General Manager Ted Thompson proved that he can make the moves needed to get to that next level by trading up to draft Clay Matthews, but showed he still believes in his old philosophy by drafting BJ Raji as well.
The offense was rough at first, but blossomed when Clifton and Tauscher were in the lineup.
Dom Capers' 3-4 was a success and has completely turned around the run defense in Green Bay.
The Packers learned a lot in 2009 as well.
They learned that Aaron Rodgers is exactly who they need him to be, a guy who will never give up on game-day, who works hard in practice and points the finger at himself when the team falls short.
He showed he can come from behind to win games and that even behind a faltering offensive line, he can pull out a victory.
Green Bay also learned that Jarrett Bush, Allen Barbre and Jeremy Kapinos are not the players Thompson had hoped they would be.
On the other hand, the verdict is still out for Aaron Kampman, Justin Harrell and Mason Crosby in Green Bay...for now.
The most important thing Green Bay learned is that what they're doing works.
In order to make the next step this year though, Green Bay will need to shore up a few key positions in the draft.
As a team, Green Bay's most important long-term needs are left tackle, cornerback, safety, outside linebacker and punter.
However, Green Bay's position in this draft will dictate which of these priorities they are able to address.
The idea of being able to seclect a franchise left tackle that can play right away at pick No. 23 is pretty far-fetched. Most likely, it would require trading one or two other draft picks to move up far enough to acquire one.
This draft and Green Bay's needs, are too deep defensively to give up that many draft picks just to address one position.
Instead, Green Bay should stay put in the first round and choose between either a small reach for a tackle with a lot of upside or taking the best playmaker available on defense.
Below are two mock drafts that highlight the possibilities Green Bay will have on draft day.
The A draft is my ideal scenario and is admittedly filled with some wishful thinking. It focuses on defense first, because I feel that there is late round talent at offensive tackle and that Chad Clifton can contribute for at least one more year.
The B draft is the more likely scenario and has Green Bay reaching a little in Round One for an offensive tackle and then adding a speed back to compliment the offense.
Draft B will only go three rounds because after the third round the players I have listed in Draft A will begin to fit both scenarios.
I will also figure in a fifth round compensatory pick for Colin Cole.
Here we go.
Round 1 Earl Thomas, S, Texas
Thomas is ranked the 19th best player in the draft by CBS Sports. He’s the best cover guy at the safety position, displaying fluid hips and a nose for the ball.
At pick No. 23 it wouldn’t be completely out of the question for Thomas to fall to the Packers and his abilities make him a great fit in our defense.
The new 3-4 scheme that Dom Capers has installed is built to have playmakers in the secondary. Thomas would thrive here. He flies around the field and is good enough in coverage to play corner, if needed.
He does need to add upper-body strength to help him take on bigger backs in the open field, but would still be effective immediately against the run.
Thomas is currently listed at 5’10” and 195 pounds, but many believe he’ll be shorter and lighter at the combine, which could help his chances of falling to Green Bay come April. Thomas started all 26 games since taking over as a redshirt freshman.
Round 2 Jerry Hughes/Koa Misi, OLB, TCU/Utah
Green Bay picks at No. 55 here and after adding cover skills in Round One, should look to complete their defense with a pass rusher.
Hughes was the best pass rusher in the NCAA last year, totaling 11.5 sacks and 16 tackles for a loss.
As a converted running back, Hughes displays great athleticism and potential in coverage. He would be a steal for the Pack in the second round.
He faced double and triple teams his entire senior season and was still productive. He would be great alongside Clay Matthews and might even be worth trading up for in the second or taking in the first round, if he shows well at the Combine.
Although Hughes could very possibly be available in Round Two I’m going to try and keep this a little believable here. Drafting Thomas was a pretty good stretch and the idea that Green Bay would come up with him and Hughes without making some major trades, is probably too good to be true.
With that said, a much more realistic option for us here is Utah’s Koa Misi. He’s got enough strength to rush the passer and enough speed to hang in coverage. He might be the safer pick of the two, and would provide good value as well.
Hughes is 6’2” and weighs 257 pounds. Misi is 6’3” and weighs 244 pounds. Both have low 4.7 speed and both should also be faster at the Combine.
Round 3 Roger Saffold, OT, Indiana
The Packers will eventually be forced into drafting a tackle this year and if it isn’t in the first or second, then the third round could be the next best bet.
Saffold is a riser after his performance at the Shrine Game and to some scouts, was the best tackle there.
He has good feet, adequate strength and the ability to get to the second level and block in the run game.
His value here is clear and he has a lot of upside. He would be an ideal prospect to give a year to learn behind Chad Clifton and if he doesn’t work out at tackle we can move him to guard and try for a franchise tackle again next year.
