NFL Draft 2011: 10 First-Round Prospects for the Green Bay Packers, Version 2.0

Alec DoppCorrespondent IApril 22, 2011

NFL Draft 2011: 10 First-Round Prospects for the Green Bay Packers, Version 2.0

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    One week removed from draft day, which first-round prospects will GM Ted Thompson key in on the most?

    Six years ago, Packers GM Ted Thompson selected Aaron Rodgers with the first pick in the 2005 NFL draft.

    Since Rodgers was implemented as Green Bay's starting quarterback in 2008, the Packers haven't looked back—winning three playoff games and capturing a Super Bowl XLV victory last season.

    Who could Thompson take in this year's draft to ensure greatness for the next decade?

    Though the Packers aren't likely to stay put with their first-round pick, here is an updated look at the 10 most likely first-round prospects topping Thompson's wish list.

    **Make sure to check out our first look at Green Bay's first-round prospects, version 1.0.**

Aaron Williams, Cornerback, Texas

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    AUSTIN, TX - NOVEMBER 07:  Defensive back Aaron Williams #4 of the Texas Longhorns practices before a game against the UCF Knights on November 7, 2009 at Darrell K Royal - Texas Memorial Stadium in Austin, Texas.  Texas won 35-3.  (Photo by Brian Bahr/Get
    Brian Bahr/Getty Images

    Charles Woodson's early Super Bowl XLV exit sent Packers fans clamoring, and though the situation has (for the most part) resolved itself, the concern is still there for the defending champs.

    At 34 years of age, Woodson has seen better days and may only stick around for the next few seasons or so. With Tramon Williams bursting onto the scene last season, Dom Capers will need another playmaker off the edge for the prospective future.

    A quick glance at Texas' prototypical cornerback Aaron Williams, and you'll find one of the most NFL-ready talents in this year's class.

    His performance at the NFL combine wasn't what most had expected (4.55 40-yard dash, 18 bench-press reps), but what he lacks in offseason workouts he makes up for in on-field accomplishments.

    Couple that with great work ethic and a positive attitude, and you've got one great pickup for the Packers in the first round of action.

Gabe Carimi, Offensive Tackle, Wisconsin

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    COLUMBUS, OH - OCTOBER 10:  Offensive lineman Gabe Carimi #68 of the Wisconsin Badgers blocks against the Ohio State Buckeyes at Ohio Stadium on October 10, 2009 in Columbus, Ohio.  (Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images)
    Jamie Sabau/Getty Images

    I'm going to be brutally honest with you all: Aaron Rodgers has been, is and will be the future of the Packers' organization as a whole. But if Green Bay's woes up front continue in the direction they're headed, Rodgers might not be around long enough to compete for his second Super Bowl.

    As our first list advised, Ted Thompson will be extremely discreet with his first-round selection. Unlike any other prospect available in the first round, Gabe Carimi would help the Packers more than any other prospect from the get-go.

    Chad Clifton, 34, won't be around much longer, and you know as well as I do that Green Bay needs help up front in the most important way.

    Carimi's 6'7", 314-pound physique has attracted much praise from scouts over the past few months and may propel him to the top of the first round come draft day.

    Nevertheless, I wouldn't be surprised to see Thompson trade up for Carimi's services.

Brooks Reed, Outside Linebacker, Arizona

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    Although the Packers' defense was pivotal in their 2011 playoff run, there are a couple of question marks that must be addressed heading into next season.

    Defensive end, outside linebacker and cornerback are the most glaring burdens concerning Dom Capers' defense. However the true lack of talent at outside linebacker opposite Clay Matthews can be appointed as Green Bay's most pressing positional dilemma this offseason.

    With a draft chock-full of talent at outside linebacker, Ted Thompson would ideally select a linebacker with the most upside available, such as Arizona's Brooks Reed.

    Weighing in at 6'3", 262 pounds, Reed is a physical specimen that would contribute to the pass rush as early as Week 1 against the Saints.

Nate Solder, Offensive Tackle, Colorado

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    BOULDER, CO - OCTOBER 04:  Brian Orakpo #98 of the Texas Longhorns rushes against Nate Solder #78 the Colorado Buffaloes at Folsom Field on October 4, 2008 in Boulder, Colorado. Texas defeated Colorado 38-14.  (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
    Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

    As we've already covered, the Packers have a serious need for young talent on the offensive line, and Chad Clifton just isn't what he used to be five years ago.

    So with the 32nd pick in the first round, Ted Thompson would be clever to use his assets as leverage to move up the draft boards.

    If Nate Solder's 6'8", 319-pound frame is any indication of what Thompson looks for in an offensive lineman, then Colorado's signature offensive tackle should prepare for a trip to the great state of Wisconsin.

    Solder, in my mind, would be the complete package for the Packers in the seasons to come.  In four years as a starter for the Buffaloes, Solder dominated and contained some of the most powerful pass rushers the Big 12 has to offer—and would do the same for the Packers as soon as next season.

Muhammad Wilkerson, Defensive Tackle, Temple

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    Our opening look at Green Bay's first-round prospects gave way to many NFL-ready talents, including Illinois' monster defensive tackle Corey Liuget.

