Thursday, April 28, 2005

It was a hell of a draft for the Packers. It was widely reported that Ted Thompson was
hired to replace Mike Sherman as General Manager, but based on the results from the 2005
NFL draft, it appears that Thompson was never hired, and indeed Sherman still runs the
Packers' draft. Here is the official Mike Sherman Draft Checklist: draft an obscure DB
with your second pick that no one has ever heard of? Check. (2005 DB Nick Collins; 2004
CB Joey Thomas); draft a WR from Texas A&M? Check. (2005 WR Terrence Murphy; 2002 WR Robert Ferguson); draft a player in the 1st round that no one projected that you would
draft? Check. (2005 QB Aaron Rodgers; 2004 CB Ahmad Carroll; 2003 LB Nick Barnett; 2002 WR Javon Walker).

After years of speculation about the Packers drafting the QB of the future, the Packers finally pulled the trigger and drafted a first round QB with Rodgers. Rodgers is exactly the player the Packers should be drafting in the late first round; a projected top 5 pick who fell to #24. Why Rodgers fell to #24 is a very good question. Rodgers's arm strength was questioned, but just two weeks before the draft, it would have surprised no one if Rodgers was the first overall pick. Rodgers lack of arm strength should have been widely known before then. He wasn't a clear top 5 talent in a draft that was not top heavy and his signing bonus demands probably scared off Miami and Tampa Bay, plus it didn't hurt Miami and Tampa Bay that elite running backs were available at their picks either. There is no explaination why Arizona shouldn't have considered him at pick #8. Rodgers completed a high percentage of his passes in college, at just over 63% for his career, which translates to success in the NFL, he will have no pressure to start in his rookie season, and will play in a small media city, all of which should make his transition to
the NFL a lot easier than #1 pick QB Alex Smith. Unfortunately the last time the Packers drafted a QB in the first round, they drafted California QB Rich Campbell in 1981. If you have blocked out the horrid Rich Campbell era with his absolutely dead-no arm strength-arm, then your life is fuller. There is a lot to like about Rodgers long term, but it does nothing to help Favre get one more Super Bowl chance in his career. In some ways, Favre brought this on himself by getting closer to retiring this offseason then ever before in his career and giving the Packers a reason to draft a QB. On the other hand, the Packers most glaring needs in the draft were a top safety and top linebacker, neither of which was available at pick #24, and arguably not available at any spot in the draft. This was the best pick for the Packers.

Who is DB Nick Collins from Bethune-Cookman? Even Chris Berman seemed uncertain when Collins's name was called. Collins is big (for a DB) and fast, which seems ideal in a free safety. Although the Packers could have probably traded down and drafted Collins later. One of the few sites I saw that projected Collins,, projected the small school Collins in the 5th round, but in another article (I can't remember the site) reported that Collins's expected to be drafted in the 2nd round, so maybe he knew something most observers didn't. reported some talk that Collins will start in the very near future, but that seems highly unlikely. Thomas was drafted from small Montana State in 2004, and he didn't seem ready to play even a part-time role until late in 2004. The pick reminds me a lot of the man Collins intends to replace, FS Darren Sharper, who was a 2nd round pick and converted from CB to FS. It took Sharper a couple of seasons to figure it all out. It should take Collins a similar length of time too. The 2nd round selection used on Collins came from New Orleans from the CB Mike McKenzie trade, so in a way, Collins is replacing both Sharper and McKenzie. That is a lot to ask for a rookie from a I-AA school who might be starting during Favre's last season.

It might seem like WR Terrence Murphy was a luxury 2nd round pick when the Packers had so many needs on defense, but he wasn't. ranked as one of the top 35 players and a second round selection. Murphy is one of Texas A&M's all time great WR and might have been a 1st round selection in another season that wasn't so deep with talented wide receivers. The reason the Packers badly needed Murphy was because they have no depth at wide receiver. WR Javon Walker was one of the top 5 WR in the NFL last season, WR Donald Driver was one of the top 5 number 2 WRs in the NFL, and WR Antonio Chatman turned himself into a competant number 3 or 4 WR. WR Robert Ferguson has the talent but hasn't put it all together, and by this point he might never do it. Behind them was nothing but practice squad talent like WR Kelvin Kight. The lack of depth was at its worst during the playoff loss, when Ferguson was out, Walker got hurt during the game, and Favre had to teach his new 3rd WR (I can't even remember his name) how to run routes during the playoff game. In the receivers defense, he had only been with the Packers about 10 days by that time, but the depth was a big problem. Hopefully the problem is solved with Murphy.

