Grading the 2012 Green Bay Packers Draft Class

Andrew Garda@andrew_gardaFeatured ColumnistJanuary 17, 2013

NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 26:  A detail of the video board and stage during the 2012 NFL Draft at Radio City Music Hall on April 26, 2012 in New York City.  (Photo by Chris Chambers/Getty Images)
Chris Chambers/Getty Images

The Packers focused almost exclusively on defense during last year's draft, adding seven defensive players with their total of eight picks.

While the defense collapsed during their playoff loss against the San Francisco 49ers last weekend, the overall improvements that the unit made this season were noticeable.

Injuries certainly took their toll on this draft class, but overall, most of the team's rookies had a positive impact on their team.

Let's see how each of them graded out now that the Packers season is officially over.

Round 1, Pick No. 28: Nick Perry, OLB—Grade: Incomplete

In the end, it's very hard to grade Perry based off of six games, which is why I am giving him a grade of incomplete. For the games that he was present for, though, I'd say that he had a C+. But six games is a very small sample size to break down for a seasonal grade.

Even before Perry went on injured reserve with a wrist injury, the former USC defensive end-turned-linebacker had been on the sidelines dealing with a knee injury.

We knew that the transition between the two positions was going to be rough, as Perry struggled at some moments, while doing great at others.

You can expect a jump forward by him next season, as he'll have a year and two training camps under his belt. He should be much more comfortable at his spot next season. Hopefully, he'll also be healthy.

One thing which definitely doesn't translate from Perry's stats alone was how his presence affected Clay Matthews. Matthews had a bounce back year, almost surpassing his career-high sack total of 13.5 in just 12 games while also doing a great job of pressuring the quarterback and disrupting plays in the backfield.

Having another player like Perry to serve as a compliment certainly helped, and while Perry wasn't the only factor in that regard (again, he played in just six games), it does give hope that things will continue to improve for the young player next season.

Round 2, Pick 19: Jerel Worthy, DE—Grade: B-

Like Perry, Worthy battled some injuries throughout his rookie season, and had that season truncated when he had to be carted off the field in the regular season finale against the Minnesota Vikings.

The knee injury has recently resulted in Worthy getting surgery, which will cost him the entire offseason.

For the long term, that could be a concern if the healing process lingers into the OTAs and mini-camps that many second-year players find useful in getting their play to the next level.

It's certainly something we will be watching.

While Worthy struggled a little over the course of the season, sometimes disappearing for a game or two, he did a solid job off the edge and was able to use his burst and speed to get into the backfield for a few sacks.

Overall, he had some growing pains as he transferred to defensive end (and a few times he had to fill in at tackle as well). However, the future for the former Michigan State Spartan looks very bright.

Round 2, Pick 30: Casey Hayward, CB—Grade: A

In some circles, Hayward is getting mentioned for Defensive Rookie of the Year honors.

Rightfully so—he had that good of a season.

Hayward had six interceptions, 40 tackles (with 13 assists) and a staggering 21 passes defensed. That happens when you're across from a player of Tramon Williams' ability and you get tested.

The Packers knew what they had and he was on the field for 63% of the defensive snaps, according to Football Outsiders, as well as another 23% of the special teams snaps.

He didn't seem to lose steam with the heavy workload either, though teams actually started to avoid targeting him as much as they avoided Williams.

Is he perfect? No. He has made some bad reads and has occasionally been found out of position when supporting the run (which is pretty much the case for everyone).

However, if you were worried about who would take over when Charles Woodson was shifting to safety, the answer is, and probably will be for some time, Casey Hayward.

Round 4, Pick 37: Mike Daniels, DE—Grade: B-

Daniels is a backup and, for what he's supposed to do, he was fine. His claim to fame this season was when Matt Stafford had the football pop out of his grip in the snow, not once but twice. Daniels picked it up and—in a run which was the definition of 'lumbering'—ran the ball 43 yards for a touchdown.

Daniels played well on a rotational basis, though other than his touchdown and an ill-fated attempt at a Lambeau Leap (can you blame him?), he didn't stand out too much.

Still, for value in the late fourth round, he was a solid selection and did a good job off the bench.

Round 4, Pick 38: Jerron McMillian, S—Grade: B

McMillian saw a lot of work this season between an injury to Charles Woodson and an attempt by the defense to balance out the rotation across from Morgan Burnett.

On the field for more than half the defensive snaps in some capacity, McMillian was a hard tackling and willing contributor in the run defense as well as good supporter over the top.

Certainly, McMillian has more work to do. He definitely needs to refine his tackling technique and he could use a little more help in coverage. Also, with the continued solid play of M.D. Jennings, he will probably keep splitting snaps and his overall impact may be limited.

However, if he continues the strong level of play that he has shown thus far, he will get a more featured role as time goes on.

Round 5, Pick 28: Terrell Manning, LB—Grade: D+

Manning started off by getting a concussion early in his first game, and then missed the next few games because of it.

Mostly a special teams contributor when he was active, which wasn't very often, Manning didn't really stand out during the season. Despite injuries to the middle linebacker position, he was rarely able to find room to get defensive snaps, which is never a good sign.

He did get tapped late in the season during some critical games and saw work on the defense as well, but he is going to have to step it up if he wants to hang onto his roster spot.

Round 7, Pick 34: Andrew Datko, T—Grade: C

Datko was a raw NFL level prospect, even for the seventh round, and while he performed decently in camp, he ended up being cut and then signed to the practice squad.

While not an instant All-Pro, Datko is reportedly coming along nicely and has been pretty much what you would hope for in a seventh-round pick: serviceable, developing and with plenty of upside.

The Packers constantly search for talent to provide depth along the offensive line. Once again this season, they were in need of it. It shouldn't surprise anyone that Datko didn't get the call up, but it would surprise me if—assuming there are more serious problems on the line in 2013—he didn't get tapped into next season.

Of course, he also has Derek Sherrod to climb over, and when Don Barclay has also proved that he definitely has the talent to start.

So Datko may have a long wait before he is able to see the field.

Round 7, Pick 36: B.J. Coleman, QB—Grade: C+

Coleman was a good fit for the Packers' quarterback position, but he was very raw coming out of Tennessee-Chattanooga. So it wasn't a shock when he was cut at the end of camp, nor that he ended up signed to the practice squad.

Reports from the practice squad paint the picture of a very sharp guy that is willing to work and happy to take advantage of the opportunity being around the likes of Aaron Rodgers and Mike McCarthy.

That is exactly what you want to hear from a late-round practice squad player.

It will be interesting to see where he is at in terms of that development when Green Bay has it's annual QB Camp, and once OTAs hit.

So far, though, he appears to be on the right track, and while he is unlikely to push Graham Harrell for the No. 2 spot, he is on the road toward giving that a shot. 

Overall Grade: B

So let's just start with the usual "it's early to really grade a class" song and dance. Surely this draft class will come into better focus over the next few years, but overall, I have to like what I've seen so far.

Hayward seems to be a home run, while Worthy, McMillian and Perry all showed promise. Even the bench players and late rounders—for the most part—look like they will pan out in some fashion.

That some of them (like Datko or Manning) aren't where the team might like them to be yet isn't insurmountable. While Datko, for instance, might be graded as a "C" right now, it's probably about where he should be at this point.

As time goes on, we'll see if he improves his grade or if he hits his ceiling, and the same goes for Coleman and Manning.

For the most part though, this draft class looks to be a very good group.

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