Let's get this out of the way: I'm addicted to the NFL Draft. More so than the actual NFL season. Why haven't I written in awhile? The draft is over. So what now? How about looking at the 2011 NFL Draft?
I bet there are some people out there who are like me: College football takes a major backseat to the NFL. Like, third row middle seat in a Suburban to the NFL in the drivers seat. You pay most of your attention to college football between the Super Bowl and the NFL Draft.
Well with the training camp so close, it's time to look at where the holes that the Packers will be trying to fill next offseason will be. I'll take a look at a potential position of need, who needs to perform well at that position, and who may be taking their place come next April.
Player(s) on the Hot Seat: Tramon Williams, Pat Lee, Brandon Underwood.
On April 22 of this year, Ted Thompson decided that the cornerback position in Green Bay was not much of a need, not drafting a single corner. He apparently had enough faith in these three young players' ability to replace the 34 year old reigning DPoY Charles Woodson, and the injured Al Harris.
Williams has shown he can at least be one of the guys, filling in admirably for Harris after the Tampa Bay game. But that leaves the future other corner spot and the nickel slot to be filled.
Lee, a 2008 second round pick, has shown promise of developing into a solid player, but played only five games in mostly special teams last year before being placed on injured reserve.
Underwood was a sixth round pick last year, but also showed some potential. He has been labeled a distraction, especially after the Wisconsin Dells prositiution scandal this offseason, but the talent is there.
If any of these players falter, look for a strong 2011 cornerback class to come in.
College Prospects to Watch:
Ras-I Dowling: A 6'2" corner out of Virginia best projects as a zone corner in the NFL. He has the aggressiveness to make tackles behind the line of scrimmage or take on a block, and the straight-line speed to match most WRs. 1st round pick.
Davon House: A small-school prospect to consider, his stock could soar this year much like Kyle Wilson did playing for New Mexico State. Has good size (6', 178) and speed (4.44 second 40 yard dash). 2-3 round.
Chykie Brown: Will get lost behind top 40-prospects Aaron Williams and Curtis Brown at Texas, but is as physically gifted as either of those two. Mentality needs work, but playing for Dom Capers and learning from Woodson and Harris will do him wonders. 4-5 round.
Player on the Hot Seat: Bryan Bulaga
This position isn't so much as who needs to play well, it's where will Bulaga play? Is he a LT? Will hsi short arms restrict him to RT? Will he end up at LG like former Iowa standout lineman Robert Gallery? This season will tell. Whatever happens, the Pack need another lineman.
College Prospects to Watch:
LT: Nate Potter: Athletic player for Boise State who's started every game since signing there. could use some more bulk, with "only" 296 lbs on his 6'6" frame. 1st round pick.
LT: Anthony Costanzo: Could also use some bulking up at Boston College at 6'7" 295. If he maintains his athleticism, he'll also require a 1st round pick.
LT: Nate Solder: a 6'9" 305 giant who runs the 40 yard dash in 4.84 seconds, has perhaps the most athleticsm of any tackle on the board. However his technique could use some work, making him a 3rd round pick. Improvements in technique could elevate him to an early 2nd rounder.
RT: Matt Reynolds: Projecting as a pure RT in the NFL, Reynolds weighs in a bit bigger than the first three prospects at 6'6", 325. Would be a great heir to Tauscher. Could get him in round 3 because of inability to play LT.
RT: Kyle Hix: has started 40 games in the college career for Texas, the last 28 of them at RT. Mauler in the run game at 6'7" 325. 4-5 round.
Player on the Hot Seat: Brad Jones
Jones possibly has the hottest seat on this list. While he was productive in his few starts, he needs to show explosiveness and playmaking ability that had fans screaming for Jerry Hughes this April. If he can emerge as an 8-10 sack guy who can drop into coverage opposite Matthews, he could eliminate this position as a need completely.
College Prospects to Watch
Von Miller: The NCAA Leader in sacks last year with 16.5, Miller brings an explosive first step and elite speed to the table. Already is appearing in mock drafts to the Packers. Broke up 5 passes last year for Texas A&M, so he can even drop into coverage. Compares to Elvis Dumervil. 1st round pick.
