The NFL Active Roster consists of 53 players, not considering scout team, injury reserve, and the ubiquitous "other" category. Now immediately take away three: kicker, punter and long-snapper. That leaves 50 by my count.
50 of the biggest, baddest, most well-trained physical specimens your franchise will suit up on any given Sunday. Sunday you can only have 45 of those in uniform.
Do the rules need to change? Is this something that should get sorted out in the CBA between the NFL and the Players Association? Certainly, as well as rookie pay. But that's a different story.
Most NFL fans know what the rules are, but few understand the ramifications of those rules and how teams get ready for the draft. So let's break it down into manageable pieces. Let's start with the 50-50 rule: 25 players on offense and 25 players on defense and take it from there.
There are 11 positions and you need at least one backup for every position. So that's 22 players already accounted for. Some teams carry more WRs, others carry more RBs. It really comes down to those last three players and what the team's needs are. Expect the Packers to carry more O-Linemen than what would be traditional until they get the right mix.
The packers are covered here for the long haul with Rodgers and Flynn. Will the Pack pick a QB in this year's draft? Most likely not. Some may knock Flynn, but he did beat out Brohm and he has all the prerequisites necessary to play the position. Gone are the days where Holmgren had one of the most prolific QB factories in the league (Detmer, Brunell, Warner, Hasselbeck), so don't expect a third QB making the active roster.
Grant is locked in for years to come and he has proven to be a premier back who can control the clock and abuse defenses. There are a lot of question marks when it comes to a backup and the need to have more of a one-two punch in the backfield. Both Wynn and Jackson have been up and down performance-wise and have struggled with injury. This could be a position where TT and McCarthy are looking for an upgrade or a means to foster some competition with the players they have. Expect a running back pick in the mid-rounds of this year's draft. Fortunately for us, this is one of the deepest drafts for RBs we've seen in a long time.
The Packers are fully covered at this position, especially with the new stud Quinn Johnson, who looks to impress this season. No picks here and we may have to let one go from the active roster or trade for some picks in 2010.
The Packers have one of the deepest receiver corps in the entire league, but after Jordy Nelson there's a real gap in skills. There should be one pick here, again in the later rounds, even with the signing of Charles Dillon.
Can I say enough about Jermichael Finley? Probably not. This kid is the real deal: tall, fast, soft hands, gets off a block well, and stretches the middle of the field. Rest assured he will be giving defensive coordinators fits all season long and help spread the offense out for Rodgers.
After him Lee would be the starter and could start for most NFL teams. Havner is a touchdown magnet. And we have some prospects with Crabtree and Fischnecht. Unfortunately we may only keep two or three on the active roster and there is always the possibility that a Lee trade could be in the works come draft time. I don't expect the Packers even sniffing a TE in this year's draft since we're deep here and the fullback position. No picks.
There are a ton of questions about the Packers' line this year. Last year's struggles have really brought this to the forefront of, not only the fans, but certainly the coaches and management. We are fairly well covered when it comes to the guard and center positions, but tackle is the primary area of concern. Even with the re-signing of Chad Clifton we must still pursue a reliable backup and a better starter for the right tackle position. Expect the Packers to take two to three offensive linemen in this year's draft. Most scenarios see the Packers taking a tackle in the first round.
The move to a 3-4 attacking defense has been one of the best moves of Ted Thompson and Mike McCarthy's tenures. This is perhaps one of the single things that have made Green Bay a perennial playoff contender. In a single season the Packers went from 20th in total defense to second in total defense and leading the league in takeaways. All of which should have Packers fans excited about our prospects for the 2010 season.
Pro Bowler Nick Collins has been re-signed to a multi-year deal and Bigby has been tendered as a second-round pick so it's likely a deal is close at hand. We have our starters ready to go for the season. The real question now is the backups. The Packers did re-sign Martin but cut Giordano, and Bush is playing double duty. So there does appear to be some significant activity in this regard. I can't speak for Khalil Jones since he's a recent acquisition. Given all of this information it's likely the Packers take at least one mid-round safety, but don't be surprised if that player happens to be the best on the board during the second round, given the field in this years draft.
