After analyzing the Packers needs for offensive tackle and cornerback in my first two articles, its time to move on to two of their other greatest needs on defense - outside linebacker and safety.
Let's start out by looking at the Packers current situation with one of the most important positions in a 3-4 defense—outside linebacker.
Moving up in the draft to take Clay Matthews was a risky move that paid off for Ted Thompson. Matthews became the full-time starter and racked up impressive stats as well as defensive player of the week honors, defensive rookie of the year consideration, and a Pro Bowl selection.
Brady Poppinga is a solid backup, but nothing more, and in a 3-4 defense you need your outside linebackers to be play-makers.
This year the Packers will be without one of their starting outside linebackers from last year, Aaron Kampman, who has signed with the Jacksonville Jaguars. Although Kampman was adept at getting to the opposing quarterback, many people feel he was miscast as an outside linebacker after playing his entire career at defensive end.
Brad Jones was a seventh-round pick last year and filled in admirably for Kampman after a season ending knee injury. The Packers will need to decide this year if he showed enough to be their full-time starter this coming season or if an upgrade at the position is needed.
Cyril Obiozor was an undrafted free agent who spent most of his time on the practice squad, but the Packers seem to like his skill set and he could compete for a spot on the active roster this year.
Jeremy Thomson sustained a serious neck injury last year during practice and was placed on injured reserve. His future with the team could be in question.
Last year going in to training camp the Packers had Nick Collins, Atari Bigby, Anthony Smith, and Aaron Rouse at the safety position. Smith to the surprise of many was cut at the end of training camp and Rouse was released a few weeks into the season. Leaving only Collins, Bigby, and the recently acquired Derrick Martin and Matt Giordano in the safety rotation.
Collins again played at a Pro Bowl level and has since been signed to a multi-year extension, but Bigby's season was again marred by injuries and inconsistent play.
Giordano was let go at the end of the season and Martin is a special teams standout but only adequate as a safety.
So, let's take a look at who the Packers might be looking at to upgrade these positions in the upcoming draft.
Brandon Graham (OLB, Michigan) —A little shorter than the prototypical OLB, but he has a great motor and could be an immediate impact player.
Sergio Kindle (OLB, Texas) —Has good size and a nose for the football. He did not put up eye popping stats as a senior, but always made his presence felt.
Jerry Hughes (OLB, TCU) —A defensive end in college, but should be able to make the transition to an OLB in a 3-4 defense.
Has the speed and explosiveness to get to the quarterback consistently.
Taylor Mays (Safety, USC) —Would of been a top 10 prospect last year, but he came back to school and had a less than stellar season. Ran a great 40 at the combine but struggles in coverage.
Ricky Sapp (OLB, Clemson) —Coming off knee surgery, but if he is fully healthy, he has the size, speed and athleticism to be a great OLB.
Koa Misi (OLB, Utah) —A high motor type. Played DE in college but should be able to play OLB in the NFL.
Chad Jones (Safety, LSU) —A great all around athelete. Only played one year at safety in college.
Jason Worilds (OLB, Virginia Tech) —Drawing interest from both 4-3 teams as a DE and 3-4 teams as an OLB.
Larry Asante (Safety, Nebraska) —A hard-hitting safety with good instincts.
Darrell Stuckey (Safety, Kansas) —The Jayhawks leading tackler. Moving up draft boards after a strong combine showing.
Eric Norwood (OLB South Carolina) —Versatile athlete who played inside and outside linebacker as well as defensive end in college.
Myron Rolle (Safety Florida State) —A physically gifted and intelligent prospect. Did not play football last year so he could attend Oxford University.
With the loss of Kampman and the injury history of Bigby, where would you like to see the Packers address these needs?