Dontay Moch: If you want speed, look no further. This Nevada product used his sub 4.4 speed to rack up 20 TFL last year and was an All-WAC First Team choice last year. Lack of elite competition drops his grade to a 3-4 rounder.
3rd Down Back
Player on the Hot Seat: Brandon Jackson
The Packers remain one of the only teams still using a primary running back. While Ryan Grant is a solid option, being pretty much a lock for 1200 yards and 8 TDs with few to no fumbles, it seems to be working so far. However, both Super Bowl teams this year ran a 2 back system, and it seems to be a key to success.
Jackson has emerged as a great blocking back to protect Aaron Rodgers, but has been less impressive when asked to actually do something with the ball. If he shows he was worth a 2nd roun dpick and can be a solid recieving option out of the backfield as well as being able to run a bit, he will, like Jones above, eliminate this as a position of need.
College Prospects to Watch:
Noel Devine: My favorite player on the list, I think Devine would be the perfect fit in the Packers pass-first offense. He averaged 6.2 yards per carry and 8.2 yards per catch. His 5'8" frame has some scouts saying don't even look at the guy before the third round, and others are saying that his skills make him a borderline first rounder. His size is less of a concern when you consider that he benches 435 lbs and his three-drill total weight is 1,235 lbs . He ran for over 1400 yards with 13 TDs last year.
He's got a chance to run a 4.2 at the combine, which would lock him into the first two rounds. If he falls to the Packers in round 2, taking him would really open up the offense, as well as ignite the struggling return game.
DeMarco Murray: If Thompson decides Devine's size is too much of a risk, the Oklahoma product's 6'1", 214 frame would do the trick. Murray ran a 4.42 at Texas' winter workouts in 2007, so he's got speed to burn as well. While he only averaged 4.1 YPC last year on 171 carries, he also caught 41 passes for 522 yards (12.7 YPC) and 4 TDs. 2nd round pick.
Brandon Batch: Dual threat RB who rushed for 5.3 YPC last year but also brought in 57 passes at Texas Tech. Solid frame at 5'11", 205 lbs.
Player(s) on the Hot Seat: James Jones and Jordy Nelson
With Donald Driver getting up there in years, it's time to find out who the third option in the passing attack is going to be, behind Jennings and Finley. Either of these guys could take the spot and run with it, as they have the talent but it hasn't translated into production. If neither improve, the Pack could be looking at a WR in the next draft, preferably one with size to complement Jennings, Jones, and Nelsons smaller figures.
College Prospects to Watch
Jonathan Baldwin: Baldwin has been described as a taller, faster second coming of former Pittsburgh Panther Larry Fitgerald. At 6'5", 225 lbs Baldwin has the size to be the next Vincent Jackson and a real threat in the Packers offense. While he most likely won't make it this far, if he does drop, the things he would do for this offense would make him the perfect BPA pick for Ted Thompson. 1st round pick.
DeAndre Brown: This Southern Miss junior brings similar size (6'6", 228) that Baldwin does, and similar speed (4.48 to Baldwin's 4.50). Coming off of a broken leg last winter (check this out) he racked up 47 receptions for 785 yards and 9 scores. Lack of elite competition drops him to a 4-5 round projection, where he'd be a major steal.
First Green Bay Packer Mock Draft
Round 1: Von Miller, OLB, Texas A&M
Round 2: Noel Devine, RB, West Virginia
Round 3: Nate Solder, LT, Colorado
Round 4: Chykie Brown, CB, Texas
Round 5: DeAndre Brown, WR, Southern Miss
Round 1: Jonothan Baldwin, WR, Pittsburgh
Round 2: Devon House, CB, New Mexico State
Round 3: Matt Reynolds, RT, BYU
Round 4: Dontay Moch, OLB, Nevada
Round 5: Brandon Batch, RB, Texas Tech
What do you think the Packers biggest need will be going into next offseason?