Saturday, April 30, 2011

Packers draft wrap-up...Part 1

The 2011 NFL Draft is in the books for the Green Bay Packers and the other 31 teams in the league. The draft, by all appearances, is a good one for the Pack. Here's a quick look at the picks:
  • 1st Round #32 - Derek Sherrod, OT, Mississippi State
  • 2nd Round #64 - Randall Cobb, WR/Returner, Kentucky
  • 3rd Round #96 - Alex Green, RB, Hawaii
  • 4th Round #131 - Davon House, DB, New Mexico State
  • 5th Round #141 - D.J. Williams, TE, Arkansas
  • 6th Round #171 - Caleb Schlauderaff, OG, Utah
  • 6th Round #186 - D.J. Smith, LB, Appalachian State
  • 6th Round #197 - Ricky Elmore, DL, Arizona
  • 7th Round #217 - Ryan Taylor, TE, North Carolina
  • 7th Round #233 - Lawrence Guy, DT, Arizona State
We'll be back tomorrow with a more thorough review of this draft. But by all initial looks, GM Ted Thompson and his scouting crew have done an excellent job making a great team even greater by adding depth at key slots. A competitive depth chart will be even more competitive...whenever the lockout ends. And that doesn't even include the undrafted free agents who can't be signed yet by any team because of the lockout. Some good players are still sitting on the sidelines. Literally.

Feel good, folks. Because it's great to be a Packers fan!

Go Pack Go!!!

What do rounds 4-7 hold for Packers?

It's less than two hours to the start of the final day of the 2011 NFL Draft and rounds 4 through 7. What's ahead for the Green Bay Packers? The quick answer is: who knows? Well, OK, GM Ted Thompson knows, but that doesn't do the rest of us much good at the moment, does it?

After throwing all or most of us a curve ball (is that an appropriate metaphor for football?) during the first three rounds -- going all offense -- we have to believe that Thompson will turn his eye more toward the defense with his remaining picks. Yes, they will stick to their best-player-available philosophy. But if it's a toss-up, you just have to think the Packers' selection might skew more to the defensive player.

The Packers can still use additional depth on the defensive line, outside linebacker, and cornerback. Having said that, if there is an offensive guard or center prospect on the board that might add to the line, have no doubt that Thompson will pull the trigger there, too.

Speculation that the Packers might draft a quarterback in later rounds has perhaps lessened with the team's second-round selection of Randall Cobb. While primarily a wide receiver/returner, Cobb offers the Packers incredible flexibility because he was a quarterback in high school and early in his college career at Kentucky. He has also played out of the "wildcat" formation. I wouldn't expect Mike McCarthy to go that route and take Aaron Rodgers off the field. But the fact that Cobb has the tools to play quarterback in an emergency situation is certainly a better option than Greg Jennings, the current emergency quarterback. As a result, I think this frees up Thompson to use a pick for something other than a QB in these late rounds. It's possible someone might still be signed as an undrafted free agent for training camp purposes, whenever that is allowed under the current lockout. Teams need camp arms and the Pack is no different in that regard.

All in all, through the first three rounds, we have to give the Packers an "A-" grade. All three of the first picks, OT Derek Sherrod, WR/R Randall Cobb, and RB Alex Green all can make immediate contributions to the Packers. And that's saying a lot when you're rookies come to an already well-stocked Super Bowl Championship team. It will be interesting to see how Thompson approaches these remaining rounds as this is where teams are really built, and also where Thompson has often had some of his best picks.

As one reporter noted about the Packers' selections so far, the rich get richer. As Packer fans, we love it when they talk like that!

Go Pack Go!!!

Friday, April 29, 2011

Packers pick up Hawaii running back Green

It's only appropriate that a running back with the last name Green goes to the Green Bay Packers: the Pack selected Hawaii RB Alex Green with the 96th overall pick in the 2011 NFL Draft.

