The Green Bay Packers had a dominant run during the regular season of the 2011 NFL season, amassing a record of 15-1. However, a lack of talent, as well as depth at certain key positions doomed the team in the playoffs. In order for the Green Bay Packers to return to Super Bowl XLVII, Ted Thompson, Mike McCarthy and the Green Bay Packers brain trust must address certain areas of need in the 2012 NFL draft.
The defensive line is the biggest area of concern for the Green Bay Packers, and major upgrades must be made to the unit if the Packers plan on traveling to New Orleans for Super Bowl XLVII. While B.J. Raji is a stud, the unit is devoid of other impact players. Ryan Pickett is solid, but 32 years old, Howard Greene is best served in a backup role and C.J. Wilson, Mike Neal and Jarius Wynn have had trouble staying on the field.
It is imperative that the Green Bay Packers draft a true difference maker in order to improve the defense as a whole.
While Ted Thompson’s strategy has always been to take the best player available, the Green Bay Packers need to strongly consider addressing the defensive line in the first round. Devon Still, DE/DT, Penn State, Billy Winn, DE/DT, Boise State or Jared Crick, DE/DT, Nebraska would all be drastic upgrades. Thompson should also draft another defensive lineman in the later rounds, as a team can never have enough depth.
Clay Matthews is a stud, plain and simple. However, he received barely any help from the other outside linebacker position. It was clear throughout the season that opposing offenses didn't respect the other OLB with Matthews constantly facing double- and triple-teams. In order for the defense to return to its Super Bowl XLV level, Dom Capers needs another credible pass-rusher at the outside linebacker position.
Thankfully for Dom Capers, the rush outside linebacker might be the deepest position in the 2012 NFL draft. Nick Perry*, DE/OLB, USC or Vinny Curry, DE/OLB, Marshall would be major upgrades for the unit and should be available in the first and second rounds. If Thompson does decide to address the rush OLB position later in the draft, Bruce Irvin, DE/OLB, West Virginia or Frank Alexander, DE, Oklahoma would also be solid choices.
Charlie Peprah is a huge liability in coverage; he cannot be trusted. Nick Collins played very well in 2010, however, he missed almost the entire 2011 season with a neck injury. The nature of his injury also behooves Thompson to draft safety help.
Unfortunately for Ted Thompson, the safety position in the 2012 NFL draft is not very deep. Thompson either needs to take Mark Barron, SS, Alabama in the first round or wait until the fourth or fifth round and draft Neiko Thorpe, FS, Auburn or Tavon Wilson, SS, Illinois; players who have lots of upside and can provide maximum value.
Is the offensive line the most pressing issue for the Green Bay Packers? Absolutely not. However, the Packers need to continue to build quality depth across the unit, and must also prepare for the possibility of Scott Wells leaving during free agency.
Ted Thompson has done a wonderful job the last two drafts of finding the Packers OT for the next decade. He also gave a much-needed extension to Josh Sitton. Now he must focus on providing depth across the line. In the later rounds of the 2012 NFL draft, Thompson must focus on drafting linemen who have the ability to play multiple positions across the line. Art Forst, G/OT, Rutgers or J.B. Shugarts, OT/G, Ohio State would provide much-needed depth in the later rounds.
The 2011 Green Bay Packers enjoyed spectacular highs in the regular season, followed by embarrassing lows in the postseason. The defense regressed from the championship caliber of 2010. In order for the defense to return to Super Bowl levels, Ted Thompson and Mike McCarthy must address the defensive line, outside linebacker and safety positions. Without significant improvement by those positions the defense will continue to fail, and ultimately doom the 2012 season for the Green Bay Packers.
If Ted Thompson and Mike McCarthy improve the defense, and add quality depth to the offensive line, the Lombardi trophy will return to Title-town, USA.