10 Free Agency, Draft Targets the Packers Must Chase for 2013
When it comes to upgrading the 2013 roster for the Green Bay Packers, I don't expect Ted Thompson to use free agency, unless it's an emergency.
Thompson signed a number of free agents this offseason (Anthony Hargrove, Jeff Saturday, Daniel Muir, Phillip Merling and Cedric Benson), which is definitely not his modus operandi, but only one (Saturday) of them is currently on the roster.
I expect Thompson to once again build up his roster through the draft. Thompson will also sign a number of "street" free agents, as well as a handful of undrafted rookies in 2013.
When it comes to the 2013 NFL draft, we are now at a very early stage of that process.
We are still awaiting the bowl season to start, and then the East-West Shrine game, the Senior Bowl, the NFL Scouting Combine and the Pro Day workouts to get an evaluation on the players.
Looking at the needs of the Packers at this moment, I have put together a slideshow of players that I expect to be selected in the first three rounds of the draft.
All of the players are seniors, and have attributes that would help the Pack. As the process moves forward, there will be a number of juniors who will declare for the draft who could also help Green Bay as well.
Where the players are actually picked depends on the board at the time, and also how the players have done in their workouts.
You will note that my group has three running backs as potential options for the Pack. The Packers are doing a much better job running the ball the past two weeks, but I still see running back as being a key position for the Packers to upgrade.
In the past four drafts for the Packers, I've been able to correctly identify players such as B.J. Raji, Bryan Bulaga, Mike Neal, C.J. Wilson, Alex Green, Davon House, Nick Perry and Casey Hayward who fit the profile of needs that the team has had in those respective years.
Time will tell if anyone from this list will also be selected by the Packers.
Offensive Lineman Barrett Jones (Alabama)
Barrett Jones played center his senior year at Alabama, but has played both guard and tackle earlier in his Crimson Tide career, and he played those positions very well.
Jones won two very prestigious awards recently, as he won 2012 Rimington Trophy (best center in college football) and the 2012 William V. Campbell Trophy (best scholar-athlete in the nation).
Was also named All-SEC by both the coaches and writers as the first-team center in 2012, plus was just named to the first-team of the Associated Press All-American team.
Jones has already played on two national championship teams at Alabama, plus has a chance for a third title in January in the BCS Championship Game vs. Notre Dame.
Jones could help the Packers in a number of ways, due to his versatility. He would become the heir apparent at center for sure though, as Jeff Saturday isn't getting any younger.
At this moment, Jones is expected to be selected late in the first round or early in the second in the 2013 NFL draft.
Guard/Center Jonathan Cooper (North Carolina)
Jonathan Cooper is one of the best offensive guards in the country, but his best position in the NFL might end up being center.
Cooper was named first-team All-ACC by the media, plus won the ACC’s Jacobs Blocking Trophy as the league’s top offensive lineman.
Copper was also just named to the first-team for the Associated Press All-American team.
Like Barrett Jones, Cooper would become the center of the future of the Packers, if he was selected. I'm sure he would receive some excellent advice from Jeff Saturday as well, as Saturday is also a former Tarheel.
Cooper is expected to be selected in the late first, or early second round in the 2013 NFL draft.
Running Back Montee Ball (Wisconsin)
Montee Ball is finishing his senior season strong, as he was named the Grange-Griffin Big Ten Championship Game MVP, when Ball rushed for 202 yards and three touchdowns against Nebraska.
Ball also won the Doak Walker Award (nations top running back) in 2012, plus was named first-team All-Big Ten at running back in 2012 (like he was in 2011). Also was named Big Ten Running Back of the Year this season (also in 2011).
Like in 2011, Ball was also just named to the first-team Associated Press All-American team at running back.
In 2012, Ball rushed for 1,730 yards and 21 touchdowns.
In 2011, when Ball was a Heisman finalist, the Badger running back rushed for 1,923 yards, had 33 rushing touchdowns, plus had six receiving touchdowns.
Ball also holds the Division I FBS all-time touchdown record with 82 trips (rushing and receiving) to the end zone. Ball also holds the all-time FBS mark with 76 rushing touchdowns.
Overall in his career, Ball has 5,040 yards rushing, plus had 58 receptions for 591 more yards.
Ball will be leading the Badgers to their third straight Rose Bowl on New Year's Day.
Ball would fit a need for Green Bay at running back, plus he would adapt to the offensive scheme of the Packers very well.
Ball is a natural cut-back runner, who hits the hole hard and who obviously knows how to find the end zone. He also has excellent vision, plus has a nice blend of speed and power. Ball is also a very good receiver and a good blocker.
Currently, Ball is expected to be selected late in the second or somewhere in the third round. Some have his draft stock even lower. However, I believe his draft status will continue to rise until the actual NFL draft in late April.
Running Back Stepfan Taylor (Stanford)
Stepfan Taylor has had a very nice senior season at Stanford, helping to lead the Cardinal to the Rose Bowl.
Taylor was named to the 2012 All-Pac-12 second-team at running back. Taylor has 1,442 yards rushing this year, and has 12 touchdowns. In addition to that, Taylor has 38 receptions for 370 yards and two more scores.
In the last three games of the Pac-12 season, Taylor had 114, 161 and 142 yards rushing against ranked opponents Oregon State, Oregon and UCLA.
