Green Bay Packers: 7 2012 Rookies We'd Love to See
The 2011 Green Bay Packers are 13-0 so far this season.
The Packers have already clinched the NFC North title and also have secured a first-round bye in the playoffs. With a win against the Kansas City Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium on Sunday, Green Bay will also clinch home-field advantage for the NFC playoffs.
There is also the possibility of remaining unbeaten. But the ultimate goal is to win the Super Bowl, and the Packers are well on their way to perhaps repeating as Super Bowl champions.
That being said, it's never too early for Ted Thompson, John Dorsey (Director of College Scouting) and company to look ahead to the 2012 NFL draft.
A number of events have to take place before the draft, however. Events like the East-West Shrine game, the Senior Bowl and the NFL scouting combine in Indianapolis. Plus the players will still have their individual Pro Days to improve their standing with each team.
Right now, the Packers would be looking at a late first-round pick. If Green Bay wins the Super Bowl again, the Packers would be slotted at pick No. 32, just like in 2011.
So what players might be there when it's time for the Packers to make a selection?
I'm going to try to list seven players that may be there at the 32nd pick of the first round. This is not an exact science, however.
Case in point is OT Bryan Bulaga of the Packers. Most of the draft "experts" expected Bulaga to be selected among the top 15 picks of the 2010 NFL draft, and some even had Bulaga as a top 10 pick. Bulaga eventually was drafted by the Packers with the 23rd selection of the first round.
Another example is QB Aaron Rodgers. Many "experts" thought Rodgers would be the top player selected in the 2005 NFL draft. Rodgers slid to No. 24 of the first round to the Packers. I think the Packers are ecstatic to have both of those players, while other teams across the NFL have to be kicking themselves.
Of the seven players I have listed, four of them are juniors and still have to declare for the draft.
OLB Vin Curry (Marshall)
Height: 6'5". Weight: 252. 40 time: 4.74.
Curry was named 2011 Conference USA Defensive Player of the Year and also received second team All-America Honors from CBSSports.com.
Curry was also a finalist for the Ted Hendricks Award, which is given annually to college football's best defensive end.
Curry played DE in college, but he projects to being an OLB in the 3-4 defensive scheme, which the Packers utilize.
Currently, Curry is second nationally with 21.5 tackles for loss. He's also tied for second nationally with six forced fumbles and tied for fifth with 11 sacks.
He has 72 tackles in 2011, one fumble recovery, three blocked extra points and one tackle for safety. Curry has also been selected to play in the 2012 Senior Bowl.
The Packers need help with their pass-rush, as the team is tied for 20th in the NFL right now in sacks (27). Curry would be a nice bookend to LOLB Clay Matthews.
OLB Ronnell Lewis (Oklahoma)
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Height: 6'2". Weight: 244. 40 time: 4.63.
Lewis had 59 tackles with 13 tackles for loss, 5.5 sacks, five passes batted, one forced fumble and one interception this year.
He also played DE in college, but projects as an OLB in the 3-4 defensive scheme used by the Packers.
Lewis was named to the 2011 All-Big 12 first team.
He had an outstanding game vs. Texas A&M, when he had a team-high nine tackles, two tackles for loss (-8 yards), one pass break-up and one interception, which he returned for 11 yards.
Lewis has excellent speed to play OLB, but he is also physical and versatile enough to move inside if the need arises. The speed of Lewis would definitely help the Packers create a pass-rush off the edge from the ROLB position.
DE Devon Still (Penn State)
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Height: 6'5". Weight: 311. 40 time: 5.06.
Still was an Outland Trophy finalist. He was also the 2011 Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year and Defensive Lineman of the Year.
Still is second in the Big Ten in solo tackles for loss (15.0) and is tied for third in overall TFL (17.0-minus 77).
He also had 4.5 sacks (minus-36) and has recorded 55 tackles, with one forced fumble, one fumble recovery and a pass break-up.
Still has excellent size, surprising speed and real power. He was the leader for a Penn State defense that ranks in the top 10 nationally in scoring, total and passing defense.
The Packers need to add quality depth to their defensive line, especially at the end position.
The jury is still out on DE Mike Neal, who has had injury issues his first two years in the NFL. Still provides excellent run-stopping ability as well as having some pass-rushing skills.
FS T.J. McDonald (USC)
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Height: 6'2". Weight: 205. 40 time: 4.54.
McDonald was named to the 2011 All-Pac-12 conference first team.
McDonald had 57 tackles with two interceptions, one pass broken up and a blocked kick this past season.
He had an excellent junior season as well, as he led the Trojans with 89 tackles, including three for losses (with a sack), plus four deflections, three interceptions and a blocked punt.
The Packers need to take a close look at the safety position in this year's draft.
Their All-Pro S Nick Collins has not been cleared yet to resume his NFL career after suffering a neck injury in Week 2 of the 2011 season. The injury caused Collins to be placed on Injured Reserve.
The replacement for Collins, Charlie Peprah, is adequate, but the Packers would be wise to add to the quality depth at the position.
CB Chase Minnifield (Virginia)
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Height: 6'0". Weight: 185. 40 time: 4.49.
Minnifield was named to the 2011 All-ACC first team, the second time Minnifield received that accolade.
He was a semifinalist for the Thorpe Award and Lott IMPACT Trophy.
So far in 2011, Minnifield has three interceptions with 50 tackles, seven tackles for a loss, 1.5 sacks and eight passes broken up.
Minnifield is second nationally among active career leaders with 13 interceptions.
He has the skill set to play both man coverage and zone coverage. Minnifield is the son of Frank Minnifield, who was a Pro Bowler with the Browns in the 80s and 90s.
The old adage in the NFL is that one can never have enough cornerbacks.
The Packers lead the NFL with 27 interceptions so far in 2011, but the team is also ranked 31st in pass defense.
Minnifield also has punt-returning skills.
CB Desmond Trufant (Washington)
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Height: 6'0". Weight: 184. 40 time: 4.49.
Trufant was named 2011 All-Pac-12 conference honorable-mention team.
So far in 2011, Trufant has two interceptions, 13 passes broken up, two forced fumbles and 61 tackles.
Although Trufant is only a junior, he has started for three years.
Trufant has natural skills to play man coverage. He is the younger brother of CB Marcus Trufant of the Seattle Seahawks, who incidentally was drafted by Ted Thompson.
Like Minnifield, Trufant would add to the quality depth in the defensive backfield of the Packers.
RB Montee Ball (Wisconsin)
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Height: 5'11". Weight: 214. 40 time: 4.57.
Ball was a Heisman Trophy Award finalist.
He was also a Doak Walker Award finalist and was named the Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year.
Ball was also selected to the 2011 AFCA FBS Coaches’ All-America Team.
Ball's stats are out of this world. He leads the nation with 32 rushing touchdowns and 1,759 rushing yards in 2011. Ball also has 20 receptions for 255 yards and six scores.
He leads the nation in touchdowns with 38 (32 rushing, six receiving), and he has thrown a 25-yard touchdown pass and a 32-yard pass. Ball is one TD behind Barry Sanders for the all-time FBS record.
Ball is a junior who has still not declared himself available for the 2012 NFL draft.
Ball is perfect for the offense that the Packers employ. He does everything well, as he can run, pass, catch and block. The Packers might be interested in Ball, because there is a decent chance that RB Ryan Grant will not be back in 2012.
James Starks looks to be the main RB for the Packers in 2012, although Alex Green (currently on IR with a knee injury) and Brandon Saine will be on the depth chart as well.