2011 Green Bay Packers Draft Preview
While the team doesn’t have many glaring holes, there are several areas they need to shore up and improve. Primarily, the Packers need a pass-rushing outside linebacker to complement [intlink id="454" type="category"]Clay Matthews[/intlink], upgrades on the left side of the offensive line and center, and defensive line and wide receiver depth.
Of course, there’s no telling who the Packers will select in the first round. It’s a long way from No. 1 to No. 32.
The Packers own nine picks in the draft. They are Nos. 32 (1st round), 64 (2nd), 96 (3rd), 129 (4th), 131 (4th), 163 (5th), 197 (6th), 204 (7th) and 232 (7th).
Here are our writers’ selections for the Packers in the first round.
Steffen: Fresh off a Super Bowl win, it’s safe to say Ted Thompson and his wacky roster-building technique has probably earned some respect among even the most dubious Packers fans.
That doesn’t mean any of us will be any more capable of predicting what he does this year. Thompson has been about as predictable as a tranny hooker on St. Patrick’s Day. Anything can happen.
With that said, I’ll do my best to do just that. The only time I came close to predicting a Thompson draft pick was when I told some friends I hoped the Packers would take Jordy Nelson in the third round, mere seconds before he traded down and took him in the second. So there you go.
They say you’re not supposed to draft for need, but that’s the best way to go about this. Just because the Packers are Super Bowl champs doesn’t mean that they don’t have some holes to fill.
With Cullen Jenkins likely gone via free agency (pay the man, dammit!) and Johnny Jolly permanently super stupid, I’d like to see the Packers shore up the defensive front. Defensive end Mike Neal has a lot of potential, yes, but why not grab Cameron Heyward from Ohio State?
You could also make the argument for Arizona linebacker Brooks Reed or UCLA linebacker Akeem Ayers and frankly, most of the pundits have slated one of these two to the Packers. That makes it all the more likely that Ted Thompson will go in another direction.
I like the idea of the Packers’ linebacker corps featuring not one, but three blond maniacs, but honestly I don’t think Reed is anywhere near Clay Matthews caliber.
Offensive line perhaps? Left guard Daryn Colledge is replaceable and tackle Chad Clifton’s magical knees have to give out someday, right? Jason Pinkston, a guard from Pitt or Mike Pouncey from Florida might be available.
That would make too much sense, though.
Nope, Ted Thompson is probably going to take somoene like Miami receiver Leonad Hankerson or Maryland receiver Torrey Smith, even though the Packers are loaded at receiver.
Come to think of it, either would be a nice fit. James Jones might be gone as a free agent and Donald Driver’s play is starting to decline. At 6-0, Smith has the size Thompson covets and in college he showed dynamic ability as a kick returner — something the Packers will need if they want to defend their title.
So, there you go. Torrey Smith.
Shawn: First of all, the best thing, by far, about this draft is the fact the Packers sit at the coveted No. 32 spot. So, let’s all just take a moment to appreciate that.
Alright, now for the act of futility that is predicting who Ted Thompson is going to take at the end of the first round. What we do know for sure is TT will draft whoever sits atop his draft board, regardless of position. There are a couple other tendencies that are less certain, but probably reliable enough that we can use them as some sort of guide.
1) TT drafts guys who leave school early and would be higher picks if they would have stayed.
2) TT drafts guys who would have been higher picks if not for injury.
3) TT likes to draft big guys. You can never have too many skilled big guys.
4) TT likes to draft receivers.
5) TT won’t pass on guys who fall down the board, regardless of position.
So, mostly thanks to Nos. 3 and 5, I’m going with Muhammad Wilkerson, defensive tackle, Temple, as the pick. Like Bulaga last year, Wilkerson will slide a couple spots down the draft board and be available for the Packers at No. 32. For a second choice, I’ll take receiver Torrey Smith if he slides to the end of the first round.
Sarah: The Packers must address the outside linebacker position opposite of Clay Matthews in the first round.
Some believe the offensive line needs more help, but think about it. Frank Zombo and Erik Walden did a great job filling in this past season, but they’re not starters who are going to force a team to pick their poison.
If Green Bay adds someone outstanding at that spot, defenses can’t automatically slide protection toward Matthews. They must account for those two forces. Throw in whatever Charles Woodson and B.J. Raji do on a blitz and suddenly you have a lot of one-on-one matches that favor the Packers.
There are a ton of options out there at the linebacker position, but the guy who’s been getting a lot of hype lately, and whom I really like, is UCLA junior Akeem Ayers.
He didn’t overly impress with his speed on pro day, but Ayers is a big, strong, smart player who’s a little raw talent-wise and just waiting to be molded into Dom Capers’ 3-4 defense.
Ayers started three games at strong-side linebacker in 2008 and played in 12 contests overall, earning honorable mention All-Pac-10 honors and being named to the conference’s All-Freshman team.
He again earned honorable mention All-Pac-10 honors as a sophomore, while showing a knack for making big plays. Ayers tied a school record with two interception returns for touchdowns and scored three defensive touchdowns overall. He foreshadowed what was to come with 30 tackles, including 4.0 sacks and 9.5 tackles for loss, along with three interceptions over the final four games of the season.
Ayers built on that effort with a junior season that would include becoming a Butkus Award finalist. He started all 12 games and finished with 68 tackles, 4.0 sacks, 10.0 tackles for loss and a pair of interceptions. He earned first-team All-Pac-10 and second-team All-America honors from the Walter Camp Football Foundation.
Monty: When I did the Packers draft preview for The Score, I went with Florida guard/center Mike Pouncey as the pick.
I’m now getting the feeling Pouncey won’t be around at No. 32.
I still feel like the Packers will go offensive line, though. Aaron Rodgers is the team’s most valuable commodity and keeping him off the turf is job one. The Packers hit with Bryan Bulaga in the draft last year, but I think everyone would feel a little better if the Packers had both ends of the line taken care of for the next 10 years.
Of course, NFL-ready tackles will be off the board by the time No. 32 rolls around. The Packers will take a small-school project with big upside — Villanova tackle Benjamin Ijalana.
The move makes sense because Ijalana can sit behind Chad Clifton while he plays out the string. After Clifton retires, Ijalana will be ready to step in and the Packers have their bookends.