Once again, the Packers will enter this year's draft with a plethora of selections, with nine to be exact. In the past, GM Ted Thompson has successfully traded down (giving him more selections) and turned those extra picks in later rounds to add depth and youth.
Depth will be key for the defensive end and outside linebacker spots. With the team switching to a 3-4, there are now obvious holes at those positions.
Guys that used to be defensive ends now carry this ambiguous title of hybrid linebacker; meaning they will play outside linebacker in the 3-4 scheme, only to become defensive ends in what will be a sparingly-used 4-3 scheme.
This brings us to the main question: can the Packers wait until the third Round (or even later) to draft a 3-4 DE? I suppose there are many answers. One only needs to look at the plethora of mock drafts and accompanying player boards to see that not all prospects are ranked equally among them.
What is easy to assess, however, is the depth for the 3-4 OLB position. Just as easy to assess is the depth for the all-important 3-4 defensive end. This is said to be the make-or-break position for the 3-4.
Looking across the big boards, you can see that a 3-4 OLB will be available to any team through most of the first three rounds. Finding a 3-4 defensive end is not so simple. The first one even available is Tyson Jackson of LSU, who is slated to go somewhere in the mid-to-late first round. At No. 9, it would be somewhat of a reach to draft Jackson.
As far as OLBs are concerned, the first one could be drafted at No. 1: Aaron Curry. Many more will follow him.
In fact, the depth of the 3-4 OLB doesn't start to fade until midway through the fourth round. Knowing this will save the Packers some headaches as they browse through the best of the rest on day two of the draft.
As we all know, Thompson likes to draft the best available player on his board, with mostly good results. Doing so again this year will likely net an OLB, an OT, a CB, or a NT.
If one of those isn't available, look for Thompson to find a trade partner. The Packers will need a player of Jackson's caliber at defensive end more than they will need a Brian Orakpo or Everette Brown at OLB, especially if they're looking to be greatly improved from last year.
A good 3-4 defensive end can be found in this draft, but it won't be after round three. I suggest they do their best to find one on the first day.