Many football fans will say that the Green Bay Packers’ Super Bowl win was a long time coming—inevitable even. Others can even argue that the Green Bay Packers are currently the best team in the NFL. But being king of the mountain has its drawbacks. Simply put, the Green Bay Packers seriously need to address some key positions in the upcoming 2011 NFL Draft, if they are to continue being the dominate juggernaut they have become.
Remember, just getting to the big show—let alone winning it all—is a triumph of epic proportions. But such an accomplishment does not guarantee that the 2011/2012 season will have the same results.
Let’s take a look at five key positions the Packers must address, and why. Some of the players I will mention may be out of reach, but a fan can dream, can’t he?
Left Tackle: The Packers have a vast array of offensive weapons, and a marquee quarterback to compliment such an arsenal. But preserving the helmsman requires a solid tandem of bookends on the offensive line. Chad Clifton’s days are numbered as he faces either retirement or his body finally giving way to years of injury, which ever comes first. Two players come to mind in Colorado’s Nate Solder, and Villanova’s Ben Ijalana. Both players perform at high levels with Solder being one of the top left tackles in the 2011 NFL Draft.
Nate Solder is a traditional all around quality blocker who has faced some of the best defensive ends the Big 12 has to offer, so there’s not a lack of experience here. The guy even played his first couple of years as a blocking tight end. But the consensus is Solder will be gone before the third round ever comes, so unless the Packers find a way to trade up, this may be more of a wish.
Ben Ijalana is another prospect that has the versatility that the Packers love in an offensive lineman (such as playing on the end, as well as, in the interior). There has been some snickering over the fact that Ijalana is not doing too much to increase his draft stock, but you can still bet that he’ll be somewhere in the third round, perhaps even early in the fourth. Ben Ijalana is in more striking distance for the Packers, and could make a nice compliment to Brian Bulaga.
Running Back: The Packers won’t enter the 2011 NFL Draft and immediately target a RB, but don’t be too surprised if they DO go after one earlier than usual. The growing argument is that current running back James Starks will be the future of Green Bay, but that shouldn’t stop the Packers from considering West Virginia’s Noel Divine.
Imagine, if you will, the Packers having a quality pass-catching back ala Brian Westbrook, to compliment either James Starks or Ryan Grant. It makes perfect sense, and gives Aaron Rodgers a whole new skill set to play with. Divine is not a very tasty option to most teams at 5’8”, 176 pounds nor is he considered a RB who will be an every down back in the NFL. But for the Packers; a shifty, incredibly fast pass-catching back would be the perfect complement to their vertical passing game, and could further open the doors for more North/South running.
Fantasy owners could get excited over this guy if he winds up in the right system; otherwise, he wouldn’t hold a ton of value in the early goings.
Defensive End: The Green Bay Packers are facing two fronts with two of their defensive lineman. Cullen Jenkins is hitting the FA market (coach Mike McCarthy was noncommittal about re-signing him), and John Jolly’s future in serious question (he’ll have to first show he is “clean” before he can even get reinstated).
But aside from those two major aspects, the Packers also need some quality youth at the position and that’s where Iowa’s Christian Ballard would fit right in. Christina Ballard has a solid frame that occupies a lot of real estate in the trenches, and he is versatile enough to play in both 3-4 and 4-3 schemes.
However, teams may look towards other prospects because of Ballard’s apparent “lack of consistent aggressiveness” and “slow feet”—all things that can be trained in an NFL camp. If he does fall by the wayside, and the Packers are smart enough to grab him, he could be one of the biggest gems coming out of the NFL draft and could be a nice late round grab in IDP leagues.
Wide Receiver: Moving on a wide receiver at some point in the draft would be a significantly wise move by the Green Bay Packers. Donald Driver’s gas tank is approaching empty, and James Jones will probably not return due to his inconsistency and penchant for dropped balls.
The Packers need a receiver who has a history of being a reliable pass catcher as well as someone who can fit right in to a possession receiver’s role. That’s where Boise State’s Austin Pettis would fit right in.
With all of the hoopla being made over fellow Boise State teammate Titus Young, it is easy to assume that Pettis will fall to somewhere around the fourth or even fifth round. Pettis is a better pass catcher than Young, has a bigger frame, is willing—and capable might I add—to catch balls in traffic, and just an all around better value pick for the Packers; a pick that would fit into their system perfectly.
While it may be far too early to speculate, Pettis could be the next Wes Welker type receiver in fantasy football.
Defensive Back: The Packers not only need a replacement for Charles Woodson, but they also need depth at the corner position, making the corner the most needed area for the team. It will be interesting to see what Ted Thompson does in the first round with the corner position and O-Line position being at the forefront, but a sway towards the corner position could land Texas’ Aaron Williams.
The corner position has to be able to do three things extremely well in Green Bay:
1. Be an effective, aggressive blitzer off the corner.
2. Have enough experience and ability to be an accomplished player in zone schemes.
3. Have the athleticism that can handle such demands including the ability to move your hips, excellent speed and a keen eye for dissecting offenses.
Williams has all of this and more, but the problem will be who pulls what trigger and when. The Green Bay Packers are right behind the Pittsburgh Steelers, who could very well snatch him up with the 31st pick. That would leave other ancillary players for the Packers to consider, such as Ras-I Dowling (Virginia) or Brandon Burton (Utah). But if the Steelers pass, than it’ll be up the Packers to pull the trigger because Williams won’t get past the St. Louis Rams at the 47th pick.
He’s a solid corner who will have sleeper written all over him in most IDP leagues.
Who do you think the Packers should go after? Who do you think the Packers will snatch off the board and why? Let me know what your thoughts are below…I’m curious as to what the Packers Nation has to say.