Thursday, April 16, 2009

Tyson Jackson: Filling The Position of Most Need?

I know it's just not how it works. Really, I do. You don't draft for need...especially the needs of right now. You draft to infuse talent on your team for the long haul, especially if your last name happens to be Thompson.

But it's not stopping this somewhat irrational leaning to want to see Tyson Jackson in Green and Gold this season. Not because he's the "best player" that we might have to choose from at #9, or even if we traded back.

It's because he seems to be the guy that fits the bill at the position we probably have the starkest lack of talent at.

Now, I know we can all start looking at many positions along the Packers and make a point that those positions are equally important. We have uncertainty at OLB in the 3-4, so we should draft one of the hybrids. We have two aging corners, so we should draft Malcolm Jenkins, if available. We are likely without Mark Tauscher and Chad Clifton isn't getting any younger, so we should draft Smith or Oher.

And, of course, BJ Raji would anchor the middle of the defensive line. I know.

But Ted Thompson has never particularly concerned himself with immediate infusions of talent. You only need to look so far as the interior offensive line of 2006 and the running back corps of 2007. Stocking some positions with young players is better than overpaying for free agents, according to Ted.

And Mike McCarthy seems to go along with it, content to allow competition to bring the talent levels up.

Of course, this has had varying results over the past several years. But, the point is that Mike and Ted aren't always looking for quick fixes at every position, but are willing to invest mid-round picks in the hopes they will eventually flourish as a result of the competition. And you have to think that many of those positions will get addressed at some point in the draft. We just can't address all of them in the first round.

I am going with the mindset that we should look at the position that is in the most need, the position with the least amount of players able to even adequately fill spots in 2009.

OT: With the likely departure of stalwart Mark Tauscher, many are predicting the selection of Michael Oher or Andre Smith. But with Chad Clifton expected to man one side, you would think that Colledge, Barbre, Moll, or Guacamole would be able to adequately man the other. Note, I didn't say "excel" or "solidify" the position. I said "adequately" do the job until other talent is developed to do that job better.

If the Packers picked Oher or Smith, I wouldn't be upset. They would likely be a huge anchor on the line and an upgrade over what we presently have.

OLB: Another position that many have the Packers pegged to pick, with several 3-4 talents available (Orapko, Brown, Maybin, English) for the choosing at #9 and further down in the first round. But the Packers are actually pretty loaded at linebacker. Last year's starters in Barnett, Hawk, Chillar, and Poppinga all return, along with likely new starter Aaron Kampman at one of the OLB spots. Factor in Jeremy Thompson and Desmond Bishop, and the Packers already have seven veteran guys for four positions.

Again, if the Packers chose one of the OLB's, I wouldn't be upset. They would likely take on a starting spot eventually. However, I don't know if they would be an instant upgrade over what we presently have, and you would think they would be able to develop the present players to adequately do the job.

CB: Hey, I've been all about moving Al Harris back to safety for quite some time now. The fears are out there that he is losing a step and will struggle in zone coverage. Malcolm Jenkins appears to be the prime corner in this draft and many think he will go to the Packers for that reason. However, the Packers still have not only Harris and Charles Woodson, but some good talent in Tramon Williams and last year's second round pick Pat Lee. Williams has shown that he can adequately fill in at corner and has the potential to be rather solid.

If the Packers take Jenkins, I'm good with it. But the Packers already have some guys in who could adequately start opposite Woodson.

NT: This is certainly an area of concern for the Packers, and BJ Raji may well fall to them at #9. The Packers have a slightly aging Ryan Pickett slated to start this season, and there are concerns he isn't going to be stout enough to hold his own as the 3-4 would want him to. Raji appears to be the kind of guy that you would want to bring in to anchor that middle of the line.

And, other than newly-acquired Brian Soi, the Packers appear to have precious little depth behind Pickett. This makes NT a very concerning position of need for the Packers as they make their transition.

But, Pickett is there, and has been a relatively solid starter for several seasons. While he's perhaps not ideal for the 3-4, you do feel that he can adequately do the job for the Pack in 2009. And Raji's BC teammate, Ron Brace, might be able to be plucked in the second or third round and allowed to develop into the job.

DE: So, we come down, finally, to the position I see as the position of most need. Why? Because I see the position unable to be adequately manned this upcoming season.

The projected starter on one side is Cullen Jenkins, who has been relatively solid and should be able to hold his own, assuming he returns healthy from season-ending injury last season. But the assortment of players to take the other important DE position - Michael Montgomery, Johnny Jolly, and Justin Harrell - worry the heck out of me. For one, we don't know if Jolly will be available from a potential suspension, and both he and Montgomery are rotational players at best. Harrell, of course, is little more than a longshot to finally make it through a season healthy, and is already limited in offseason workouts this year.

The loss of both Kampman and Jeremy Thompson to the linebacking corps has left the defensive end position dangerously thin, with players that you question being able to even adequately fill in as a starter, especially with the new demands that will be placed on them as a 3-4 rush end.

DE is not only thin, as the NT position is, but lacking for even a starter opposite Jenkins.

Tyson Jackson would seem to fit Thompson's bill perfectly. There's no doubt that if the opportunity presents itself to move back in the draft and still get the guy he wants, he will do it. Most mocks have Jackson on the board at #10, and many have him still on the board at #15. Some even have him still on the board at #20.

And Jackson represents an instant upgrade over the three guys projected to start opposite Jenkins, though Montgomery's experience would be key in the rotation. As a true five-technique DE ideal for the 3-4 (but able to play 4-3 equally as well in the event of some hyrbid scheming), Jackson provides not only an infusion of talent, but a talent that isn't going to be trying to shoehorn into a position they aren't used to, like Pickett and Kampman are.

In some rare mocks, Jackson falls all the way into the second round, but I wouldn't count on that. With so many teams switching to the 3-4, Jackson's services are going to be in high demand.

Is Jackson my choice for the Packers, the player I want in this year's draft? I wouldn't go that far. I certainly drool over the idea of freakish talents like Oher, Jenkins, and Raji as much as anyone else. I totally understand that the point of a draft is to invest in young talent for the future, not necessarily the present.

But it is also my understanding that Ted Thompson does not use free agency to upgrade positions (or even fill holes) like many GMs do, and this leaves really one way to bring in talent: the draft. If DE is our biggest hole, with the least number of players able to even adequately fill in those spots for this upcoming year, the idea of getting Tyson Jackson in this year's draft, wherever that may fall, is pretty appealing to me.

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