2012 Packers Draft Recap
The Packers 2012 draft successfully blended a variety of strategies that seemingly perfectly fit the Packers needs for this season, even before a single draft pick takes the field wearing green and gold this year. What do I mean? They traded quantity for quality, took high ceiling players, addressed team needs and still filled in the rest of the draft with plenty of what I'd call "they did their homework" picks.
1.) Let's start with the trades. The Packers had 12 picks going into this draft, ranking 8th highest in the NFL in terms of overall pick value. However, last year the Packers fielded the NFL's 2nd youngest team. Finding a home for 12 rookies on a very young 53-man roster that went 15-1 the previous year would be understandably difficult. So the Packers defied their usual conventions and traded up...several times.
The Packers shipped the 59th (2nd) and 123rd pick (their tradeable 4th) for the 51st pick to select Jerel Worthy. According to our draft pick value chart, they received 390 points in pick value for 359, (+31).
Later, they traded the 90th pick (3rd) and 163rd (5th) for the 62nd pick (2nd) to select Casey Hayward. There, they received 284 points in pick value while trading away 167.2 (+116.8).
On day 3, they traded the 197th (6th) and two tradeable 7ths (224 & 235) for the 163rd pick (5th) to select Terrell Manning. They received 27.2 points while giving up 18.5 points (+8.7).
According to my math, they gained 156.5 points in pick value, the equivalent of a later 3rd round pick. The Journal Sentinel estimate was very similar, although the Bub sent a different link that seemed to suggest the value was closer to even.
It's important not treat those values as gospel, but the Packers management deserves kudos for both trading quantity for quality based on obvious roster limitations AND deriving better pick value in the process.
2.) The Packers first two selections were high risk, high ceiling defensive players at positions of great need. And why not? The only way the defense could have performed any worse last season would have been to produce fewer turnovers. Thompson has displayed a knack for grabbing replacement level players from the bargain bin to play linebacker opposite of Matthews. The defensive line depth behind Pick and Raji isn't much different.
Here are the depth charts for each:
Erik Walden (6th)
Brad Jones (7th)
Frank Zombo (UDFA)
Vic So'oto (UDFA)
Jamari Lattimore (UDFA)
Anthony Hargrove (3rd)
Mike Neal (2nd)
CJ Wilson (7th)
Jarius Wynn (6th)
Lawrence Guy (7th)
Daniel Muir (UDFA)
Note the trash heap that started opposite of Matthews last year. Swinging for the fences with a pure athlete like Nick Perry makes sense because they already have enough young, mediocre bodies making the league minimum to provide depth. The same goes for the defensive line. Mike Neal is the only player not making the league minimum on that list, so trading up to select a player with the explosiveness Worthy displayed is certainly worth the risk, knowing they already have plenty of low risk replacements with experience in the system below him.
3.) Whether they'll admit it or not, the Packers deliberately sought to improve their defense in this draft. There was no selecting the best player on the board this year, yet another departure from previous drafts. The defense is in need of help now and in the long term. The offense will return all but two starters (Clifton and Wells) from opening day last year after producing quite possibly the best offensive season in franchise history.
Selecting six defensive players with their first six picks was critical for the Packers this year. Why? Every defensive starter not named Tramon Williams, Charles Woodson, AJ Hawk or Desmond Bishop is a free agent in two years (2014). Thompson took 2012's draft to simply reload the defensive depth chart, providing potentially two opening day starters. They'll now have two years to develop rookies and evaluate the defense before making better-informed decisions on whether to sign or release guys like Pickett, Raji or Matthews as their contracts expire.
4.) The Packers still did not sway from a few, previously successful tendencies: 1. drafting high effort players (Mike Daniels, Terrell Manning), 2. smart, high character players (Mike Daniels) and 3. potentially overlooked, high value players in later rounds (McMillan, Manning, Datko, Coleman). These are the guys that had warts but can be made into good football players.
Ultimately, the success of this draft comes down to the coaching staff. Kevin Greene, Mike Trgovac and Darren Perry will have their hands full fitting these OLBs, DTs and DBs respectively into the Packers' defensive plans. Conversely, one could argue these picks represent confidence in the strength of that coaching staff and the locker room to turn these high potential picks in to successful players.
And now here's a bunch of words on the record about each player. Feel free to make fun of me, 2014 blog reader.