With depth seemingly more an issue on the defensive side of the ball than offense, GM Ted Thompson once again has confused the masses by going all offense in the first three rounds of the draft. Based upon his track record, he's right on track to continuing to improve the team in the best ways possible.

Let's review briefly. In the first round, Thompson picked up OT Derek Sherrod. With their only pick of the second round, the Packers chose WR Randall Cobb, who may also be the answer at punt and/or kick returner. And at the end of round three, Thompson got a running back, Alex Green from Hawaii. It was speculated that Thompson would make these position selections somewhere in the draft. With the exception of Sherrod in the first round, taking a receiver and running back with these selections may be a bit of a surprise. At least to the uninitiated. Which we all are compared to Thompson, let's be honest.

Thompson's draft board is set up to take the best player available. Obviously, at each of those picks Thompson took exactly that as he and his personnel and scouting team evaluated it.

With Sherrod, the Packers may have the successor to Chad Clifton when that day comes. With Cobb, the Pack adds to an already deep receiving corps and may provide insurance in case James Jones departs in free agency if and when that is in effect in some form for the upcoming season; they also have a returner. Finally, with Green, the Packers add a runner with size, balance and good hands to their backfield. He's not an every down runner, but in the Packers' scheme that's not necessary anyway. He will be a third-down type back who undoubtedly will challenge veteran Brandon Jackson for a roster spot.

It's the end of day two of the draft. If you are a Packers fan -- and I know you are! -- you have to be pleased with the new additions to the Super Bowl Champion team.

More tomorrow as the draft continues.

Go Pack Go!!!

Packers add Randall Cobb to receiver corps

With the 64th selection in the 2011 NFL Draft, and with Hall of Fame fullback Jim Taylor making the announcement, the Green Bay Packers selected Kentucky wide receiver/returner Randall Cobb.

According to the Packers official site, "Cobb, 5-10, 191, was used in a variety of roles by Kentucky, including as punt-returner. He’s been timed in the mid-4.4 area and he’s famous for his spirited play." You can read more about Cobb here.

It was speculated by this observer and many others that GM Ted Thompson might move up in the second round to take defensive help that was still on the board. As the draft went into the late 30th and early 40th selections, however, it seemed to be less and less likely that would happen. Yours truly speculated on Twitter that the draft must somehow be falling in a way anticipated by Thompson and his staff and that he'd probably stay at #64. And so he did. The result was a young receiver that might also give the Pack the punt and kick returner the team has lacked seemingly since...I dunno...does anyone remember???

Cobb is a burner and reportedly operates well out of the slot position. While Packers receivers work at all positions, finding someone to relieve Donald Driver in the slot occasionally may help prolong Driver's productivity as well as allow Cobb to develop in the midst of arguably the best receiving corps in the league and behind one of the best and toughest slot receivers in the NFL.

We'll be back later with an update on the Pack's next pick, #96, unless they trade out of it. And, of course, more tomorrow.

For the first two picks of this draft, kudos to Thompson and his crew.

Packers "protect the franchise" with draft pick

With the 32nd and final pick of the 2011 NFL Draft's first round, the Green Bay Packers selected Mississippi State offensive tackle Derek Sherrod. Or, as Packers' linebacker extraordinaire, Clay Matthews, Tweeted after the selection, "protect the franchise." And if anyone needs reminding to whom that refers look no further than QB Aaron Rodgers. Yes, even the Claymaker -- who no doubt was salivating at the idea of adding to the defense some of the great defensive ends and linebackers still on the board -- recognized the need to make sure Rodgers stays healthy and upright as the key to the Pack's future success.

Combined with last year's first round pick, Bryan Bulaga, some pundits -- including yours truly (OK, self-described pundit) -- think the Pack may have their bookened tackles for the next decade. Who plays right or left at this point doesn't matter. The point is, the Packers now have two very large and capable players to anchor both ends of the offensive line. While Sherrod may compete for a starting role, as long as Chad Clifton stays on the field there will be no rush to insert him into the starting line.

