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Mike Spofford

Mike Spofford has worked as a sportswriter in Wisconsin since 1995 and has been a packers.com staff writer since 2006. He has covered the Packers' last two Super Bowl appearances, XXXII and XLV.

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Draft review: How Packers got from Sherrod to Guy

Posted May 3, 2011

Ted Thompson entered the 2011 draft with nine picks and traded his way to 10. He shifted positions with a couple of other swaps.

At most, he found potential long-term replacements at nine different positions with possibly some immediate help on special teams.

At a minimum, he has kept the competition for playing time and roster spots keen on the defending Super Bowl champions.

Here’s a quick recap of what he got and how he got them.

Derek Sherrod, T, Mississippi State

When the Bears picked offensive tackle Gabe Carimi of Wisconsin at No. 29 overall, Thompson was sitting in a great spot at No. 32.

He says a team can never have enough “big guys” and there were three highly graded ones still available – defensive linemen Muhammad Wilkerson of Temple and Cam Heyward of Ohio State, plus Sherrod – with one sure to fall to the Packers.

With the free-agent status of Cullen Jenkins and the uncertain future of Johnny Jolly, defensive line could be viewed as the more immediate need, but when the Jets and Steelers took Wilkerson and Heyward at picks 30 and 31, Thompson wasn’t complaining.

He got a bookend to protect quarterback Aaron Rodgers for potentially the next decade, the same thing he did a year ago in the first round with Iowa’s Bryan Bulaga. Which one will ultimately replace Chad Clifton at left tackle and which will settle in at right tackle isn’t known now and doesn’t need to be. Whether Sherrod will be given a chance to battle at left guard in training camp like Bulaga last year is also a detail for another day.

To haul in two offensive tackles in the bottom third of the first round two years in a row says something about the Packers’ good fortune, and the premium they place on protecting Rodgers.

Randall Cobb, WR, Kentucky

The Packers won a Super Bowl minus a dynamic return game, which makes this second-round pick at No. 64 overall – barring injury elsewhere – the most likely draftee to make an immediate impact in 2011.

In his college career, Cobb averaged 24.6 yards per kickoff return and 9.8 yards per punt return, with two touchdowns. Those numbers don’t jump off the page, but with the athletic ability to play quarterback and receiver in college at 4.4 speed, Cobb will be a major curiosity as a returner in the NFL.

Under Thompson and Head Coach Mike McCarthy, the Packers haven’t devoted a valuable 45-man game-day roster spot to strictly a return man, and with Cobb they won’t have to. He was a 1,000-yard receiver his final year at Kentucky, with 84 catches and seven touchdowns in 13 games, and he has the build (5-10, 191) for the slot, where 36-year-old Donald Driver can’t play forever, even if he vows to.

Alex Green, RB, Hawaii

The primary competition at running back in 2011 will still be between Ryan Grant and James Starks, but Green adds to the offense’s every-down depth in the backfield. Drafted in the third round at No. 96 overall, he also could emerge as a third-down back right away if free-agent-to-be Brandon Jackson doesn’t return.

Making the transition from a spread offense to McCarthy’s West Coast style will take some time for Green, but his receiving skills (27 catches for 363 yards last year) give him the best chance to contribute as a rookie, as long as he proves he can pick up blitzers and protect Rodgers.

Davon House, CB, New Mexico State

Trading away his first fourth-round pick (No. 129), Thompson took House two picks later at No. 131 with the compensatory pick the Packers received for losing Aaron Kampman in free agency the year before.

The Packers have yet to settle on a fourth cornerback in Dom Capers’ defense, with Jarrett Bush, Pat Lee and Brandon Underwood all getting their opportunities over the past two years. Bush and Lee came up big in the Super Bowl when Charles Woodson and Sam Shields went down with injuries, but House will have a chance for that fourth spot behind Tramon Williams, Woodson and Shields right from the get-go.

