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Round 1: Peter Konz, C, Wisconsin
Just like most of the Green Bay faithful, I had my heart set on a player that would help improve our pass rush and in turn our entire defense. But after losing Scott Wells and thinking back to how dismal 2009 and 2010 were thanks to our offensive line, it became clear that Konz is the best choice if available.
Protecting Aaron Rodgers is even more important now that backup quarterback Matt Flynn is getting his chance to start in Seattle. Fans who aren’t excited by this pick should keep in mind that Wells’ success was partly due to solid guard play around him,. Konz will fill in well from day one and should be a long-term improvement at the position.
Round 2: Mike Martin, DE, Michigan
The numbers Martin posted at the combine and the work ethic he showed staying at Michigan during all four years of their “dark ages” projects him to be at the very least the player Mike Neal was expected to be.
He has first-round strength, agility and work ethic, but teams don’t like his perceived lack of production in college due to his role as nose guard on a defense that lacked playmakers. The Packers will like his durability and value in Round 2 enough to make him a starter alongside B.J. Raji and Ryan Pickett.
Round 3: Cam Johnson, OLB, Virginia
Pass-protector: check. Block-eater: check. Now I’m desperate for a disruptive pass-rusher. The New England Patriots and San Francisco 49ers both utilize one-tool players as situational pass-rushers in Mark Anderson and Aldon Smith, and they have had success with them. The Packers could find the same success by drafting Johnson.
The Packers had an embarrassing 29 sacks in 2011 and were ousted from the playoffs by the eventual Super Bowl Champion New York Giants, who were only better than the Packers in one category—pass rush. Adding a DE like Martin will add close to eight sacks to last year’s totals. Johnson is the only player still available that could add another eight sacks to that total, projecting the Packers for a respectable 45 sacks in 2012.
Round 4: Dequan Menzie, CB/S, Alabama
Even though Jarrett Bush will return through 2014, I still see the need to address the secondary at this point in the draft. Menzie is versatile and at the very least should be a great addition to the Packers’ special teams.
Menzie can also add depth to safety if Nick Collins can’t return, and could even move into Sam Shields' current role a few years down the line if Charles Woodson ever retires.
Round 4 (compensatory): Derek Wolfe, DE, Cincinnati
Don’t forget the Packers will also get at least one compensatory pick for losing Daryn Colledge and Cullen Jenkins in free agency last year.
Wolfe strikes me as the type of mid to late-round player that Ted Thompson likes to draft. He’s a hard worker with enough natural ability to be able to develop into a solid starter down the road. With Mike Neal’s four-game suspension and Howard Green’s departure, the Packers can kick second-round pick Mike Martin inside if needed at any point, and use Wolfe on the outside if needed. Otherwise, Wolfe could simply add depth or have value as a rotational player to keep the other guys fresh.
As you can see, even with a first-round pick spent replacing a player lost to free agency, the Packers can still improve their defense enough to make another Super Bowl run in 2012. Hopefully I’ve created a pretty decent list of players that will be around when the Packers draft in each of the first four rounds.
As always, feel free to post your thoughts on anyone I might have missed, or you can even plug my guys into your own four-round mock and let everyone know who you’d want to take!