The Packers passed up the athletic LB Bruce Carter out of UNC.
As sure as the swallows returning to San Juan Capistrano, every NFL draft season dredges up the ghost of Tony “Incredible Bulk/Bust” Mandarich—causing Packer fans to lament to their Leinie’s again about what might have been in that fateful 1989 draft.
While it’s too early to tell if the Packers have missed out on Hall of Fame-talent like Barry Sanders, Derrick Thomas, or Deion Sanders, let’s take a look at 10 players that GM Ted Thompson passed on who might one day trigger similar feelings of regret.
Round 1: Derek Sherrod, OT, Mississippi (#32 overall)
Could have picked: Bruce Carter, LB, North Carolina (went #40)
Once (and infamously) bitten by an injury-risk draft pick in Justin Harrell, Thompson didn’t pull the trigger on the talented Carter ostensibly because of his recent ACL tear. OLB was widely considered a need for the Packers, and Thompson passed on a prospect who—when healthy—possesses the prototypical explosiveness and playmaking ability LB coach Kevin Greene covets.
Round 2: Randall Cobb, WR, Kentucky (#64)
Could have picked: Kenrick Ellis, DT, Hampton
Defensive coordinator Dom Capers deployed the “One-Ton Wall” of Ryan Pickett, BJ Raji, and Howard Green with great effect last season in his 3-4 scheme. At 6-5, 346, Ellis is a mammoth space eater with rare quickness, and would have added size and depth to the D line--presently considered the thinnest position on the Packers’ roster.
Round 3: Alex Green, RB, Hawaii (#96)
Could have picked: Jordan Cameron, TE, USC (#102)
As Thompson drolly noted after the draft, coach Mike McCarthy likes tight ends (McCarthy played the position in college). The Packers’ fifth-round pick DJ Williams was certainly ultra-productive at Arkansas, but the gifted Cameron flashes potential to be a field-stretching difference maker and has a frame that will fill out and get stronger.
Round 4: Davon House, CB, New Mexico State (#131)
Could have picked: Marcus Cannon, OT, TCU (#138)
Sherrod was a “safe” pick in the first round, but the powerful Cannon offers just as much ability—and even more mash for the run game. Cannon’s medical concerns led to a tumble down the board, but his talent and track record initially suggested a Round 2 grade.
Round 5: DJ Williams, TE, Arkansas (#141)
Could have picked: Jacquizz Rodgers, RB, Oregon State (#145)
Scouts were divided on Rodgers’ pro potential after a prolific career as a Beaver. But if Rodgers becomes a Darren Sproles-like sparkplug, Thompson will rue passing on a player who would have been a feared weapon in Aaron Rodgers’ arsenal.
Round 6: Caleb Schlauderaff, G, Utah (#179)
Could have picked: Greg Jones, LB, Michigan State (#185)
A Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year as a junior, Jones should be motivated after being eviscerated by scouts and plummeting deep into the draft. Thompson, who stressed productivity in his post-draft remarks, might regret passing on Jones.
Round 6: DJ Smith, LB, Appalachian State (#186)
Could have picked: Chris L. Rucker, CB, Michigan State (#188)
At 6-1, 195, Rucker fits the mold of the big press corner. Hardened by the rough and tumble Big Ten, Rucker showed good ability to jam and bump-and-run—perfect for Capers’ aggressive defense.
Round 6: Ricky Elmore, LB, Arizona (#197)
Could have picked: Greg McElroy, QB, Alabama (#208)
McCarthy would have loved working with the heady McElroy, who did nothing but win a national championship with the Crimson Tide. McElroy projects as a plug-and-play, pro-ready backup should Matt Flynn leave for a starting gig.
Round 7: Ryan Taylor, TE, North Carolina (#218)
Could have picked: Jabara Williams, LB, Stephen F. Austin (#228)
Like the Packers’ pick DJ Smith, Williams is an undersized, much-decorated tackling machine with a small school pedigree. But Williams could have been had 32 picks—a full round—later.
Round 7: Lawrence Guy, DT, Arizona State (#233)
Could have picked: Cedric Thornton, DT, Southern Arkansas (undrafted)
Although Thornton doesn’t have Guy’s eye-popping size/speed numbers, he is a ferocious, penetrating D-lineman who could have helped ease the blow if (or when) Cullen Jenkins leaves the Packers.