Coston Provides Immediate Depth, Future Upside On O-line

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With two big holes to fill on their offensive line after the departure of veteran guards Marco Rivera and Mike Wahle this offseason, the Green Bay Packers looked to a small school to hopefully find some help.

By selecting North Carolina A&T's Junius Coston with their first pick of the fifth round and the 143rd selection overall, the Packers dipped into the NCAA Division I-AA talent pool for the second time of the 2005 NFL Draft (in the second round, the team acquired Bethune-Cookman defensive back Nick Collins).

"I think athletically he's better than that," Packers southeast scout Brian Gutekunst said of Coston's fifth-round status. "I'm sure the small-school thing probably came into play a little bit with that, but we thought very highly of him. We thought highly enough to pick him (at the 143rd pick), that's for sure.

"The (Mid Eastern Athletic Conference), sure, it isn't Division I, but they play pretty good football and they get some athletes."

At 6-foot-3 and 310 pounds, Coston has the kind of size the Packers like to see on their line. He also has the speed and agility -- as evidenced by a 5.33-second 40-yard dash at the combine -- to potentially play anywhere on the offensive line, Gutekunst said.

But with Pro Bowl center Mike Flanagan returning at Coston's primary position, the Packers will first try the rookie at left guard. Of course, the odds for any rookie offensive lineman to contribute immediately aren't good, but Gutekunst called Coston a hard-worker and self-starter who might be able to be an exception to the rule.

"I wouldn't rule it out," Gutekunst said. "Coming from A&T, where he played mostly center this year, that would be a little bit of a stretch. But he's certainly athletic and talented enough to do it, there's no question there. It's just the speed of the game and everything like that that he'll have to adjust to."

And that can be quite an adjustment. In recent years, the Packers have gotten significant reserve contributions from tackle Kevin Barry (undrafted, 2002) and center Scott Wells (seventh round, 2004), but neither player was asked to step in immediately.

"He's raw," offensive line coach Larry Beightol said. "We're going to have to see how much he can absorb and how far he can come. But this is what you would expect from a player coming from a small school."

And for Coston there is an extra incentive to try and fit in and make the team. Reserve tight end David Martin is one of Coston's cousins, and as the draft progressed the 21-year-old found himself hoping that the beginning of his NFL career could be a family affair.

"When I saw (Martin) go to Green Bay (in 2001), I was always looking up to him," Coston said. "I was just getting out of high school and I was telling myself I wanted to be just like him, basically, so when I talked to (head coach) Mike Sherman and he told me he was going to draft me, I was thankful."

And with a little bit of work, and some extra strength-training, Coston thinks he could help fortify the Packers' line immediately, even as he develops.

"I'm not saying I'm going to be a starter right off the bat, but I think I could contribute something," Coston said. "I'm going to come up there and be ready to handle business and be professional and do what I need to do."

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