The Green Bay Packers have less than one week to analyze potential draft selections, but which prospects will GM Ted Thompson key in on?
GM Ted Thompson has assembled some of the most reputable draft classes of any NFL franchise over the past decade, and chances are he'll do it again this year.
I know what you're thinking: "So many prospects, so little time!"
Here today are 50 prospects topping Green Bay's pre-draft big board with less than one week until the draft commences.
*This article was originally featured on Wisconsin Sports Talk*
50. Drake Nevis: DT, LSU
49. Brandon Burton: CB, Utah
48. Orlando Franklin: OT, Miami (Fl.)
47. Bruce Carter: OLB, North Carolina
46. James Carpenter: OT, Alabama
45. Daniel Thomas: RB, Kansas State
44. Titus Young: WR, Boise State
43. Davon House: CB, New Mexico State
42. Sam Acho: OLB, Texas
41. Christian Ballard: DE, Iowa
40. Benjamin Ijalana: OT, Villanova
39. Marcus Cannon: OT, TCU
38. Ryan Williams: RB, Virginia Tech
37. Randall Cobb: WR, Kentucky
36. Aaron Williams: CB, Texas
35. Leonard Hankerson: WR, Miami (Fl.)
Donald Driver's better days are behind him, and James Jones' status with the team remains unresolved for the time being. Upgrading with Hankerson's 6'1", 209-pound frame would be an ideal pick for Ted Thompson.
34. Marvin Austin: DT/DE, North Carolina
A three-year starter with the Tar Heels, Austin registered nine sacks and 103 tackles and would have added to his statistics if not for his 2010 suspension. His superb athleticism and size would allow defensive coordinator Dom Capers to put him in multiple positions at certain points.
33. Torrey Smith: WR, Maryland
The Packers aren't in desperate need of wideouts, but Smith's 6'1", 204-pound build is great for "hitting the home run" with Aaron Rodgers at the helm.
32. Clint Boling: OG, Georgia
Josh Sitton, 24, will be the starter in Green Bay for the prospective future, but Mike McCarthy knows that health up front is of the utmost importance, making Boling a near perfect selection for the Packers.
31. Jabaal Sheard: DE, Pittsburgh
He's listed as a defensive end, but his tough exterior makes him a viable outside linebacker prospect for Capers' 3-4 style defense.
30. Jimmy Smith: CB, Colorado
Listed as the third-best corner in this year's class, Smith is anything but what you'd expect out of a rookie cornerback. His 6'2", 211-pound frame makes him a solid draft choice to replace Charles Woodson just a few years down the road.
29. Mikel Leshoure: RB, Illinois
I'm a bit skeptical when it comes to drafting running backs early on, considering the Packers already have a solid group of backs already in place. Ryan Grant may become trade bait come draft day, however, and running back could potentially be a pressing issue heading into next season. Leshoure's big-bodied frame could carry the load as early as next season.
28. Justin Houston: OLB, Georgia
I like this pick for a few reasons: 1. Any linebacker at 6'3", 258 pounds is worth a first-round pick. 2. Great combine numbers (4.62 40-yard dash, 30 bench-press reps). 3. The Packers have a serious need for an athletic pass rusher. Any other questions?
27. Nate Solder: OT, Colorado
His configuration is astonishing (6'8", 318 pounds), and his durability is unquestioned. Do the Packers need help on the offensive line? Yes.
26. Danny Watkins: OG, Baylor
Few offensive linemen are versatile coming out of the collegiate level, but Watkins is an physical anomaly worth a mention on our list. He is listed as a guard but has the capabilities to play at either left or right tackle as well.
25. Brooks Reed: OLB, Arizona
No, this isn't the second coming of Clay Matthews...or is it? Weighing in at 6'3", 262 pounds, Reed is a physical animal off the edge and would be a deadly addition to Dom Capers' linebacking corps.
24. Mark Ingram: RB, Alabama
One of the most accomplished prospects of this year's class, Igram's relentless play and hard-nosed mentality would benefit Green Bay's ground game for the prospective future. Although this may not seem as a likely selection, I wouldn't put it past Ted Thompson to trade up for Ingram's services.
23. Nick Fairley: DT, Auburn
I, like many other skeptics, am not too fond of what Fairley has to offer. A junior season in which he amassed 12 sacks is impressive, but he has attitude problems and is rough around the edges.
