were moving on from the Smith's and Bishop's and making Jones a full time starter at some point this year.

I was slightly shocked when Barrington was picked because of this. Barrington has so many similarities to D.J. Smith, it's hard to count. What's interesting, is he seems like a better athlete than him, but only by his pro day numbers. I don't know what happened between the combine and his pro day, but his numbers got a lot more explosive.

There are red flags with Barrington, as he's had four arrest for a revoked license. He's since gotten his license back and said it's a non-issue for the future.

The Packers have never been shy about keeping ILBs on their roster for reserve and special team purposes. With Hawk, Jones, and Bishop all having large dollar signs attached to their names, Barrington will have to compete with Robert Francois, Micah Johnson, Jamari Lattimore, and last year's fifth round pick, Terrell Manning, for special teams time and a roster spot.

2013 projection: reserve ILB/special teamer

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