Green Bay Packers: Who to Choose from at OLB in the 1st Round?
The obvious need for the Packers is to get a player that will enhance the pass rush, as the Packers had that part of their defensive game fall off sharply in 2011.
The Packers were 2nd in the NFL in sacks with 47 in 2010, but finished tied for 27th with only 29 in 2011. It's fairly obvious that LOLB Clay Matthews needs some help on the right side of the defense for the Pack.
There are some excellent candidates who could man the job at ROLB in 2012, if the Packers were fortunate enough to have them on the board when the team gets to pick with the 28th selection of the first-round.
Thompson is hoping that he will have one (or more) of the premiere pass-rushing specialists on the board when he picks. But one never knows.
The draft can be a strange animal sometimes. The Packers have two prime examples on their roster right now.
QB Aaron Rodgers was being talked about as being the number one pick in the 2005 NFL draft, just days before the draft. Certainly a top five pick anyway. We know the story. Rodgers slid all the way to pick number 24, where Thompson was more than happy to select him with his first ever draft choice for the Packers after taking over GM duties.
In the 2010 NFL draft, OT Bryan Bulaga was talked about as a sure-fire top ten pick. But Bulaga lasted until pick number 23, where Thompson again was pleased to take him.
So who knows what players will be available at pick number 28 in the 2012 NFL Draft. I know this though, the Packers would be pleased if any of the three players I am using in this slideshow are still on the board.
I'm listing these players by preference, but either way, the Packers would get a great pass rusher with any of these three players.
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40 Time: 4.57
The Green Bay Packers struck gold in the first round in the 2009 NFL draft when they selected Clay Matthews out of USC (along with B.J. Raji).
Ted Thompson tries to repeat history by drafting another Trojan, this time Nick Perry, who played DE in college, but projects as an OLB in the NFL.
Perry declared for the draft in December after a nice junior season at USC. Perry had 9.5 sacks for the season (which led the Pac-12), plus was a 2011 All-Pac-12 Conference first team member.
He was also a finalist for the Ted Hendricks Award, presented to the nation's top defensive end. Overall, Perry had 21.5 sacks in his career at USC.
Perry's size, speed and pass rushing ability make him a natural fit for the 3-4 scheme utilized by the Packers.
Besides the sacks, Perry had 54 total tackles, which included 13 tackles for losses and three forced fumbles.
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40 Time: 4.65
Whitney Mercilus is a player that can definitely rush the passer and make big plays. Mercilus played DE at Illinois, but he has the frame and speed to be a OLB in a 3-4 defensive scheme.
Mercilus earned consensus first-team All-America honors at DE. Mercilus also won the Ted Hendricks Award as the nation's top defensive end, and was named the College Football Performance Awards National Defensive Player of the Year.
In 2011, Mercilus had 16 sacks and a whopping nine forced fumbles. Mercilus also had 22.5 tackles for losses.
In addition to his pass-rushing prowess, Mercilus was steady in his run defense, although he needs to do a better job shedding his blockers.
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40 Time: 4.66
Marshall's Vinny Curry was named 2011 Conference USA Defensive Player of the Year and also received second team All-America Honors from CBSSports.com.
Curry was also a finalist for the Ted Hendricks Award, which is given annually to college football's best defensive end. Like Perry and Mercilus, Curry played DE in college, but projects to be an OLB in a 3-4 defensive scheme.
Curry was ranked second nationally with 21.5 tackles for loss. He was also tied for second nationally with six forced fumbles, and tied for fifth with 11 sacks.
He had 72 tackles in 2011, one fumble recovery, three blocked extra points and one tackle for a safety. Curry also played very well in the 2012 Senior Bowl, recording a strip-sack. Curry is moving up the draft boards after his performance in that game.