2012 NFL Draft: Green Bay Packers Draft Puts Defense Back on Track
Entering the 2012 NFL draft, the Green Bay Packers had a bevy of needs on the defensive side of the ball. Yet, after a highly successful draft weekend that included general manager Ted Thompson trading up three times and selecting six defensive players, the Packers biggest needs have been filled.
Green Bay entered the draft with 11 overall selections and had the Packers used them all, it's unlikely they would have room for that many draft picks. So Thompson wisely chose quality over quantity in an effort to rebuild a defense that was down right atrocious in 2011.
Green Bay also became devoid of talent so quickly in key areas of the defense such as the defensive line, linebacker and in the secondary, all six defensive players will be expected to contribute right away.
Therefore let's breakdown the potential impact each new Packers defender will have.
Even though Nick Perry may not be a perfect fit for Dom Capers' 3-4 defense, he doesn't have to be. At 6'2", 271 pounds, Perry is a long, athletic pass-rusher with a quick first step and a tremendous burst to turn the corner on offensive tackles.
Last season, he led the Pac-12 in sacks with 10. For his career he notched 22 total sacks and 30 tackles for loss as well as six pass breakups and five forced fumbles.
Given the Packers relative weakness at outside linebacker opposite of Clay Matthews, Perry should instantly push for playing time ahead of former starters Brad Jones, Erik Walden and Frank Zombo, all of whom were late-round draft picks or not drafted at all.
After addressing the need for a pass-rusher on the edge with their first pick in the 2012 NFL draft, the Green Bay Packers looked to fill their need for an interior pass-rusher with their second pick. They succeeded by landing Michigan State defensive tackle Jerel Worthy.
Worthy is a disruptive force inside and is almost unstoppable when he wants to be. In three seasons with the Spartans, he racked up 12 sacks, an impressive number for a defensive tackle, to go along with 27.5 tackles for loss.
The Packers are in desperate need of a starting defensive end in their 3-4 defense following the suspension of the once-promising Mike Neal for the first four games of the 2012 season. Green Bay did sign free-agent defensive lineman Anthony Hargrove, who should push for the starting job and time as a nickel rusher.
However, Worthy is a much more complete player than Hargrove, as he is equally stout against the run and the pass. At 6'2", 309 pounds, he's not the prototypical 3-4 defensive end, yet the Packers, unlike most 3-4 teams, ask their linemen to penetrate as opposed to always taking on double-teams. Thus, Worthy is a perfect fit.
After adding two big, talented players to reinforce their front seven, the Packers turned their attention to the secondary, trading back into the second round to select Vanderbilt cornerback Casey Hayward.
Hayward is a ball-hawking corner who is not blessed with amazing speed but makes up for it with his incredible recognition skills. In three seasons as a starter, he intercepted 15 passes and broke up 46, proving his skills as a cover corner.
Yet one reason why the Packers liked him is his willingness to come up in run support, a la Charles Woodson. Most cornerbacks do not make many plays in the backfield, but Hayward is an exception to the rule, as he finished his career with 19 tackles for loss.
Due to the retirement of former Pro Bowl safety Nick Collins, the Packers may be forced to move Woodson from corner to safety at some point, either as a full-time starter or on a situational basis, opening up a spot in sub packages that the former Vanderbilt product could potentially fill.
Regardless of whether he plays right away or not, Hayward gives Green Bay another solid developmental prospect at cornerback, who may eventually replace Woodson as the team's jack-of-all trades in the secondary.
Iowa defensive tackle Mike Daniels, the player selected by the Packers with the first of two fourth-round picks (132 overall) will add even more depth and pass-rush ability to the revamped defensive line.
Daniels was given a third-round grade from ESPN.com yet fell all the way to Green Bay near the end of the fourth because he is relatively short for a defensive tackle at 6'0". He also weighs just 290 pounds, not the ideal size for a 3-4 defensive end.
However, Packers defensive coordinator Dom Capers is creative and Daniels is a talented interior player, so finding a role for him on sub packages shouldn't be a problem. In four seasons at Iowa, Daniels notched an impressive 16 sacks, highlighted by a nine-sack season in 2011.
The Packers were not especially loaded with interior pass-rushers entering the draft, so a player with Daniels ability in that area is certainly going to see some playing time right away, even if it's just on third downs to start.
Early on in the 2012 NFL draft, the Packers had a chance to address one of their biggest needs, which is at safety and passed. So when the team finally took a relatively unknown prospect at the position in the fourth round, Packer fans were not rejoicing.
However, with a prospect like McMillian, there is often more to him than meets the eye. In this case, it was the Maine product's ability to tackle that set him apart and prompted the Packers to add him to their secondary.
This is what Green Bay Packers safeties coach Darren Perry told the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel on McMillian, "He's an excellent tackler, and you know what we tackled like last season, I'll try not to screw him up."
Therefore, it's plain to see that while McMillian is not well-known, he's a 5'11", 203-pound safety that ran a 4.4 in the 40-yard dash and tackles well, as evidence by his 92 total tackles last season, 11.5 of which were for loss.
Considering the Packers currently have veteran safety Charlie Peprah penciled in as their starter, it would not be the least bit surprising to see McMillian emerge as the starter by season's end.
Ted Thompson had already traded up twice in the draft to add talented defenders to the Green Bay roster, yet he did so one more time in the fifth round of the draft to acquire one final pass-rusher in North Carolina State outside linebacker Terrell Manning.
Manning is a disruptive player that wreaked havoc on opposing teams in 2011 as he finished his final college season with 76 tackles, 14.5 for loss, 5.5 sacks, four forced fumbles, three interceptions and eight passes defensed.
In three seasons with the Wolfpack, the versatile defender started 26 games and showed the ability throughout his career to rush the passer and stop the run, while also excelling in pass coverage.
He does not posses prototypical size for a 3-4 outside linebacker at 6'2", 237 pounds, but he's big enough and fast enough to make an impact right away for the Green Bay Packers.
Given the current players on the roster Manning will be competing with, it will not come as a shock if Manning sees the field on defense much earlier than expected.