The Packers entered the playoffs, some thought, as a possible favorite to win the NFC's bid in the Super Bowl. They were hot, winning seven of their last eight, the offensive line had come together and were no longer the revolving door they were in the first half of the season, and Aaron Rodgers was putting together another great year at quarterback.
As we all know, however, those dreams came up short in a heartbreaker to Arizona in the wildcard round that left the Packer faithful looking to next year.
And that's an encouraging thought for Packers fans. With very few glaring holes that need addressing, Green Bay is in a prime spot to make another playoff run in 2010.
Aaron Rodgers has quickly established himself as one of the game's best after consecutive 4,000 yard seasons as his first two seasons as a starter. Arizona DB Michael Adams went as far as to say he'd rather face Drew Brees than Rodgers.
Backup is a slight concern, but with Rodgers' durability, no one really knows what they have in Matt Flynn.
Not an draft need.
Ryan Grant has quietly been consistently a force in the Packers running game for the past three years. He has put together two straight 1,200 yard rushing seasons, and is a downhill runner who can punish defenders. Brandon Jackson had a coming-out party against the Seahawks Week 16, which may give some indication that he can be the change-of-pace/third down back the Packers drafted him to be three years ago.
If Packers coaches don't have confidence that Jackson can be that guy, they may go for a speed back in the early/mid rounds. Jahvid Best could be an option if he falls to the late second round. Even CJ Spiller if he falls to the Packers in the first could be a choice, as he would provide an extra dimension to the run game and energize the return game.
Only a draft need if coaches deem necessary.
The Packers have what many consider as the deepest recieving core in the league. The top two (Donald Driver and Greg Jennings) have put together two consecutive 1,000 yard seasons, making the Packers the first two teams in NFL history to have a 4,000 yard passer, 1,200 yard rusher, and two 1,000 yard receivers in two consecutive seasons.
The backups are solid, with James Jones and Jordy Nelson. Both are good at catching the ball, and Jones can be a deep threat when needed. Injuries, however, have been a concern with these two, especially Jones.
With Driver getting up there in years and only two proven backups, it may be time to look for another guy in the draft.
If the Packers can address their two bigger needs (OT and CB) before their second round pick (they would have to trade to get another pick before this one, I'll address that later) and Golden Tate is still available, I think the Packers should jump on him. He's not a big guy, but he's quick and tough, much like Driver. If Tate isn't available, a later round pick would suffice.
Slight Draft Need: mid-late round pick (4th-6th).
Jermichael Finley came on in the middle of the season and came within one catch of breaking the Packers all-time record for catches by a tight end in the regular season. He's a prototypical receiving tight end, tall and relatively fast. He has big-play capability, and throwing him a fade route in the end-zone is almost a sure six points. A future star.
Also at the TE position, Spencer Havner came out of nowhere this season to score four TDs. Donald Lee has gotten lost on the depth chart, seeing a little playing time and was used more as a blocking TE.
Not a draft need.
The one statistic that tells the story of the Packers' season is sacks. Through the first 8 games, the offensive line couldn't protect Rodgers at all, allowing 39 sacks (almost 5 sacks/game). The team went 4-4, ending the first half of the season by giving Tampa Bay their first win.
Then Mark Tauscher came back and the line started to gel. They stopped hemorrhaging sacks, and the Packers went 7-1.
The inside of the line is solid, with Daryn Colledge at LG, Scott Wells at C, and Josh Sitton at RG. Jason Spitz brings versatility to the group, able to fill in at G or C, and Sitton has been labeled by some as a future Pro-Bowler.
At tackle, however, there are some problems. Our season was saved by a 32 year-old RT, and it needed saving in part because of our 33 year-old LT Chad Clifton. Both are breaking down, but Tauscher showed he can still play at a high-level. Clifton is a FA this year, and that makes LT our top draft need.
The Packers need a franchise tackle in this draft. It should be our first round priority. Right now, based on draft position, Brian Bulaga out of Iowa looks like the most reasonable choice. Adding some depth later wouldn't hurt either, as TJ Lang is the only other capable tackle on roster.
