We are now officially less than three weeks away from the 2012 NFL Draft. The draft is always a key component for Ted Thompson, as it is the biggest building block he uses to field his roster.
Thompson has surprised some this offseason, as he has already signed three free agents. The first was C Jeff Saturday—a very important signing after the loss of C Scott Wells, who also used free agency to sign with the St. Louis Rams.
Thompson also signed former Packer DL Daniel Muir and DL Anthony Hargrove. The Packers also had DE/OLB Dave Tollefson in for a visit for a couple of days last week. Tollefson is another former Packer who Thompson originally drafted in 2006.
I expect Thompson to be aggressive in the draft this year. In Thompson's first three drafts with the Packers (2005-2007), he never traded up to grab a player he wanted. However, Thompson has traded up in three straight years (2008-2010), with the biggest trade-up being the move that allowed the Packers to select Clay Matthews in 2009.
The selection of Matthews set up the Packers as championship contenders, and they indeed won it all in 2010, defeating Pittsburgh in Super Bowl XLV. Last year, the Packers were 15-1—the best record in the history of the storied franchise—but they lost in the playoffs to the eventual Super Bowl XLVI winners, the New York Giants.
This year, I expect Thompson to make a similar move to the one he made in 2009 to select Matthews. In fact, this mock draft of mine will do just that.
Combine 40 Time: 4.63
I talked with Chris Landy of FOX Sports Radio yesterday about Shea McClellin on The Steve Duemig Show on WDAE in Tampa. Landry agreed with me that McClellin is quickly moving up draft boards and has established himself as an early second-round pick, or even a late first-round pick, depending on the draft board.
I see McClellin as an excellent complement to Clay Matthews at ROLB.
McClellin played in the Senior Bowl and performed well. McClellin was also a first-team All-Mountain West selection for Boise State.
McClellin mostly played DE for Boise State but also saw time at both OLB and ILB. McClellin will probably be better suited as an OLB in the NFL.
He had 46 tackles with six sacks, 12.5 tackles for a loss and a blocked kick in 2011. McClellin also had 9.5 sacks in 2010.
McClellin has a relentless motor as a player and always brings high energy with his play. He is also very versatile, which is an important asset with the defensive coaching staff of the Packers.
McClellin plays the run well and is improving as a pass-rusher because of his speed, quickness and intensity.
Combine 40 Time: 4.57
I traded up here so I would be able to select Harrison Smith. To move up to the 41st selection of the draft, I traded the Packers' second-, third- and fourth-round picks, knowing the Packers still have two compensatory selections in the fourth round. The math works out if you check out the NFL Draft Trade Value Chart.
Smith didn't play as well as a senior as he did as a junior, at least in terms of making interceptions. Smith didn't have any picks in 2011, while he had seven as a junior. Other than that, his play was not much different in terms of tackles and passes broken up.
Smith was a four-year starter for the Irish, and he plays fast and tackles with force. He had some coverage issues at times as a senior, but overall has been effective covering the pass, as he broke up 10 passes as a senior.
He plays the run effectively, as he averaged over 90 tackles per season his last two years at South Bend. He has the ability to play both safety positions.
Smith would be a special teams stalwart. He looked good at the Senior Bowl practices.
The Packers will probably know next week whether All-Pro S Nick Collins can continue his NFL career after being lost for almost the entire 2011 season due to a neck injury. With or without Collins, the Packers have to upgrade their depth at the safety position.
Combine 40 Time: 5.00
Kheeston Randall did not have a particularly good senior season at Texas. However, Randall has shown flashes, and he did have a good week at the Senior Bowl.
Randall was named to the second-team of the All-Big 12 squad. Randall can be very disruptive at times. The Packers need that, as the defensive line was only able to muster six sacks in 2011. Randall plays the run well and he uses his height and leaping ability (34-inch vertical jump) to knock down passes. Had five career sacks at Texas.
Randall has also blocked two kicks. Was a team leader for the Longhorns and also does excellent work in the community.
The Packers have addressed the defensive line so far in free agency, as the team has signed Daniel Muir and Anthony Hargrove as free agents. The team has to add more quality depth, as the Packers were never able to overcome the loss of Cullen Jenkins via free agency.
Add to that the fact that DE Mike Neal will miss the first four games of the 2012 season because he violated the NFL's policy on performance enhancing substances. Neal has been very disappointing in his first two years with the Packers due to injuries, games missed and an overall lack of production.
Weight: 298 pounds
40 Time: 5.04 seconds
David Molk was first team All-Big Ten and also won the Rimington Trophy as the best center in the nation.
