Draft Wrap-Up: Thompson Sticks To His Plan


To summarize the Green Bay Packers' 2007 draft is to in essence summarize General Manager Ted Thompson's draft philosophy.

The Packers made some trades to amass extra picks, turning nine selections into 11 via swaps with the New York Jets on Saturday and the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday. They drafted the best player they could when it was their turn to pick, filling in depth and competition in some need areas along the way. And they found some potential long-term starters at positions the coaching staff is building the team around.

All in all, it was exactly the type of draft Packers fans have come to expect from Thompson in his three years as GM.

"I felt going in this was a draft that I didn't think it was quite as deep as it was last year," Thompson said. "We had to do a little more work, a little more study, but after the two days think we added some value to our team."

Here's a breakdown of where that value was added:

In the trenches

Head Coach Mike McCarthy has said over and over that he's building his team around strong and deep offensive and defensive lines, and the Packers made two key picks in those areas that may turn into future anchors at their positions.

First-round pick Justin Harrell, a defensive tackle from Tennessee, was a projected top 10 selection who fell the Packers at the 16th slot primarily because he missed most of his senior season with a bicep injury.

He could turn into an immediate starter alongside Ryan Pickett on the interior of the defensive line, or he may at first simply work into a defensive tackle rotation that for now also includes Corey Williams, Colin Cole and Johnny Jolly.

But like any first-round pick, he's expected to become a long-term impact player.

Fourth-round selection Allen Barbre, an offensive tackle from Missouri Southern State, may have the same projection. With no telling how many years veteran left tackle Chad Clifton has left, the Packers have to consider long-term replacements whenever it makes sense, and with 33 collegiate starts Barbre hopefully has the experience to make the transition to the pro game.

"You just cannot have enough big guys," McCarthy said.

At the skill positions

Looking to replace departed running back Ahman Green's production and add some weapons for quarterback Brett Favre in the passing game, the Packers added two running backs and two receivers, setting up some fierce competition this summer for roster spots at those positions.

Second-round pick Brandon Jackson of Nebraska and seventh-round selection DeShawn Wynn of Florida will get their chances to prove themselves in the offensive backfield along with holdovers Vernand Morency, Noah Herron, Arliss Beach and P.J. Pope. Wynn might also compete at fullback with Brandon Miree.

The Packers obviously don't have room for all of them on the final roster come the end of training camp, but with depth and competition they don't necessarily have to have a feature back who handles an inordinate amount of the rushing load.

"The role that Ahman played and the job he did is going to have to be shared by some people," Thompson said. "It's going to be a group effort, specifically in the backfield area."

That's fine with running backs coach Edgar Bennett, who sees a stable of young, hungry backs willing to learn and lay it on the line in order to play.

"I think we have a very talented group, some hard workers," Bennett said. "One thing I love about the guys in that room is their work ethic. They're passionate about football. They're going to step up and do whatever they can to help us win games this year.

"For me I get excited around this time, anytime I get an opportunity to teach and help push kids in the right direction."

{sportsad300}Receivers coach Jimmy Robinson will be in the same boat with the additions of third-round pick James Jones of San Jose State and fifth-rounder David Clowney of Virginia Tech.

Behind starters Donald Driver and Greg Jennings, the Packers have opportunities galore for players to fill significant roles in the passing game, and the physical style of Jones and the speed of Clowney will be added to the mix with Robert Ferguson, Ruvell Martin, Carlyle Holiday, Shaun Bodiford, Chris Francis and NFL Europa's Carlton Brewster.

All that competition is only going to assure that the best players will be seeing the field in the fall.

"It's going to be a very competitive situation," Robinson said. "I think James will add to that, and David will. You always feel like the guys you have should be better and the guys you add should compete for the third and fourth spots.

"Every year there's competition and you're trying to get better. It's not necessarily an indictment of the group but the reality of the fact that every year you're trying to improve, at every position, and I'm going to do my best to make sure that happens in mine."

On special teams

While the goal of every draft pick is to earn playing time on offense or defense, often what makes or breaks their roster spot is their ability to contribute on special teams, and the Packers seem to have found several players capable of doing that.

Colorado kicker Mason Crosby, taken in the sixth round, obviously will go head-to-head with incumbent Dave Rayner for the full-time job at that spot, while Rutgers tight end and seventh-round pick Clark Harris is a potential long-snapper to follow veteran Rob Davis.

Boise State linebacker Korey Hall, a sixth-round pick who likely will be converted to fullback, is seen as a potential special teams demon on various units, while third-rounder and strong safety Aaron Rouse joins Virginia Tech teammate Clowney with the special teams pedigree that comes from playing for coach Frank Beamer in college.

"All those guys have been productive in some way, shape or form on special teams," special teams coordinator Mike Stock said. "Virginia Tech is a great background with the coach they have there, it's a necessary accent to what they have. Those guys who are receivers or DBs, they played in those elements and should be a great help."

Throw in linebacker and sixth-rounder Desmond Bishop of California, who plays a position that almost always requires special teams contributions for non-starters, plus the return abilities of Jones and the unknown potential of last year's rookies Will Blackmon and Bodiford, and Stock will be seeing plenty of competition for his units as well.

"There are some guys we haven't seen enough of yet," Stock said. "There are still question marks about a lot of guys who have potential and we need to find out about that can help our football team."

Picking no higher than the middle in any given round, the Packers didn't add any big, familiar names from the college ranks that will create tremendous buzz before their arrival in Green Bay.

But Thompson is more focused on them making some noise after they get here, to prove they're the quality players the scouting and personnel staffs have studied thoroughly on film and in person.

"Hopefully some of those guys in a couple years the fans will know who they are," Thompson said. "That would be a good thing."

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