With the 2010 NFL draft fast approaching, April 22nd, the Packers are in need of help at offensive tackle, outside linebacker, safety, running back, kick returner, and punter. I don't mention cornerback because I believe even at his advanced age Al Harris will come back strong from the torn acl he suffered during the 2009 season eager to prove the naysayers wrong. Also returning from injurycornerbacks Will Blackman and Pat Lee should significantly improve the Packer'sdepth at cornerback.
Improving the pass rush with the addition of a big time outside linebacker will reap benefits for the secondary as will providing competition for Atari Bigby at safety. GM Ted Thompson needs to find an heir apparent to aging left tackle Chad Clifton, who can no longer be depended upon for an entire season. He would also be wise to come away with a dynamic kick returner who can play from scrimmage whether it be a receiver, cornerback, or running back. The Packers could use a running back with the ability to legitimately backup Ryan Grant taking some of the load off his shoulders as Ahman Green did successfully during the second half of the 2009 season. Finally, Thompson needs to draft a punter to compete for the job with Australian rules football player, who's never played American football, Chris Bryan.
Round 1 Pick # 23 The Green Bay Packers Select...
Outside Linebacker TCU Jerry Hughes 6-2 255 4.65
Hughes fills the Packers biggest need a LOLB to start opposite 2009 rookie standout Clay Matthews III. Although Hughes played defensive end in college so did CM3 and their times at the combine were comparable. CM3 ran the forty in 4.62, Hughes 4.65. Hughes ran the short shuttle in 4.15 and the three cone drill in 6.99 and CM3 ran them in 4.18 and 6.90 respectively. If Hughes who had 26.5 sacks the past two seasons at TCU can adjust to the 3-4 linebacker spot the Packers will have a tremendous set of bookend pass rushers for their defense. Among the encouraging signs that he can make the transition are his superb athleticism and the two interceptions he posted during the 2008 season. One of which he returned 24 yards for a touchdown against SMU.
Round 2 Pick # 56 The Green Bay Packer Select...
Running Back Auburn Ben Tate 5-11 220 4.34
Tate ran for 3,321 yards during his career at Auburn putting him fifth on their all-time list. He is a very tough inside runner who enjoys contact, in fact he projects to be very similar to former Packer Ahman Green at the next level. Tate demonstrated more speed than some expected him to have running the forty in just 4.34 seconds. He will provide the Packers with a legitimate backup to starter Ryan Grant. He is also capable in pass protection and catching the ball out of the backfield so he should push Brandon Jackson for the 3rd down back role. His open field speed will add an extra dimension to the Packers screen game.
Round 3 Pick # 86 The Green Bay Packers Select...
Safety Florida Major Wright 6-0 206 4.44
Wright is a very intriguing safety prospect possessing the speed of a cornerback he should be much better in coverage than incumbent starter Atari Bigby. He was sometimes asked to cover a receiver in the slot in nickel situations for the Gators. He is a hard hitting prospect that has the ability to play either strong or free safety in the NFL. Although he played free safety at Florida his best position may be strong safety. He would immediately be the primary backup to both Collins and Bigby perhaps pushing Bigby for the starting job especially if Bigby once again misses time due to injury.
Round 4 Pick # 122 The Green Bay Packers Select...
Offensive Tackle Abilene Christian Tony Washington 6-6 311 5.09
Washington has the size the Packers are looking for in a left tackle for their zone blocking scheme. Even though he played at little known Abilene Christian his skills translate well to the NFL game. He is big strong and agile running the short shuttle in 4.84 seconds and the three cone drill in 7.52 seconds displaying plenty of mobility to be a starting left tackle in the NFL. He will become Chad Clifton's heir apparent and primary backup from day one. With a year or two working on his technique and learning the nuances of the NFL game Washington should develop into a solid starter.
Round 5 Pick # 154 The Green Bay Packers Select...
Outside Linebacker Wisconsin O'Brien Schofield 6-2 221 4.63
Schofield suffered a torn acl during senior bowl practices, had he not he would have been a second or third round pick. Due to the injury the Packers get a steal in the 5th round Schofield may not be ready to go by the beginning of the season and could be a candidate for the physically unable to perform list meaning the Packers would have until the 6th game of the season to place him on the 53 man roster, release him, or put him on injured reserve. In his two seasons as a starter Schofield had 17 sacks and 33 TFL displaying promising natural pass rushing ability. If he can add some weight he could push for a spot in the linebacker rotation providing excellent depth on the outside for Green Bay.
Round 5 Pick # 169 The Green Bay Packers Select...
Wide Receiver Southern Methodist Emmanuel Sanders 5-11 186 4.40
Sanders is a bit undersized for a wide receiver in coach Mike McCarthy's version of the west coast offense. However his explosiveve play making ability with the ball in his hands makes him to good a value for Thompson to pass up at this point in the draft. Sanders will be the Packers fifth receiver possibly getting on the field from scrimmage out of the slot. And, he will surely make an impact right away on special teams, likely winning the job returning kicks in training camp. Sanders has the athletic ability to be a great returner in the NFL. He posted a 39.5 inch vertical leap, ran the forty in 4.40 seconds showing good explosiveness in the first 10 yards, 1.49 seconds. His short shuttle and three cone drill times were also excellent at 4.10 and 6.64 seconds respectively showing he possess great quickness along with straight line speed. He finished his college career as SMU's all time leader in catches, yards, and touchdown receptions.
Round 6 Pick # 193 The Green Bay Packers Select...
Punter Michigan Zoltan Mesko 6-5 240 4.79
Mesko is the best punter available in the 2010 NFL draft. The Packers have a hole at punter having released Jeremy Kapinos who held the job in 2009. During his senior season Mesko posted fantastic numbers for a punter. He averaged 44.5 per punt, had 18 punts result in fair catches, landed 5 punts inside the 20 yard line and had just 3 touchbacks. Playing in Michigan in college Mesko has already proven to be a competent cold weather punter. Furthermore his size and speed could make him a valuable performer on the coverage unit and area in which the packers struggled in 2009.
Round 7 Pick # 230 The Green Bay Packers Select...
Fullback Kent State Jameson Konz 6-4 234 4.41
Konz is a very intriguing prospect because of his combination of size and out of this world athletic ability. In addition to running a 4.41 second forty at his pro day Konz also posted a 46 inch vertical leap. His short shuttle time of 4.25 seconds and his three cone drill time of 6.93 seconds are great for a man of his size. I've listed Konz as a fullback as I believe that is the position at which he can make the Packers 53 man roster the easiest. He could also be developed as a tight end or outside linebacker prospect. In my eyes 2009 rookie Quinn Johnson will assume starting fullback job while either Korey Hall or John Kuhn will be cut. Konz becomes the third fullback and an instant standout on the coverage units while he develops as a position player.
If the Packers can acquire these eight players during the 2010 NFL Draft, GM Ted Thompson will have put coach Mike McCarthy in the best position to win personnel wise since his tenure began in 2005. This draft would yield 3 immediate starters at positions of need for the Packers. Jerry Hughes would likely win the starting left outside linebacker spot opposite Clay Matthews III providing the Packers with two of best pass rushing 3-4 outside linebackers in the NFL. Zoltan Mesko would almost certainly become the Packers punter for 2010 and beyond and WR Emmanuel Sanders would assume the starting kick and punt return duties. Additionally the Packers likely would have landed two future starters in OT Tony Washington and S Major Wright who would be just an injury away from the starting role as primary backups to often injured starters Chad Clifton and Atari Bigby. Further, Ben Tate would likely develop into a starter replacing Ryan Grant after a season or two as Grant's contract numbers will become a problem.