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Green Bay Packers Fill Two Big Needs on First Day of NFL Draft

Zach Kruse@@zachkruse2Senior Analyst IApril 26, 2009

PASADENA, CA - JANUARY 1:  Clay Matthews #47 of the USC Trojans lines up against the Penn State Nittany Lions on January 1, 2009 at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California.  USC won 38-24.  (Photo by Jeff Golden/Getty Images)

No doubt most of the chatter around the Wisconsin area Saturday night will be of Packers general manager Ted Thompson's aggressive move to trade back into the first round.

Maybe rightfully so, too—no one could have guessed he would pull off a trade like that.

The fact of the matter, however, is that everyone's most hated GM successfully filled two of the Packers' biggest needs with two players that will make immediate impacts in 2009 for Green Bay.

In selecting B.J. Raji and Clay Matthews Saturday, the Packers can cross off defensive tackle and outside linebacker as pressing needs looking forward to next season.

The Packers had an interesting decision to make when the ninth spot in the NFL draft came up—a decision that not many saw coming—as both Michael Crabtree and Raji were available.

As nice as it would have been to have Crabtree teaming with Donald Driver and Greg Jennings next year, Thompson made the right choice in selecting Raji. Many mock drafts had Raji going before Green Bay's ninth selection, so Thompson had to have been excited to take a player of his caliber at that spot.

The tackle out of Boston College will drastically improve the Packers thin defensive line next season and will hopefully be an explosive member of Green Bay's new 3-4 scheme.

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Then Thompson rolled the dice and traded back into the first round, swapping the Packers' second round (no. 41 overall) pick and two third rounders (73 and 83) for the New England Patriots' first round (26) pick and an additional fifth (162).

The price was a bit steep for my liking, but the Packers got the opportunity to select a wonderful player in USC's Matthews. He will be an upgrade at outside linebacker over what is on Green Bay's roster, and in my mind, the immediate starter there.

Matthews could be a bit of an unknown to many around the Wisconsin area, but to those who have studied him, they know the value of the pick.

He has the pass rushing skills and versatility to be a very good football player right away, but it's his consistent improvement he's shown since he walked on at USC to his spectacular senior season that really has me excited.

In fact, many analysts had Matthews rated as the best of USC's trio of talented linebackers, ahead of Brian Cushing (Houston Texans, 15th) and Rey Maualuga (Cincinnati Bengals, 38th).

Matthews and Raji were the only two picks for the Packers on the first day of the NFL Draft, but Green Bay improved themselves as much as any team did.

The Packers failed considerably on defense last season, so it was a near-must to spend at least one first-day pick on that side of the ball.

Green Bay must still address positional issues such as offensive tackle and defensive end, but there should be no complaints coming from the first two picks.

Thompson gets an A on both picks, and still has six second-day picks to address the rest of the Packers dwindling needs.

Hush, Thompson haters, hush.