Taylor had 78 yards rushing and one touchdown versus UCLA in the Pac-12 title game. Taylor also caught six passes for 55 yards.
Taylor is an all-around running back, as he is also an excellent blocker.
Like Montee Ball, Taylor has the attributes to be a three-down back with the Packers.
Taylor is expected to be selected in the second or third round of the 2013 NFL draft.
Running Back Mike Gillislee (Florida)
Mike Gillislee was named to the All-SEC first-team at running back by both the coaches and the media.
Gillislee had a fine senior campaign, as he had 1,104 yards rushing and 10 touchdowns. Gillislee also had 15 receptions for 146 more yards and another touchdown.
The Gator running back had a great last game of the regular season, when he rushed for 140 yards and two touchdowns against arch-rival Florida State.
Gillislee is one of the main reasons the Gators finished 11-1 and are heading to the Sugar Bowl.
Gillislee has the same abilities that both Montee Ball and Stepfan Taylor have, plus is an exceptional blocker picking up blitzes.
Gillislee is also expected to be selected in either the second or third round of the 2013 NFL draft.
Tight End Tyler Eifert (Notre Dame)
Tyler Eifert won the John Mackey Award, given annually to the nation's best tight end. Eifert was also just named to the second-team of the Associated Press All-American team.
The big tight end caught 44 passes for 624 yards and four touchdowns, helping to lead the Fighting Irish to a perfect record and a spot in the BCS Championship Game versus Alabama.
Overall in his career, Eifert has 134 receptions for 1,779 yards and 11 touchdowns.
Eifert has also improved his blocking in 2012.
Because of the inconsistent play of tight end Jermichael Finley, the Packers have to keep their options open at tight end in the 2013 NFL draft.
The Packers do have a number of decent tight ends on the roster right now, but Eifert could be a real difference maker if the Packers decide to pull the plug on Finley.
Eifert is expected to be selected in the late first round or early second round.
Defensive Lineman Kawann Short (Purdue)
Kawann Short was named to the first-team All-Big Ten at defensive tackle by both the coaches and the media.
Short was also named to the second-team on the Associated Press All-American team.
The big Boilermaker had a great senior season, as he had 42 tackles, 14.5 tackles for loss, six sacks, four passes broken up, four blocked kicks, two fumbles recovered and one forced.
Short has 48 tackles for loss in his career at Purdue, plus has 18 sacks. He also has eight career blocked kicks, plus had two interceptions as well.
Short can play the run very effectively, plus can get after the passer.
Short could help the Packers in a couple of areas. He could play defensive end, plus fill in at nose tackle from time to time.
Short is expected to be selected late in the first round.
Linebacker Shayne Skov (Stanford)
Shayne Skov had a very nice senior season at Stanford, as the Cardinal defense was ranked third in the country in run defense.
Skov was named Honorable Mention of the All-Pac-12 team, plus was named FBS Defensive Player of the Week, in the Stanford upset versus Oregon.
The senior linebacker had 68 tackles and 2.5 sacks for the Cardinal.
Skov put up these numbers after suffering a season-ending knee injury in 2011.
In 2010, Skov had 84 tackles, 10.5 tackles for a loss, 6.5 sacks, two forced fumbles and five passes broken up.
Skov plays the run very well, plus is a good edge rusher.
The versatile linebacker could play either inside or outside linebacker for the Packers.
The Packers have had injury issues at inside linebacker this year, as both Desmond Bishop and D.J. Smith suffered season-ending knee injuries. Plus, the Packers will probably be taking a look at the contract status of A.J. Hawk as well.
Skov is expected to be selected in rounds two or three in the draft.
Wide Receiver Cobi Hamilton (Arkansas)
Cobi Hamilton was named to the All-SEC first-team at wide receiver, plus was just named to the third-team of the Associated Press All-American team.
Hamilton had 90 receptions for 1,335 yards and five touchdowns for the Razorbacks this season.
In the previous two seasons, Hamilton had 66 overall catches and 10 touchdowns.
Hamilton has excellent size and has decent speed.
At this point, it appears that the Packers could lose Greg Jennings to free agency in 2013. The Packers still have plenty of talent at the wide receiver position, but Hamilton would be an excellent weapon to add to the arsenal of Aaron Rodgers.
Hamilton is expected to get selected in either the second or third round of the draft.
Safety Robert Lester (Alabama)
Robert Lester was named to the 2012 second-team All-SEC team at safety by the coaches.
This season, Lester has 42 tackles, 1.5 sacks and four picks, as the Crimson Tide prepares to play in the BCS Championship Game against Notre Dame.
In 2011, Lester had 36 tackles with three passes broken up, one forced fumble, one blocked kick and two interceptions, while in 2010, had 52 tackles with one sack, four passes broken up and eight picks.
Lester defends the deep pass well, has decent ball-hawking skills and also plays well near the line of scrimmage.
The Packers will have a big decision to make regarding the contract status of Charles Woodson in 2013, not to mention Woodson suffered another broken collarbone this season.
Green Bay has to be pleased with the progress of the young safeties on the roster (Morgan Burnett, M.D. Jennings and Jerron McMillian), but Lester could be a nice option depending on the status of Woodson.
Lester is expected to get selected in the second or third round of the 2013 draft.