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Green Bay Packers: Best-Case Scenarios for the 2012 NFL Draft

Bob FoxContributor IApril 12, 2012

Green Bay Packers: Best-Case Scenarios for the 2012 NFL Draft

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    The NFL draft is not an exact science.

    Sometimes it is, when a team has the first overall pick and knows who it wants to draft, but even then, the selection of a particular player doesn't always work out.

    Sometimes notable players slide down in the draft, while other times, players that have a late-round grade get drafted pretty early.

    Sometimes the draft of a particular team is set up by things like scouting, interviews, free agency, off-field issues and injuries.

    The Green Bay Packers will have all of those factors in play going into to the 2012 NFL draft. The Packers won Super Bowl XLV and went 15-1 last season. Green Bay knows that it's a Super Bowl contender. 

    A solid draft will enhance the Packers' chances of bringing home another Vince Lombardi Trophy.

    But the Packers also need to have some good fortune for all things to go right for them in this draft. Here are some scenarios that will improve their chances of winning their 14th NFL title and fifth Super Bowl.

Nick Collins Can Continue His NFL Career

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    The Green Bay Packers and Nick Collins should be reaching a decision very soon on whether Collins can continue his NFL career in 2012. Collins was lost for the season after suffering a neck injury in the second game of the 2011 NFL campaign.

    Nick Collins had to have cervical fusion surgery, a procedure in which one of the discs is removed and a bone graft is taken from his hip and put in his neck. His injury occurred between the C-3 and C-4 vertebrae.

    I had the same type of procedure done on my neck, although my doctor used a bone graft from the bone bank. My injury occurred between the C-5 and C-6 vertebrae.

    Other players in the NFL have had cervical fusion surgery and have been able to resume an NFL career. It certainly appears that Peyton Manning will be one of those players in 2012 with the Denver Broncos.

    Mike Alstott of the Tampa Bay Bucs had the procedure done in 2003, and he was able to play three more years after that. There wasn't any back in the NFL who was more physical than Alstott, either. He loved to lower his head and run through tacklers.

    The  Packers know that they have a great player in Collins.

    Collins is a three-time All-Pro and has also been selected to play in three Pro Bowls. He has 21 career interceptions, including four TDs, and also had a key interception return for a TD in Super Bowl XLV.

    Collins was the second player ever selected by Thompson in the draft, as he was picked in the second round of the 2005 NFL draft, after Aaron Rodgers was selected in the first round.

    The loss of Collins for almost the entire 2011 season had a severe effect on the pass defense of the Packers. Green Bay finished dead last in pass defense in 2011, giving up almost 300 yards a game. Communication issues were apparent, as there were a number of blown coverages.

    The decision of letting Collins play won't be an easy one.

    Mike McCarthy talked about the situation regarding Collins almost three weeks ago. McCarthy was quoted as telling Jason Wilde of ESPNMilwaukee.com, “If Nick was my son, I would not let him play.”

    If the surgeon who did the procedure on Collins clears him to play, then there will be a discussion among the various parties involved, including the surgeon, team doctors, Ted Thompson, Mike McCarthy and Collins himself.

    If the parties agree that Collins can continue his NFL career with no additional risk of injury to his neck, then it will play a key part in the draft strategy of the Packers.

    If Collins is cleared to play, I would still expect the Packers to select a safety for quality depth reasons, but the need would not be so prominent.

The Packers Will Get the Player They Want in the 1st Round

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    I don't know if Ted Thompson plays the lottery, but if he does, he has probably done OK.

    Thompson has been very fortunate in the NFL draft in terms of being able to select players in the latter portion of the first round on whom the team had very high grades.

    The poster child example of that scenario is Aaron Rodgers. In the weeks leading up to the 2005 NFL draft, there were many draft experts who had Rodgers slotted in as the first overall pick of the draft by the San Francisco 49ers, a team that Rodgers dreamed of playing for as a youngster.

    At the very least, Rodgers expected to be selected by the Tampa Bay Bucs with the fifth overall pick of the first round. In fact, head coach Jon Gruden told Rodgers that the Bucs would definitely pick him if he was still on the board.

    Somehow, Rodgers slid down the draft board into the happy arms of Thompson, who selected the former California QB with 24th pick of the first round. Rodgers was also the very first player Thompson ever selected as GM of the Packers.

    That choice has turned out OK, don't you think?

    Thompson was fortunate again in 2009, as he was able to trade back into the first round after already selecting DL B.J. Raji with the ninth overall pick.

    Thompson traded three draft picks to the New England Patriots for the right to be able to select OLB Clay Matthews with the 26th pick of the first round. One of those three draft picks traded was the pick acquired from the New York Jets in the Brett Favre trade.

    Matthews has turned out to be a phenomenal player with the Packers.

    In 2010, the Packers were able to select OT Bryan Bulaga with the 23rd pick of the first round. Many experts saw Bulaga as a top-10 talent in the draft, but again, Thompson was very happy to select the former Iowa Hawkeye later in the first round.

    Bulaga ended up starting at RT in his rookie year with the Packers—the same year the Packers won Super Bowl XLV.

    Thompson hopes that he will be as fortunate in the 2012 NFL draft with the 28th pick in the first round.

Ted Thompson Has Another Great Draft

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    Ted Thompson has an excellent track record in Green Bay since he took over the front office in 2005.

    The reason?

    Thompson has stayed true to his formula; he has built the Packers roster primarily through the use of the draft.

    When the Green Bay Packers opened the 2011 NFL season, the team had 32 out of 53 players on their roster who were drafted. That means almost 60 percent of the Green Bay roster beginning the year in 2011 were players who were drafted by the organization.

    That is an outstanding figure in today's NFL. The key player being QB Aaron Rodgers—the first draft pick Ted Thompson ever made in 2005.

    Rodgers was the NFL MVP in 2011. He was also All-Pro and a starting QB in the Pro Bowl. Not to mention, he was the MVP of Super Bowl XLV.

    Thompson has also drafted a number of other players who have been either All-Pro or selected to a Pro Bowl team.

    This list would include S Nick Collins, OLB Clay Matthews, WR Greg Jennings, DL B.J. Raji and LB A.J. Hawk.

    Overall, Thompson has selected 67 players in his seven drafts with the Packers. Fifty-seven of those 67 players made the Packers roster.

    Yes, every once in a while, Thompson will have a hiccup in the draft, like when he selected DT Justin Harrell in the first round of the 2007 draft.

    But the proof is in the pudding.

    Since Mike McCarthy took over in 2006 as head coach of the Packers, the Packers have been 63-33 in the regular season, 5-3 in the postseason, appeared in two NFC Championship Games (winning one) and won Super Bowl XLV.

    That has happened because of all the talent Thompson has assembled for McCarthy and his talented coaching staff to work with.

    Bottom line: More often than not, Thompson has a very good draft.

    That is due to the outstanding scouting done by Thompson himself, along with John Dorsey (director of college scouting) and his staff.

    Time will tell whether that positive scenario occurs again with the upcoming 2012 NFL draft.

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