One thing they say you can't teach is big. And big is what Sherrod is: 6'5-1/2" and 315 pounds. He was a three-year starter at Mississippi State. Arguably, Sherrod was the best run blocker on one of the best running teams in the SEC. You also can't teach smart. Sherrod has already graduated, and did so with a 3.54-grade point average. He is also reportedly enrolled in a Masters program and has stated a goal of completing that program. Sherrod seems to have many of the qualities which the Packers not only value on the field but also in the locker room.

You can read more about Sherrod as the heir apparent to Clifton here. If you wish to read what various scouts and other observers have to say about him, you can do so here.

The feeling here is that, failing to have Alabama running back Mark Ingram fall into their lap (taken by New Orleans at #28 via trade with the Patriots...dang!), the Packers made a key addition to the team. Yes, they took a step to protect the franchise for a long time to come. Now, in the upcoming rounds, they can look to add depth on the defensive line, outside linebacker, and defensive backs. And, if they also happen to hit on a running back or wide receiver/returner along the way, that would be just fine, too. All of that is quite possible given the nature of this draft. Barring trade moves up or down, the Packers will select at #64 and #96 during the second and third rounds of the draft this evening.

Go Pack Go!!!

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

NFL Draft eve...who's it gonna be???

'Twas the night before the NFL Draft, and visions of new Green Bay Packers dance fore and aft...

OK, OK, enough with the poetry, such as it is.

The question all Packer fans want to know as we go to sleep tonight is: who will the Packers pick with the 32nd selection? As followers of any of the myriad of mock drafts -- some so bold, or with way too much time on their hands, as to do all seven rounds -- will be aware, the answer is...anybody's guess.

I've tried here and there to give some idea via compilations of what several of the more prominent "mockers" are saying. And if there's been an intriguing pick that seems out of the norm -- such as Monday's post about Alabama RB and 2009 Heisman Trophy winner Mark Ingram possibly being available when the Packers make their pick -- I've tried to make note of that.

But really, who knows? I like the idea of Ingram falling into the Pack's lap unexpectedly just as Rodgers did in 2005. But that's not likely. What's more likely, I think, given the run on defensive linemen and linebackers that is expected early, as well as the number of teams needing quarterback help and the number of potentially decent QB prospects available in the first and later rounds, is that Packers GM Ted Thompson will revert to his historical pattern and trade down out of the pick. I'm not sure how many slots he'd be willing to drop. But if the hot targets are off the board when number 32 comes around, and a team who needs a quarterback soon is willing to deal the packers an extra pick this and/or next year for dropping down, I think Thompson would do so.

We all know the Packers' wish list. And that's what it is. With the depth across the board on the Packers' roster, there are no desperate needs to fill. The Packers can really take the best player possible. They will want players on the offensive and defensive lines, at outside linebacker, and at defensive back, particularly cornerback. If there is a player that is a D-back or wide receiver and who also has some return skills, that would be a nice pick up as well, especially in the middle rounds.

We'll have to wait until roughly 10:30 Central time Thursday night to see what the Packers decide to do. If things go as I expect they might, and Thompson trades down, Packer fans won't have any action to either get excited or complain about until Friday night.

Settle in, Packer fans. It's going to be a long wait. But it's one of the privileges of being the Super Bowl Champions.

Go Pack Go!!!

Monday, April 25, 2011

Intriguing draft scenario: Ingram available for Packers?

Draft week is upon us, so we can once again begin an almost daily geek-out up to Thursday's first round. OK, let's be honest, through the entire weekend of the remaining rounds, as well.

