Friday, April 23, 2010

Thompson to TundraVision: Happy now? I took a safety.

Is Ted Thompson doing this just to placate me?   For years I have harped on the need for a prime time free safety for the Packers, and in the third round of the draft this year, Thompson traded up in order to take Morgan Burnett, a safety from Georgia Tech, and keep him from going to the Bears.

Now, I don't mind trading up to prevent a division rival from getting a player they are salivating over, but hey...if we're playing that game, it might have been nice to have pulled the wool over on the Lions when they selected Suh.

I like Burnett, who has a lot of athleticism and potential to be a more solid partner with Nick Collins than oft-injured Atari Bigby.  And, let's face it...injuries at safety meant that we were literally looking to start Jarrett Bush and Matt Giordano during a game last season.  Depth is a problem, and this selection goes a long way in fixing that problem.

Burnett, however, fits that same mold that Thompson has been going for at safety for years:  hard-hitting, solid tackling, aggressive strong safety-type that is going to come in and give us some ear-popping hits.  And, I'll be honest, I'm excited to see how he develops.

My concern comes in with his negatives, the same ones we've seen with Collins, Bigby, Manuel...they are all so solid in run support and tackling, but struggle in coverage.  "Slow to react....questionable instincts and awareness".

I've been looking for that Eugene Robinson for so long to come in and be the instinctive quarterback of the defense, and allow Nick Collins to become LeRoy Butler, creating chaos closer to the line of scrimmage, knowing the back of the defense is in good hands.  I would have been thrilled with Eric Berry, Earl Thomas, or Nate Allen, who tend to fit that FS mold.

But, with Burnett, we get a definite influx of talent and excitement in the backfield, and perhaps most importantly, a ballhawk that can continue the recent trend of interceptions, led by Charles Woodson and Collins.

The only thing that worries me are games like the Steeler or Cardinal games, when we need that coverage to be there and stops to be made.  In order for Burnett to make this defense better, he will need to develop those skills as a strong free safety to compliment Collins. 

However, assuming Collins keeps his free safety title, Burnett does seem like the kind of player that could become another Butler, too.  A good pick, good end to Day 2.

Pack Takes Boilermaker Neal in Second Round

Repeat after me:  you can never have too many defensive linemen.

This was a mantra I learned from Patty over at Packerchatters, something that I've had  to tell myself anytime I perceive that the Packers have stretched for a defensive lineman in the draft.

The Packers may have compensated for their high-value pickup of Bryan Bulaga in the first by making a slight stretch for Mike Neal, a defensive tackle from Purdue that many draft pundits had as a third-rounder.  Like many young defensive tackles, he seems to have many of the tools, but lacks consistency and/or motivation.

Naturally, when you take a player like this at #56, you wonder if he might still have been available at #86.  But, I'm not going to throw too many darts for a couple of reasons:

1)  I've learned from past experience that if I criticize a pick, there's a vocal fan base that labels me a Thompson Hater Who Doesn't Have the Job Qualifications To Be An NFL GM, which I can live with.  Sure, I may have been right all along on Justin Harrell, but I have also been proven wrong on enough occasions when I thought Thompson had reached for a pick (Collins, Finley, Matthews) that I am willing to wait and see.

2)  I think there were positions of greater need than the defensive line, but a lot of the guys we had been pining for (Mays at safety, Kindle at OLB) had already been snagged.  And, looking at the best available players, very few names jumped out at me.   In fact, most of the names that were still available were offensive tackles (Campbell, Brown, Veldheer), a position the Packers already addressed.  One name that was intriguing me was corner Alterraun Verner, but again, he's a guy who might also make it to pick #86.

3)  You can never have too many defensive linemen.

So, the jury will be out on Mr. Neal, but we'll give him every opportunity to prove he belongs as one of our beloved Green Bay Packers.  On to the third round.

Thompson Catches a Falling Star in First Round...Again

Ted Thompson has to be wondering how he struck gold twice in six years.

In 2005, Thompson ran his first draft as GM of the Packers, and while pundits dreamed of players named Erasmus James or Matt Jones to fall to Green Bay at pick #24, no one was more surprised to see one-time #1 overall candidate Aaron Rodgers free-fall out of the top ten and into Thompson’s lap.

None of us can complain much about how that pick has turned out for the Packers in the long run, but last night, history may have repeated itself.  As we concerned ourselves about names like Jerry Hughes or Devin McCourty, Thompson had to be tickled to find top 10 talent Bryan Bulaga, one of the top-rated offensive tackles, still sitting on the board when the Packers’ went on the clock at #23.