Saffold is 6’5” and weighs 312 pounds. He also started 41 consecutive games in college so injury shouldn’t be a concern.
Round 4 Jerome Murphy, CB, USF
Murphy is a big physical guy at cornerback. He has long arms and is great in press coverage.
He has sub 4.5 speed, so he shouldn’t struggle hanging with elite receivers in coverage and will use his physicality at the line to take away their speed.
He has the potential to become a shutdown corner in the NFL and would balance out nicely with the size and speed of Green Bay’s defense.
Murphy is 6’1” and weighs 191 pounds. He also averaged 24 yards per kickoff return in 2007
Round 5 Kyle Calloway, OL, Iowa
The best thing about Bryan Bulaga moving up draft boards into the early first round is that Calloway could be overshadowed.
The three-year starter at right tackle is massive, but still athletic enough to get the job done at tackle if needed.
His blocking skills are solid, but he’s also versatile having lined up at left tackle and most recently right guard in the Orange Bowl. He could be this year’s version of TJ Lang, but with more upside.
Calloway is 6’6” and weighs 322 pounds. Expect a long career from this well-coached Iowa prospect.
Round 5 Comp. Cavell Conner, OLB, Clemson
Conner led the Tigers with 111 tackles last year and had 97 the year before. He also had two sacks and six quarterback pressures.
This kid is a raw talent and is willing to put in the work to improve. He won the dedication award in the weight room at Clemson after squatting 560 pounds in 2008.
He doesn’t have any really effective pass-rush moves, but can bully tight-ends and running backs with a bull-rush.
Another area of question for him is pass coverage. If coached well Conner has tremendous upside combining his physical talent, great motor and awareness in the run game.
He has adequate speed for a rush linebacker with a 4.67 fourty-time and I’ll be extremely interested to see his ten-yard split at the combine.
Conner is 6’1” and weighs 247 pounds. He also managed to start all 54 games in his college career.
Round 6 Zoltan Mesko, P, Michigan
Mesko is one of the better punters to come out of college in the last few years and Green Bay needs to have a real player here instead of a project like Jeremy Kapinos.
Green Bay’s defense will need a solid punter if they expect to return to the playoffs against a tougher schedule next year, which makes this position a priority sooner rather than later.
Mesko is 6‘4“ and weighs 235 pounds, but his most interesting physical attribute is that he kicks with his left leg, which creates a different spin on the ball that could cause issues for some kick returners in the league.
Round 7 Nate Collins, DT/DE, Virginia
Collins started all 12 games his senior season and recorded 77 tackles and 6 sacks. He was ranked fifth in the ACC in sacks and also won Defensive Player of the Week, after a 16 tackle performance against 11th ranked Georgia Tech.
Before his senior year Collins was only a backup for Virginia, but was enough of an influence in the locker room to be voted as a team captain in his first year as a starter.
He’s another high-effort player who has great explosion and uses his hands well to fend off blockers on his way to the ball-carrier.
Collins is 6’2” and weighs 280 pounds. He played tackle in college, but would add depth as an end in Green Bay.
Round 1 Charles Brown, OT, USC
Brown is the most likely first round pick for the Green Bay Packers at this time. He probably has the most upside of any of the first or second round tackles in the draft.
He’ll need to add a little weight and a lot of strength to be elite, but should be a franchise left tackle for the Packers.
His athleticism will fit great Green Bay’s zone blocking scheme and will also allow him to get downfield and block on runs and screens. Brown is a reach here, but a good pick for the Packers.
Brown is 6’5” and weighs 292 pounds.
Round 2 Nate Allen, S, USF
Allen is an all-around athlete and one of the most mature safeties coming out of the draft this year.
He showed consistent improvement throughout his college career and is willing to work hard in order to further improve his skills.
He has the speed to close on receivers and bail out defensive backs when they are in trouble. He is also solid against the run.
Allen had 84 tackles, four interceptions and eight pass deflections last year. He would provide immediate help in Green Bay’s secondary.
Allen is 6'1" weighs 205 pounds, and runs a 4.50.
Round 3 Joe McKnight, RB, USC
McKnight provides the speed that Green Bay missed by passing on Jahvid Best, but is a much better fit for Green Bay.
Waiting until the third round to add speed to the offense allows the Pack to fill other needs, and avoid the “Reggie Bush” salary issue that Best will face.
He is skilled at catching the ball out of the backfield and if he can bulk up, should be very effective in the running game as well.
McKnight is 6’0” and weighs 190 pounds. He should post a very low 4.4 at the combine.
Rounds 4-7 See Draft A