Green Bay Packers: Predicting the Role of Each Player in the Packers' Draft
With the 2011 NFL Draft in the rearview mirror, it’s time to turn our attention to the impact each new player will have on the Packers’ 2011-2012 season.
As almost everyone has noted, the Packers came into this draft loaded with talent at virtually every position, so don’t expect any rookie to step into a starring role next season.
But this is not to say that Green Bay didn’t get better with this draft. They addressed some of their (relative) weaknesses, and added depth in all three phases of the game.
Players like Derek Sherrod, Randall Cobb and Alex Green may not have huge rookie campaigns, but each could be a multi-year starter for the Packers in the near future.
For a team as good as the Packers will be next season, that is an exciting thought.
7th Round (233rd Overall): Lawrence Guy, DT/DE, Arizona St.
Lawrence Guy is a pick that I think could pay immediate dividends.
Guy has the ideal size and speed combination to play DE in the Packers’ 3-4 base defense. He is stout against the run, and is strong enough to shed blocks and make tackles in the open field.
He won’t awe anyone with his pass rushing skills, but in the Packers’ scheme he doesn’t have to. His job is to hold down the offensive lineman in order to allow the OLB a better angle at the quarterback.
With the presumed departure of Cullen Jenkins, there will be a DE spot open and I fully expect Guy to be fighting for a starting job in camp.
Prediction: Will fight for a starting spot, but spend next season as a backup to Mike Neal or C.J. Wilson.
7th Round (218): Ryan Taylor, TE, North Carolina
This is one of the few picks that I do not understand.
There has been some speculation that Taylor could be switched to LB, but I doubt it.
Beyond being a special teams player (or deep insurance backup at TE), I can’t imagine Taylor seeing the field much next year.
Prediction: Special Teams. May not make the roster.
6th Round (197) Ricky Elmore, DE/OLB, Arizona
Ricky Elmore will likely switch from DE to OLB in the Packers’ 3-4, and could be the long-term compliment to Clay Matthews that Green Bay has been searching for.
It won’t be next season, however.
Elmore is the kind of player the Packers love. A prospect with some solid upside that isn’t yet ready to contribute at the NFL level, Elmore is the perfect candidate for the Packers’ player development program.
He is quick enough to set the edge and get to the quarterback, but needs to gain strength to be effective against the run.
Prediction: Backup to Frank Zombo/Erik Walden/Brad Jones. May see time on the special teams unit as well.
6th Round (186): D.J. Smith, OLB, Appalachian St.
Another project OLB, I don’t think Smith has as much upside as Ricky Elmore. He is undersized (5’11”, 239 lbs.), and doesn’t have elite speed to make up for it.
That lack of size makes it hard for him to shed blocks, and will make it difficult for him to pick up the ball against offensive lineman that have six to eight inches on him.
He has an excellent motor, however, which will make him a solid special teams contributor.
Prediction: Backup OLB. His major contribution will be on special teams.
6th Round (179): Caleb Schlauderaff, OG, Utah
Picking Schlauderaff should have been seen as a warning shot for Daryn Colledge.
Josh Sitton is one of the best run blockers in the NFL (and incredibly under-appreciated), but Colledge was a liability at times last season.
Schlauderaff plays with the kind of mean streak that is required of an NFL OG, and will battle with Colledge, T.J. Lang and Nick McDonald for snaps.
His lack of lateral quickness have prompted questions about Schlauderaff’s ability to play on the left side, but he will have time to work on his mobility as a backup.
Prediction: Backup to Colledge. Will need to show consistent improvement to keep a spot on the active roster.
5th Round (141): D.J. Williams, TE, Arkansas
Williams is another player without a clear role on the Packers' 2011-2012 roster.
He could push Andrew Quarless for backup duties, but with all-world TE Jermichael Finley coming back from injured reserve, he is unlikely to see much time on the field.
The Packers’ will play some two TE sets, but the TE playing opposite Finley will be used primarily in protection, and Williams lacks the size and strength to be an effective in-line blocker.
The Packers will have to be creative to work him into the rotation, but if they can he has the speed and hands to be a weapon for Aaron Rodgers across the middle.
Prediction: Third string tight end. Might also see time on special teams.
4th Round (131): Davon House, CB, New Mexico St.
Cornerback isn’t a pressing need for the Packers, but drafting additional help in the defensive backfield will give defensive coordinator Dom Capers increased flexibility to be creative with his scheme.
Charles Woodson isn’t getting any younger, and his future will be as a hybrid CB/S who stays close to the line of scrimmage.
House has the size, speed and quickness to press at the line of scrimmage, and can handle man coverage on the outside (a requirement in the Packers' system).
House will come into camp and battle Jarrett Bush for the No. 4 CB spot.
This was one of my favorite picks for the Packers this year, and with some development he can be a great cover corner in the mold of Tramon Williams and Charles Woodson.
Prediction: Will see field in the Packers’ nickel package. Could also contribute on special teams.
3rd Round (96): Alex Green, RB, Hawaii
I think this pick seals Brandon Jackson’s fate.
Jackson got a chance to prove that he could be an every down RB, but that experiment failed last season.
Alex Green can catch passes like Jackson, and has the burst to be an effective runner as well.
The RB situation in Green Bay will be fascinating to watch develop in training camp this season, and it’s almost impossible to predict how it will shake out.
I think the smart money says that Green begins the season as a third down, change-of-pace RB that can catch passes and pick up the blitz.
Don't be surprised, however, to see him stealing carries from Ryan Grant and James Starks as the season goes on.
Prediction: Unclear, but likely to be the third-down RB to start the season.
2nd Round (64): Randall Cobb, WR, Kentucky
Randall Cobb fills a number of needs for the Green Bay Packers.
First, he will give Green Bay its first real kick/punt return threat since Desmond Howard. For anyone that suffered as I did watching the Packers inept return game last season, this is a welcome development.
Cobb also provides insurance should James Jones leave via free agency when the lockout ends.
Jones has made it clear that he wants to be a top-two WR in the NFL, and unless Donald Driver accepts a reduced role, that is not likely in Green Bay.
Cobb can step in and play the slot position immediately, and will be a huge open field threat in the Packers’ four and five WR sets.
The comparisons to Percy Harvin are right on the money.
Prediction: No. 4 or 5 receiver. Will return kickoffs and punts as well.
1st Round (32): Derek Sherrod, OT, Mississippi St.
Derek Sherrod is an investment in the long-term health of Aaron Rodgers.
It’s hard to argue with that logic.
Sherrod has the prototypical size and athleticism to be a bookend LT for the next decade, and is the logical successor to Chad Clifton. Clifton will begin the season as the clear starter at LT, but at 34 it’s hard to know how many miles he has left in his knees.
Sherrod will need to work on his strength and base in the run game, but he has all the tools to be a fantastic offensive tackle.
Some argue that his future is on the right side, but I don’t think Bryan Bulaga has a quick enough first step to be trusted at LT.
Sherrod will need time to develop, but it’s hard to deny his potential.
This pick fulfills the most important goal when talking about an offense led by Aaron Rodgers:
Protect the franchise.
Prediction: Will begin the season as the No. 3 OT, but will be called on if Clifton or Bulaga get injured.