So, let's begin with an interesting scenario constructed by Pat Kirwan of As most mock draft followers are probably aware, many scenarios have the Packers either picking DT Cameron Heyward from Ohio State, or LB Akeem Ayers of UCLA. Some have the Packers reaching a bit (my opinion) for OT Derek Sherrod of Mississippi State or OLB Brooks Reed from Arizona. Kirwan, however, suggests the possibility that Alabama RB and 2009 Heisman Trophy winner Mark Ingram might be available to the Packers when their pick comes up at number 32. That would be a gift on the order of Aaron Rodgers falling into the Pack's lap back in the 2005 draft. Back then, the Packers sure weren't looking to take a quarterback that high; Ol' #4 was still running the show quite well, after all. But how could you pass up a deal like Rodgers at #24? You couldn't. And thankfully, the Packers didn't. Imagine, then, a similar situation in which the top running back in the draft falls to the end of the first round. Not knowing how well Ryan Grant will come back from his injury, or whether James Starks is the real deal or not, the Packers could certainly use a running back of Ingram's stature. Ingram might just be too good to pass up if he's sitting there.

How does Kirwan get to this scenario? It's essentially based on the fall of Missouri QB Blaine Gabbert down the draft board. Most every mock draft out there had Miami at #15 picking Ingram. But according to Kirwan's latest mock draft, if Gabbert does indeed drop out of the top five picks, he could fall to Miami. If that happens, and given the sad state of the Dolphins current quarterback situation, Kirwan argues that, "The Dolphins have to take Gabbert if he falls this far. One coach told me Gabbert is this far down on their board. Miami needs to make changes at quarterback, or at least bring in competition."

Ingram is the only first-round worthy running back in this year's draft. There is an abundance -- and need -- for defensive linemen; some pundits project perhaps as many as 12-14 defensive linemen may be selected in the first round. So, Kirwan's mock draft has Ingram falling to the bottom of the first round, assuming Miami takes Gabbert. As he says about Ingram going to the Packers, "If the Dolphins don’t take Ingram at No. 15, he could be sitting here for the Packers. It would be too good to be true for the world champs, but the Packers just might end up with Ingram, which would spell the end for Ryan Grant in Green Bay."

The Packers are also looking to add depth to their defensive line, particularly if, as expected, veteran Cullen Jenkins departs in free agency (whenever that commences). Offensive tackle is also a slot that needs beefing up. There has even been speculation that if Wisconsin OT Gabe Carimi falls as far #25, GM Ted Thompson might swing a deal to move up for him with his old protege, John Schneider, now running the Seahawks. I think that's a stretch for two reasons: I expect Carimi to be off the board before then and, secondly, the pressure on Schneider to draft Washington QB Jake Locker if he is available at that spot is too great for Schneider to pass up.

So, while I personally would like to imagine that Kirwan's scenario plays out Thursday evening and Ingram is sitting there at #32, I'm not holding my breath. I think the likelihood is another name will be called. But, six years ago, who would have imagined that Aaron Rodgers, a possible #1 pick overall, would drop into the Packers' lap at #24? Stranger things have happened.

And let's also not forget that if Thompson thinks he can get just as valuable a player farther down the line as what he's looking at with that 32nd pick, he will not hesitate to trade down out of the pick. That's as much Thompson's modus operandi as anything else.

Kirwan has posted a mock draft for the first three rounds. In addition to having the Pack take Ingram in round 1, he has them selecting OLB Bruce Carter from North Carolina at #64 in the second round and DT Pernell McPhee from Mississippi State with the 96th overall pick in the third round.

You can check out Kirwan's complete three rounds beginning here.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Draft upcoming...but who's doing the scouting for Packers?

With the 2011 NFL Draft ready to start this Thursday evening, and the Packers picking last in each round as a result of being Super Bowl Champions, one might well wonder: we know GM Ted Thompson pulls the trigger, but who are the guys scouting the troops, so to speak?

In answer to that question, Tom Silverstein of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel has written a great article about the Packers' scouting operation. The influence of former Packers GM Ron Wolf is still felt loud and clear, as the following paragraphs from the article point out:

"Most of these guys grew up together in the business, all under the tutelage of Wolf, whose influence on the Super Bowl champions remains strong today because of the staying power of the scouting department.

