Who needs an "A?"
The Green Bay Packers’ 2011 draft is over, and their final grade is in.
They get an "I."
"I" as in Indianapolis, the site of Super Bowl XLVI.
The Green Bay Packers came in to the draft this weekend without an obvious need to fill. Unlike many teams, they have talent at virtually every position. This was a draft of luxury.
It’s good to be champion.
Over the course of three days and 10 picks, the Packers emerged poised to run roughshod over the NFL. I would never tempt fate by guaranteeing a return trip the Super Bowl (lest the football gods strike me dead), but I certainly like their chances.
How could I not?
The Packers will be getting the likes of Jermichael Finley, Ryan Grant, Mike Neal, Morgan Burnett and Brandon Chillar back from injured reserve (just to name a few). That gives them more talent depth than any other team in the NFL. It’s really not even close.
Add to that at least two incoming rookies—OT Dereck Sherrod and WR Randall Cobb—that can step in and make an immediate impact, and Packers fans everywhere should join me in a silent prayer that the lockout ends soon and we have a next season to look forward to.
On the offensive side of the ball, the only real problem the Packers face entering the season is how to get all their players on the field. There literally aren’t enough snaps to go around.
Looking at the receiving corps, Aaron Rodgers will get to throw to Greg Jennings, Jermichael Finley, Donald Driver, Jordy Nelson, James Jones and rookie Randall Cobb (second round, 64th overall).
If you’re an opposing defensive coordinator, that is scary. Double-team whomever you want, Rodgers has weapons to spare.
Cobb is especially intriguing. The guy can play three positions. Might we see some wildcat next season?
Running back Alex Green (third round, 96th overall) likely won’t be asked to step in immediately and fill a major role, but does has enough natural talent to act as an insurance policy should Ryan Grant or James Starks get injured.
First-round pick Derek Sherrod is a player that can develop into the Packers long-term solution at one of the tackle spots (along with Bryan Bulaga). He lacks the ideal lateral quickness for a left tackle, but has the skill and work ethic to be a quality starter.
With Chad Clifton coming back next season, Sherrod won’t be pressed into duty immediately, and will have time to work on his quickness and lower body strength.
Later in the draft, the Packers added depth at cornerback (Davon House, fourth round), outside linebacker (D.J. Smith and Rick Elmore, sixth round) and defensive line (Lawrence Guy, seventh round).
The Packers have a number of players coming back from injuries last season, so it’s unlikely that any of these players will be asked to contribute anytime soon. If they do, it will be icing on an already delicious cake for a defense that ranked second in scoring (15 points per game) and turnover differential (plus-10) last season.
A common theme throughout this draft for the Packers? Identifying future positional need and drafting to fill it before it becomes a problem.
That’s what Ted Thompson and Co. succeeded in doing this weekend. Drafting Derek Sherrod, Randall Cobb and Alex Green is an investment in the Packers’ future.
We don’t yet know what the return on that investment will be, but one thing is clear: the Green Bay Packers, already the most complete team heading into next season, have the potential to be a whole lot better following this weekend’s draft.
That is why their report card reads "I."
Packers complete 2011 draft results:
Rd. 1 (32)—Derek Sherrod, OT, Mississippi St.
Rd. 2 (64)—Randall Cobb, WR, Kentucky
Rd. 3 (96)—Alex Green, RB, Hawaii
Rd. 4 (131)—Davon House, CB, New Mexico St.
Rd. 5 (141)—D.J. Williams, TE, Arkansas
Rd. 6 (179)—Caleb Schlauderaff, OG, Utah
Rd. 6 (186)—D.J. Smith—OLB, Appalachian St.
Rd. 6 (197)—Rick Elmore—DE/OLB, Arizona
Rd. 7 (218)—Ryan Taylor, TE, UNC
Rd. 7 (233)—Lawrence Guy, DT, Arizona St.