Sunday, April 28, 2013

Packers Draft Re-Cap

The Green Bay Packers came through the three days and seven rounds of the 2013 NFL Draft with 11 selections when it was all said and done. GM Ted Thompson started off on Thursday with eight picks, wound up at the end of that day with a total of 10 yet to be used for the remaining rounds; yes, that would make 12 overall. But he used one of those picks on Day 2 to move up a few spots in Round 4 to select RB Johnathan Franklin of UCLA. When the draft finally completed last evening, the Packers had 11 new players to add to the pre-season roster mix. (This writer, by the way, in a pre-draft post had noted that Thompson would wheel-and-deal his way to wind up with at least 10 picks when it was over. I was close.)

What can we say, first, about the draft overall and, secondly, the selections in particular? Let's get the first question out of the way. I'd give Thompson and the Packers an A- on this draft. As I said in a reply to someone on Twitter during the draft, I had high expectations and they were exceeded. In scanning some of the pundit and media reviews of the Packers' picks, it seems as if the overall grades range from A to B depending upon the reviewer's view, of course (and individual player ratings generally ranged from A to C). So let's just not get into too many details about the overall grade. The Packers did well. Very well.

In particular, it seems as if many sportswriters' views of the success of the Packers' picks focuses around the two running backs they selected: Eddie Lacy out of Alabama and the aforementioned Franklin. Lacy, to many, was arguably the highest-rated running back in the draft and a likely first-round pick. He was a great value pick for the Packers, falling to number 61 in the second round. Franklin was also viewed very positively by many and for the Packers to wind up with both apparently left many in awe. Not just for the caliber of the backs themselves, but for the fact that the Packers might -- after so many years of floundering in the running game -- finally have a duo in the backfield that provides a thunder-and-lightening combination that could give defenses fits. Especially in terms of what it will do to further open up the Packers' passing attack. Add in last season's late arrival and impact running back, DuJuan Harris, and the Packers might finally have something to provide balance in the offensive scheme that we haven't seen in a long, long time.

The Picks for the Pack
Without further ado, let's just list who the Packers picked up in the draft. We'll then take a look at the undrafted free agents signed by the Packers so far.
  • Round 1 #26 DE Datone Jones, UCLA
  • Round 2 #61 RB Eddie Lacy, Alabama
  • Round 4 #109 OT David Bakhtiari, Colorado
  • Round 4 #122 OT J.C. Tretter, Cornell
  • Round 4 #125 RB Johnathan Franklin, UCLA
  • Round 5 #159 CB Micah Hyde, Iowa
  • Round 5 #167 DE Josh Boyd, Mississippi State
  • Round 6 #193 LB Nate Palmer, Illinois State
  • Round 7 #216 WR Charles Johnson, Grand Valley State
  • Round 7 #224 WR Kevin Dorsey, Maryland
  • Round 7 #232 LB Sam Barrington, South Florida
  • QB Matt Brown, Illinois State
  • S Ben Ericksen, Illinois State
  • G Patrick Lewis, Texas A&M
  • OLB Andy Mulumba, Eastern Michigan
  • RB Angelo Pease, Kansas State
  • NT Gilbert Pena, Mississippi
  • TE Jake Stoneburner, Ohio State
  • G Lane Taylor, Oklahoma State
  • CB Damond Smith, South Alabama
  • S Cedrick Moore, Stony Brook
  • C Patrick Lewis, Texas A&M
What Does it All Mean?
The general consensus among pundits seems to be that, after the Packers got shredded by the 49ers in the playoffs, changes needed to be made on both sides of the ball. And that's what the Packers have done with these signings and a few recent moves. "Bigger," "faster," "stronger" are descriptors which can apply favorably in most sports, but especially football. The Packers definitely got bigger and stronger with their selections. They may have also gotten faster, particularly with the addition of Franklin and Johnson, both of whom are speedsters. Hopefully, they also perhaps got a bit tougher. They'll need it all to go head to head against the 49ers again this season -- and every other team on a tough schedule -- beginning in the 2013 season week 1 re-match.

