The loss to the New York Giants in the 2011 NFL Playoffs brought the Green Bay Packers season to a premature end. However, there is plenty of talent on the roster and the off-season allows Ted Thompson and company to improve the team. The NFL Draft is Thompson's specialty and he will need to utilize the draft to improve the defense and to ensure the continued success of the Green Bay Packers.
This mock draft doesn't utilize trades, and is based on Jermichael Finley returning to the team via the franchise tag.
Defensive line has to be the choice in the first round. Without any semblance of pressure from the front three, Clay Matthews was neutralized and the entire defense took a step back.
Ted Thompson has to find a player who can provide a pass rush from the DE position that the defense was clearly missing with the loss of Cullen Jenkins. The 3-4 DE position isn't as deep as the rush-OLB or OL positions, which only adds to the importance of drafting a 3-4 DE early.
Fletcher Cox*, DT/DE, Mississippi State at 6'4" and 295 lbs offers both power and speed at the defensive end position, something the Packers desperately need. Cox's size and strength will also allow him to play multiple positions along the defensive line, a must in Dom Caper's defense.
If the defense is going to return to form in 2012, the Packers have to draft a rush linebacker to support Clay Matthews and to put pressure on opposing quarterbacks. Without help, the defense will continue to be the worst in the NFL.
Ronnell Lewis*, OLB/DE, Oklahoma is exactly what the Packers need at OLB. Lewis is a tremendous athlete with very good speed and phenomenal power. He's relentless and can rush the passer as well as stuff the run.
Lewis is a huge hitter and there's a reason he's nicknamed "The Hammer." His willingness to play on special teams is also a plus.
As I've already mentioned, without improvement at the OLB position, the Green Bay defense will continue to struggle. That's why I have them selecting another OLB to improve the position.
Shea McClellin, OLB, Boise State, is another solid OLB prospect. Similar to Ronnell Lewis, he is relentless and provides both power and speed.
During his time at Boise State, he played all over the front seven, a necessity for a Dom Caper's defense. At 6'3" and 248 lbs, he is a little light and must add weight.
While Nick Collins is on the road to recovery and hopefully will be able to return in 2012, the safety position must be addressed. Charlie Peprah is terrible in coverage and should only be utilized as a backup.
Winston Guy Jr., S, Kentucky, is one of the best-rounded safety prospects in the 2012 NFL draft. Guy has the ability to stuff the run as well as drop into coverage.
He was extremely productive in 2011 with 120 tackles as well as two interceptions. Being a three-year starter in the SEC is also a major plus.
There is a possibility that Scott Wells can leave during free agency. If that happens, the Packers will have to bring someone in who can take his place. Also, a team can never have enough bodies on the offensive line, as they are always getting beat up.
Will Blackwell, G/C, LSU, at 6'4" and 314 lbs is a big, strong offensive line prospect that offers starting potential at multiple positions. His ability to play both guard and center is a major plus.
Blackwell was a Second-Team All-American and a First-Team All-SEC performer in 2011 as well. Blackwell provides solid value as well as potential this late in the draft.
Ryan Grant is a free agent this offseason and shouldn't be re-signed. While James Starks has been solid at running back, he isn't the most explosive player. Thompson needs to find a running back who can score from anywhere and add some explosiveness to the backfield.
Chris Rainey, WR/RB/KR/PR, Florida, is exactly the player necessary to add that punch to the running back position. The guy has speed to burn and can take it to the house from anywhere.
Few players are as explosive as him. Rainey's return skills will also help Cobb focus more on his receiver duties. While he does have durability and off-the-field issues, he provides great upside this late in the draft.
While the loss of Matt Flynn is debilitating, it does leave the Packers thin at quarterback. Graham Harrell is unproven, and someone needs to come in and compete.
John Brantley, QB, Florida, is the perfect quarterback to take a flier on in the seventh round. He has prototypical size and has decent accuracy. He never developed into the star player he was supposed to be following a high ranking as a recruit, as he is not a spread quarterback.
The ability to come in and learn from the best in Aaron Rodgers should do wonders and turn him into a valuable trade chip.