Nov 3, 2012; Pasadena, CA, USA; UCLA Bruins running back Jonathan Franklin (23) scores a touchdown in the first quarter against the Arizona Wildcats at the Rose Bowl. Mandatory Credit: Andrew Fielding-USA TODAY Sports
If there was only one word I could use to sum up this year’s Green Bay Packers draft class it would be “versatile.”
From rounds one to seven the Packers selected athletic players with experience playing multiple positions. Obviously, Ted Thompson wanted to add significant depth throughout the roster, and there is no better way to do that than to draft versatile players who can be moved around on the depth chart.
Green Bay took UCLA defensive end Datone Jones with their first pick because they like his size, 6-4 and 283 pounds, and his athletic ability. Jones ran a 4.8 40 and benched 225 pounds 29 times at the combine. These numbers show his impressive speed and strength for a defensive lineman. Jones also recorded 13.5 sacks and 36.5 tackles for a loss at UCLA, showing a propensity to both play the run and rush the passer.
Jones was perhaps the most versatile defensive lineman in this year’s draft. He was the only defensive lineman that gave first overall pick, offensive tackle Eric Fisher, a run for his money all week at the Senior Bowl. Jones has the size and strength to hold the point against big offensive tackles, and the quickness and finesse to get to the quarterback on passing downs. Jones played as a defensive end in a 3-4 system in college and played some nose tackle as well, showing he can be moved anywhere on the defensive line and still make plays.
Sept 29, 2012; Boulder, CO, USA; UCLA Bruins defensive end Datone Jones (56) on his sidelines in the third quarter of the game against the Colorado Buffaloes at Folsom Field. The Bruins defeated the Buffaloes 42-14. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports
Jones has the potential to be an every down defensive lineman—something the Packers dearly missed since losing Cullen Jenkins two seasons ago. Jones can play the five-technique (3-4 DE) in base and move inside in nickel packages to provide interior pass rush. Dom Capers even said that Jones is athletic enough to play some outside linebacker in certain sub-packages. As a Packers fan, you should be excited about this guy. He could prove to be the Packers’ most complete defensive lineman this season. With the addition of Jones and the return of Nick Perry, the Green Bay front seven suddenly looks much more formidable.
Green Bay didn’t stop targeting versatile players after the first round. This trend continued throughout the draft.
Just look at some of their other draft selections.
In the fourth round, the Packers selected two college left tackles, David Bakhtiari from Colorado and J.C. Tretter from Cornell. They say if you can play left tackle you can play any position on the offensive line, and most of Green Bay’s offensive linemen played left tackle in college (Lang, Bulaga, Sitton, Dietrich-Smith), and this should hold true for Green Bay’s newest offensive line acquisitions. Both these players are known for their versatility and can play multiple positions on the offensive line.
November 25, 2011; Salt Lake City, UT, USA; Colorado Buffaloes offensive linesman David Bakhtiari (59) blocks Utah Utes defensive end Nate Fakahafua (96) during the second half at Rice Eccles Stadium. Colorado defeated Utah 17-14. Mandatory Credit: Russ Isabella-USA TODAY Sports
Bakhtairi started as a right tackle in college, but moved to left tackle his sophomore and junior seasons. He is a bit short for the ideal NFL left tackle, 6-4, but he is athletic, has good footwork, and has long arms that should help him compete at left tackle on the Packers’ roster. Some project Bakhtairi at guard in the NFL because of his lack of height, which is another possibility for the versatile offensive lineman, but either way, Bakhtiari should prove to add quality depth to both guard and tackle.
Tretter is similar to Bakhtriari in size, 6-3 and 307 pounds, and also played left tackle in college. However, Tretter played quarterback in high school and entered college as a 230-pound tight end. Tretter’s transition to left tackle shows how versatile a player he can be. Most scouts project him best suited as a guard or center in the NFL, and that is where it looks like the Packers are planning on using him. Tretter has the right measurables and strength to play on the inside of the offensive line, and has the intelligence to play center effectively. He scored a 33 on the Wonderlic test—the highest of any player the Packers drafted.
Green Bay desperately needed offensive line depth and that is exactly what these two new prospects give them. Look for Tretter to provide depth on the interior offensive line and Bakhtriari to compete with Newhouse and Sherrod at left tackle.
Green Bay also selected versatile players at the skill positions. Johnathan Franklin from UCLA has the strength and durability to be a featured back, but Franklin also has the pass blocking and catching ability to be an excellent third down back. Franklin has some experience as a kick returner in college, so even if Franklin doesn’t surface as the starting running back next season, the Packers will find ways to get the dynamic back on the field.
November 17, 2012; Ann Arbor, MI, USA; Michigan Wolverines quarterback Denard Robinson (16) is tackled by Iowa Hawkeyes cornerback Micah Hyde (18) at Michigan Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports
Micah Hyde from Iowa enters the NFL as a cornerback, but Hyde also played a few games at safety. Perhaps it’s this versatility that encouraged the Packers to select Hyde in the fifth round. At 6-0 and 197 pounds Hyde seems a bit too small to play safety, and it seems Green Bay will keep him at corner for now. However, the Packers may like that Hyde could play both positions if needed. Hyde also has experience as a gunner in punt coverage and as a kick returner. Expect Hyde to be an immediate contributor on special teams next season and provide depth at both corner and safety.
Among others, defensive tackle Josh Boyd from Mississippi State has the size and skill to play nose tackle or defensive end in a 3-4 defense, and seventh round pick Sam Barrington played both inside and outside linebacker for Southern Florida.
I’m sure the coaches love it when they get guys that can play multiple positions. It seems to be McCarthy‘s MO to cross train both his coaching staff and his players. It’s simple logic. Versatility gives the Packers more options when making roster decisions, and it provides them opportunities to get their most talented players on the field. This year’s draft class provides the Packers with lots of options when making personnel decisions, and the position competition this offseason will be fun to watch. Whatever happens, expect the 2013 rookies to find their way onto the field one way or another.