We are less than three weeks from the draft and what will happen is becoming more clear. Things can still change, but we have a pretty good idea of were teams are looking to draft players. Before picking the right player for Green Bay, we need to know what their needs are.
Left Tackle: Chad Clifton was re-signed, but Green Bay needs their Tackle of the future. There is a pretty good selection in this draft, but the elite talent will be gone before pick 20. The Packers can make-do with Clifton this season, but will need a reliable backup if Clifton struggles with injuries again.
Cornerback: Al Harris is old and coming off an injury, and Charles Woodson is great but is getting older. Tramon Williams is a great player, but there is little depth behind the three. Pat Lee has spent his first two seasons on the IR and will struggle to succeed after such a slow start. A pick in this draft can contribute next season on nickel packages and special teams, and eventually fill a starting role.
Outside Linebacker: In last year's draft Green Bay found a first round gem in Clay Matthews. Matthews led the team in sacks last season. On the other side things are not so clear, Aaron Kampman was not re-signed and is now a Jaguar. Brad Jones stepped in and played at a high level, he had four sacks in seven starts and was really improving as the year went along. The Packers seem to have great confidence in Brad Jones, 2009 seventh round pick, and expect him to be bigger and stronger next season. I think it is naive to expect a draft pick to immediately be better than Jones, so I do not see Outside Linebacker as a large need.
1st Round, Pick 23: Devin McCourty, Cornerback(Rutgers)
McCourtey is quickly climbing draft boards and for good reason. He is a terrific athlete(4.48 forty)and has the size(5'11",190) Ted Thompson demands from his corners. McCourty will be able to step into nickel situations as a rookie, and develop into a starter when Charles Woodson retires. Having a play maker like McCourty in the secondary will insure than Jarrett Bush is just a special teams player. Mccourty can also make an instant impact in special teams. He is the best all around special teams player in the draft, and is known for his return skills.
Sergio Kindle: Likely will already be drafted, but would be a great fit.
Kyle Wilson: He too will likely be gone by the time the Packers pick.
2nd Round, Pick 56: Jared Veldheer, Left Tackle(Hillsdale)
Jared Veldheer is the perfect match for Green Bay. If he is available, expect Ted Thompson to pick him. Veldheer arguably has the most potential of any Left Tackle in the draft. He is huge(6'8",315) and an incredible athlete. He had the fastest 3-cone (7.40) and 20-yard shuttle(4.51) times at the combine. He was a top performer at every test in the combine, a feat not even Bruce Campbell achieved. He is the perfect fit because he will not have to start from day one. The re-signing of Clifton will give Veldheer time to adjust to such a high level of football.
Third Round, Pick 88: Montario Hardesty, Running Back(Tennessee)
My Wild-Card pick of the draft. Hardesty does not fill a primary need for the Packers, but he is too good to pass up in the third. He showed he athletic ability at the combine. He has solid size(6'0", 220) and explosiveness.
Forty-Yard Dash: 4.49
Bench Reps: 21
He was among the leaders in all the other tests. He has the size to be a every-down back. I think Ryan Grant is a terrific starter, but Hardesty would add great depth as a third down back. And in the event Grant is injured Hardesty would have the ability to play an entire game. Hardesty has good hands and could complete Grant, who struggles in the passing game.
Round Four Pick: Jason Worlids, Outside Linebacker(Virginia Tech)
Worlids has the explosive(4.72 Forty) to compliment Brad Jones. He proved to be a terrific pass rusher at Virginia Tech. He is a bit small(6'2", 240) and reminds scouts a lot of Elvis Dumervil. He would struggle initially in coverage as a Linebacker, but has the potential to succeed because of his athleticism. He would be a major steal in the fourth round, and given recent trends may not be available.
Round Five Pick: Larry Assante, Strong Safety(Nebraska)
a very solid strong Safety in college, Asante will add much needed depth behind Atari Bigby. Asante is a great tackler and is reliable in coverage although he lacks elite speed(4.66). He has good size, just over 6'3" and weighs 212 pounds. He is not my ideal fit at Strong Safety, I would prefer a more athletic player but he is great value in the fifth.
Round Five Pick: Jameson Konz, Athlete(Kent State)
Konz was a little known prospect until his incredible Pro Day this weekend. The little known prospect shocked the few scouts present at the small Pro Day. It is still not known what position he will play in the NFL, but has the size and speed to fit into multiple positions. He would be a great fit a an H-back who serves many roles similar to Spencer Havner, and could also be an Outside Linebacker. Konz would need time to adjust to the NFL, but would have an instant impact on special teams.
Forty-Yard Dash: 4.38
vertical: 46 inches
Broad Jump: 10'8"
Konz is just over 6'3" and weighs 235 pounds. He has incredible athleticism for his size and will be able to make a roster as a versatile athlete.
Round Six Pick: Zolatan Mesko, Punter(Michigan)
Mesko is a logical pick in the sixth, especially since Kapinos is no longer on the team. The Packers have had poor punting for a long time, and Mesko should at the very least be a solid starter. Mesko is considered to have the most potential of any punter in the last few years. In the sixth round were landing a good talent is rare, punter is the safest pick.
Round Seven Pick: O'Brian Schofield, Outside Linebacker(Wisconsin)
O'Brian Schofield would be tremendous value in the seventh. It is hard to evaluate were he will be picked because he tore his ACL this off-season, but he may fall to the seventh. Schofield was rated as a second round prospect so would be a tremendous steal so late in the draft. He is a great athlete and can get after the Quarterback. He showed that he can play Outside Linebacker in the East-West shrine game, and would be appreciated depth for Green Bay.
The above draft addresses all of Green Bay's biggest needs and has many instant impact players to help in next year's Super Bowl push. This year's draft holds above average talent, so we just have to hope Ted Thompson uses his picks wisely.