"Of the 11 scouts who handle college scouting, Thompson has hired only two, and both are in the beginning stages of their careers. The nine veterans - two of whom, Jon-Eric Sullivan (Midlands) and Lee Gissendaner (Northeast), were hired under Mike Sherman - average 15 years of service with the Packers.

"If you included John Schneider and Lenny McGill, two Packers mainstays who recently left for higher positions with other teams, the group responsible for drafting most of the Super Bowl XLV team was made up of nine Wolf hires."

Also of interest is that all the scouts, Thompson, John Dorsey, director of college scouting, and Reggie McKenzie, director of football operations, gather in a room in Lambeau Field over the atrium for a 17-day prospect review marathon that leads up to the draft. The group basically has whittled down the more than 1,500 college players to about 125 who will go up on the Packers' draft board. And in the course of the pre-draft meetings, they review tape, reports, etc. on each of these players, to arrive at a consensus as to who the Packers should target. In addition to the last pick in each of the seven rounds, the Packers also have two additional picks for a total of nine going into this year's draft.

While the Pack may not have many needs given the apparent depth on the team, they do have some wants. And it's the job of everyone in that room to find the best players available for those wants.

Check out the article for some really great insights into who the folks are that keep the Packers stocked with quality year in and year out.

Oh, yeah, there was that Mandarich guy...oops

While the Packers' run on talent has been pretty good since the Ron Wolf era, before that...hmmm...not so good for some years (decades?). Perhaps the biggest bust of all for the Packers, and the second-biggest bust of all time at least as judged by Sports Illustrated (QB Ryan Leaf rated as #1 bust), was Tony Mandarich. Yes, I know, for many that is the Name of Him That Shall Not Be Spoken. But if you care to see what he's up to these days, you can read an article about him on Yahoo Sports here. Or...maybe not. Oh, you do remember that he was taken with the second overall pick in the 1989 draft, right? And that of the top five picks in that year's draft -- Troy Aikman (first overall), Barry Sanders (third), Derrick Thomas (fourth) and Deion Sanders (fifth) -- he is the only one to not make the Hall of Fame? Just thought I'd mention that. O-o-o-o-kay...moving right along...nothing to see here...

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

...and if you could be any kind of tree, Mr. Football Player, what kind would it be?

Ah, yes, a psychobabble question for a profession that wouldn't seem to figure much one way or another in terms of personality traits: the professional football player.

Or does it???

There's a fascinating article (OK, I hope that doesn't reveal too much about my personality...) in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel about what makes a player tick. And, also, whether that factors in much to personnel decisions. It makes for good reading, particularly the differences between the various player positions on a team as described by the players themselves. There are also a couple related articles you can find in links adjoining the article that provide further background on this topic. It's worth checking out.

Packers 2011 schedule announced: kickoff vs. Saints

The NFL has officially released the 2011 regular season schedule for the Green Bay Packers and the league's other 31 teams. The jury -- or at least, the mediator -- is still out as to whether, in fact, there will actually be a complete NFL season in 2011. But you have to admire the league's optimism.

In the meantime, we can revel in the schedule, start making observations, predictions, etc. Combined with the upcoming draft late next week, it gives us a moment to be hopeful about the state of the NFL despite the current money issues separating the millionaires from the billionaires (please excuse the slight editorial comment there).

Schedule Highlights
The Packers begin the regular season by facing their predecessor as Super Bowl Champs, the Saints, at Lambeau Field in the NFL Kickoff Game on Thursday Sept. 8. Many would have no doubt preferred a rematch with Da Bearz to kick things off (yours truly included), but the likely national draw in seeing the last two Super Bowl winners go head-to-head was probably too much for the NFL and their TV partner to turn down.

