The NFL Draft was the first draft to air on primetime and took three days to finish. How did the Packers address their needs to improve for next season? Below are the players picked and the appropriate grades I thought Ted Thompson should have received.
Bryan Bulaga OT Iowa 1st Round (23rd overall)
I'm amazed Bulaga was able to slip so far after being projected to go into the top ten. I believe Bulaga may have been as high as the number 2 top left tackle on the Packers' big board. Bulaga provides instant depth at the left and right tackle positions and is ready to start immediately if Chad Clifton or Mark Tausher go down next season. With addressing the most important need with an impact player, Ted Thompson makes a great selection.
Mike Neal DE Purdue 2nd Round (56th overall)
As much as this was a surprise pick, defensive end has been an important position of need that has been overlooked by many fans on the bleacher report. Cullen Jenkins is playing in the last year of his contract, Johnny Jolly is awaiting a court ruling and a likely league suspension for his codeine incident, and Justin Harrell has been unable to stay healthy. Neal provides insurance and depth at the position regarding the uncertainty of the DE position. I do believe this pick was a reach where Neal could have been selected in the third round.
Morgan Burnett S Georgia Tech 3rd Round (71st overall)
I believe addressing the strong safety position was almost as important as finding a left tackle in this draft. Burnett was an excellent playmaker and will immediately overtake Atari Bigby as the starter along Nick Collins in the secondary. Burnett is excellent value here, but i do not like how Ted Thompson gave up the fourth round pick. Green Bay traded a bottom third round pick and a bottom round fourth round pick to select Burnett at the top of the third round. I would have liked to see Thompson select Burnett in the second and Neal in the third while keeping the fourth round pick.
Andrew Quarless TE Penn State 5th Round (154 overall)
With Jermichael Finley becoming an upcoming Antonio Gates, Quarless is unlikely to ever see the field as a number one tight end. He will push Donald Lee as the second tight end and has dangerous playmaking abilities as well as a decent ability to block. He is likely to be the third TE this year behind Donald Lee until Lee's contract ends in 2011. I would have liked to see an outside linebacker or a corner back taken here, but Ted Thompson once again goes by his 'best player available' philosophy.
James Starks RB Buffalo 6th Round (193rd overall)
Ryan Grant has been a very solid starter at running back, but the depth at the position is pretty weak. Brandon Jackson has not been able to live up to his second round status and Deshawn Wynn has been hurt more than Jennifer Aniston. Starks is an instant upgrade over Wynn and is a solid returner with his ability to make defenders miss. Starks has had injuries over his career, but James Campen believes they can improve his fundamentals such as running too tall to avoid big hits. Starks is a big back but has been athletically gifted (former quarterback, wide receiver, and shooting guard) to where he can catch and get to the outside.
Marshall Newhouse OG TCU 6th Round (169th overall)
Its good to see another offensive lineman taken even though Charles Brown was available at Green Bay's second round selection. Newhouse is very versatile who can play guard and tackle but is most likely suited for guard. Green Bay can't have enough offensive lineman with great upside.
CJ Wilson DE ECU 7th Round (230th overall)
Wilson is the second defensive end drafted, but the seventh round picks are all about 'best player available'. Wilson should help with the depth at defensive end. Wilson was a projected 5th-6th round prospect, so it helps with getting a value pick.
Green Bay did an excellent job addressing two of their most glaring needs at the offensive tackle and the strong safety positions. Bulaga and Burnett are likely to see the field this year while most of the other picks were taken as insurance or 'best player available' philosophy. I really like picking up a running back late where Starks should be able to help on the return game and maybe compliment Ryan Grant.
I was surprised to see the outside linebacker and corner back positions neglected. I know that it is impossible to address every needed position in the draft, but I am not sure that Brad Jones is the long term answer at outside linebacker to compliment Clay Matthews.
I would have liked to see some added depth at the corner back position, but so long as Tramon Williams and Charles Woodson continue to stay healthy, the defense should continue to prosper. The recovery of Al Harris is going well, but it remains to be seen how effective he will be when he returns to the lineup.
I would have liked to see a punter drafted late, but hopefully one can be found as an undrafted free agent to compete with former Australian football player Chris Bryan.
Overall, I am pleased to see the two most important positions addressed that are not only longterm solutions, but are likely instant starters. Now we have to bear the worst part of the football season which is counting down the days until the regular season.