Green Bay Packers: Draft Picks Who Would Be Instant Starters
When a team builds primarily through the draft and avoids free agency, much like the Green Bay Packers do, it needs to find at least one or two starters every year.
Logic says those starters would come from the first two rounds, but for teams like the Packers, a player from any round can become a starter. Sometimes it is out of necessity, like in cases of injury, and other times, general manager Ted Thompson found a diamond in the rough.
Here are some players who will be selected in various rounds and could become instant starters for the Packers as they prepare for another Super Bowl run in 2013.
OL Barrett Jones
Jones may have finished his career at Alabama as a center, but he also started at right guard and tackle.
Aaron Rodgers was sacked 51 times in 2012, so the Packers will need to shore up the offensive line. With the team uncertain of Evan Dietrich-Smith being the center of the future, Jones makes too much sense for the Packers to pass up the chance at selecting him.
Even if Dietrich-Smith does work out, Jones' versatility will do the Packers wonders. His physical play would also be welcome for a team who was criticized for being "soft" this past season.
RB Montee Ball
The Packers have avoided their in-state university as of late, but many are thinking that could end with Montee Ball.
The team is in need of an every-down back, and Ball fits the mold perfectly. The Packers saw what he can do firsthand, being that he played at Wisconsin, and his running style would suit the Packers well. He's being projected as a second or third-round pick, though some bold mock drafts have him going to Green Bay in the first.
This would be a move that sits well with Packer fans (who often double as Badger fans), but Thompson rarely allows that to influence his decision.
WR Markus Wheaton
Wide receiver is not one of the biggest "need" positions for the Packers, but with the possible loss of Greg Jennings to free agency, the team is likely going to add one in the draft to restock the talent pool.
Markus Wheaton of Oregon State would do Green Bay well by taking attention off Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb and allowing the talented but underrated James Jones to fly under the radar. Wheaton is an effective route-runner, a must in the Packers offense. And he can get yards after the catch, which Jennings was incredibly effective at.
You can't replace a Jennings-type player immediately, but Wheaton is someone the Packers can work with.
DE Malliciah Goodman
Once again, the Packers will be looking to upgrade their defense, and Clemson's Malliciah Goodman could come in and have an immediate impact.
With Jerel Worthy's recovery from ACL surgery likely to drag well into training camp, and possibly after his availability for the regular season, Goodman may be a good player to start while learning on the job.
He can hold his own in one-on-one battles and plays well against the run, which is crucial if the Packers want to have some success in shutting down Adrian Peterson, who gashed them for over 400 yards in two regular season games.
He's not the biggest name the Packers could take, but the team needs all the help it can get on a large but slow defensive line.
S Matt Elam
Ever since the Packers lost Nick Collins to a neck injury, they haven't found a hard-hitting safety like him.
Morgan Burnett has improved, and 2012 rookie Jerron McMillian showed some promise, but the Packers may look to upgrade the position again this spring. And Matt Elam of Florida would be the perfect choice.
Known for his physical play, Elam can play at the line of scrimmage or drop back into coverage. With Charles Woodson likely gone in Green Bay as well, the Packers need that kind of versatility in the secondary. Elam's ball-hawking abilities also would serve Green Bay well, as its defense is always looking for the turnover.
K Drew Alleman
This one is a given seeing how Mason Crosby played last year, and any training camp competition is usually a crapshoot to predict.
The Packers need a kicker with an accurate strong leg who can also play under potentially nasty weather conditions, and this year's kicker class is not exactly full of players suited to kick at Lambeau Field.
Still, Green Bay needs to bring someone in to compete with Crosby. That person could very well be Drew Alleman from LSU.
Alleman finished 17-of-26 this year, but the Packers are not looking for a definitive starter, so he may be gone before the end of training camp.
But if Crosby's struggles carry over into the summer, Alleman could find himself kicking for the Packers in Week 1.
TE Zach Ertz
While it is very possible Jermichael Finley will be back in Green Bay, the Packers would be hard-pressed to pass up on Zach Ertz from Stanford.
At 6'6", 252 pounds, Ertz moves very well for someone his size and can shield himself from defenders because of it. He's also good at snatching the ball out of the air—a well-documented Finley struggle—and isn't afraid to help his teammates by blocking, which Finley also had problems with.
If they can land Ertz, the Packers need to get him. They could even package Finley in a trade if it meant the chance to acquire a tight end who could be all things Finley could have been but is not.