As an avid follower of the NFL and the Packers from across the pond, I've been intrigued lately by so many mock drafters having Ted Thompson taking Mike Iupati to help the interior line. I should say as a precursor to these next thoughts that following collegiate football in the UK is a lot harder than the NFL, so I don't have as much in-depth knowledge as some of the writers here. However here are a few reasons why drafting the Idaho guard in round one makes no sense.
- Guard is a relatively low grade in terms of positional value. I subscribe to the theory that the three most important things in football are: 1. A good quarterback. 2. Protecting that quarterback. 3. Getting after the other team's quarterback. Guards can certainly upgrade protection of the passer, but there are very few noted specifically for the pass-blocking and in regard to that, left tackle is far more important, which leads me to my second point:
- Left Tackle is the Pack's most important need to fill in this draft. This team's offense is one of - if not the most potent in the league. If Aaron Rodgers is given enough time to find one of his two thousand-yard receivers or give it to Jermichael Finley at tight-end, or find James Jones and Jordy Nelson who are both serviceable and solid players, then the passing game can take any D apart. Chad Clifton has a maximum of two years left in him and has never been quite the same since Warren Sapp destroyed him. A fully-fit Clifton made a noticeable difference at the back-end of last year but he needs a successor. To my mind the idea of drafting Charles Brown at #23 holds an awful lot of merit.
- Not all of the offensive line was horrible last year. Clifton as mentioned when fit, was good, Colledge was serviceable when he wasn't shifted out to Tackle to get schooled by Jared Allen (and there's no shame in that), Scott Wells started as the reserve Centre but after Jason Spitz got injured came in and had a great year, Josh Sitton was arguably the find of the year for the Pack and was the best player on the line. At Right Tackle Allen Barbre just ended any chance of becoming a regular starter and was replaced by Mark Tauscher. In short, the line's issues were not for the most part in the interior-line but at the Tackles. Clifton as mentioned is still fine when fit but needs an heir apparent. Tauscher is old and I expect T.J Lang to replace him - however that leads me on to...
- T.J Lang. McCarthy has publicly said in the past that he sees Lang as more of a left-guard than RT, this would mean in my mind that he is not looking at Iupati as an option because Lang will eventually start at the position.
- Iupati himself. The guy is an excellent run-blocker, but Ryan Grant rushed for over 1,000 yards last year and any problems in the run-game were as much down to Grant not having that extra gear than the holes not being there. He is a mauler and whilst I love his aggressive style I doubt he in any way fits the zone-blocking scheme we run. Thirdly he got shredded in pass-protection at the Senior Bowl which worries me because the step up to the NFL is so great. Bear in mind we are in a division with Kevin Williams, Tommie Harris and in all likelihood a certain Mr. Suh after the draft and I doubt Iupati can immediately come in and do better than Colledge or Spitz.
Don't get me wrong I think in time Iupati can be one of the premier guards in the NFL but the above reasons just give me the feeling that drafting the guy makes not a lot of sense. Having said that -if I'm a Dallas or a Pittsburgh, he's certainly a major consideration.