Re-Drafting the Packers' Entire 2012 Draft After First Half of NFL Season
Thomas J. Russo-US PRESSWIRE
The first half of the NFL season is over.
Heck, it's more than halfway done if you count all the time this year's draft class has put in since the offseason program of minicamp and OTAs along with training camp and preseason action.
To be sure, players have not put in a full body of work yet, but they've given a pretty good idea of what they're all about, or at least more than the guesswork that was done in April when the draft took place.
What follows is an attempt to re-select the Packers draft this season, which is something of an inexact science. The ground rules were that no player could be selected earlier than they were originally selected.
With that in mind, here's what a Packers draft might look like if it were hypothetically held in November.
Harrison Smith, Safety
Brace Hemmelgarn-US PRESSWIRE
With the 28th pick in the first round of the 2012 draft, the Packers select Notre Dame safety Harrison Smith.
Smith was previously selected by the division rival Minnesota Vikings just one pick later than the Packers' pick, and he has done a terrific job of solidifying the secondary across the border, which had been an area of weakness for the Vikings in 2011 and a major reason they only won three games.
"There was speculation that maybe they overpaid for him, and it was maybe the trailing inflation of value," said Bleacher Report NFL Draft lead writer Sigmund Bloom in an interview. "Clearly that wasn't the case.. He's been worth every bit of a first-round pick."
Just because I have the Packers bypassing Nick Perry doesn't mean anybody is giving up on him. But it's clear from the limited evidence available so far this season, he hasn't been quite what was envisioned when the Packers made him their first-round draft choice.
There's still plenty of time for Perry to turn things up a notch and become a consistent presence opposite Clay Matthews in the Packers defense. Certainly, getting healthy would be a step in the right direction for Perry, who's sat out the past three games with a knee injury.
Taking Smith also isn't a knock on the play of safety Jerron McMillian who might be the second-best safety in this year's draft class behind Smith based upon their play so far this season. But Smith has shown to be an all-around player, whereas McMillian is more of an in-the-box safety at this point in his development.
A very compelling argument can be made to have taken Buccaneers running back Doug Martin in this slot, but the Packers really needed help on defense, and good running backs can always be found later in the draft.
Mike Martin, Defensive Line
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With the 19th pick in the second round of the 2012 draft, the Packers select Michigan defensive lineman Mike Martin.
Instead of going with Jerel Worthy of Michigan State, the Packers might have been better off with another defensive lineman from the state of Michigan in retrospect.
Both have two sacks so far this season, so the pass-rush production hasn't been all that different, but the number of tackles made by Martin has stood out. Through nine games, Martin has made 29 tackles, which is a large number for a defensive tackle who's technically only started one game for the Tennessee Titans in 2012.
Coming into the draft, analyst Sigmund Bloom admittedly thought Martin would be more of a stout player that would hold the point of attack, partially based upon his big bench press numbers at the NFL combine (36 repetitions of 225 pounds). But Martin has displayed surprising versatility.
"The Titans drafted him, and he's been more of a penetrator, and a player that has been great for the system they run," said Bloom.
What the Packers need is a penetrator of their own in their nickel and dime subpackages when they only have two defensive linemen on the field. And that's what Martin can bring: an interior pass rush.
Again, no one's giving up on Worthy. He may turn out to be a very good fit for the Packers, but the high level of energy Martin brings on every play has been a revelation.
Casey Hayward, Cornerback
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With the 30th pick in the second round of the 2012 draft, the Packers select Vanderbilt cornerback Casey Hayward.
The way Hayward has played this season, it's simply impossible to go any direction but the original path intended by general manager Ted Thompson.
Without a doubt, Hayward would be a first-round draft choice of some other team if everything were to start over from scratch, but given the self-imposed guideline that I couldn't select any players after they were originally selected, we'll stick with Hayward where the Packers took him back in April.
Hayward didn't even receive much playing time at the beginning of the season, but his role has consistently been expanded as he's elevated his level of play.
"He's a natural," said Bloom. "He's been exactly what they need. Talking about rising to the occasion, coming through in a way at a crucial time for this team with (Charles) Woodson being hurt."
Hayward has been playing Woodson's role as the slot cornerback, but the rookie has been inserted into the starting lineup ever since fellow cornerback Sam Shields was injured back in Week 6.
The most impressive part of Hayward's game have been his four interceptions, which is tied for the third-most in the NFL and is the best mark among rookies.
"It's almost like what Casey Hayward has done, the football gods sent to them," said Bloom. "They needed somebody who was going to be able to come in, play right away and be versatile enough to play different spots in the secondary and otherwise make an impact."
Alfred Morris, Running Back
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With the 37th pick in the fourth round of the 2012 draft, the Packers select running back Alfred Morris of Florida Atlantic.
Along with Doug Martin of the Buccaneers, Morris has been one of the top rookie running backs in the NFL this season.
Again, it could easily be the case that Morris would go much higher than the original sixth round he was taken in by the Washington Redskins, even higher than the fourth round, but that's easy to say in retrospect.
