The NFL draft approaches on the Packers annual calendar this offseason. Defending the Super Bowl during a year plagued by lockout drama is tough, sure. But drafting a successful board of young talent is an entirely different can of worms.
Fortunately for Green Bay, the Packers have a trustworthy general manager to rely on. Ted Thompson's eye for talent has acted as the building blocks for the team in the past, and it is reasonable to assume that come April, nothing will change.
Normally mock drafts are reputation killers. Anyone who has attempted to make one knows this well.
But even if predicting Green Bay's prospects is tougher than succeeding in a $20 million lottery, here's my views on potential Packer picks.
Ready, set, go.
It would be foolish to think the Packers defensive line could maintain the same stability next season as it did in 2010. Starting defensive end Ryan Pickett flirts with injury as each game progresses, while Cullen Jenkins is no spring turkey himself, leaving the Packers vulnerable in the long term.
For some, filling the defensive end hole is an option best left for later rounds in the draft. But why not answer this need when the talent is ripe and for the choosing?
Say hello to Cameron Heyward.
Luck may have to play a factor for Green Bay to successfully land Heyward. Currently he is expected to fall somewhere between the 20th to 30th pick in the first round, possibly placing the Packers out of contention. However, his inconsistency and lack of explosiveness off the line could see him fall slightly lower than estimated.
As for what Heyward brings to the table, it is somehow incredibly satisfying. Along with the inconsistencies, Heyward is also a questionable fit for any team running the 4-3 scheme. Therefore a 3-4 system like Green Bay's would be right up his alley, saving him the trouble of converting to a defensive tackle.
Defensive Coordinator Dom Capers would have some work to do if the Packers selected Heyward. His motor runs dry at times, and is often out-muscled by faster and stronger offensive lineman. Still, the Packers have a hole to fill, and Heyward is one of the best.
Some say overrated, others say underrated. Whatever your opinion is of Nevada's Dontay Moch, chances are you will love or hate this pick.
Among Green Bay's pressing needs this offseason, the outside linebacker position is an area of interest. The mutual thought throughout Titletown is that the Packers lack depth—an area of concern Ted Thompson must evaluate in the draft.
In regards to Moch, his abilities are up for discussion. He showed the strength of Hulk Hogan during the NFL Combine, but struggles with direction changing on the field. Moch's projected round is also a guess, although it is believed he will fall somewhere in the second round with strong competition ahead of him.
Green Bay hold the 32nd pick in the second round, leaving their chances wide open to gain a top linebacker prospect. Moch has a tremendous amount of speed, something Dom Capers craves, while he also has the hard hitting ability of Clay Matthews.
Moch's name is frequently associated with the word "bust," but if the Packers are willing to take a gamble, it could pay off. Green Bay's linebackers were the key area of success last year, so if the Packers are serious about Moch or any other linebacker recruit, they must fight off the likes of Atlanta at the same time.
The defensive theme continues to flow in the Packers first three rounds, and now we arrive at another position of interest: cornerback.
The necessity for a cornerback isn't overly demanding in the first two rounds for the Packers. Veteran Charles Woodson is still strong and resilient even after an injury, Tramon Williams is quite possibly the next Defensive Player of the Year, and Sam Shields is also a suitable back up behind these two.
Still, you can never have too many corners. And Ted Thompson knows this.
If Green Bay were to select a cornerback in the third round, they may consider Curtis Brown from Texas. With strict competition in the likes of Patrick Peterson and Jimmy Smith ahead of him, Brown is expected to slip to the third round.
He was one of the brightest cornerbacks at Texas during his time. He also posted a commendable workout at the Combine, and has the ideal sticky hands that has sent many quarterbacks in the opposite direction.
There aren't many to touch on. Although, Brown's 40-yard dash time was rather poor. He performed well in all other drills, but his speed may let him down as far as Draft stock goes.
The Packers won't be short on options at the corner position. Even if Green Bay do wait until the fourth or fifth round, plenty of talent is available. Brown on the other hand, is the cream of the crop—aside from the bigger names.
There would be something special about the Packers selecting a Wisconsin Badger, and fortunately for all of us, John Moffitt falls into that potential category.
Green Bay's offensive line continues to grow steadier as time drags on. The allure of selecting another offensive lineman is boring to fans, but the protection of Aaron Rodgers is a must if the Packers intend on securing another Super Bowl victory.
For once, the demand is very low for offensive lineman this season. Moffitt a projected third- to fourth-round pick, and like the cornerback position, the Packers can afford to take their time when considering the prospects.