Molk had an excellent career at Michigan. Four-year starter. He is quick, agile and moves to the second level with ease. He is a bit undersized, but so was Scott Wells when he was drafted in 2004.
Molk is a perfect center for the zone-blocking scheme. He has the ability to pull in the run game.
Molk bench pressed 225 lbs. 41 times at the Combine. Molk would be a great player to groom under the tutelage of Jeff Saturday at C.
Combine 40 Time: 4.55
The Packers will be looking to draft a QB in the 2012 draft, as Matt Flynn left the team via free agency to join the Seattle Seahawks. That means the Packers only have Graham Harrell to back up Aaron Rodgers, although the Packers did sign AFL QB Nick Hill in late January.
Russell Wilson's stock is not as high as it should be due to concerns about his height. However, Wilson's production at Wisconsin was fabulous. Wilson threw 33 TD passes vs. just four picks for 3,175 yards in 2011, as the Badgers won the Big Ten championship and went on to the Rose Bowl.
The transfer from North Carolina State also ran for 464 yards and six TDs for the Badgers. Mobility at QB is an important asset in the offense that the Packers run. Wilson was also first-team All-Big Ten at QB.
Maturity and leadership are two great qualities that Wilson possesses.
Wilson also had a nice week at the Senior Bowl. Wilson looked very athletic at the NFL Scouting Combine and he was able to make all the throws necessary to succeed in the NFL.
Weight: 220 pounds
Combine 40 Time: 4.66 seconds
Brandon Bolden had some injury issues his senior year, but his overall production at Ole Miss was very strong. In 2011, Bolden rushed for 472 yards and four TDs. However, in 2010, Bolden ran for 976 yards and and 14 TDs and had a 6.0 yard rushing average.
Bolden also caught 32 passes in 2010 and has excellent hands, which is a necessary attribute for a RB in the Green Bay offense.
Bolden has very nice size and can also run with power. He has shown excellent agility in the open field, as he often leaped over a tackler to gain more yardage.
James Starks looks to be the starting back in Green Bay next season. It's still not certain if the Packers will re-sign free agent Ryan Grant, while Alex Green, the third-round pick from 2011, is trying to come back from a serious knee injury that put him on injured reserve.
The Packers have Brandon Saine as an option at RB, too, as he played decently when he was promoted to the roster from the practice squad after the injury to Green. Like Green, Saine was a rookie in 2011, albeit an undrafted one.
Combine 40 Time: 4.58
Justin Bethel is a very intriguing player. Was a three-year starter at Presbyterian and had a fabulous senior year with 88 tackles, six passes broken up, four interceptions and one forced fumble. Can play both CB and S.
Bethel looked good at the East-West Shrine game. Would contribute right away on special teams. Bethel also blocked nine kicks and had 199 solo tackles in his career at Presbyterian, which are both Big South records.
40 Time: 5.12
Don Barclay was on the All-Big East first team at RT. Barclay had a very good senior season and held his own against the likes of Vinny Curry of Marshall and teams like LSU.
Barclay played LT at West Virginia, but he can also play RT.
The OT position for the Packers is in a bit of flux. LT Chad Clifton missed most of the 2011 season due to a severe hamstring injury and recently had back surgery. Clifton's status will be closely watched in training camp.
Marshall Newhouse filled in for Clifton in his absence, and played okay, but also allowed 12.5 sacks in 2011. That is NOT okay. Green Bay's first-round pick in 2011, Derek Sherrod, suffered a broken leg in two places late in the 2011 season. Sherrod is currently rehabbing to try and be ready for training camp.
RT Bryan Bulaga also missed some time in 2011 because of two separate knee injuries.
40 Time: 4.70
Kentrell Lockett has had an injury-plagued career at Mississippi, but has shown flashes. Had nine career sacks at Ole Miss. Looked good at the East-West Shrine game.
The late rounds in the draft are where folks like Ted Thompson try to find some hidden gems. Players who have a lot of potential, but who may also have been held back due to injury issues. Lockett is that type of player. If nothing else, Lockett could contribute on special teams right away.
40 Time: 4.72
Korey Williams was on his way to having a monster senior year before a torn ACL shelved him for the year in the fourth week of the season. Up until that point, Williams had 35 tackles with 3.5 tackles for a loss, three interceptions and two pass breakups.
In the two previous years, Williams had over 200 tackles, including 22 for a loss and 10.5 sacks.
Williams would be another hidden gem selection for Ted Thompson.