How the Green Bay Packers Can Replace Their Departed Veterans in the 2013 Draft
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With the initial rush of free agency pretty much over, teams can now put their focus on the 2013 NFL draft.
The Green Bay Packers have been one of the most successful teams when it comes to drafting players who can step in right away and make an impact. Just look at Casey Hayward from the 2012 class or Randall Cobb from the 2011 class.
While the Packers haven't lost a ton of talent in free agency, they still have some holes left by those departed players. Today we'll look at how the Packers can replace their departed veterans in the 2013 NFL draft.
We'll start with the biggest free agent Green Bay lost. Jennings has been the team's No. 1 receiver for years. While injuries have reduced his production, he was still one of Aaron Rodgers' most trusted targets.
The good news for the Packers is that they have one of the deepest groups of wide receivers in the league. Jordy Nelson, James Jones and Randall Cobb are all dangerous.
This means Green Bay can wait and spend a later-round pick on a receiver with a ton of upside. Two names who fit that bill are Marquess Wilson of Washington State and Tyrone Goard of Eastern Kentucky. Both players have great size and overall skills, but could use some time to develop.
The truth is that it'll be extremely difficult for the Packers to completely replace Jennings right away through the draft. However, they don't need to with Nelson, Jones and Cobb still on the roster, and a late-round player like Goodwin or Goard could eventually turn into a Jennings-type player.
Even though the Packers could still bring Benson back, we're going to consider him gone since it's likely that Green Bay will draft a running back this year.
Benson was actually quite effective for the Packers when he was healthy. He was starting to get familiar with the offense in Green Bay before going down with a Lisfranc injury.
The Packers have really needed to find a legitimate every-down running back for years, and now appears like the perfect time. The main reason is that no running back in this year's class looks like a legitimate first-round prospect.
That means the Packers can wait until the second or third round to draft a player like Johnathan Franklin out of UCLA. Franklin has the ability to be a threat in both the run and pass game, and would instantly provide a true scoring threat in the backfield.
If the Packers can wait until the second or third round to grab a player like Franklin, it would allow them to address other needs with their higher picks.
Of all the positions that Green Bay needs to address in this year's draft (defensive line, offensive line, running back), finding a replacement for Woodson is the one worth addressing in the first round.
While the Packers likely won't be able to draft the top safety available in Kenny Vaccaro of Texas, it's definitely a possibility that Jonathan Cyprien of Florida International is available at the end of Round 1.
A safety with Cyprien's upside, ball skills and hitting ability would be a huge addition to a secondary that was underwhelming in 2012. The only question is if he'll be available with the 26th pick of the first round.
If he is, the Packers absolutely need to draft him to replace the physicality and playmaking ability they lost in Woodson.
Of all the veterans Green Bay has lost so far in free agency, Walden should be the easiest to replace. The only real reason Walden saw playing time last year was due to the injury to Nick Perry.
Who is the most important free agent to replace for Green Bay?
Had Perry stayed healthy, it's likely Walden would have rarely seen the field. Walden graded out as the worst 3-4 outside linebacker for the past two seasons according to Pro Football Focus (subscription required).
In all reality, the Packers could probably draft any outside linebacker and they'd have more of a positive impact than Walden did last year. Since the Packers already have Perry and Clay Matthews as starting outside linebackers, it's unlikely they'll draft another linebacker early in the draft.
However, they could use a mid-round pick on a talent like Corey Lemonier of Auburn or Sean Porter of Texas A&M to add some depth to their roster.
The Packers have been lucky to not lose too much talent in free agency, but they still have plenty of work to do in the NFL draft. If they can have replace these departed players at the right time during the draft, they should be poised for another successful year in 2013.
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