There's an excellent article on this very topic in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel by sportswriter Tom Silverstein. I recommend you read it.

For now, it looks very good for the Packers going into their early pre-season OTAs and mini-camps. That's what we think. Tell us how you think the Packers did with their draft by taking our poll in the upper righthand column. Inquiring minds want to know: what grade would you assign?

Saturday, April 27, 2013

What's in store for the Packers, NFL Draft Rounds 4-7?

Green Bay Packers GM Ted Thompson started the 2013 NFL Draft on Thursday night with eight draft picks. By the end of the second day of the draft (rounds 2 and 3), Trader Ted had accumulated 12 picks total at his command...10 of them for use today as the Draft winds up with rounds 4 through 7.

To briefly recap, Thompson and the Packers stayed put at number 26 in the 1st round and got someone they had apparently been targeting: UCLA DE Datone Jones. Former coach and now ESPN talking head, Jon Gruden, called Jones his "sleeper pick" of the 1st round. The general consensus was that the Packers did very well getting Jones, who should make an immediate impact on the defensive line's overall performance.

The Packers were set up in the second round to pick at number 55. However, they traded down out of that pick with the 49ers. For dropping six spots to number 61, they picked up the 173rd pick overall. The drop didn't seem to hurt them any, as they wound up selecting arguably the best running back in the Draft, Eddie Lacy out of Alabama. Why other backs were chosen ahead of Lacy -- who was projected in most mock drafts to be a 1st rounder -- is anyone's guess. As Packer fans, we may wind up viewing this as another gift from the football gods much in the same way as Aaron Rodgers falling into the Packers' lap. Gil Brandt, a highly-respected evaluator of league talent, had this to say on Lacy: "I think this guy has a chance to be better than Trent Richardson." We'd take that wouldn't we, Packer fans? You bet.

The Packers also had a pick at 88 in the 3rd round. But, they traded down again with the 49ers to the 93rd pick. Strap yourself in now...because when the 93rd pick came on the clock, the Packers traded that pick to the Miami Dolphins. Still with me? Anyway, for moving out of that slot, the Packers got numbers 109, 146, and 224 from Miami.

Packers Picks Coming Up
It can all get a bit confusing, can't it? So, let's summarize what's in store for the Packers during rounds 4-7 today, with the number of the overall pick and round (at least as the day begins and pending any other moves the Packers might make):
  • 109 - Round 4
  • 122 - Round 4
  • 146 - Round 5
  • 159 - Round 5
  • 167 - Round 5
  • 173 - Round 6
  • 193 - Round 6
  • 216 - Round 7
  • 224 - Round 7
  • 232 - Round 7
That's quite a boatload of draft picks. Which is just how Ted Thompson likes it, thank you very much. This is also typically where Thompson seems to work much of his drafting magic: in the later rounds. Given that this is considered a deep draft, Thompson has to be chomping at the bit to see how the board unfolds for him throughout the course of the day.

The Packers addressed two major needs with the first two picks. Now, the Packers and Thompson will address other needs: offensive line, safety, linebacker, receiver and tight end. With 10 picks to work with, Thompson should have a field day.

And when the draft is all said and done, it's not really all said and done. That's because the next day or two will bring about the signings of undrafted free agents. Again, given how deep this draft is, we can expect that Thompson may find a gem or two among the undrafted players, as well. It will be fun to watch.

C'mon...say it with me: It's great to be a Packer fan!

Go Pack Go!!!

Friday, April 26, 2013

Eddie Lacy: Packers running back

After trading out of the 55th pick in the 2013 NFL Draft, swapping places with the 49ers at number 61 and getting an extra pick in the sixth round (#173), and seeing a first round pick in the form of Alabama running back Eddie Lacy still on the board, the Green Bay Packers had to take him. It was too much a value pick, not to mention need.

