With 20 players set to become free agents by March 11 and a disappointing early exit from the 2013 playoffs, Green Bay's 2014 NFL draft will be one of the most important ones of Ted Thompson's tenure.
Thompson is famous (or infamous) for his draft-and-develop strategy, often preferring to select players based on highest value on the board over need. Yet the addition of players at key positions who would be ready to contribute immediately in 2014 may be the determining factor in whether the Packers can make it past the Wild Card Round of the playoffs late next season.
The following five players are near-locks to appear on the Packers' draft board. With perceived needs at safety, defensive tackle, inside linebacker and outside linebacker—and depending what happens with free agents Jermichael Finley, Andrew Quarless, Matt Flynn and Evan Dietrich-Smith, tight end, backup quarterback and center—players were selected with a slight emphasis on need over value while still ensuring there is at least a possibility they will still be on the board for Green Bay to select.
While it is, of course, possible that Green Bay re-signs some of its unrestricted free agents or, in a more unlikely event, makes a splashy free-agent acquisition to address these positions, for the sake of this exercise the following five players have been chosen assuming these needs will not have been solved by the draft.
Note that the following is not a mock draft but an overview of players likely to be on the Packers' draft board. As such, it is extremely unlikely the Packers will be in position to draft more than two of these players. However, care has been taken to balance need and value with likelihood of them being available at Green Bay's draft position.
All prospect rankings from CBSSports.com unless otherwise noted.