A highlight of sorts is the three-games-in-11-days stretch the Pack has against the ViQueens, the Buccaneers and the Lions in mid-November. Another quirk of the schedule is that four of the Packers' six NFC North games occur after their bye week, which occurs in week 8 of the schedule. And for as much as the Packers of last season really liked the fast track of playing indoors, especially late in the season, this year...not so much; at Detroit on Thanksgiving Day will be the last dome game for the Pack. The guys better get very comfortable at being a great cold weather team because that's generally what they are going to be dealing with in the second half of the season.

Oh, one other interesting little piece of trivia for you regarding the schedule: according to the league, the Packers are the first time in NFL history to play on Thanksgiving (at Detroit), Christmas (home vs. Da Bearz) and New Year's Day (home vs. the Lions) during the same season.

As expected, there are lots of prime time games for the Champs. It's going to be a great year to be a Packers fan. But let's be honest: what year isn't, right? Right!

Here ya go, kids. Enjoy! (Home games in bold italics.)

  • Saturday, August 13, 6:30 p.m. at Cleveland Browns
  • Friday, August 19, 7 p.m. vs. Arizona Cardinals
  • Friday, August 26, 7 p.m. at Indianapolis Colts
  • Thursday, September 1, 7 p.m. vs Kansas City Chiefs
Regular Season
  • Thursday, September 8, 7:30 p.m. vs. New Orleans Saints - NBC
  • Sunday, September 18, noon at Carolina Panthers - FOX
  • Sunday, September 25, 3:15 p.m. at Chicago Bears - FOX
  • Sunday, October 2, 3:15 p.m. vs. Denver Broncos - CBS (Gold package-Milwaukee ticketholder game)
  • Sunday, October 9, 7:20 p.m. at Atlanta Falcons - NBC
  • Sunday, October 16, noon vs. St. Louis Rams - FOX
  • Sunday, October 23, 3:15 p.m. at Minnesota Vikings - FOX
  • Sunday, October 30 Open Date / bye week
  • Sunday, November 6, 3:15 p.m. at San Diego Chargers - FOX
  • Monday, November 14, 7:30 p.m. vs. Minnesota Vikings - ESPN
  • Sunday, November 20, noon* vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers - FOX (Gold package-Milwaukee ticketholder game)
  • Thursday, November 24, 11:30 a.m. Thanksgiving Day at Detroit Lions - FOX
  • Sunday, December 4, 3:15 p.m.* at New York Giants - FOX
  • Sunday, December 11, noon* vs. Oakland Raiders - CBS
  • Sunday, December 18, noon* at Kansas City Chiefs - FOX
  • Sunday, December 25, 7:20 p.m. Christmas Day vs. Chicago Bears - NBC
  • Sunday, January 1, noon* vs. Detroit Lions - FOX
Those times notated with an asterisk (*) are designated as part of the league's flex schedule, meaning the league may change the start time.

If you want a downloadable PDF of the Packers 2011 schedule, just click here. You can also always find the schedule in the righthand column Links area of this site.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Stop the Madden-ness!

All fans of the Green Bay Packers should be afraid...very afraid. That's because our Super Bowl winning MVP quarterback, Aaron Rodgers, is now among the final four possibilities to make the cover of Madden 2012. He's up against Cleveland's Peyton Hills; the winner of that vote will go head-to-head versus the winner of the vote between Michael Vick vs. Adrian Peterson.

And then? The curse begins. You know what I'm talkin' about. The Madden Curse. As this article in Digital Trends from last August pointed out, "Of the 14 players to be featured on the cover of the Madden video games, all 14 have suffered disappointing seasons, and most have been seriously injured." This was written prior to the start of the season during which Drew Brees graced the cover. He didn't get hurt, but certainly didn't have quite the year he did the year before.

Now, we certainly wish Aaron Rodgers nothing but the best in all his endeavors. But this time around...maybe not. So if you are going to be in Mr. Rodgers' corner, if you've got his back, then do him and all Packers fans a favor and vote for the other guy. Please.