As former Colts GM Bill Polian said after the pick, "The happiest man in America tonight is Aaron Rodgers." He of course noted not just Rodgers' huge new contract extension (see earlier post from this evening), but also the fact that he's now got a running back that is a legitimate every-down type of runner and someone defenses are going to have to account for. That's something that hasn't happened in a while, as Packer fans know all too well.

Packer fans have to be pleased with the first two picks of this draft for the Pack. Granted, I was hoping that Montee Ball would be the Packers' selection in round two, but he went a couple picks earlier to Denver after the Packers dropped down. If the Pack had wanted Ball, they would have stayed at number 55. Apparently, they felt Lacy would fit their needs. Hard to argue with from a power standpoint. If they want speed in the backfield, pair him up with DuJuan Harris and see what defenses can do trying to defend that combination. And with a 4.44 40-yard time, Lacy isn't exactly slow, either. This could make Rodgers and a potent passing offense even more of a nightmare for defenses.

Now, let's hope Thompson picks an offensive lineman, a receiver, and a safety somewhere along the way.

We'll have more on the round two and three selections tomorrow. Stay tuned!

Go Pack Go!!!

Aaron Rodgers. Deal. Done.

As if the Green Bay Packers didn't have enough on their collective plate right now with the 2013 NFL Draft going on, they decided to finish off their contract extension talks with QB Aaron Rodgers.

Apparently, the Pack decided to do it up right. After all, if you're the professional football team located in the league's smallest city why not make history? And that's what the Packers did. They rewarded Rodgers with the highest salary in NFL history. Rodgers got a five-year, $110 million contract extension, averaging $22 million per year.

Read this great article by Tom Silverstein of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel for more of the details.

Packers get 1st round "sleeper" DE Datone Jones

Let's first admit: I got it wrong. My guess, as I posted in pre-draft entries here, was that the Green Bay Packers would trade down out of the the number 26 spot in the first round of the 2013 NFL Draft to acquire additional picks. That's typically GM Ted Thompson's way of doing things. My updated guess is that, somehow, he's still going to wind up with more than the eight picks with which he started.

(Courtesy UCLA)

But that's not the point here. Thompson and the Packers stuck with their first round pick because there was someone on the board that they had targeted and, in fact, didn't think would still be available, according to Thompson. That player was indeed available when the Pack went on the clock. And they got him: UCLA DE Datone Jones. Welcome to the Packers, Mr. Jones. Glad to have you in the Green 'n' Gold, and wearing jersey number 95.

As the Packers' number finally came up in round one, ESPN displayed Mel Kiper Jr.s' 10 best picks still available...according to him, of course. Jones was nowhere to be seen on that list. When the selection was announced, former coach and current talking head, Jon Gruden, declared that this was his "sleeper" pick of the first round. He went on to say he thought the Packers got a great player who will add considerably to the defensive performance of the Pack. Personally, I tend to trust Gruden's instincts more than Kiper's.

As Milwaukee Journal Sentinel Packers writer extraordinaire, Bob McGinn, says in his article about Jones, "Jones, 6 feet 4 inches and 280 pounds, is the prototypical base end that teams with 3-4 schemes crave but the Packers have played without for the last four seasons." Ted Thompson, from the post-draft press conference, is quoted by McGinn as saying, "We talked about (Jones') length. I don't think that can drive your decision. But we were looking for something a little bit different than what we have." McGinn notes, "With (Jerel) Worthy doubtful to play a contributing role in 2013 because of reconstructive knee surgery in mid-January, Jones will be expected to become an immediate fixture in the nickel defense alongside either Neal or Raji."

How well that all shakes out come game days in the 2013 season remains to be seen. But the general consensus among fans and pundits alike last evening was that this was a needed and good selection for the Packers. For what it's worth, yours truly concurs. As more than one pundit noted after the pick, the Packers have been desperately seeking a replacement for the loss of Cullen Jenkins for the last several years; most think the Pack got that replacement last night with the selection of Jones.

How sweet that would be.

Go Pack Go!!!

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Who will the Packers pick in NFL Draft?

