Packers' Little Gamble on 7th-Round Pick Datko's Shoulder Could Pay Off Big

Sigmund Bloom@SigmundBloomNFL Draft Lead WriterJuly 3, 2012

GREEN BAY, WI - MAY 11: Andrew Datko #77 of the Green Bay Packers participates in drills during mini camp at the Don Hutson Center on May 11, 2012 in Green Bay, Wisconsin. (Photo by Mike McGinnis/Getty Images)
Mike McGinnis/Getty Images

Big risks can yield big rewards. In the case of the Green Bay Packers and former Florida State offensive tackle Andrew Datko, little risks can also bring a big benefit. 

Datko was rated as a top-end offensive tackle prospect coming into 2011. He had just had one of his shoulders surgically repaired for the second time after playing hurt for his entire junior season.

According to Mike Spofford of the Packers official website, Datko says he came back too quickly. After only four games, the inflamed shoulder caused Datko's season to end with a third surgery.

The NFL's reluctance to spend draft picks on "damaged goods" allowed Datko to fall all the way to Packers in the seventh round, but based on early reports, teams could be asking themselves why they didn't take a bolder course of action to land Datko on the draft's third day.

Offensive tackle is one of the scarcest positions in the league, and players with the left tackle size and movement skills of Datko are even rarer.

Spofford reports that Datko has been healthy and has even gotten some work in with the first team at left tackle. Datko was a left tackle at Florida State, but he has worked at right and left tackle for the Packers this spring.

This could be a hedge against 2011 first-round pick Derek Sherrod's recovery from a broken leg. Datko could be the team's No. 3 tackle and backup at both spots if Sherrod isn't healthy.

Even if Datko isn't needed right away, Spofford told fellow Packers.com writer Vic Ketchman that the team will likely have to keep Datko on the active 53-man roster if he stays healthy through camp because he "wouldn't last long on the practice squad."

Datko is one of the best test cases to watch this year to see if teams overreacted by dropping injured players too far on their draft boards. If he makes the team and ends up contributing over time, talented offensive tackles with shoulder problems won't last long in the draft.

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