Top Draft Need: 1st round pick w/ mid round pick later (4th-6th)
As far as 3-4 lines go, the Packers had one of the better ones in the NFL. Cullen Jenkins is one of the league's top 3-4 ends, as his size allows him to play the run, and has the pass-rush ability to get the QB. At the other end, Johnny Jolly set the franchise record for pass deflections for a D-lineman, and was sturdy against the run.
Ryan Pickett was solid in the middle of the line, and BJ Raji, after he got healthy, showed why he was worth the 9th overall pick. Resigning Pickett will be huge, as it gives great depth on the line, with Raji's ability to play either NT or DE.
The line has a couple questions, mainly Pickett's resigning and Jolly's legal issues. If both of those go the Packers' way, then there is no cause for concern. Jarius Wynn would be the guy if Jolly was unable to play, and coaches like him.
Not a draft need.
Nick Barnett quietly put together a great year at ILB, and AJ Hawk, while not spectacular, did benefit from moving inside. Dom Capers used those two effectively in Double A-gap blitzes. On the outside, Clay Matthews was a Pro-Bowler as a rookie, and after Aaron Kampman went down Brad Jones had a solid year.
The question here is what to do with Kampman. As a 3-4 OLB, he didn't show any promise rushing the QB from a standing position, and therefore does not have a place in the new defense. He is a FA, but I feel he's too valuable to let walk.
A sign-and-trade is risky, but I think that the Packers could get as high as a late-first round pick from a team who needs a 4-3 DE. Teams like Philadelphia, Houston, or Cincinnati would be options there. This would allow the Packers to use an early pick on a luxury skill player and still have two first-day picks to address needs
The Packers are deep enough here, with Jeremy Thompson on the outside and Brandon Chillar and Desmond Bishop on the inside. An OLB would make a good late round pick or FA signing. One choice would be Elvis Dumervil if he gets out of Denver: That would make this defense immediately one of the elite units in the league.
Slight Draft Need: late round pick (6th/7th) or FA signing.
Packers have two Pro-Bowlers here in reigning DPoY Charles Woodson and Al Harris, but other than Woodson ,there are questions. Without Harris in the second half of the season, the secondary got burned bad in the last two losses of the year against Pittsburgh and Arizona. If Harris returns, he'll be 36 and coming off a torn ACL. If he doesn't, Tramon Williams steps into the starting role and leaves the nickel and dime packages weak.
Behind those three, the Packers have a slew of young corners, namely Pat Lee, Jarrett Bush, Josh Bell, Wil Blackmon, and Brandon Underwood. Blackmon has showed promise, though his primary value is in his kick-returning. Jarrett Bush should be released immediately, or at least be restricted to special teams. Pat Lee has had trouble staying healthy, and we haven't seen enough out of Bell or Underwood to know what we have there.
Corner is a draft need. I personally like Amari Speivey, also out of Iowa, who should be available in the second round. In the late first, Patrick Robinson out of Florida State would be a good option. Investing another late round pick would be superfluous, as Green Bay has enough young CBs on roster. An early-round pick where they can get immediate production is needed.
Big Draft Need: Early-round Pick (1st/2nd)
At safety, we have one of the best ballhawks in the game in Nick Collins, and Atari Bigby is a hard-hitter who was able to minimize the stupid personal fouls that have plagued him in the past.
Depth, however, is an issue. By releasing Anthony Smith during preseason, the Packers left nothing behind Collins and Bigby and it showed.
I like Taylor Mays from USC, but starting safety may not be enough of a need to take him even if he falls in to the late-second round.
Major Wright from Florida is projected to be a mid-round pick, so he would be an option. Trading up for Eric Berry is also possible, as he would make any team better, and Tennessee played him up in more run support roles this year.
Substantial Draft Need: Mid-round pick (3rd-5th)
Special Teams was a huge concern this year. Jeremy Kapinos was one of the worst punters in the league this year, and Mason Crosby missed too many easy field goals. I would be willing to give Crosby another shot if there's no FA kickers available, but punter needs to be addressed, whether in the draft or by signing an FA.
Kicker: Not a Draft Need: FA Need
Punter: Big Draft Need: Late-round pick: (5th-7th)
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