2nd day picks. Who knows about these guys? Ted Thompson channelled a bit of Bill Walsh and Ron Wolf to trade down, grab some more late round picks, and maybe catch some magic. Looking over the drafts Seattle had from 2000-2004, the only name that caught my eye was starting LB Isaiah Kacyvenski, but it is arguably whether he should start at all in Seattle. Plus, it is really hard to draft on day 2. Bill Belichick will always be highly regarding for drafting QB Tom Brady on the 2nd day of the draft, but New England hasn't exactly lit it up on day 2 over the last couple of seasons since then, although CB Asante Samuel and C Dan Koppen have turned out as excellent picks from 2003. After all the problems the Packers had early in 2004 at nose tackle, it wouldn't have hurt if the Packers had drafted a big defensive lineman in the late rounds. Wisconsin's DT Anttaj Hawthorne was a 2nd round talent who slid to the 6th round because he got caught smoking marijuana, but the Packers passed on Hawthorne in the 5th round to select Oklahoma CB Michael Hawkins, a longshot to make it on a team with so many young and raw cornerbacks like the Packers have on the roster, and a questionable selection considering Oklahoma's secondary was scorched during the latter part of their 2004 season. In some ways it was very appropriate that Hawthorne was busted for pot and ended up in Oakland, playing alongside DT Warren Sapp, who famously slid down to #12 overall after he was caught smoking pot before the draft.

Would it have killed the Packers to draft a linebacker either? This wasn't the draft for linebackers, but even linebacker starved New England managed to find someone they liked in 5th round. It forced the Packers to resign 2004 starter LB Hannibal Navies, who should not be starting in 2005 either, to provide some depth.

It was a draft that should have excited no one; although drafting a quarterback is always exciting, announcing the end of the Brett Favre era should not excite anyone. It isn't a draft that will help much in 2005, which isn't exciting either. Although Chicago and Detroit had questionable drafts; selecting quality players at positions where they already had quality players, instead of looking at what they need, Minnesota seemed to do very well, and maybe pulled away from the Packers in 2005. Minnesota has a great team on paper, but Mike Tice was frustrated last season that such a good defense, on paper, played so poorly. They still have to put it all together too.

Sunday, April 17, 2005

The Packers made a couple more bargain signings to fill in the gaps. Before it was OG Adrian Klemm and OG Matt O'Dwyer to replace departed OG Marco Rivera and OG Mike Wahle. Now its S Earl Little and S Arturo Freeman. Both Little and Freeman were signed for the veterans minimum. Freeman had not been much of a playmaker in his career but he had 4 interceptions last season. Little had a forgetable 2004 season, but played well between 2001 and 2003. Both are free safeties and fill the void left by FS Darren Sharper's release, but neither is likely to challenge SS Mark Roman.

The Packers missed out on LB Monty Beisel in free agency, and Beisel instead signed with New England. Although it might not be such a miss. Aaron Schatz wrote about Beisel at and he had no kind words for Beisel's run defense. When an opposing running back got past the line of scrimmage in Kansas City, Beisel's previous employer, last season, Schatz described it as "party time" for the running back. Beisel is probably better in coverage, but New England has zero depth at linebacker right now, so Beisel was needed. Its telling that in this weak free agent market for linebackers, former Packer LB Hannibal Navies is receiving no interest.

DE Aaron Kampman signed an offer sheet with Minnesota. The Packers could still match the one year offer Kampman received. speculated that Minnesota was just trying to force the Packers to pay more for Kampman than they wanted, otherwise Minnesota would have offered Kampman more than one year because Kampman's signing would cost a 5th round selection. Kampman played great in some games last season but I suggested last week that the Packers improve that defensive end position by drafting Georgia DE Kevin Pollack. The Packers are better, Minnesota is better too, with Kampman starting at defensive end compared to both teams current in house solutions. It depends on what the Packers want to do with their remaining cap space. If there is no free agents remaining that the Packers want to use their cap space on, then they should resign Kampman. If there are some other players they are targeting, specifically at linebacker, then DE Corey Williams or DE Kenny Peterson might do just as well in 2005 as Kampman. Maybe the Packers could draft a useful defensive end with the 5th round selection they would receive for losing Kampman. At this point, I would lean towards letting Kampman sign with Minnesota.

So who are the Packers going to draft? Reading's Pat Kirwan over the last couple of weeks, there doesn't appear to be a safety or linebacker worth drafting at the end of the first round. Kirwan does say this is a strong draft for cornerbacks. Its not the same need, but that would be an option. I'd mention names, but I've never heard of many of these players anyway. Better to read Mel Kiper at or someone else. None of the Packers current cornerbacks are well suited to switch to the needed strong safety and probably none of the top cornerback prospects are suited to it either. The top safety prospect remains Georgia S Thomas Davis, a former linebacker turned safety. Converting from linebacker to safety worked well last season in Seattle, where S Michael Boulware had a great rookie season, so maybe Davis should be the Packers first round selection. It will be interesting to see how this all unfolds next weekend.

