2011 NFL Draft: 5 Positions the Super Bowl XLV Champion Green Bay Packers Need
The Super Bowl is over and now everyone's attention will shift to the offseason. Of course, the collective bargaining agreement is the main focus, but the NFL Draft will happen regardless.
Aaron Rodgers, Ted Thompson and the Green Bay Packers are fresh off their first super bowl victory since 1996, and are set to make a run at a dynasty. This team isn't perfect, but they don't have a lot of glaring needs either.
After addressing a few key positions, Thompson will have the ability to load up the franchise and continue to build depth. Depth is obviously key, because without it, the Packers wouldn't have had a chance this season.
Here are five positions the Green Bay Packers will look to address through the 2011 NFL Draft.
Running Back/Full Back
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Free Agent: Brandon Jackson, John Kuhn, Korey Hall
It's unlikely the Packers will re-sign Jackson, although it's not out of the question. The Packers will get Ryan Grant back and they still have an unproven commodity in James Starks. It would be shocking and disappointing to see Kuhn leave, but expect him to return.
Thompson is sure to be looking to add another body to the backfield, but where in the draft he'll look to take one is the big question.
Thompson is likely going to want a player who's explosive, elusive and can run and pass block. On top of that, he's going to want a guy who can catch the ball out of the backfield. If he chooses to go with a running back in the first round, Ryan Williams out of Virginia Tech fits the description.
If he goes later, look for smaller backs like Kendall Hunter out of Oklahoma State, West Virginia's Noel Devine or Pittsburgh's Dion Lewis. All are good runners and receivers and can play a role on special teams.
One player who would be the perfect replacement for Hall is Stanford's Owen Marecic. This guy just looks like a Green Bay Packer and, like Hall, played linebacker in college.
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Free Agent: James Jones
On the outside, wide receiver doesn't seem to be a glaring need, but if you look deeper, it's something Thompson could easily address.
Jones is very erratic and he's likely a benefactor of the offense he plays in. If he tries to drive up the price, Thompson will let him walk.
Then you have an aging Donald Driver and all of sudden the deep receiving corps is a little thin. The Packers have an elite receiver in Greg Jennings, and Jordy Nelson likely isn't much more than a slot receiver.
There are a couple of guys that should peak Thompson's interest. Pittsburgh's Jon Baldwin could be an option at the end of the first round. If Thompson waits a little longer, Miami's Leonard Hankerson, Boise State's Titus Young and Hawaii's Greg Salas may be options in later rounds.
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Free Agent: Daryn Colledge (OG), Jason Spitz (C)
Green Bay's offensive line was better in 2010, but it was far from great. Bryan Bulaga had a good rookie season, but will likely move to left tackle after Chad Clifton calls it a career, which could happen any time.
Guard play was also suspect at times, so you could see Thompson select multiple offensive lineman in this draft and he probably will. Mike Pouncey is the top rated guard in the draft and he's likely out of reach. There are more highly rated tackles than guards this year, so the Packers could choose to take one of them.
Wisconsin's Gabe Carimi would be a great addition. He's 6'7" and weighs 315 pounds. He would be a great anchor with Bulaga on opposite sides of the line for years to come.
Potential Free Agents: A.J. Hawk
There's no notable free agent at linebacker. However, if the Packers lose Cullen Jenkins in free agency, then the defensive line becomes priority number one. But it's hard to imagine Thompson letting him get away.
The Packers were ravaged at this position in 2010. Clay Matthews was dominant and Desmond Bishop stepped up and played well, and received a contract extension because of his play. Hawk is a good, serviceable player, but could hit the open market with the way his contract is structured.
Nick Barnett is expected to return, but he's had some issues staying healthy the last couple of seasons. Also, Frank Zombo and Erik Walden are unlikely to hold a starting job long term, and Brad Jones and Brady Poppinga could also return.
Selecting a linebacker will likely happen for depth reasons. This could happen via free agency (unlikely), but Thompson could address this in the middle of the draft. Everyone wants Casey Matthews, but don't expect Thompson to make any sentimental picks.
Two players stand out the most that had huge ceilings, got hurt or sick and then made great comebacks. N.C. State's Nate Irving and Boston College's Mark Herzlich. Herzlich comes from a 3-4, whereas Irving played in a 4-3, but these are tough guys who fit Green Bay's mold. They're also both ball seeking tacklers who possess great leadership.
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Free Agents: Charlie Peprah (S), Atari Bigby (S), Josh Bell (CB)
Bigby was injured basically the entire season and Peprah stepped in and played well. Peprah shouldn't demand a high price and will likely be back if he wants to possibly accept a backup roll. Don't forget about safety Morgan Burnett.
Burnett was playing very well this year before tearing his ACL. Thompson drafted him in the third round last year out of Georgia Tech. Burnett and Nick Collins will likely be the two starting safeties in 2011, and that could mean Bigby moves on.
Thompson may also look to add another corner as well. He's got Tramon Williams locked up and he seems to have found a gem in Sam Shields. Charles Woodson is aging and great corners are hard to find.
Look for Thompson to add at least one defensive back in this draft, maybe two, but not until the middle of the draft.
Some names to remember are California's Chris Conte, Idaho's Shiloh Keo and Virginia's Ras-I Dowling.