    However, Liuget's draft status has since skyrocketed, leaving us with many other prospects the Packers might be interested in.

    This time around, Ted Thompson's first-round selection may turn out to be Temple's bruising defensive tackle Muhammad Wilkerson.

    At the NFL combine, Wilkerson registered impressive numbers with his 4.96 40-yard dash and 27 bench-press reps and won over many scouts in the process.

    A defensive line comprised of B.J. Raji (6'2", 337 pounds) and Wilkerson (6'5", 300 pounds) would be a formidable problem for most offensive lines in the NFL.

Cameron Heyward, Defensive End, Ohio State

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    COLUMBUS, OH - SEPTEMBER 05:  Defensive lineman Cameron Heyward #97 of the Ohio State Buckeyes takes off from the line of scrimmage against the Navy Midshipmen at Ohio Stadium on September 5, 2009 in Columbus, Ohio.  (Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images)
    Jamie Sabau/Getty Images

    The Packers entered their 2011 offseason with very few question marks regarding their defense. Although that statement holds true by and large, there are a few positions that could use an upgrade.

    Case in point: defensive end.

    With Johnny Jolly yet again arrested on drug charges, the chances of him returning to the organization as a whole are very slim. Moreover, Cullen Jenkins could test free agency once the current lockout situation ends, leaving a gaping hole in Dom Capers' defense off the edge.

    This year's draft class advertises some of the most complete defensive prospects we've seen in ages, which can only mean Ted Thompson will have his eye out for one prospect in particular.

    His name? Cameron Heyward.

    Heyward was featured on our original list as a serious first-round possibility for Green Bay, and who can blame us?

    With a 6'5", 294-pound frame, Heyward would fit in nicely with Capers' perilous style of blitz packages.

Jabaal Sheard, Defensive End, Pittsburgh

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    CINCINNATI, OH - DECEMBER 04:  Jabaal Sheard #97 of the Pittsburgh Panthers tackles Zach Collaros #12 of the Cincinnati Bearcats during the Big East Conference game against at Nippert Stadium on December 4, 2010 in Cincinnati, Ohio.  Pittsburgh won 28-10.
    Andy Lyons/Getty Images

    There's nothing more appealing to NFL scouts and defensive coordinators than working with a young talent that can transition to multiple positions on the field, and Jabaal Sheard is exactly that.

    Ranked as the ninth-best defensive end according to NFL Draft Scout, Sheard is just one of the many impressive defensive talents in this year's draft.

    At the NFL combine Sheard posted the second-fastest 40-yard dash time (4.68 seconds) of any defensive end, and he would be a superb addition to Dom Capers' treacherous defense off the edge.

    Moreover, Sheard's 6'3", 265-pound frame would be able to play from either the defensive end position or outside linebacker—a two-for-one deal that is extremely hard to find in prospects taking to the NFL game.

Marvin Austin, Defensive Tackle, North Carolina

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    CHAPEL HILL, NC - NOVEMBER 07:  Marvin Austin #9 of the North Carolina Tar Heels watches on against the Duke Blue Devils during their game at Kenan Stadium on November 7, 2009 in Chapel Hill, North Carolina.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
    Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

    The mind of Ted Thompson is an enigma that even the most knowledgeable fail to apprehend.

    That being said, I'm sure Thompson wouldn't mind bolstering his defensive line for the prospective future with an intimidating prospect such as North Carolina's Marvin Austin.

    A three-year starter with the Tar Heels, Austin registered 103 tackles and nine sacks but was cut short of his senior season due to untimely suspensions handed down by the NCAA.

    Quality defensive tackles are hard to come by at the collegiate level, but Austin is an exceptional talent worthy of a first-round pick for Thompson.

Akeem Ayers, Outside Linebacker, UCLA

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    PASADENA, CA - SEPTEMBER 18:  Linebacker Akeem Ayers #10 of the UCLA Bruins in the game with the Houston Cougars at the Rose Bowl on September 18, 2010 in Pasadena, California.  UCLA won 31-13.  (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)
    Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

    Since the NFL combine, no prospect has seen his draft stock fall more than Akeem Ayers.

    Nevertheless, Green Bay needs some serious speed off the edge to complement Clay Matthews, and no prospect maintains the coveted speed and agility combination like that of Ayers.

    As a four-year starter with the Bruins, Ayers registered 15 sacks and 215 tackles on his way to becoming the Pac-10's most dynamic outside linebacker.

    If Ted Thompson wants productivity for years to come, he'll key in on what Ayers has to offer.

Justin Houston, Outside Linebacker, Georgia

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    ATHENS, GA - NOVEMBER 21:  Justin Houston #42 of the Georgia Bulldogs against the Kentucky Wildcats at Sanford Stadium on November 21, 2009 in Athens, Georgia.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
    Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    Dom Capers is all about productivity within his style of defense, and no first-round prospect is more qualified for that than Justin Houston.

    With a great 6'3", 270-pound build coupled with explosive upfield burst and a relentless attitude, the Packers will have one of the most feared groups of linebackers the league has to offer.

    After a year's worth of guidance, Houston would become another staple in Capers' 3-4 defense.