Monday, May 02, 2011

Packers draft wrap-up: Rounds 1-3

Now that the dust has settled from the 2011 NFL Draft, we can begin to get a better feel for exactly what the latest members of the Green Bay Packers' rookie class might bring to the team. That's once the lockout is lifted, of course, and things get back to normal.

It should also be mentioned at the outset, however, that we'd also normally be talking about all the undrafted free agent signings at this point. That's not a part of the picture at the moment because of the lockout. Pundits suggest that, depending upon how long the lockout lasts, these are the players that stand to lose the most. And just think of the undrafted free agents that helped the Pack win a Super Bowl last season: CB Sam Shields and LB Frank Zombo among them. There are good players out there that for whatever reasons didn't hear their names called. We also know that GM Ted Thompson and his scouts are probably the best in the business at finding these hidden gems, and that head coach Mike McCarthy and his coaching staff are probably the best in the business at "coaching them up" to be valuable contributors -- perhaps even starters -- for the Green Bay Packers.

But, let's talk about what we do know about the 10 young men chosen to see what they can bring to make the already great Packers even greater. We'll start in this post with the Packers' selections through the first three rounds and then follow up later with the rest of the picks.

Derek Sherrod, OT, Mississippi State: Much this year like Bryan Bulaga was last year. Drafted to back up and learn behind LT Chad Clifton and be the heir apparent. Due to injuries last season, Bulaga filled in on occasion at left tackle but wound up solidifying the right side after veteran RT Mark Tauscher went down for the season. The good news is Sherrod doesn't have to start right away. But he will compete, and you can be sure that offensive line coach James Campen will have Sherrod ready to go if need be. Whether he or Bulaga ultimately fill the left or right tackle slot is a decision that will come down the road.

Randall Cobb, WR/Returner, Kentucky: As Thompson said in his comments about Cobb following his selection, Cobb basically was Kentucky's offense. In addition to being an excellent receiver, Cobb also spent time at Kentucky at quarterback, running back ala wildcat, returner and even as the holder for field goals. Think McCarthy and crew won't find a way to have this guy make plays? One area where he could make an immediate impact is on punt and kick returns where, as every fan knows, the Pack hasn't exactly been great since what seems like forever. As a receiver, word is that Cobb is perhaps better suited to the slot than as a wideout. This gives him the opportunity to learn behind one of the best at that position, Donald Driver. But we also know that McCarthy likes to have his receivers be able to play at any of the positions. You can be sure new receivers coach, Edgar Bennett, will maximize Cobb's potential. The selection of Cobb also gives the Packers a bit of flexibility and depth should WR James Jones depart in free agency, as some speculate.

Alexander Green, RB, Hawaii: This seemed to be a bit of a surprise pick. Not because we didn't expect Thompson to select a running back, but because this player's name didn't seem to be on anyone's pre-draft radar this high...except for Thompson's, of course. Given the uncertainty of Ryan Grant's return to form, and the half-season and playoff wonder that was James Starks, the Pack's running back situation is a bit uncertain. Brandon Jackson is expected to leave in free agency, which opens up a slot for a third-down back such a Green. He gained over 9 yards per carry in Hawaii's spread offense. He had about 1,500 all-purpose yards last season and 19 touchdowns. Green is 6'0" and 225 lbs. He's got a chance to make a real impact if he can pick up blocking sets, which is an area at which Jackson was generally very good. Green could be yet another dynamic weapon for Aaron Rodgers in what is, as commentator Ron Jaworski called it during draft coverage, an awesome offense.

That's the first three rounds. Rounds four through seven later. Keep checking back for updates.