The Green Bay Packers are a solid 2012 NFL Draft class away from being among the elite in the NFL and competing for another Super Bowl trophy. By addressing the right needs, the Packers can improve on a historical season that fell short in the playoffs.
With a spectacular offense last season, the most pressing needs for the Packers are on the defensive side of the ball. While the needs are glaring, GM Ted Thompson will likely stick true to his philosophy of drafting the best player available when the Packers are on the clock.
With that, the Packers must address these needs at some point during the draft in order to get back to the top and win another Lombardi trophy.
The Packers biggest and most glaring need is on the defensive line. Throughout the season, the Packers struggled to replicate the success Cullen Jenkins had in 2010 alongside B.J. Raji and Ryan Pickett. Mike Neal, C.J. Wilson and Jarius Wynn all failed at having a major impact.
The lack of a pass rush was the Packers biggest defensive deficiency and that starts with the defensive line. Some have argued that a rushing outside linebacker to place opposite Clay Matthews is a bigger need, but if the Packers address the defensive line first, this will help ease the issues at outside linebacker. If they primarily focus on outside linebacker, they will still struggle to collapse the pocket most downs.
Erik Walden, Frank Zombo, Brad Jones and Vic So'oto all attempted to stick at outside linebacker, and none had the type of impact that disallowed coaches to take them off the field. It wasn't as much as an issue in 2010, when the Packers had a solid defensive line, capable of getting pressure, which allowed the Packers defense to mask their issues at the ROLB position.
With a significantly weaker defensive line, the hole was glaring last season and the Packers will need to address it. Whether it is early on or not, the Packers must bring in some form of talent at the position in hopes of upgrading it.
Nick Collins' health is a huge factor for the Packers. Sometime later today or tomorrow, Collins is scheduled to meet with doctors regarding the possibility of playing next season. If Collins' is able to return with a clean bill of health, safety isn't a huge need. If he can't return, it is.
Morgan Burnett and Charlie Peprah will continue to act as the starters if Collins is forced to retire early. A draft pick would likely be groomed to eventually pair with Burnett and take over for Peprah, who struggled at times. Peprah is a great asset as a backup safety, but below average as a starter.
The Packers are in fairly good shape when it comes to the cornerback position, but the age of Charles Woodson makes the need a little pressing. Tramon Williams and Sam Shields are set to be the corners of the future, but there isn't much certainty beyond those two.
Jarrett Bush re-signed, but isn't a great corner. Davon House and Brandian Ross are young up-and-comers, but have little experience and their potential is relatively unknown. Corner is likely to be a need addressed whenever Ted Thompson finds a cornerback as the best, or one of the best, players available when the Packers are on the clock. It wouldn't be shocking to see the Packers go cornerback in any round of the draft.
In an extremely unprecedented move, Ted Thompson went out and signed a big name free agent in Jeff Saturday. With Scott Wells departed for St. Louis, center became a huge need for the Packers, who looked desperate to find their way to Peter Konz in the draft.
By signing Saturday, the Packers gave themselves flexibility in the draft and don't have to rely on getting a center early. They can take a mid-to-late round center and groom him into the center of the future.
Matt Flynn's departure leaves the Packers' backup quarterback positions vacant. It is likely that Graham Harrell, formerly the third string quarterback, will come in with an offseason of work under Mike McCarthy and Tom Clements and be a suitable backup. Even with this, the Packers need to bring in another quarterback to groom as a potential backup or third stringer.
The drafted quarterback will likely compete with Harrell and Nick Hill. Hill was signed by the Packers following the season. He formerly played in the Arena League.