2011 NFL Mock Draft: Green Bay Packers' First Step Towards a Super Bowl Repeat
It’s been less than a week since the Green Bay Packers won Super Bowl XLV but players and fans alike are already looking to accomplish another goal: a repeat as Super Bowl champions.
With Ted Thompson keeping the core of the team intact and a flood of veterans returning from the Injured Reserve, the biggest obstacle in front of Title Town’s champions is the looming threat of a lockout if no Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) is reached before the start of training camp.
So, to take our minds off of what would be the biggest disappointment in sports history, let’s try to focus on something positive and talk about another weapon at Ted Thompson’s disposal that will solidify the Packers as one of the NFL’s most dangerous and exciting teams: the NFL Draft.
The Packers finally get to pick last in this year’s draft and should be able to base their entire draft off of building for the future because they just don’t have any serious holes to fill.
They will, however, need to replace a few players, due to contract issues and possibly durability concerns.
Players likely to be lost include receiver James Jones, running back Brandon Jackson, guards Daryn Colledge and Jason Spitz, linebacker AJ Hawk, safety Atari Bigby, and possibly even defensive end Cullen Jenkins.
Of the list Ted Thompson will be able to retain about three players. Bigby and Spitz are the least likely to return due to the emergence of Charlie Peprah and Morgan Burnett, and Spitz’s lack of value.
Otherwise, it’s anyone’s guess how the rest of the contract negotiations will pan out.
Due to the current nature of CBA negotiations the draft in April could take place before most free agency moves are made, so this mock draft will be based on the possibility that some or all unrestricted free agents won’t have deals completed.
Round One: Stefen Wisniewski, C, Penn Sate
Scott Wells’ solid level of play over the last two seasons would make this selection a bit of a head scratcher for some fans.
The fact is that Wisniewski wouldn’t act as a first year replacement for Wells, but would instead be a reliable backup and an upgrade over current backup Jason Spitz.
It is yet to be seen if Spitz can be effective as a full-time starter but it's pretty apparent that he is not effective in a backup role with limited practice snaps.
Wisniewski is a good-sized, smart athlete who spent two seasons at guard before moving to center his senior year. He would fill the same backup guard/center roster spot vacated by Spitz and could easily move into a starting role on any of the three interior spots on the offensive line if anything happened to a current starter.
Drafting Wisniewski would give the Packers some security behind current backup left guard TJ Lang if starter Daryn Colledge were to demand too high of a contract. Or, he could allow Lang to spend more time working as a backup tackle and as Chad Clifton’s possible successor on the left side if Colledge sticks around.
Round Two: Kendall Hunter, RB, Oklahoma State
Hunter is the perfect prospect for a third down back in the NFL.
He might be small at 5’7” and 199 pounds, but he showed during the Senior Bowl that he can still be a dynamite pass blocker and solid receiver.
He is quick and explosive enough to carry the ball a few times and will be tough for defenders to locate in the backfield due to his stature.
If Hunter were to join the Packers they would see the running back position do a complete 360-degree flip.
They had one of the worst running games in the NFL early last season with Brandon Jackson and Dimitri Nance, but would have one of the best with Ryan Grant, James Starks, and Hunter, who would take over the third down role.
This pick is slightly conditional though, because if Brandon Jackson is re-signed Thompson likely won’t want to add a fourth back to a roster that only kept two half backs for most of the 2010 season.
In that case a likely candidate would be cornerback Ras-I Dowling who was viewed as one of the better cornerbacks in the draft until he missed playing time due to multiple injuries.
For now though, this pick remains Kendall Hunter, who’s just too exciting to pass up.
Round Three: Rashad Carmichael, CB, Virginia Tech
Carmichael sat out the Senior Bowl due to an aggravated high ankle sprain, but is still defined by most scouts as a fast, aggressive, and hard-working corner. He understands schemes and fared well moving from the slot to the outside as a senior.
With the addition of Sam Shields and the elevated play of Tramon Williams, the Packers are no longer in a position where they need a new starter right away.
But Charles Woodson can’t play forever, and they aren’t satisfied with Pat Lee or Brandon Underwood as Woodson’s eventual successors.
Aside from Shields, Thompson has struggled with finding capable rookie corners, so it might be best for him to start taking his next shots at the position sooner rather than later.
Round Four: Marcus Gilbert, OT, Florida
Perhaps best known as Tim Tebow’s personal body guard in 2009, Marcus Gilbert is also a reliable, consistent player who is well-known for his leadership abilities.
However, the fact that Florida’s offensive scheme doesn’t translate well in the NFL will work against Gilbert.
For Green Bay, Gilbert’s ability to get to the next level in the run game, and still protect as a solid pass blocker make him worthy of a fourth-round pick. As stated earlier Daryn Colledge isn’t guaranteed to return in 2011, which could occupy Lang as the left guard of the future and once again leave the Packers short a future starter at tackle.
Regardless of the scheme he played in, his size and athleticism could translate into serious success as a right tackle in the NFL, which would give the Packers the option to move current right tackle Bryan Bulaga back to the left side.
This scenario could lead to a starting lineup of Bryan Bulaga, TJ Lang, Scott Wells, Josh Sitton, and Marcus Gilbert from left to right, with Nick McDonald, Marshall Newhouse, and Stefan Wisniewski acting as able backups.
Round Five: Mario Butler, CB, Georgia Tech
My prediction is that Thompson will take two mid-to-late-round shots at finding another impact corner this April, and Mario Butler’s play-making skills warrant a selection here.
Butler has the right combination of size and speed for a future NFL corner. He also started thirty-eight consecutive games with the Yellow Jackets and steadily improved as his career went on.
He also appears to have ball skills similar to his former teammate, Safety Morgan Burnett, whom the Packers traded up for in round three of last year’s draft.
Butler would compete with Carmichael (mentioned earlier) Pat Lee, Brandon Underwood, and Jarret Bush for what are likely to be two or three roster spots.
Round Six: Mike Mohamed, ILB, California
With Green Bay likely losing either AJ Hawk or Nick Barnett due to Salary Cap management they should look to find some kind of replacement in this year’s draft.
Mike Mohamed is a smart and durable player who has experience playing the inside position in a 3-4 defense. He reminds me of Brandon Chillar due to his exceptional pass coverage abilities, but will need to be more physical and aggressive against the run and in pass rush situations to become an eventual starter.
In the meantime, he should do well on special teams and could see the field on some passing downs in 2011.
Round Seven: Denarius Moore, WR, Tennessee
Moore has already jumped up draft boards since he landed on my radar a few months ago.
Considering his size and ability to stretch the field, I wouldn’t be surprised to see him become a potential third or fourth round pick by April.
His specialty in college was using his speed to outrun corners, but he also has a good double move, adjusts well to the ball in the air, and isn’t afraid to leap up and grab the ball when surrounded by defenders.
If James Jones doesn’t return, Jordy Nelson will be the full-time third receiver while Brett Swain will likely remain the fifth, allowing Moore to become the fourth receiver as he adjusts to the speed of the NFL.