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Looking around's mock draft, two writers picked Florida LB Channing Crowder as the pick for the Packers in the first round this month. has a lot of information on Crowder and other potential 1st round picks. At 6'2" 236 lbs. Crowder is similar in size to LB Nick Barnett. Crowder made a lot of tackles/game and made an attention grabbing 13.5 tackles for losses in 20 games played at Florida. Unfortunately Crowder had multiple knee surgeries already in his brief career and a few off field incidents. Mock drafts can be very accurate with the first five or ten picks, but are often wrong as you move further away from the top pick. Crowder fills an apparent need, but all his knee injuries don't make him sound like a good pick.

The player that has my attention at the moment is Georgia DE David Pollack. Pollack fills no apparent need, unless you consider that a great pass rush makes a poor pass defense look much better. Name the award for a defensive lineman (Ted Hendricks, Lombardi, SEC defensive player of the year) and Pollack has won it. He played weak side defensive end at Georgia, but at 278 lbs. he is bigger than either DE Jason Taylor or DE Adewale Ogunleye when they both started together during the 2003 season in Miami under defensive coordinator Jim Bates. Miami had the number 3 run defense according to in 2003, so Bates doesn't need a bigger elephant-type defensive end opposite DE KGB to make his run defense work. There is also a comfort level for me with Pollack; I've seen him play and have never heard of Crowder or LB Barrett Rudd or LB Daryl Blackstock or most of the other players mentioned at the end of the first round. Obviously GM Ted Thompson will research and find a comfort level with many more players than I will before the draft.

Sunday, April 03, 2005

Does anybody know who the Packers might want to draft this April with their first pick? I'm terrible at guessing who the Packers draft in the first round and this April is wide open for speculation. In the past few seasons, most offseason guessing had centered around a young QB to groom as QB Brett Favre's replacement. But this offseason has the Packers trying to rebuild a broken defense and has seen their offensive line lose both starting guards to free agency. There isn't a single position that couldn't use more depth. Tight end to replace still unsigned TE Bubba Franks? More depth behind the top 3 wide receivers? More depth on offensive line? Defensive line? Linebacker? Secondary? All of these positions could use more depth. The most obvious two positions are linebacker and safety, however, linebackers and safeties are two of the most ignored positions in the first round. Pat Kirwan at reviewed the top 32 players and said "there seems to be more of a blur when you consider how close the talent pool is this season." GM Ted Thompson might seemingly reach for a player, but that player might be better than the players he supposedly reached over. Kirwan listed Georgia S Thomas Davis as the 24th best player in the draft so maybe the Packers will draft Davis, especially since the Packers have no players currently on the roster worthy of starting at safety. The Packers could have no trouble finding a potential starting safety or linebacker in the second round at pick #51 either. If the talent level is as much of a blur as Kirwan suggests, then the Packers probably have no shot trading down because teams won't feel the need to move up to spot #24 to draft the player they have to draft. Maybe Thompson would trade up into the top 10 to draft someone like Texas LB Derrick Johnson, but with so much depth needed on the roster, it would be hard to surrender the second round pick at #51 or even worse a future number 1 pick to move up that far. Although Thompson had been credited for deciding Seattle's drafts in recent seasons, Thompson was only part of the front office. Now he is the front office. Maybe he really likes to wheel-and-deal on draft day. Maybe he likes to stand pat and let quality players fall to his selection. We won't know until after he establishes a pattern after a few drafts. Anything is possible with the draft this April.
Tom Silverstein wrote a great article on new defensive coordinator Jim Bates. Just go read it. It is going to be a pleasure to watch the defense improve next season under Bates. Bates could have remained in Miami and worked under new head coach Nick Saban, but instead he picked the opportunity to rebuild the shattered Packer defense. I still don't know why Bates made this decision; does he have something to prove or did he see something in the Packers defense that made him want to coach them?

By the way, the Packers still have no safeties on the roster. S Mark Roman is still around but he has a lot to prove. S Todd Franz was signed and he had spent some time on the Packers roster in the past, but he is unlikely to start or even make the roster. S Arturo Freeman is coming to town for a visit, according to, however if Freeman couldn't beat out former Packer S Antuan Edwards last season in Miami until Edwards was released mid-season, then Freeman isn't a full-time starter candidate either.

RB Najah Davenport resigned a small deal with the Packers for next season. It is not surprising that Davenport couldn't find a team that wanted to start him next season. 2004 was basically a lost season for Davenport with various injuries. He gets a mulligan with the Packers; forget 2004 ever happened, come back in 2005 healthy and without any serious competition as the backup tailback, have a big 2005 season, and sign for big money with another team for 2006. He would probably sign with the Packers if he could start, but it seems unlikely the Packers would part with RB Ahman Green, so it will probably have to be elsewhere in 2006. However, if Davenport doesn't look good in 2005, he has probably lost any chance of ever being a starting tailback in the NFL.