2011 NFL Draft | Green Bay Packers Team Needs
The Green Bay Packers won Super Bowl 45 despite a three-game road trip in the playoffs and a slew of injuries. It will be interesting to see just how good they’ll be when they’re fully healthy and have another draft under their belt.
While it’d be foolish to call for a repeat this early, a healthy team and a good draft can only help Green Bay’s case. There aren’t many holes to fill, but after building one of the youngest, most talented teams in the league, Ted Thompson will surely address any major flaws on both sides of the ball.
Biggest Needs: RB, OL, WR
The Packers won the Super Bowl without their star tight end and running back, and played through a slew of other injuries. With Jermicael Finley back, there’s no doubt their offense should be even better in 2011. However, the running back situation isn’t an immediate fix with the return of Ryan Grant, and the Packers may not be completely sure that James Starks is the long-term answer at the position. Brandon Jackson and John Kuhn are both free agents, and Ryan Grant is entering a contract year, making the move for a running back upgrade a necessity.
If they can get a more explosive option at the end of the first round or in the second, they might have to pull the trigger. Both Kendall Hunter and DeMarco Murray are faster and more explosive than any of their current options, so both will be considered. Both players have first round talent, while both could possibly be there for the taking when the Packers pick again in round two.
The offensive line is another area of concern, as Daryn Colledge could leave a guard spot up for grabs via free agency, and both Chad Clifton and Mark Tauscher are older and are always injury concerns. Green Bay could play it safe and grab an offensive lineman early with both tackle Tyron Smith and guard Mike Pouncey of interest, while they could wait until the second round and find either Ben Ijalana or Danny Watkins available.
Wide receiver doesn’t look like a weakness at first glance, but Green Bay may lose James Jones via free agency, while Donald Driver has regressed and battled injuries throughout 2010. A new receiver with some speed would be nice to throw in with Greg Jennings and Jordy Nelson, and they could find solid possession receivers like Austin Pettis or Jeff Maehl in the third round.
Biggest Needs: OLB, DE, CB
The Packers have a nice rotation of outside linebackers opposite of Clay Matthews, but still don’t have that one guy that can make the opposition account for both sides on every play. Green Bay may add to a major strength with their first pick, by grabbing Jabaal Sheard if he falls to the 32nd spot. If they don’t get Sheard there, they can still find a quality pass rusher like Cliff Matthews in the second or third round. While he’s not an outside linebacker or elite pass rusher, it wouldn’t be crazy to see the Packers grab Clay Matthew’s brother, Oregon linebacker Casey Matthews. Nick Barnett isn’t what he once was, and if Clay Matthews has any pull, he’d probably like to see his brother along side him on defense.
Cullen Jenkins is a free agent and Johnny Jolly isn’t a lock to stick around due to character concerns, so Green Bay will probably have to put some focus at defensive end in their 3-4. Marvin Austin would be a perfect fit, but he’s unlikely to fall to them in the second round, and they may not reach for him in the first. If they don’t go for Austin in the first, their next best bet would be Allen Bailey, who could actually slip to the third, where Ted Thompson could get one of his coveted “value” picks.
Green Bay’s secondary is another spot that needs to be taken care of a bit. They discovered great talents in Tramon Williams and Sam Shields, who both look to be the future of the position. However, if they ever shift Charles Woodson to safety, they’ll still need depth at the position, as Pat Lee still hasn’t developed into a quality corner. Look for Thompson and co. to look for a great value corner in the middle rounds to add some depth.
Overall, Green Bay is very young and immensely talented on both sides of the ball. Simply getting back to full health would give the Packers an extremely good chance at a repeat bid in 2011, but with a solid draft, they should be able to take their division and finish with a better record than in 2010.