Saturday, April 26, 2008

2008 Draft: Day One Reflections

As Ted Thompson's fourth Day One comes to a close, there a three new millionaires in Green and Gold. The draft hasn't been as shocking as the Justin Harrell/Brandon Jackson one-two punch last year, but certainly has room for discussion, good and bad.

First of all, the Packers traded out of the first round, though you can say that it wasn't much of a move. Moving from #30 to #36 garnered the Packers an extra fourth round pick, but some skeptics out there will look hard at the pick, as a couple of players of high interest to the Packers ended up going by the wayside, including top tight end Dustin Keller and prime-time cornerback Brandon Flowers. However, when Antoine Cason moved off the board before the Packers' pick, I expected a trade-down as much as anyone.

The pick at #36 was a typical Thompson head-scratcher at first. I mean, if you were making a list of positions of need, wide receiver would likely have been the only one you would have looked at on the team and felt that we not only didn't need a starter, but really didn't need to develop much depth, either. (The other position would be defensive line, but you can never have enough quality defensive linemen)

We needed depth at quarterback, running back, both offensive guard and tackle, tight end, linebacker, corner, and perhaps even safety. I would even go so far to suggest that we could use players ready to challenge immediately at some of those positions, particularly safety, corner, guard, and tight end.

But, the BPA apparently on Ted Thompson's board was wide receiver Jordy Nelson, a rookie who will now compete with Donald Driver, Greg Jennings, and James Jones for as many passes that Aaron Rodgers can complete. While I can't find a lot of knocks on the kid or even where he was picked, there is a point where I do shake my head and wonder how we are going to shore up some of these other positions on the team when we don't draft for need, and also don't sign free agents.

Anyway, Jordy Nelson appears to be a big, tall recieving threat that might follow in the footsteps of some other big receivers like Joe Jerivicious, possession guys that can really make life easy for a young quarterback. Sterling Sharpe certainly filled that role for a young Don Majkowski and Brett Favre, and I think we already have the "stretch-the-field" guy on the roster in Greg Jennings.

Thompson, if nothing else, has certainly been successful in his ability to draft wide receivers in the second and third rounds and get them ready to play in their first years. I would expect that Nelson is both a good-bye to Koren Robinson and/or Ruvell Martin. Nelson may also prove to be a genius move in that Donald Driver is up there in age and may soon be on the decline or out of the game. If some misfortune befell Driver this season in the pre-season that knocked him out for extended time, a player like Nelson would be an immediate bonus.

With the Packers second pick in the second round, Thompson took quarterback Brian Brohm. This was an intriguing pick, for many reasons:

* Brohm was considered the second-ranked quarterback in the draft, but fell further than expected, just like the man he will be backing up, Aaron Rodgers.

* Brohm is considered very, very bright, with a 32/45 Wonderlic score. He is also considered a little injury prone. Some compare him to Joe Montana. Some also compare him to Ty Detmer. And, these are both traits that are attributed to Aaron Rodgers.

* Interestingly enough, the one trait he doesn't share with Aaron Rodgers is his mobility. While Aaron Rodgers has happy feet and likes to take off downfield a bit too quickly, Brohm is less mobile and not a threat to scramble. However, he has demonstrated an ability to move around in the pocket...not unlike our recently departed quarterback, Brett Favre, who was also not particularly mobile, but was excellent and sensing pressure and moving the pocket.

I was a little surprised that Thompson went with a quarterback here, but since both Brohm and Henne had free-fallen into the end of the second round, it is difficult to pass them up, especially when there is a need. I had expected Thompson to sign a veteran QB to back up Rodgers and invest a second-day pick in more of a project like Josh Johnson. However, no matter whose board you use, Brohm was a darn good value for a late second round pick.

The amusing thing I keep thinking of, though, is Green Bay Press-Gazette writer Mike Vandermause, who torched Favre a week or so ago for hurting Aaron's Rodgers's psyche by hinting that he was going to miss playing. I wonder if he will have words for Ted Thompson for drafting such direct competition...the second-ranked QB in the draft class....and hurting Aaron Rodgers's psyche even more!

The Packers last pick in the second round was a cornerback, Patrick Lee of Auburn, who along with Brohm seemed to turn the "Thompson doesn't draft for need" chorus on its arse. While many of the draftniks were looking for cornerback names like Jenkins, Talib, or Cason, all three were gone when the Packers got their first crack to pick. Apparently, Lee ranked above Brandon Flowers in Thompson's eyes, and this physcial corner gets a chance to play for the Pack.

Lee is, again, a matter of opinion as to whether he is worth the pick at this point. Depending on who you talk to, many had him going in the third round. While he is a good pick to fit the Packers' bump and run coverage style used by Al Harris and Charles Woodson, such physical style requires not only good athleticism, speed, and instinct, but a bit of experience helps, too.

Lee's knock is one that worries me...he has a tendency to hold. Putting a kid at corner and asking him to play that kind of physical defense brings back memories of Ahmad Carroll. However, Lee has more height and hopefully more discipline than Carroll did, and he has fluid hips, which is a good sign for a defensive back.

So, Thompson did pretty much everything we expected: he didn't take many big risks, grabbed players with a ton of upside but in need of development, and still left us with gaping holes not addressed by the draft. We have an exciting new WR, a solid backup rookie QB, and a CB prospect.

If we are looking at need (and one has to guess that Thompson is, given the QB and CB pickups on the first day), we would expect that our third round and two fourth round picks will possibly include a tight end, a running back, and a tackle.

Or, it will include another wide receiver. But, I won't be surprised if it is.

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