Overall, Draft Fell Into Place For Packers

Green Bay Packers General Manager Ted Thompson always looks at a draft more as a long-term investment in the team’s future than a vehicle to fill short-term needs. But no matter which perspective is preferred, the Packers appear to have made progress in both of those areas with this past weekend’s selection of eight new players. - More Thompson & McCarthy Draft Transcripts | Packers 2009 Draft Page


Green Bay Packers General Manager Ted Thompson always looks at a draft more as a long-term investment in the team's future than a vehicle to fill short-term needs.

But no matter which perspective is preferred, the Packers appear to have made progress in both of those areas with this past weekend's selection of eight new players.

With the major issues facing the team being the transition to a 3-4 defense and some uncertainty both immediately and long-term at the offensive tackle spot, the Packers directly addressed those with four of their first five selections.

Bringing in nose tackle B.J. Raji from Boston College and outside linebacker Clay Matthews from USC with two first-round selections on Saturday added two highly touted prospects at the two most important positions - inside anchor and outside pass rusher - in the new defensive scheme.

Head Coach Mike McCarthy on Sunday reiterated what both Thompson and the team's position coaches said on Saturday, which is that both Raji and Matthews have a chance to be every-down players on defense and to contribute immediately. And they will both be looked to for impact in the two areas the Packers struggled with most in 2008 -- run defense and pass rush.

"We weren't trying to sell tickets the last two days," McCarthy said. "We were looking for good football players, and those two guys were guys that were very high on our board. We are very excited to add those two types of football players to a 3-4 scheme. We think they are an excellent fit for the direction we are going."

Meanwhile on the other side of the ball, the selections of offensive linemen T.J. Lang of Eastern Michigan and Jamon Meredith of South Carolina in the fourth and fifth rounds, respectively, added two players who could get a chance to compete for a starting right tackle spot immediately or for the long-term left tackle job in the future.

There already were several potential, though unproven, candidates on the roster for those positions, and the sheer number of bodies now will make the tackle position among the most highly competitive on the roster all spring and summer.

Offensive coordinator Joe Philbin noted that the organized team activities (OTAs) through late May and June will be the start of the learning process for Lang and Meredith, but the true competition won't start for the linemen until training camp on Aug. 1.

"We'd like to teach these guys, especially the new guys, our system and see how quickly they can absorb it, see how comfortable they are in it," Philbin said. "But we're not going to make a whole lot of evaluations until we see live run-blocking and one-on-one pass rush where the guys have got pads on, the blitz situations in training camp, to see how they react under pressure.

"We want to get them indoctrinated, we want to teach them as much as we can fundamentally, see how they work, and teach them how we practice. But we're going to withhold a lot of hard evaluations until we get a chance to look at these guys in live situations."

That almost goes without saying for the player drafted between the two linemen - LSU fullback Quinn Johnson. If there's any position that demands full pads to see what a player can do, it's a straight-ahead lead blocker like Johnson, who will compete with incumbents Korey Hall and John Kuhn for a key job in the run game.

McCarthy has hinted this offseason about some tweaks to the running attack that may make it look at times like more of a power game, and even though that talk has been exaggerated a little and there are no major changes on the horizon, Johnson does fit that mold. Both Thompson and McCarthy felt Johnson was too good a value to pass up in the fourth round despite the presence of two veteran fullbacks on the roster.

"Quinn Johnson has that ability to play power football, in the power pattern schemes versus the zone schemes," McCarthy said. "But his number one asset will be in the inside zone scheme, which is the starting point the way we run the football. I think he's definitely a fit for us the way we have played and the direction we're making adjustments to."

With their final three picks in the sixth and seventh rounds, all three levels of the defense were spoken for.

Sixth-rounder Jarius Wynn of Georgia is a defensive end whom McCarthy feels could bulk up enough from his current 277 pounds to eventually play end in the 3-4, while seventh-rounder Brad Jones of Colorado is another potential pass rusher from the outside linebacker spot in the new scheme.

In between those two was cornerback Brandon Underwood of Cincinnati, who joins a deep group at his position as the team plans for an eventual future without veteran Pro Bowl corners Charles Woodson and Al Harris.

Overall, it was a weekend that featured several memorable elements:

--Good fortune, in the unexpected choice of either Texas Tech wide receiver Michael Crabtree or Raji at No. 9, two players many mock drafts had off the board by then.

--An aggressive trade, as Thompson traded up for just the second time in his five Green Bay drafts, surrendering his second and two third-round picks to move up 15 spots and get Matthews at the bottom of the first round.

--And a balanced finish, with the eight picks ultimately split 5-3 as far as defense to offense, and all areas of the roster getting an addition except the offensive skill positions and specialists.

{sportsad300}"I think we had some guys targeted in spots where it worked out for us," Thompson said. "There were some specific players that we sort of eyed, and those guys kind of fell down where we thought they would go, and we were able to get them. We think all things considered it was a pretty successful weekend."

One the Packers hope increases the likelihood they can distance themselves from last year's disappointing 6-10 season, though Thompson noted several times this weekend that process from a roster standpoint is mostly up to the current players improving and, on defense in particular, applying their experience to the new scheme.

But the early impact some of the draft picks might be able to make will certainly help.

"Again, our success this year will depend on our existing group, not necessarily these guys coming in," Thompson said. "And that's the case with any team.

"I hope at the end of the day they're all good football players. I think they're good people, and hopefully they'll add to this team and hopefully add to the tradition of the Green Bay Packers in an honorable way."

This article has been reproduced in a new format and may be missing content or contain faulty links. Please use the Contact Us link in our site footer to report an issue.

Related Content