Ironically enough, many of us in the chatrooms and live blogs were calling for Thompson to actually trade up to get Bulaga in the middle of the teens.  Good things come to those who wait, and kudos to Thompson for being patient (and likely working the phones to find where other teams’ interests were heading).

I have often detracted the opinions of others who declare Thompson’s selection of Aaron Rodgers as a genius move.  In fact, I’ve called it a no-brainer…when gold falls in your lap, do you pick it up and put it in your pocket?  But I have to admit there was a level of uncertainty as we waited for the Packers to bring their pick up to the podium?  What is wrong with Bulaga?  Why is he dropping?  Do the GM’s all know something we don’t?

In fact, some folks began speculating on Balaga’s medical history, insinuating that he may have a neurological disorder.  While I haven’t been able to find much to corroborate that as truth, it does go to prove that certain players may plummet in the draft, simply from one team watching other teams passing on him, and figuring he must be damaged goods. 

So, while it does seem like a no-brainer, I’m sure there was a bit of tenseness at taking the falling star, a guy who was once cited as the most overrated player in the draft.  He wasn’t on a lot of our radars, because we never expected him to make it to #23.

So what did the Packers get with this pick:  an Iowa farmboy that looks the part of offensive tackle, reminding you ever so slightly of Adam Timmerman without quite as severe of a flattop.  He was the Big Ten Lineman of the Year last year and a second-team All-American.  He was the fourth tackle taken, and obviously has a couple more blemishes than perhaps some of the men taken before him.

He fits the ol’ Packer Zone Blocking mentality, which means they love their linemen to be flexible.  Bulaga can play either tackle position and could even sub in at guard.  He’s a big man:  315 pounds and 6’5”, but only 33 inch arms.  There’s some question as to his athleticism and his ability to go against the speed rushers, but there is confidence in his ability to run block.

If there is a dark side to all of this, it is that Thompson has drafted ten offensive linemen in his first five drafts, and still has been unable to come up with a competent replacement for Mark Tauscher and Chad Clifton, who went from penciled out of the lineup last year to some big-time contract extensions this offseason.  Filling your line with project players instead of studs can come back to haunt you, and the number of times Aaron Rodgers was running for his life last season is a testament to the theory that standing pat may not be enough in 2010.

Bryan Bulaga may not end up being a Pro Bowler, but the Packers invested a top pick onto a top-ranked talent that should upgrade one side of their offensive line for years to come.  If nothing else, we finally have someone for Tauscher or Clifton to hand off the baton to when their tenure is done.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Packers Pick Tonight!

The Packers will be waiting until pick #23 tonight before making their first selection in the 2010 Draft.  A plethora of "needs" come to mind, and yet, none are as pressing a need as we've had in the past.  The Packers are definitely making picks for the future, whether it be selecting an heir apparent for Chad Clifton and Mark Tauscher, or an heir apparent for Charles Woodson and Al Harris.

About the only position that seems to truly stand out as a "need" lately is the OLB spot opposite of Clay Matthews, which is why for many pundits out there, Jerry Hughes, the linebacker from Texas Christian, appears to be the odds-on favorite.  Running a close second in safety Taylor Mays, the USC physical monster that some folks think could be moved up to OLB if he didn't pan out replacing Atari Bigby.

Two things I have learned from watching Ted Thompson draft over the last five years:

*  He never does what you expect (other than drafting AJ Hawk in 2006).  The rumors last week that he was "very interested" in bust-in-the-making OT Bruce Campbell was likely a smokescreen.  Or was it?  Just when you have him pegged for trading down, he pulls off the most unpredictable trade-up in Packer history.

*  Everybody is a genius when it comes to predicting NFL talent until after Thompson makes his picks.  Everette Brown seemed to be everyone's darling up until Thompson passed on him twice in the draft last year, and suddenly, everyone flopped and said what a one-dimensional tweener he was.

So, I don't put too much stock into what everyone is predicting for the slot at #23 until after pick #23 has gone by. 

My prediction, bound to be wrong, as usual:  There's too much talent similar to what is in the end of the first round to take right away.  I think that Thompson trades out of the first round and we end up with very little to talk about until tomorrow.  In the second round, I see a secondary pickup like Nate Allen or Devin McCourty and a offensive lineman like Jared Veldheeer or John Jerry.

My dark horse prediction would be something we haven't seen from Thompson yet:  a trade of the first rounder for a veteran player.  Don't know who, but we've known Thompson to have such trades on the table in the past (Randy Moss), and this might be the year to trade for that prove pass-rusher to play opposite of Matthews.

Cheesehead Nation Live Draft Blogcast!