22. Akeem Ayers: OLB, UCLA
His combine numbers are far from impressive (4.81 40-yard dash, 18 bench reps), but I'm confident Ted Thompson will see through his workout misfortunes. Moreover, Ayers' athletic 6'4", 255-pound frame will atone for his lowering draft stock.
21. Cameron Heyward: DE, Ohio State
As the first round of action nears, one prospect stands out from the competition as the most likely first-round pickup for the green and gold in Heyward. He maintains all the physical tools to become a staple in Capers' perilous defense for years to come.
20. Muhammad Wilkerson: DT, Temple
Cullen Jenkins may test free agency once the current lockout situation ends, leaving a massive hole on the defensive line. Wilkerson, weighing in at 6'4", 315 pounds, would be a great addition to a needy defensive line.
19. Adrian Clayborn: DE, Iowa
Like Cameron Heyward, Clayborn also maintains the coveted speed and strength combination so many defensive coordinators crave. Should Clayborn drop to the Packers at 32nd overall, don't expect Ted Thompson to pass on him.
18. Derek Sherrod: OT, Mississippi State
The Packers do in fact have a need for youth on the offensive line, and Sherrod's 6'5", 321-pound build is ideal for Mike McCarthy's offensive play-calling.
17. Ryan Kerrigan: DE, Purdue
Kerrigan lacks elite speed off the edge, but he would become a staple in Capers' defense nonetheless. He registered 13 sacks as a senior with Purdue and 33 sacks in four years against top-notch Big Ten offensive lines.
16. Mike Pouncey: OG, Florida
If the Packers aren't able to snatch up an offensive tackle in the first round, they might be able to get a great consolation prize in Pouncey's 6'4", 310-pound frame. Additionally, Green Bay needs help up front, and Pouncey is undoubtedly the most NFL-ready guard of this year's class.
15. Corey Liuget: DT, Illinois
Listed as a 4-3 defensive tackle, Liuget would be more than capable of playing as a 3-4 defensive end under Dom Capers. Additionally, his 6'2", 300-pound frame would be more than capable of handling offensive linemen in one-on-one situations.
14. Aldon Smith: DE, Missouri
Drawing comparisons to DeMarcus Ware is an accomplishment in itself, and Smith has enough evidence to back up his claim to be one of the draft's top defensive ends. With superb speed off the edge coupled with a lot of upside, Smith would fit perfectly into Green Bay's defensive schemes.
13. Gabe Carimi: OT, Wisconsin
Having played in the Big Ten for three seasons, Carimi is as seasoned an NFL prospect as you can find in this year's class. His 6'7", 314-pound build doesn't hurt either.
12. Prince Amukamara: CB, Nebraska
As we've already covered, Charles Woodson can't possibly last more than three seasons' time, and when that day comes, the Packers will have serious problems in the secondary. Amukamara's 4.4 40-yard dash time makes him a prime prospect for Capers' unyielding defense.
11. J.J. Watt: DE, Wisconsin
Astonishing combine numbers skyrocketed his draft stock, and he will likely be a top-15 selection on draft day. Nevertheless, I'm sure Ted Thompson will be targeting Watt's 6'6", 285-pound figure come draft day, as he will be a formidable threat on the defensive line for many seasons to come.
The Packers finished second in the league last season with 47 sacks but have latent problems on the defensive front that could hinder production next season.
In their base 3-4 defensive outlook, Cullen Jenkins and Ryan Pickett line up as the primary defensive ends. With free agency looming, Jenkins may not be in Titletown next season, and Pickett's status with the team is uncertain at best.
To shore things up for the future, I wouldn't be surprised if Ted Thompson is already in the works for trading up for Jordan's services.
Although Mike McCarthy's batch of wide receivers may be as talented as any group in the league, Donald Driver may only have one productive season left in him, and James Jones isn't likely to return next season.
This could get ugly.
If the Packers are looking to upgrade at wide receiver in this year's draft (which they most certainly are), they should look no further than Julio Jones—one of the most commendable, accomplished prospects featured in this year's class.
Along with his 6'3", 220-pound build, Jones is a great fit for McCarthy's pass-happy offense and would make an immediate impact as soon as he hit the field.