What Morris has provided the Redskins is a power back and the perfect complement to quarterback Robert Griffin III. Whereas Griffin provides the flash, Morris provides the smash.
That's not to say that Morris doesn't have any speed, but he's as good an option between the tackles as any other first-year running back.
Morris is a true workhorse back, and thus far has shown to be a better option than either James Starks or Alex Green in the Packers backfield.
His 164 carries for 793 yards for five touchdowns puts Morris in All-Rookie team contention.
Vontaze Burfict, Inside Linebacker
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With the 38th pick in the fourth round of the 2012 draft, the Packers select inside linebacker Vontaze Burfict of Arizona State.
Burfict's fall from grace back during the pre-draft process was nothing short of jaw dropping. Perceived as a potential first-round draft choice heading into the 2011 season, Burfict scared every team in the NFL away and eventually went undrafted.
It's probably safe to say that if the NFL draft was held again in November, Burfict probably wouldn't go undrafted again given the way he's played in his rookie year. He's started six of eight games for the Cincinnati Bengals and has provided a steadying influence at inside linebacker by making 54 tackles so far this season.
What's perhaps ironic is that going undrafted is what may have saved Burfict, what Bloom calls a "career near-death experience."
"Some of these guys, their whole lives have been about football," said Bloom. "Everything they've ever done has been culminating, trying to be a professional football player. Usually they've had sections of their life when they've been able to coast and otherwise not have to fight for what they have."
Such was the case with Burfict who slacked during the 2011 season at Arizona State and didn't take the pre-draft process nearly seriously enough.
Since being signed by the Bengals, however, Burfict has taken his professionalism up a notch, and any off-field problems have been non-existent.
Given the Packers' injury issues at inside linebacker, Burfict probably would have been given a similar opportunity to strut his stuff in Green Bay and could have an impact in the absence of Desmond Bishop and D.J. Smith.
Greg Zuerlein, Kicker
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With the 28th pick in the fifth round of the 2012 draft, the Packers select kicker Greg Zuerlein of Missouri Western State.
It doesn't matter that Zuerlein is the product of a small college. He's not playing in the trenches, so his level of competition doesn't factor whatsoever.
The fact is, Zuerlein can kick the ball a country mile and might be the best kicker in the NFL in his rookie season.
Zuerlein connected on his first 15 field goals of the season before notably missing three in a row against the Miami Dolphins in a three-point loss.
It's hard to blame Zuerlein for two of the misses, however. One came from 52 yards out and another came from 66 yards away as time expired, which would have set the NFL record had he made it.
Greg "The Leg" has actually kicked a 60-yard field goal this season and has converted on 85 percent of his attempts this season (17-of-20), which is a whole lot better than the current situation the Packers find themselves in.
Mason Crosby has only hit field goals at a 67 percent clip (10-of-15) that ranks the Packers dead last in the NFL in field goal percentage.
"Just watching the games from my couch, I don't have any confidence in Mason Crosby," said Bloom. "When there's a key kick, you just don't feel like you're going to make it."
Dezman Moses, Linebacker
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With the 34th pick in the seventh round of the 2012 draft, the Packers select linebacker Dezman Moses of Tulane.
The Packers took tackle Andrew Datko and quarterback B.J. Coleman with their original seventh round draft choices. Neither made the 53-man roster, but both are currently on the team's practice squad.
It's possible both Datko and Coleman have a future with the Packers, but it's not guaranteed. Not only Moses have a future with Green Bay, he has a present as well.
Moses was one of a handful of undrafted rookies to make the Packers' roster this season and has progressively gotten better since being signed to a contract.
Special teams was Moses' primary calling card early in the season, though he's found occasional playing time in certain defensive packages.
With recent injuries to both Clay Matthews and Nick Perry, Moses found himself getting more time on defense than at any other point this season this past Sunday against the Arizona Cardinals.
The contributions from Moses have been modest, eight tackles and one sack, but he's on the rise and probably wouldn't go undrafted if things were reset.
Daryl Richardson, Running Back
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With the 36th pick in the seventh round of the 2012 draft, the Packers select running back Daryl Richardson of Abilene Christian.
The Rams originally took Richardson in the seventh and final round of the draft with the penultimate overall selection, but he's been one of the most productive rookies in the NFL this season.
"I think we're going to look at this Rams class in two or three years and appreciate what (Jeff) Fisher and company did," said Bloom. "We'll look back at all the pieces they're putting together and see the master plan coming to fore."
With 335 yards on 62 carries and adding 14 receptions, Richardson is making a significant impact for the Rams and makes a nice complement to the aging Steven Jackson.
In fact, at 196 pounds and with a good set of wheels, Richardson would make a nice complement to the stronger Alfred Morris, taken earlier in this mock draft.
Brian Carriveau is a Green Bay Packers featured columnist for Bleacher Report. Unless otherwise cited, all quotations were gathered first hand.