To begin this article, I want to first say that I thought the Green Bay Packers did a very nice job in the 2012 NFL draft. Ted Thompson focused on defense, and I thought he selected a number of players who can help the 32nd ranked defense right from the get-go in their rookie year.
I had written a number of times that Thompson was going to be aggressive in the draft, and he definitely did not let me down because he traded up three times to select a player he wanted.
That being said, I want to talk about three players I think will be key assets to the teams that selected them in 2012 and beyond and would have obviously helped the Packers as well.
In the 2011 NFL draft, I did a number of mock drafts for the Packers, just like I did in 2012. The player I had the Packers taking in the first round on a couple of occasions, including my final mock draft, was OLB Brooks Reed.
Reed was available for the Packers to select with the 32nd pick of the first round, but instead the Packers selected OT Derek Sherrod.
Reed was picked by the Houston Texans in the second round and had a fine rookie year. Reed had six sacks in the regular season and was tied for the lead in the postseason with 3.5 sacks. The Packers could have surely used Reed in 2011 because the Packers' pass rush was abysmal (ranked 27th in the NFL with 29 sacks).
Meanwhile, Sherrod developed slowly with the Packers. The Packers first gave Sherrod an opportunity to start at LG, but was beaten out by T.J. Lang early in that process. Sherrod was also beaten out by Marshall Newhouse as the primary back up OT for the Packers when the 2011 season started.
Sherrod did get some playing time because of injuries to both starting offensive tackles, but his progress was derailed when he broke his leg in two places in the game against the Kansas City Chiefs late in the season.
Here are the three players that I believe will have an impact on the field in 2012 much like Brooks Reed did in 2011.
When it was time for the Packers to select with the 28th pick of the first round, they definitely selected the best defensive player left on the board when they selected OLB Nick Perry.
I've had my eye on Perry for a long time. Perry was the player I had the Packers selecting in the first round in my very first mock draft over three months ago. I also had the Packers taking Perry again in the first round in another mock draft I did last month.
So I had no problem with the selection. The only player that I might have taken instead of Perry was RB Doug Martin. Yes, I know the focus of the draft for the Packers was on defense. Still, a talent like Martin was very appealing, and he has the attributes that would fit nicely into the offense run by the Packers.
It would have been a case of the rich getting richer for the Aaron Rodgers-led offense (ranked third in the NFL) had they selected Martin. Martin was selected right after the Packers selected Perry because the Tampa Bay Bucs traded back up into the late first round and selected Martin with the 31st pick of the first round.
Head coach Greg Schiano of the Bucs coached RB Ray Rice of the Baltimore Ravens at Rutgers, and Martin has many of the attributes that Rice possesses. Rice and Martin have similar size, although Martin is a little taller and heavier.
Martin was named first-team All-Mountain West at RB for Boise State in 2012, as he rushed for 1,299 yards and had 16 TDs. In addition to that, Martin had 28 receptions for 255 yards and had two more TDs. Overall, Martin had 3,431 career rushing yards and had 43 career rushing TDs. He also caught 67 passes in his career at Boise.
Martin was named MVP of the Las Vegas Bowl when he had 301 all-purpose yards in the game against Arizona State. Martin also impressed at the Senior Bowl and looked good at the NFL Scouting Combine as well.
If that wasn't enough, Martin also has excellent skills returning kicks, averaging 34 yards a return in 2011.
With his strength, quickness, great receiving skills and solid blocking prowess, Martin has the ability to be a three-down RB in the NFL.
The Packers RB situation is a bit unsettled and that is why the selection of Martin made some sense if it indeed happened. James Starks has has flashed his ability at times, but seems to be injury prone. Last year's third-round pick Alex Green suffered an ACL tear to his knee in 2011, but it appears he will be ready for training camp.
Undrafted rookie Brandon Saine looked pretty solid in the playing time he received. It also appears that the Packers are not interested in bringing back veteran Ryan Grant, who late in the season looked like the back who gained over 3,400 yards from 2007-2009.
I was very happy to see that there were still three defensive linemen who could definitely help the Packers still available when the second round of the 2012 NFL draft started. I was hoping that the Packers would be able to select DE Kendall Reyes, who was among this group that also included DE Jerel Worthy and DE Devon Still.
The defensive line coach of the Packers, Mike Trgovac said that this group was on the radar of the Packers in the second round. Unfortunately for the Packers, the dominoes started falling before they could select Reyes.
The San Diego Chargers selected Reyes with the 49th pick of the second round. That was all Ted Thompson needed to see, and he immediately traded up so he could select Worthy with the 51st pick of the second round.
Still was then selected with the 53rd pick of the second round by the Cincinnati Bengals.
Of the three defensive linemen, I preferred Reyes. He was another player I had selected in one of my mock drafts. He had the prototypical size (6'4", 305) for a DE in the 3-4 scheme utilized by the Packers
Besides having nice size, Reyes also has nice quickness and speed. Reyes was a first team All-Big East selection at DT, but would be a perfect DE in the defensive scheme of the Packers. Reyes had 46 tackles, 13.5 tackles for loss and also had 4.5 sacks.
Reyes was also a four-year starter and a team leader (two-time team captain) with the Huskies. Reyes played at the Senior Bowl and played like a man among boys in the practice sessions.
The Packers obviously need to get some more pass rush ability from their defensive line. The Packers only had six sacks from the D-line in 2011.
The Packers had an obvious need at safety going into the draft that was magnified by the release of All-Pro S Nick Collins due to the neck injury he suffered in the second week of the 2011 season.
The Packers just wouldn't medically clear Collins to play after he had cervical fusion surgery, a procedure in which one of the disks is removed and a bone graft is taken from his hip and put in his neck.
So the Packers had a glaring need at S, even though Morgan Burnett and Charlie Peprah had eight interceptions between them at the safety position after Collins injured his neck in Week 2. Still, Peprah was a liability in coverage at times, and there were communication issues as well.
The Packers did select a S in the draft when they selected Jerron McMillian from Maine. McMillian is very similar to Collins because he doesn't come from a big-time college football program.
On the other hand, Markelle Martin does. Martin played for Oklahoma State in the pass happy Big 12 conference. I was surprised Martin did not get selected on the second day of the draft, and it turned out that Martin lasted until the sixth round when he was selected by the Tennessee Titans.
I also had the Packers taking Martin in one of my mock drafts. I just thought Martin would be a nice fit for the Packers defensively.
Martin is a natural free safety who also doesn't shy away from the physical part of the game. Martin was named to the All-Big 12 conference first team, and was named to the 2011 AFCA FBS Coaches’ All-America Team as well.
Martin did not have any interceptions in 2011, but he did have 74 tackles, 11 passes broken up and two forced fumbles. In 2010, Martin had three picks and 55 tackles. Martin also looked good at the Senior Bowl.
Bottom line: Martin has good speed and covers a lot of ground in the secondary.