Tuesday, April 20, 2004

So who are the Packers going to draft, assuming they don't draft a quarterback in the first round? As I said in previous posts, all the Tim Couch talk leads me to believe that the Packers have no intention of drafting a quarterback with the first pick. Unlike last year, when all three linebacker positions were unknown, except that Na'il Diggs would play one of the positions, there is no obvious need position for 2004.

Who might the Packers draft on defense? The defensive end position opposite Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila could be one need position, although Chukie Nwokorie and Aaron Kampman played well and someone like Marcus Wilkins might be used on passing downs, and the defensive ends likely to still be available at this point would be a reach. A defensive tackle is possible, although there are no obvious draft candidates, this draft is not loaded with quality defensive tackles like in 2003, and the starters are set with Grady Jackson and Cletidus Hunt. I can't see the Packers going linebacker for the second year in a row. Safeties are rarely drafted in the first round, and only Sean Taylor, who should be long gone by the Packers pick, has a first round grade. Maybe a cornerback, but that could be any one of a number of players including Dunta Robinson, Chris Gamble, Will Poole, etc. and none of these players are likely to start or even play 3rd cornerback ahead of Mike McKenzie, Al Harris and Michael Hawthorne, assuming that the Packers and McKenzie work out their disagreements.

Who might the Packers draft on offense? There are no obvious needs for 2004, but there might be for 2005. Offensive line is set for 2004, but Marco Rivera is a free agent next offseason. The player that really interests me is offensive guard/tackle Justin Smiley. Smiley is regarded as the second best offensive lineman in the draft, according to Pat Kirwan at nfl.com, but what I really like about him was that he started 36 games at Alabama, and like fellow SEC offensive lineman Chad Clifton, he never allowed a quarterback sack. Never. The only reason Smiley falls down to the Packers pick is that he grades out as a likely guard, and guards aren't usually drafted in the first round (only 2 offensive guards have been drafted in the first round in the last 4 drafts). This is a deep draft for wide receiver, and although no wide receiver drafted by the Packers is likely to beat out Donald Driver, Javon Walker or Robert Ferguson, a very good wide receiver, such as Wisconsin's Lee Evans, might be available. This is not a deep draft for running backs, and the top two backs, Steven Jackson and Kevin Jones, should not be available for when the Packers anyway. The Packers only have two tight ends, Bubba Franks and David Martin, on the roster, and there is a really good tight end, Ben Troupe, who will likely be available. Troupe would be a luxury, but he and Franks could bring back memories of the Mark Chmura/Keith Jackson season of 1996.

Overall, although the defense could use the help, I really like Justin Smiley or my second choice would be Ben Troupe. However, major disclaimer, I was completely surprised by the Nick Barnett selection last season, and Barnett was a steal. Here is to hoping the Packers disagree with me and instead pick another great player.

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