If Ted Thompson does take a liking to Moffitt, though, he can be assured of one thing: power. Moffitt weighed in at 315 pounds during Pro Day, but failed to run the 40-yard dash—I guess we can't wait until Christmas for him to finish.
Chad Clifton is growing old, and like always, depth is priority. Moffitt is also a former Wisconsin center, adding further use should the Packers see fit.
He's versatile and strong. Just like Bryan Bulaga last year, he screams Green Bay Packer.
Offensively, the Packers are stellar. Aaron Rodgers is the messiah, James Starks is the up-and-coming running back, and with Jermichael Finley returning this season, things looks to be in tip-top shape for the future.
Except for the wide receiver position.
With Donald Driver waging war against injury all last season, the Packers must keep the future in mind. James Jones' immediate season is in question, while Jordy Nelson is as reliable as a bad cell phone connection at times.
Therefore, that leaves Greg Jennings. Not much, huh?
Green Bay are favored to select a wide receiver sometime in the later rounds. USC's Ronald Johnson is a viable prospect, for more reasons than the obvious.
If the Packers choose the Johnson route, they also receive a talented kick returner. He was injured with a collarbone fracture in 2010, but Johnson's bursting speed may finally result in some production for Green Bay's often weak kick return unit.
Killing two birds with stone seems like a happy thought. Johnson could certainly be a steal in the fourth round.
Plain and simple, the Packers quarterback situation needs resolving. The interest in backup Matt Flynn is swirling throughout the league, and with Aaron Rodgers falling to concussion twice last year, problems arise.
Tyrod Taylor fresh from Virginia Tech could be the answer for Green Bay. His discipline and skill set has been placed under the microscope since enlisting in the draft, and according to experts, he would make a suitable backup for any willing bidder.
Taylor could benefit from a move to Green Bay. A few years on the bench could improve his accuracy, and ensure a possible future somewhere down the track.
As for the Packers, Flynn looks to be on the move. The Graham Harrell is a roll of the dice no one wants to throw.
There's plenty of company on the Packers ground game. James Starks appears to be the shining light, Ryan Grant returns healthy and ready to take what's his, and John Kuhn can't be forgotten in the power game.
So why would the Packers choose to add another running back in the draft?
Simple. Brandon Jackson is on thin ice. So is Dmitri Nance. Time for some adjustment.
More importantly, however, Green Bay often lack burst in the middle of the field. Starks showed glimpses of things to come during the playoffs, but his performance doesn't offer enough to gauge a well rounded guess as to how he will perform next season.
That's where Evan Royster may come in.
If Royster isn't taken somewhere between the fifth and sixth rounds, he may miss out altogether. In hindsight this would be a real shame, considering a hamstring injury picked up during the combine has hurt his draft stock immensely.
But if we think back to Royster's many highlights, he does have the ability to make plays. Much of his time at Penn State was spent under a weak offense, run by quarterbacks who were one in a dozen. Behind a solid passer like Rodgers, a star may be born.
Royster is moderately fast, that we know. What often goes unnoticed, though, is his strength. On goal line situations Royster has the ability to create holes—and score points.
It would be a luxury if Green Bay could rely on a running back like Royster. It would also avoid high risk situations that involve Aaron Rodgers scrambling toward the pylon.
The need for a safety isn't high on the Packers list of priorities. With that in mind, there is no harm done in selecting a guy in the seventh round with considerable talent.
Thanks to Charlie Peprah, the strong safety position seems to be safe for now. Atari Bigby is on the decline in the back up role, while on the opposite side, Nick Collins and Jarrett Bush have all areas covered.
A suitable prospect for Ted Thompson in this case may be Tejay Johnson from TCU. In 2010 Johnson recorded 59 tackles and three interceptions, remarkable statistics for a player ranked so low in draft projections.
Johnson is 6'1", so he does have a height advantage. Securing a solid safety for a rainy day may be an option worth investing in.
B.J Raji performed miracles last season. But in the case of a possible injury, losing such a young and talented stud could hurt the Packers up front if they aren't careful.
Currently, Howard Green is the back up nose tackle behind Raji. Clearly, there is depth at the position. However, Green is in his seventh season, and may struggle against teams such as Chicago or New York despite having two forced fumbles last season.
The Packers have a variety of talent to pick from. If Sanders is somehow gone by the seventh round, projected sixth-rounder Frank Kearse is also available.