Today is like Christmas for football fans everywhere, and it is one of the revered days for fans of the Green Bay Packers. The first day of the NFL Draft means our team gets to open in the form of new players, that is. But it's really even better than that because the team gets to select its own presents!

On the other hand, as with some gifts, they occasionally don't work out so well. They don't perform as advertised or as expected. If you pick something out for yourself, sometimes you wonder, "What the heck was I thinking?". That is not the response any NFL team general manager wants to have rolling around his head a few months from now when the realization strikes that you have a bust on your hands and you blew a draft pick.

OK, OK...enough negatives...

For Packer fans, we're always curious to see exactly what GM Ted Thompson will do. He plays his cards as close to the vest as any Mississippi riverboat gambler. The Packers go into the first round with the 26th pick overall. The last time they picked at 26, they got a fairly good player. Someone named Clay Matthews. Actually, Ted had to move up in the draft order to get him. I'd say that was a pretty good call, wouldn't you? Moving up in the order is typically not something Thompson does unless he's exceptionally keen on a player. Whether there is anyone in this draft that similarly excites Mr. Thompson we will all have to wait to see.

My guess is that Thompson will move down into the second round, perhaps the late 30s or early 40s, and acquire more picks in the process...which is something we all know Thompson likes to do. He did that a few years back and choose WR Jordy Nelson in the 40s. Not bad.

So, here's your chance to play Packers general manager. We have a poll in the column to the right asking you what position the Packers will address with their first pick in the draft, wherever it comes in the order. We don't need names, just the position. So...what are you waiting for? Vote now! The poll is open until 7 p.m. CT tonight.

Regardless of how things shake out tonight and over the next few days of the Draft, it's great to be a Packer fan!


Monday, April 22, 2013

Packers to stay pat, move up or move down in NFL Draft. Which will it be?

With the NFL Draft beginning in three days, the conversations online and over the airwaves are starting to really gain momentum. For the Green Bay Packers, aside from the speculation as to who the Pack will pick, discussion always takes place as to whether GM Ted Thompson will stay with his first pick (#26 overall in the first round), trade up to get someone he really covets, or trade down to acquire additional picks.

When you look at Thompson's historical M.O., he generally prefers to acquire more picks in a draft than he goes into it with. He said as much in his pre-draft press conference late last week. Something to the effect that it's kind of like baseball: the more swings you have the more likely you are to get a hit. That's the way Thompson views the draft overall. Going into this draft with eight selections, one would expect Thompson to attempt to leverage that into perhaps 10 picks when all is said and done. That probably means trading down out of the 26th pick to get an additional pick. He'll spend the draft moving up and down to get more picks overall, as well as get players that he and his staff have targeted as fitting with the Packers' system.

That's not to say Thompson won't pull the trigger at 26 if a high-value player falls to him there. Given the nature of this draft class, however, there may not be one of those players available when the Packers go on the clock.

I realize we're talking in generalities here but, really, that's about the best we can do. We're looking at the past as a precursor to the future. It's this writer's guess (and that's all) that Thompson will trade down into somewhere in the early second round -- perhaps somewhere in the 40's -- to start geting more picks. There's a good deal of talent of roughly equal ability at the positions that the Packers need: safety, running back, offensive line, receiver, linebacker and tight end. The top picks in each category -- perhaps with the exception of running back -- will likely be off the board by the time the Packers number comes up in the first round. It would be very surprising if Thompson were to take a running back in the first round, despite many mock drafts having the Packers selecting Eddie Lacy out of Alabama. On the other hand, if DE Datone Jones from UCLA were to be available at #26, I could well imagine Thompson selecting him. Beyond that...I see Packer fans waiting a while for the Pack's first pick of the 2013 draft.

But I also see Packer fans being happy with the outcome of the draft. There are not a lot of big names to be found. But it seems as if Thompson always works his draft magic with relative unknowns anyway. The Packers will take a running back in the draft, perhaps as high as the second round but more likely in the third. There are some good quality backs in this draft that would seem to fit the Packers' system and possibly develop into the regular back the team has so sorely needed for balance for a long, long time. The Pack will also need to pick up a safety, and someone who can probably make a contribution very early on. As for the other needs, there will be players there. And don't forget that the Packers have more than a few players who will be returning from injury this past season. That's almost like a bonus draft in a way.

