Packers provide for Rodgers' protection


It was the safe pick; it was the sound, smart choice.

Packers General Manager Ted Thompson had some tempting options available to him when he went on the clock at pick number 32, the final pick of the first day of the NFL Draft.

Available to Thompson were a couple of tantalizing pass-rushers, Clemson's Da'Quan Bowers and Arizona's Brooks Reed. In a game that increasingly is built around the pass and the pass-rush, Bowers and Reed are the kinds of players that can make your heart beat faster. Oh, the things you could do with them.

Thompson, however, stuck to his value board. Instead of a pass-rusher, Thompson selected a pass-blocker, Mississippi State offensive tackle Derek Sherrod.

Why? Probably because there were nearly no negatives to selecting Sherrod. He's a big, athletic and accomplished blindside pass-blocker. What's not to like?

Oh, one more thing, and this may have been what sealed the deal in Thompson's mind: With the selection of Sherrod, on the heels of having drafted Iowa tackle Bryan Bulaga a year ago, Thompson may have provided quarterback Aaron Rodgers with the pass-protection a franchise quarterback needs for the remainder of Rodgers' career.

Isn't that a nice thought? It's the kind of thought that gives a general manager a warm feeling in the days immediately following the draft, as he runs his picks back through his head over and over, grading his performance secretly, honestly.

Nothing beats keeping your star quarterback on his feet and healthy. It allows you to sleep at night.

At one point early in the draft hype, Bowers was thought to be a candidate to be the number one overall pick. He was a certain top-five pick. He was the dazzling pass-rusher every team covets.

Then, unfortunately, he underwent knee surgery in January that cost him some speed and that left teams unwilling to take the risk that Bowers will need additional surgery and more rehab time. The farther he fell, the more attractive he became, but through the first day of the draft, value did not exceed risk.

"He's a good player. It's a little surprising he's still up there," Thompson said of Bowers when Thompson spoke to the media following the selection of Sherrod.

Reed is said to be Clay Matthews-like, but Reed would've been making the move from college defensive end to NFL outside linebacker, whereas Matthews did not have to make that transition. That's at least one difference between the two.

Sherrod is considered to be a player on the rise. The draftniks say that after he spends some time in an NFL conditioning program and he adds strength to his 6-5, 310-pound frame, he'll offer the potential to be a blue-chip left tackle. He's all upside, they say.

"We think it's really good value to get a big man that late in the draft. Where he's going to play, I don't know. We think he can play a lot of spots," Thompson said.

The draftniks think Sherrod's destined to be a left tackle and, should that be the case, finding the most premium blocker on your line with the last pick of the first round of the draft will have been a steal. A blindside pass-blocker at pick 32 is the very best kind of value, and value is the hallmark of all of Thompson's drafts.

"If you can get quality big men, you always lean that way. Once it got to be our pick, we were pretty ready to go," Thompson said.

So, why was Sherrod still available? Why was a big man who's really light on his feet still available to the Super Bowl champions?

A deep crop of defensive linemen and a couple of surprise picks, one being the Vikings' selection of quarterback Christian Ponder, might have made the difference. Thompson wasn't willing to take a risk. Why do it? Sherrod was a safe pick.

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