Jason Hirschhorn covers the Green Bay Packers for Lombardi Ave. He has previously written for Hail to the Orange, College Hoops Net, Mocking the Draft, LiveBall Sports, and the List Universe. He is currently a senior writer for Beats Per Minute, an indie-music webzine. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/JBHirschhorn.
The fine folks over at FanSided.com do a new mock draft every week right up until the actual draft in April, and we at Lombardiave.com have plenty of offseason information to pass along to our readers. Many of the players we’ve mentioned in previous mock draft posts have their Pro Days coming up, and we’ll get a good opportunity to eyeball them once again and evaluate their performance.
Draft positions are set save for the Super Bowl participants. Barring a trade, the Green Bay Packers will make their first selection with the 26th pick.
According to FanSided, with the 26th overall pick in the 2013 NFL Draft, the Green Bay Packers select Eddie Lacy, Running Back, Alabama
Analysis: I’d love Barrett Jones here as he fills an immediate need but Lacy fills an even bigger one. The only knock on the Packers offense over the years has been the utter absence of a running game and the Alabama hammer can fix that right up. Running back is one of the most popular skill positions for fans to pull for and Lacy will help make the Packers offense even more dangerous than it already is. Besides, if you think Alex Green and Cedric Benson are the answer at running back for the Packers, please review the Packers 2012 running game and then check out how well Lacy ran in a devastating offense with the Crimson Tide.
There are three reasons I don’t like this pick. The first is I don’t think Lacy or any other running back in this draft is worth a first round investment. The second reason is that there are a lot of very comparable backs that can be had in later rounds, thus making this pick look even worse by comparison. Finally and most importantly, this selection rests on the assumption that the best and only way to improve the running game is to bring in a new running back.
As the first two reasons are self-explanatory, let’s just dive into the last one.
The Packers have struggled to consistently and effectively run the ball since Ryan Grant’s 2009 season. Certainly, part of the blame for that rests on the stable of running backs the Packers have trotted out since.
However, the lion’s hare of the blame falls on the offensive line.
Outside of Josh Sitton and 2011 Bryan Bulaga, the Green Bay linemen have been sub-average at run blocking. This fact was mostly ignored prior to last season as the Packers have been so pass-dominant that the linemen have mainly been judged on their pass blocking. That’s not unfair either, but now that the receiving corps is undergoing a renovation, there will be a greater importance placed on running.
The better fix than reaching for a running back is to grab a dominant run blocker. For this, we need to look no farther than D.J. Fluker. As has been discussed many times on Lombardi Ave, Fluker would team well with Sitton to create a run mauling right side the Packers haven’t had since Ahman Green’s 2003 season. Fluker is also a vastly underrated pass blocker and will rarely require tight end or running back help.
With the Packers desperate to reduce Aaron Rodgers’ sack count, adding Fluker would allow Bulaga to move over to the left side and give Green Bay solid depth behind them.
The Packers are on the verge of a major decision regarding B.J. Raji. The 26-year-old defensive lineman is entering the final year of his rookie deal. The Packers have to decide whether to extend him now, or risk losing him after 2013 when he hits the open market.
While Raji has been dominant for large stretches of his career (the 2010 season, the second half of 2012), he’s also been invisible for just as long. As if the situation wasn’t complicated enough, Raji hasn’t been able to settle into a defined position. During 2010, Raji played mostly at nose tackle. He played in that spot again in 2011, but was not nearly as productive.
This past year, Raji moved to the five technique and had a resurgence. The problem, however, is defensive end is much less important to Green Bay, yet Raji is going to get paid as a full-time nose tackle. If the Packers believe Raji will return to playing effective nose tackle with additions and developments beside him at end, then extending Raji isn’t an issue. If the team believes Raji will never be an effective full-time nose tackle, then it’s a very good time to find Raji’s replacement.
While FanSided mocked him a pick earlier, Georgia’s John Jenkins is an ideal fit for the Packers’ defense. He’s even bigger than Raji and has just as much explosiveness. Like many nose tackle prospects, he needs to improve his lower body strength and work through double teams, but that’s why he might available at 26.
Another option that demands further discussion is the idea of trading down.
At 26, the Packers are in prime position to trade out of the first round with a team that wants to grab a quarterback. With the Alex Smith trade depressing rookie quarterback demand, it’s highly possible that only one quarterback has been taken off the board by the time Green Bay is on the clock.
Teams with an obvious need at quarterback always play coy about making aggressive moves to get one, but come draft time that James Bond-like neutrality gives way to nerves and impatience. The Packers have made a living off of those types of teams, and they could do so once again this year. With the strength of the 2013 draft lying in the second and third rounds, optimizing the number of picks in that territory seems wise. It may be a disappointment for fans wanting to hear a name called for their team, but that’s a small price to pay for the huge value upgrade such a move entails.