Sunday, January 27, 2013

NFL Draft: Packers Offseason Needs

Another Green Bay Packers football season has come and gone and our beloved green and gold fell short of the super bowl once again. While the year certainly had its highlights, one can’t really help but feel a bit disappointed in the overall result of the season. The team’s Super Bowl championship just two years ago and the fantastic play from Aaron Rodgers at the quarterback position have led to very high expectations for cheese-heads everywhere and hopes of tasting the super bowl again each year. The 2012 squad was good, but was certainly not without flaws. Below I list the three biggest positional needs that the Packers need to address if they hope to get back to the Super Bowl in 2014.

Photo: Sports Illustrated
Running Back. The team thought it had something special with the acquisition of Cedric Benson just prior to the start of the 2012 NFL season. Benson was coming off back to back 1,000 yard seasons and immediately became the most experienced and talented running back on the roster the moment the Packers signed him. While he wasn’t spectacular, the Packers certainly had a more consistent, threatening rushing attack in the weeks prior to his injury. Once Benson went down, the trio of Alex Green, James Starks, and Dujaun Harris was less than impressive. The team tried to add some spark with the late season signing of Ryan Grant and while he wasn’t terrible, he also doesn’t look to be a long term solution to the Packers’ running problems. I think that Ted Thompson needs to throw in the towel on an aging Benson and invest in a running back with one of his first two picks in April’s draft. Alabama’s Eddie Lacy (right), North Carolina’s Giovani Bernard, and Wisconsin’s Montee Ball project to be the top three backs in this year’s class. I think it would be wise of Thompson to set his sights on getting one of these three in order to establish a running future in Green Bay.  As a lifelong Badger fan, I am also spearheading the “Montee to Green Bay” campaign if anyone would like to hop on that bandwagon with me.

Offensive Line. Aaron Rodgers spent way too much time on his back last season. In fact, he was sacked 51 times, the most in the NFL during the regular season. While I know many fans like to place part of the blame on Rodgers himself for holding on to the ball too long, the bottom line is that more often than not, he did not have the time he needed to find an open receiver down field. I truly believe that Josh Sitton is one of the best guards in football and I don’t think T.J. Lang is very far behind. Bryan Bulaga was drafted to be the left tackle of the future but the team seems set on keeping him on the right side going forward. I believe those three men are capable in those positions, however I am not even close to convinced that Marshall Newhouse and Evan Dietrich-Smith are going to be better than someone Thompson could find in the top five rounds of the upcoming draft. I think some serious consideration needs to go into replacing these two guys in an effort to better project Rodgers in the future.

Photo: Fan Nation
Tight End. Jermichael Finley is no doubt one of the most talented tight ends in football. He is not, however, one of the best tight ends in football. Many may disagree with this, but to me, consistency must factor into rating a player at this level. Finley simply disappears far too often when the team needs to rely on him to be a presence in the passing game. Yes, he drops the ball a lot, but to me it is more a matter of consistently making plays. This is something that I have not seen much of when looking at Finley over the past two seasons. I think the team needs to cut ties with this reportedly disgruntled under-performer and move forward with a tight end from the 2013 draft class.

Some might wonder why I don’t feel that any part of the defense ranks among the top three positional needs on my list. While I don’t feel that the Packers’ defense is elite, I believe that they made some significant steps in that direction last offseason. I think this unit can certainly be elite with the players that it currently has on the roster. I am excited about the futures of Casey Hayward, Nick Perry, and Jerel Worthy and I am confident that Thompson will add some quality depth in coming drafts. I think that the current defensive unit needs some time to grow and mature, and hopefully stay healthy, before we can start looking to replace them.

Until next time, Beers, Brats, and Championships.

- Joe Norton (@JoeP_Norton)

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