Sometimes you just have to be protective.
The Packers boast one of the most feared offenses in all of football, but notable concerns are rising as the draft draws nearer. One such concern would be offensive tackle.
Chad Clifton, 34, won't be able to make much of an impact in two years' time, leaving a massive question mark regarding the status of the offensive line heading towards the future.
One of the most qualified offensive tackles available would be Anthony Castonzo—a four-year starter at Boston College who knows what it takes to become an elite lineman at the next level.
A few glaring holes may dampen Green Bay's chances at repeating as Super Bowl champs next season, but none are as conspicuous as the lack of depth at defensive end.
Da'Quan Bowers, arguably the prospect with the most upside of this year's class, would clearly be a worthy fill-in for Cullen Jenkins should he leave via free agency.
Last season's Lombardi Award winner registered an unprecedented 16 sacks (tops in the nation) in his senior season with Clemson and has all the qualities of a classic power pass rusher for years to come.
The only thing holding Bowers back remains his lingering knee injury that sidelined him from the NFL combine roughly two months ago.
It's not too often when a prospect has the complete package at a certain position.
Be that as it may, have you met A.J. Green?
You don't have to be an expert to know that Green's 6'4", 211-pound build makes him one of the most highly touted prospects of this year's class.
The need for a big-game receiver may not be a pressing issue for the Packers, but with James Jones likely out of Green Bay sooner than later, now could be the time to trade up for the most intimidating wideout in the NFL draft.
Have you seen this guy?
Rated by many as the safest pick of this year's class, LSU's rare cornerback/return specialist Patrick Peterson is a sure-fire top-10 pick that would make an outstanding press-coverage superstar for Dom Capers' defense.
Great build, run support, astute open-field tackling and good instincts are just a few examples of what Peterson brings to the table.
Although he played only two full seasons at the collegiate level, Robert Quinn is a physical specimen topping many teams' NFL pre-draft big boards.
Weighing in at 6'4", 265 pounds, Quinn utilizes his explosiveness off the line of scrimmage to constantly harass quarterbacks and would do the same for the Packers.
While his 2010 suspension brings about concerns, nonetheless Quinn has enormous upside and could [potentially] be used as an outside linebacker in Dom Capers' 3-4 style defense.
Ted Thompson has a lot on his mind right now, but after watching Marcell Dareus' performance at the combine, his thought process might be a bit peculiar.
Hailing from Nick Saban's vaunted defense at Alabama, Dareus posted a 4.93 40-yard dash and 24 bench-press reps at the combine. While those numbers aren't particularly impressive, his production on the field is second to none compared to the competition.
Moreover, the Packers have a need on the defensive line, and Dareus would be an exemplary addition to an already feared Green Bay defense.
Above any other imminent task facing Ted Thompson in this year's draft, adding youth to Green Bay's offensive line may be the most essential.
For that reason, I am convinced that Tyron Smith is undoubtedly the most viable talent available for the Packers in this first round.
Having played in a pro-style offense at USC for two solid seasons, Smith is ready for Mike McCarthy's offensive preferences and would become a superstar for Green Bay up front.
What really gets me is his pass-blocking abilities. With Aaron Rodgers constantly throwing from the pocket, Smith's 6'5", 307-pound frame would be able to handle such pass rushers as Jared Allen and Julius Peppers with great comfort.
With his unprecedented skills and physical tools, Smith would be the ideal first-round selection for the Packers.
Last, but certainly not least.
When you think about feared pass rushers, who comes to mind? Ray Lewis? DeMarcus Ware? Brian Urlacher? How about Clay Matthews?
These are just a few examples of perfection on the defensive side of the ball, and few collegiate prospects fail to measure up to the hype they're granted coming out of the college game.
There is one exception, however, and his name is Von Miller.
Last season alone, Miller registered 11 sacks with Texas A&M. A year prior, he led the nation with an unprecedented 17.5 sacks on his way to winning the Butkus Award.
Weighing in at a monstrous 6'3", 246 pounds, Miller is everything Ted Thompson could want in an outside linebacker. Strong upper body, relentless attitude, good character and, above all else, he knows how to get to the quarterback.
These attributes are enough to place him atop Green Bay's big board heading into draft day.