Wednesday, April 17, 2013

How DE Johnny Jolly Could Change The Packers' Draft Plans

I thought I'd be writing about the upcoming draft all this week, but instead I've found myself writing about veterans who could factor into their draft decisions. First it was about C Evan Dietrich-Smith, who signed his restricted tender. Now it's about recently reinstated DE Johnny Jolly.
There's been a lot written about drafting a safety, and there's no reason they can't add more depth in the secondary, but I'm expecting S Jerron McMillian to replace Charles Woodson's role next season. The two most important areas remain the interior offensive line and the defensive line.

With Dietrich-Smith back, the Packers have an adequate Plan B if they can't find a future starter in the draft. They don't absolutely have to draft a center. Also, California C Brian Schwenke would be a great prospect, and he's someone they could select in the second round.

While Jolly was reinstated recently, I didn't expect the Packers would have any interest in him, after he was arrested multiple times and has been out of football since 2009. To my surprise, the Packers have him under contract and he's scheduled to attend the Packers' offseason workouts this week. He won't be ready to put on pads and step on the field, but the Packers will get an extended look to see what's become of the player who started 39 games in his first four seasons.

Jolly's not a great pass rusher (2 career sacks) but he was surprisingly agile for a 325 lb. guy and he had a knack for getting his hand up in the passing lanes (10 pass deflections in 2009). I'd have liked to seen him record a few sacks per season, but otherwise he was almost a perfect fit as a 3-4 defensive end. He might compare to North Carolina's DT Sylvester Williams, who's been mentioned in mock drafts as a possibility for the Packers in the 1st round pick.

While this is a great draft for defensive lineman, if Jolly still looks a lot like the guy they remember from three years earlier, he could give them the option of passing on a defensive lineman in the 1st round. There's nothing wrong if they still take a defensive lineman at the top of their draft, but I wouldn't want them to feel like they have to draft one. Jolly might give them another option.

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