The 2011 Green Bay Packers draft class is peculiar one. Of the 10 players chosen, only one, Randall Cobb, has really made an impact. Other than Cobb, for the six players remaining from this draft, the 2013 off season and training camp is going to be an important time for these guys. For many of them have the potential to play good football for the Packers. The question is in 2013 is will they take off or flame out?
The Packers first round selection, the 32nd overall, offensive tackle Derek Sherrod, is the most intriguing prospect of this class. Sherrod, if you recall, suffered a gruesome leg fracture against the Chiefs in December of 2011, when Tamba Hali rolled into him in the fourth quarter of the game. Sherrod at that point in the season was just starting to get a feel for the NFL.
It was hoped that the 2012 offseason would give Sherrod the edge at the left tackle position needed to challenge for the starting spot against Marshall Newhouse. Those dreams were dashed, as Sherrod was forced to sit out the entire 2012 season rehabbing his leg. The Packers are hopeful Sherrod can return in 2013 and compete this season for a spot on the offensive line.
In the second round the Packers selected a player that has quickly become a go to guy on offense. A versatile wide receiver from Kentucky, named Randall Cobb. The 2012 season was a break out year for Cobb, as quarterback Aaron Rodgers targeted him 104 times and connected 80 of those times for 954 yards and 8 touchdowns. Cobb lines up all over the field in the Packer offense and is also an effective return man. Although in 2013 it is likely Cobb’s return duties will dissipate, as his real value in on offense.
With their third round pick the Packer chose a running back from Hawaii, Alex Green. His rookie season was shortened after suffering an ACL injury early in the year. In 2012, his first full season, Green rushed for 464 yards averaging 3.4 yards per carry and no touchdowns. I don’t think the Packers have thrown in the towel on Green just yet, but 2012 certainly was underwhelming. Green will need to fight and scrap during the 2013 offseason to secure a place on this coming year’s roster.
Ted Thompson selected a big corner back from New Mexico, Davon House, with their fourth round pick. The Packers like House, but he has had some difficulty staying healthy. 2011 he was hampered by ankle and hamstring injuries and in 2012 he suffered a shoulder injury that limited him to nine games. He did, however, show some flashes of the big physical corner that Packers thought they drafted. The highlight of his career thus far was in week 8 of 2012 when he blocked a punt against the Jacksonville Jaguars and teammate Dezman Moses returned it for a touchdown to secure the Packers 24-15 victory. As a result House was named NFC Special Teams Player of the Week.
With a pick obtained from San Francisco via Denver the Packers selected D.J. Williams in the fifth round. A 6-2, 245-pound tight end from Arkansas some thought had the athletic ability to challenge Jermichael Finley for the tight end position. Thus far this has not been the case. Williams has collected just nine catches for 70 yards in the past two seasons. 2013 is almost sure to be a make or break season for Williams.
In the sixth round Ted Thompson had amassed three selections. Of those three, only D.J. Smith has stuck. With linebacker Desmond Bishop going down in the first preseason game of the 2012 season, Smith was almost assured a starting job. He ultimately won the starting inside linebacker position, but he too was injured. In week six at the Houston Texans, he tore an ACL and reportedly more. Prior to the injury, Smith had 2 sacks and 39 tackles. If he can recover in time for training camp, which has been rumored to be doubtful, he will compete for playing time at the crowded inside linebacker position.
The other two picks in the sixth round, offensive lineman Caleb Schlauderaff and defensive end Ricky Elmore never made the Packers final roster. Schlauderaff was traded to the Jets on Sept. 3, 2011, for an undisclosed draft pick. Elmore is currently on the Redskins roster.
Green Bay also had multiple picks in the seventh round. With their first pick in the seventh round they selected a Ryan Taylor from North Carolina. A tight end; a guy who plays with a mean streak, has proven to be a very good special team player. With the recent departure of Tom Crabtree, if Taylor continues to progress on special teams, it is a safe bet he’ll be returning in 2013.
With the other pick in the seventh round the Packers selected defensive end Lawrence Guy from Arizona State. Guy spent the 2011 season on injured reserve. In 2012, he was one of the last players released in training camp and landed on the Packers practice squad. The Indianapolis Colts signed Guy in October 2012.
As I said in the beginning this was an interesting draft class. Every player selected is still in the league, a reflection of Ted Thompson’s eye for talent. However, outside of Randall Cobb, none of these players have really identified themselves as solid contributors. With the exception of Cobb, Taylor, and Williams, all of these guys have suffered significant injuries at some point. This does of course factor into their lack performance.
In 2013, I would look for Davon House to take the next step towards becoming a valued player in the Packer secondary. If Sherrod can return healthy, at the very least he can add needed depth to the offensive line. The same can be said for D.J. Smith at the inside linebacker position. I would also expect Ryan Taylor to be a leader on special teams. For the others this offseason will probably determine if they return to the Packers regular season roster.