Should he get it, House’s ball skills – he had 11 interceptions and returned three for touchdowns in 3½ years as a starter for a struggling college program – could give Capers even more options as far as dime packages (six DBs) in the short term. In the long term, the Packers would love to pencil him in as a top-three corner for whenever the 34-year-old Woodson moves on.

D.J. Williams, TE, Arkansas

Taken in the fifth round at No. 141, a pick acquired in the trade with Denver involving No. 129, Williams joins Jermichael Finley and Andrew Quarless as athletic, downfield pass-catching tight ends brought in by Thompson.

The John Mackey Award winner as the nation’s top tight end a year ago, Williams probably lasted this long in the draft because he’s only 6-2, 245. But the way McCarthy lines up tight ends all over his offensive formations – on the line, in the slot, in the backfield, in motion – makes size less of an issue.

Williams could make the competition for the No. 2 tight end spot behind Finley an intriguing training-camp battle.

Caleb Schlauderaff, G, Utah

The Packers arrived at pick No. 179 to select Schlauderaff in a roundabout way. First, they traded pick No. 163 to the 49ers for picks 174 and 231. Then, picks 174 and 231 were sent to the Dolphins for 179 and 218.

In any event, guys like Schlauderaff don’t start 49 games in college without displaying some attractive traits to get them on teams’ draft boards. Durability, smarts, sound fundamentals. Schlauderaff has all of those and he joins a group of interior linemen that could be in transition, depending on the futures of guards Daryn Colledge and Jason Spitz.

D.J. Smith, LB, Appalachian State

In the earlier trade with the Broncos, Thompson moved back 12 spots in the fourth round from No. 129 to 141 and he moved up 18 spots in the sixth round from No. 204 to 186, which is where he took Smith, a tackling machine in the Football Championship Subdivision (formerly I-AA) who, on paper, is undersized at 5-11, 239, but who has production that can’t be ignored.

With more than 500 tackles in his career, Smith is one of those guys Thompson refers to as “just a good football player,” and he’s worth a look, even if inside linebacker is the Packers’ deepest position on defense. Smith’s ticket to a roster spot as a rookie will probably be on special teams.

Ricky Elmore, LB, Arizona

Taken with the Packers’ original sixth-round pick at No. 197, Elmore is sort of like this year’s Frank Zombo – a productive college player drafted late (or not at all, in Zombo’s case) who will make the transition from a hand-on-the-ground defensive end to a stand-up outside linebacker in Capers’ 3-4.

Playing on the same Arizona defense as second-round draft pick Brooks Reed, Elmore piled up 21½ sacks over the last two seasons. Some might say he got those because Pac-10 opponents were paying so much attention to Reed, but the Packers will find out how much of Elmore’s ability stands on its own.

Outside linebackers coach Kevin Greene declared the battle for the starting spot opposite Clay Matthews “wide open,” with Zombo, Brad Jones, Erik Walden and now Elmore all in the mix.

Ryan Taylor, TE, North Carolina

The Packers didn’t need another tight end, especially after drafting Williams, but at pick No. 218 (a gain of 13 spots in the seventh round, via the Miami trade) Thompson liked Taylor’s pass-catching and special-teams abilities.

He caught 36 passes last year (a school record at his position for one season) and played a little linebacker in college, too. As a two-time special-teams captain at North Carolina, Taylor already knows his best chance to turn heads is as a blocker and cover man on returns.

Lawrence Guy, DE, Arizona State

Perhaps the biggest surprise of this draft was that the Packers didn’t draft a defensive lineman until their very last pick, No. 233, the extra one Thompson acquired amidst his three trades.

In Guy, Thompson found a big man (6-4, 304) who can really move. He was projected by some draft analysts as a fourth-round pick, making him good value here. He’ll enter competition on the defensive line with another player drafted in a similar position last year, seventh-rounder C.J. Wilson, with the hope that he’ll improve as quickly as Wilson did.

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