The eyebrows of general managers across the NFL must have collectively risen late this week when it was announced that their Green Bay brethren had done something that has been become increasingly rare in the Ted Thompson era: He completely changed the Packers draft strategy by signing a starting-caliber center, Jeff Saturday, formerly of the Indianapolis Colts.
Since losing Scott Wells to the St. Louis Rams in free agency, draft experts and pretty much every Packer fan expected that in 2012 the high-powered Packers offense would have to downshift to allow for the inclusion of a rookie center. Packers fans are accustomed to the Packers philosophy of ‘draft and develop.’
In the case of Wells leaving, however, the Packers did not have a ‘developing’ player to plug into the hole. The contract given to Jeff Saturday is a two-year deal, allowing the Packers to draft a center with the body type they prefer (recent reports have suggested that the Packers thought Wells too small to be an effective center) in the later rounds of this year’s draft.
So, earlier in the week, it looked like center had overtaken the need to go big on defense early in the 2012 draft. Now, the Packers can dedicate at least the first 2 rounds (I would go first three rounds) to their defensive deficiencies at defensive end and outside linebacker.
Much like the Packers’ 1999 draft, in which they selected three cornerbacks in a row to start the draft (Antuan Edwards, Fred Vinson and Mike McKenzie) in order to fill a huge hole at cornerback (and try to stop Randy Moss), the Packers need to do the same with this draft and selected a combination of at least three to four defensive ends and outside linebackers, hoping that at least one of them contributes immediately. Then the Packers can tackle the center position and grab a backup safety and another cornerback.
Remember, because the Packers lost so many high profile free agents last summer, they are due to receive up to four extra selections as compensation, giving them a total of 11 picks. This will allow them to re-stock some positions as they look to eventually replace starters like Ryan Pickett, Greg Jennings, Charles Woodson, John Kuhn and others in the span of the next two to three years.
So, let’s recap – assuming that no other starting-caliber players are signed, the Packers need to address the DE and OLB positions with the first three to four picks. Then the Packers should grab a center, a safety and a cornerback. If they see a running back or fullback they like, they should grab one toward the fifth round. In the seventh round, with likely three picks, they should go DT, WR and take a flyer on one more DE or OLB.
Of course, I’m sure no fan would be upset if Thompson traded up for either a better first round pick or for an extra second round pick to really find a stud outside linebacker.
Topics: Antuan Edwards, Charles Woodson, Facebook, Fred Vinson, Green Bay Packers, Greg Jennings, Indianapolis Colts, Jeff Saturday, John Kuhn, Mike McKenzie, NFL, NFL Draft, NFL Free Agecy, Randy Moss, Ryan Pickett, Scott Wells, St. Louis Rams, Ted Thompson, Twitter