The Green Bay Packers got lucky in the 2010 NFL Draft.
The player they needed, Iowa tackle [intlink id=”925″ type=”category”]Bryan Bulaga[/intlink], landed in their lap at No. 23 when most “experts” expected him to go higher. Bulaga didn’t necessarily slide down draft boards because of questions about his ability, character or health, as some highly-rated prospects do. A perfect storm of factors more or less came together in the Packers favor — some teams drafting ahead of them didn’t need a tackle, others who considered Bulaga ended up choosing a player at another position of need, and others who were set on choosing a tackle simply went with another option.
In the end, the Packers got a pretty nice player who probably should have gone higher in the draft.
When the first round of the 2011 NFL Draft rolls around in a couple hours, several players are going to get drafted lower than they, and a lot of experts, expected because of one or more of the factors mentioned above.
In fact, a few guys once considered elite, top-10 draft prospects may slide to the end of the first round or beyond, which could put the Packers, who pick at No. 32, in an intriguing position.
Here’s a look at who could fall in the Packers’ lap.
Da’Quan Bowers, DE, Clemson
Bowers was once considered a sure-fire top-five pick and some people put him at No. 1 after the college season ended. On the field, Bowers was a beast, racking up 15.5 sacks and 26 tackles for a loss in 2010. Now, there are major questions about his health. Bowers played part of 2010 with a torn meniscus, an injury that required surgery after the season. After skipping the combine, Bowers had a ho-hum pro day workout. While he’s probably not completely back in football shape because of the surgery, a lot of teams are questioning whether Bowers is a long-term injury risk. Obviously, [intlink id=”20″ type=”category”]Ted Thompson[/intlink] hasn’t done well picking guys with an injury history (good work on [intlink id=”100″ type=”category”]Justin Harrell[/intlink], asshole), but if a talent like Bowers slides to the end of the first round it might be hard to pass on him.
Nick Fairley, DT, Auburn
Much like Bowers, Fairly was mentioned as a potential No. 1 pick when the college season ended. He was nothing short of dominant in 2010, tallying 56 tackles, 12 sacks and an interception as an interior lineman. So what’s the problem? Work ethic, discipline, maturity and so on. A lot of teams don’t want to mess around with a guy with those question marks and Fairley definitely has them. It’s doubtful Fairley falls all the way to the end of the first round — he simply has too much talent. The possibility is intriguing, though. If you recall, B.J. Raji had some character issues coming out of college, too.
Justin Houston, OLB, Georgia
Nothing puts your draft stock in a tailspin quite as fast as failing a drug test and that’s just what Justin Houston did. Houston tested positive for marijuana at the Combine and may have tested positive another time prior to that. Again, character concerns. Houston has proven he can do it on the field, though. He notched 56 tackles and 10 sacks for the Bulldogs in 2010 after racking up seven sacks in 2009. In short, the guy can get to the passer and is perfectly suited for the 3-4 defense. Certainly, testing positive for weed shows a lack of discipline at the very least. The question is whether the Packers can puff, puff, pass on a talent like Houston, who plays a position of need, if he drops to No. 32.
Adrian Clayborn, DE, Iowa
Clayborn is a bit different than the two defensive linemen above in that he seems to be falling primarily because he had a crappy senior season. In 2010, Clayborn registered only 3.5 sacks, a pedestrian total when you consider he had 11.5 in 2009. Clearly, Clayborn took a step backwards and the tape backs it up. Additionally, some teams have soured on the Iowa product because he has Erb’s Palsy, a medical condition that can cause paralysis of the arm. It’s a condition Clayborn was born with and hasn’t been a problem yet, but there is a concern among some teams the defensive end could weaken over time, leaving him with one shoddy appendage. Regardless of whether he’s available, I have a hard time seeing Thompson choose someone who played so poorly his senior season in the first round.
Ras-I Dowling, CB, Virginia
Dowling should be the top cornerback in this draft, but he’s been an injury waiting to happen in the last year. In addition to multiple leg injuries costing him most of his senior season, Dowling also pulled a hamstring at the Combine (but ran a 4.4 40 while doing so). While he should be good to go, you know how NFL teams get around guys who look injury-prone when it comes to the first round of the draft. Dowling looks likely to slip to the second round and cornerback isn’t a big need for the Packers, so don’t expect them to consider Dowling.