The much-maligned defensive backfield of the Packers heads into training camp with 10, count 'em "10", cornerbacks (currently) and a lot of questions. We all know what you get when Harris and Woodson are healthy and on the field, perhaps the best backfield tandem in the NFL. Unfortunately, Harris still has some mending to do and he's likely out of the starting rotation until mid-to-late October, perhaps November.
Tramon Williams has shown flashes good and bad when he was thrust into the starting role. He certainly has the speed to make up the ground but struggles with his back to the ball. After Williams there's a precipitous drop in talent, part of which comes from lack of playing time. It's kind of hard to get on the field when Harris and Woodson are playing. But 2010 will offer up a lot of opportunities for one of our young guns to step up and make room for himself on the team. And ultimately the Packers need to think about the future of the organization and plan for the ever more rapidly approaching reitrement, and Hall of Fame induction of two of the best CBs to play the game.
I don't consider Blackmon as a viable contender given his return-specialist duties and lack of size. Pat Lee will have to step up if he has any hope of remaining in the NFL, let alone the Packers, and the same goes for Underwood and Bush. It is very likely the Packers will take at least two CBs in this year's draft including one in the early rounds.
We've got some Pro Bowl talent in our linebacking corps, and with Kevin Greene and Dom Capers mentoring, these guys are only going to get better. ROLB Clay Matthews is a premier talent and headed for a stellar career. You have to give it to the Packers' staff for trading up and taking a chance on him, he certainly delivered. Hawk and Barnett in the middle of the field are always going to play smart, sound football, not as flashy as some would like, but consistent.
With Kampman gone, the mantle falls on Jones, who was quite serviceable playing in substitution at LOLB. Can he get 10 sacks a year and play coverage? Well, that's the real question. Looking past the starters there is a fairly mediocre set of linebackers, most of whom, came from a 4-3 philosophy and don't quite fit the mold of a 3-4 linebacker. Poppinga is decent in coverage but lacks the pure speed to get after the QB.
Playing a 3-4 requires lots and lots of young, fast, smart linebackers who can pin their ears back when asked to and Capers will ask often. As we saw in the latter half of the season Capers employed his "Big Okie" (5-2) package quite often, especially on first and second downs and in the red zone. As the comfort level grows within the defensive scheme expect Capers to start introducing more exotic blitz packages as the season progresses. Does Capers have the linebacker corps he wants? Not yet. So expect the packers to target a LB in the early rounds, if that player is the best on the board. Going into camp they'll need a minimum of 12 LBs, so expect two or three LBs taken in this year's draft.
The Packers D-line is adjusting quite well to the 3-4 shift and Raji has a lot of upside to his game. Pickett is likely to get a long term contract playing over center and may retire a Packer. He's a leader in the group and he does his job well of disrupting the running lanes, plus he stays healthy. Jenkins and Jolly are playing well in the new scheme and making plays when they're on the field. The only question that remains is what of Justin Harrell. Unfortunately for the team, he's spent more time on the IR than on the field and most fans have written him off as a bust. Don't think he doesn't know that too and from recent statements from McCarthy he's been making huge strides to becoming the player they had drafted in the first round. One can hope, not just for the team, but for Harrell himself. If he doesn't play the whole season and be productive, it's likely his NFL career is over at the end of the season. As far as picks go, there's always room for another talented D-Lineman in the rotation. Expect at least one pick in the later rounds if the right player is available. Unfortunately, the best picks are gone in the first round.
Here's the breakdown of who I think the Packers have targeted in this years draft in order of importance:
- 1-2 Offensive Linemen
- 1-2 Cornerbacks
- 1-2 Linebackers
- 1 Safety
- 1 Runningback
- 1 Wide Receiver
So now it's just a matter of running through the mock drafts to see who we can get and when. Don't be surprised if Thompson trades out of the first round for multiple picks. The Packers are a very well-rounded team and are just one or two players away from being an elite Super Bowl contender.
In 43 days we'll all know for sure.