The schedule makers didn't do the Packers any favors this upcoming season, awarding them the sixth toughest schedule in the league. So the players that are drafted and make the final roster will need to play and stay healthy throughout that tough schedule.

Pre-draft, it's all guesswork on our part. No better or worse than anyone else's from that standpoint.

The best that can be said is: it's great to be a Packer fan!


Thursday, April 18, 2013

Packers 2013 Schedule Bookended with 49ers and Bears

Yes! The 2013 regular season NFL schedule has just been released, and it brings with it the sixth most difficult schedule for the Green Bay Packers based upon strength of opponent. The Pack opens at San Francisco on Sept. 8 and closes the season at Chicago on Dec. 29. The schedule also has something this season that has been fairly unusual in recent years for the Packers: an early season bye, coming in week number 4 on Sept. 29. Not great.

What does the rest of the schedule look like? Almost a week-to-week home and away sequence of games, with the exception of two home games back to back against Da Bearz and the Eagles on November 4 and 10. Frankly, it seems in some ways very fair from the lack of back-to-back games which have often been the case for the Pack, sometimes even three away games in a row. On the other hand, the schedule does seem a bit odd because of the way it sets up. At least to this point of view.

There are three Sunday night games, one Monday night game and one Thursday game -- Thanksgiving Day against, of course, the Lions. (You just gotta love the Turkey Day tradition with that game. I know I do.) Six games on the schedule are listed as being subject to the league's flexible scheduling policy where the start time may change...depending.

As to the flow of the games, the opponents, the early bye seems to this writer that this is going to be a very challenging schedule for the Packers. There's no gimmee game to be had anywhere...well, OK, maybe the Browns at Lambeau Field on October 20. That should be a win...had better be a win.

It will take a bit more time, however, to reflect upon the schedule before making a season win-loss record prediction. In fact, you'll have to check back the week before the season starts for that prediction. We'll need to see who the Packers draft next week and players they pick up along the way, as well as how injuries in the preseason may affect the season. There's time.

But in the meantime, take a look at the schedule and see what you think. We also have a link to a printable PDF of the schedule here. Enjoy, Packer fans!

Go Pack Go!!!

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

A Packer Fan's Story

While we briefly contemplate the recent street free agent signings by the Green Bay Packers (as that's about all the offseason action there is to contemplate for the Pack, other than the well-known departures ) and get our juices flowing thinking about the upcoming draft about nine days from now...this is a great occasion to look at another side of the Packers. In this case, the fans, and how good -- and handy! -- it is to be a Packer fan.

This story was sent to me by a longtime friend and regular reader of Packer Fans United. He said it was OK to publish it. So, without further ado...Steve's story, from Washington, D.C.

The Biking Incident
By Steve

I was bike riding this (Sunday) a.m., wearing a Packers long sleeve t-shirt, when I began to experience difficulties after about 20 miles. Just outside Reagan Airport, I jumped off my bike, popped the rear wheel, and fiddled for more than a few minutes before deciding to walk to the Reagan Metro stop (needed repairs were beyond my ability and tools) and take the subway into town in order to stop at my favorite bike shop before church.

After having deboarded at the Russlyn Metro stop, I carried the rear wheel while walking the bike to the repair shop. A very kind man stopped me. He asked me if I needed help. At this point, having already shaken off two others before I realized that I was over my head, I said "Sure." Of course, he noticed the Packers shirt. He asked if I were from Wisconsin and I said yes. Turns out, he grew up in Wauwatosa (Milwaukee suburb) but served in the Foreign Service for many years. I mentioned that I lived in Wauwatosa for my first nine years, and even dropped the name of our street and St. Pius Church. It just so happens that he was from Christ the King parish. Anyway, he whipped out his tools from his saddlebag (he, too, was bike riding), made some adjustments with the chain, brake cable, and brake shoes, and we proclaimed it fit to go!

