Friday, February 26, 2010

NFL Combine spurs O-line draft dreams

As the NFL Scouting Combine churns away in Indy, thoughts naturally turn to what the Packers will do in the draft. And, especially, what they'll do with their first round pick.

Packer fans know all too well that the number one priority is the offensive line, with tackle a key need on both ends of the line. Venerable veterans Chad Clifton and Mark Tauscher are nearing the end of the road, unfortunately. Clifton may be able to hold up one more season, and where would the Packers have been without Tauscher coming back late in the season to bolster the right side? But, clearly, there are needs sooner rather than later.

That's why it's encouraging to read this article in today's Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel. It begins thusly: "It's a deep, talented draft for offensive linemen, exactly what the Green Bay Packers needed as they plot their strategy for the first two rounds."


The article notes that there are probably five tackles that are guaranteed first round picks and that, unless the Packers trade up (not likely, given GM Ted Thompson's tendencies), the top three will be gone by the time the Packers pick at number 23. A number of mock drafts have the Packers selecting Iowa junior Bryan Bulaga (6'5"-1/2, 314 lbs). He's also the fourth highest ranked tackle according to an informal assessment by four NFL personnel wonks, as noted in the article. This despite the specs: Bulaga’s arms were measured at 33-1/4 inches (tied for 28th among the 45 O-linemen tested) and his hands at 9-1/4 inches (tied for last). That concerns some personnel folks because of reach, etc. But remember other physical specimens who didn't exactly measure up one way or another? Oh yes, there was that Mark Tauscher kid from Wisconsin who wasn't drafted until the seventh round.

Stories abound for every team of highly touted picks who were a bust and late rounders who weren't supposed to do much who became longtime stalwarts on a team. Until it's game time, you never know for sure.

But as Packer fans, we can only hope that there is enough of the veteran component on the offensive line to balance off the rookie play. The key, whoever is lining up, is to protect one of the best young QBs in the league, Aaron Rodgers, and open some holes for Ryan Grant and whoever else may be carrying the ball. Given the depth of the draft for offensive linemen, the Pack should be able to pick up a gem or two for next year and beyond...just what they need.