Moral of the story: people from Wisconsin are so decent and even though RGIII jerseys were the hottest NFL jersey last year, nothing can beat a Packers t-shirt!

Thanks, Steve, for sharing this with us. No doubt, many Packer fans can recall circumstances where wearing a Packers t-shirt or cap or whatever was a surefire conversation starter and immediate bond of kinship.

Which leads me to the Editor's moral of the story: it's great to be a Packers fan! Say it with me: We are Packer Fans United!

Go Pack Go!!!

Sunday, April 07, 2013

Packers set to draft...

In the 2013 NFL Draft, the Green Bay Packers select...

We have no idea. And, really, neither does anyone else. Unless, perhaps, your name is Ted Thompson and you happen to be General Manager for the Packers.

Sure, there are plenty of mock drafts out there. Some agree, some don't. They do make entertaining reading. But are they meaningful? Only in the sense that they get our football juices flowing again. We begin to wonder what impact a particular player may have, especially if he's a first or second round pick. Heck, Randall Cobb came via the third round, didn't he? And as Packer fans know well, our own Mr. T does quite well at picking up gems in the later rounds.

You also have to enjoy those complete seven-round mock draft scenarios. Honestly, when you get past probably the first 60 or so picks, you might as well just throw all the prospects in a hat and start pulling names if you're doing a mock. Who one teams deems as a second-rounder might well be on some other team's fourth-round board. It depends upon need, "best athlete" available, etc. Every team has its own formula.

First round speculation
Having said all the above, who might the Packers pick in the first round?

The names which circulate most often among various mock draft boards you can find seem to revolve around the following:
  • Tyler Eifert, TE, Notre Dame
  • Datone Jones, DE/DT, UCLA
  • Eddie Lacy, RB, Alabama
  • Montee Ball, RB, Wisconsin
  • Matt Elam, FS, Florida
Among the names which seem to be less-often mentioned, and may be even somewhat surprising as picks (although Ted has been known to be surprising from time to time, hasn't he?) are:
  • Damontre Moore, OLB, Texas A&M
  • Jonathon Hankins, DT, Ohio State
  • Barkevious Mingo, DE/OLB, LSU
  • Sam Montgomery, DE/OLB, LSU
  • Jesse Williams, DT, Alabama
For those who value Mel Kiper Jr.'s picks, he has Eddie Lacy coming to the Pack. Here's what he says: "The Packers have lacked top-end reliability and explosiveness at running back, and that's what Lacy can give them. He ran behind a great line at Alabama, and he offers the best combination of power and open-field shiftiness in this draft. He's the guy in this class who can run with power but also break off some big runs. He also catches the ball well and can be a good safety valve for Aaron Rodgers."

Hard to argue with that. While running back has been a glaring need in terms of a constant #1 starter on this team for a loooooong time, it's hard to imagine Ted actually going this way with his first pick, especially if he thinks he can pick up a good back in the second round. It's interesting that in most if not all the mock drafts out there, seemingly no one has an offensive lineman coming to the Packers with that first pick, despite depth issues there. Granted, Ted probably isn't likely to pop a #1 pick there either.

My instincts suggest that Ted will go defense again. Right now, my sense (what there is of it) is that if Datone Jones is available when the #26 pick goes on the clock, that that's the selection the Packers will make. Would I like to see the Pack take Tyler Eifert to be the heir apparent to Jermichael Finley, who is likely one and done after this season? Yes. Would I really like the Packers to commit to a first-rate starting running back (such as Lacy or Ball) rather than running-back-by-committee? You best.

Bottom line? No one knows what Mr. Thompson will do come draft day. But in the meantime, let's enjoy the fun of speculating, of learning about some of the players who may come our way. Let's get those football juices flowing again. It won't be long until OTAs (actually, the first one is April 15), minicamps, training camp and the season get underway. When once again we can say with enthusiasm for the new players and new season: GO PACK GO!!!!