1. Nick Perry OLB, USC - Perry never played standing up at USC. He said at the combine he wanted to play 4-3 end and has the whole hot/cold motor issue. This was a need-based pick for the Packers. Credit Ted Thompson for getting inside of the Bears' heads with his draft success in recent years because they reached on McClellin and will put him into a system that doesn't best suit him in an attempt to outsmart the Packers. Good luck getting the ball to Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffrey with Cutler on his back (or hurt) again this year. The Bears are going to lament the fact they could have instead taken Riley Reiff to protect Culter and will now have to try to find a way around him twice a year against the Lions.
I digress. Perry's a freak. He benched 225 LBs 35 times at the combine. Only six defensive players put up better bench numbers, and that includes DTs. He then ran a 4.64 at the combine and a 4.58 at his pro day, so let's call it a 4.62 at 6'3", 270 lbs. He's faster, bigger and stronger than Matthews, but doesn't have the same agility. They'll ask him to stand up and probably ask him to lose weight. He'll likely struggle to adjust to standing up as an OLB but won't have much of an issue losing ten pounds.
I'm not in love with the pick, but you can't ignore the upside, especially with Kevin Greene in his ear. It's reassuring to know he lined up against the best left tackle in the draft every day in practice at USC and showed the ability to dominate the first round talent on Stanford's offensive line. It might take him a year or two to learn the OLB position, but if anything, he'll be a better distraction for offensive lines than any other linebacker that has started opposite Matthews. He's a 3rd down pass rush luxury pick at worst or a stud opposite at Matthews at best.
2. Jerel Worthy, DT, MSU. I love this pick. He was obtained in a trade that sent better pick value to the Packers. We're off to a good start. Yes, he too has the hot/cold motor issue, but luckily when you're the Packers, you can rely on your solid coaching staff and fantastic locker room to help bring along guys like this as they mature.
As for his play, how can you ignore this kind of explosiveness?
The Big 10 is known for it's offensive line prowess, and in the first highlight, you see him blow by Kevin Zeitler (Pick #27) and Peter Konz (Pick #55) to record a safety against the Big 10's leading rusher last year. Oh yeah, and that little shove of Ball at the end of the play is the epitome of swag. He also dominated the Georgia o-line (Cordy Glenn went 41 overall) in their bowl game.
With the Packers, he'll be a big body that swallows up blocks as a DE. Consider this attempt #2 to replace Cullen Jenkins. His jump is incredible, he has great hips and can wiggle into the backfield exceptionally well. He's 6'3", runs a 5 second 40 at 305 lbs. The Bub accurately described some of the plays where he sacks the QB before he's able to hand the ball off as "stuff that only happens in videogames." He doesn't need to be THE guy in the defense to provide pass rush, he just needs to absorb blocks and be disruptive. The highlight reel above shows he's more than capable of doing that, the coaches just need to bring it out of him more consistently. There's not a single offensive line in the NFC North that could handle a 4-man rush from Pick, Raji, Matthews and highlight reel Worthy.
My personal favorite highlight from above? At the 2:18 mark he completely decks a blocking RB en route to sacking the QB. I don't care what school they're playing, that's a grown man he completely levels before recording a sack. He's a menace when he wants to be.
2.5 Casey Hayward CB, Vanderbilt. He could have started for the Packers last year and improved the secondary. Depth at corner is going to be needed in this pass-happy era of the NFL and Hawyward is a very safe pick. The Packers already have a star in Williams, a versatile ball hawk in Woodson and a burner in Shields, Hayward simply adds capable cover ability to the secondary. He's not a fast (4.52), but he ran the best short shuttle at the combine, displaying a fantastic ability to cut and change direction. Thompson and crew seem to favor agility over speed when it comes to the secondary. It's hard to argue with their success thus far.
Hayward's a former QB with a nose for the ball, and he started for three years at Vanderbilt. He was selected before guys with much higher upsides, but he's an instant nickel starter for the defense. After making a pair of riskier picks, I like the safer pick in the secondary.
4. Mike Daniels, DT, Iowa. This is a typical Ted Thompson draft pick. People judge him for his short stature, but he's big and quick with a great motor. He's a smart guy and he's fast (4.82 at 292 LBs) and recorded nine sacks last year playing DT. He'll need some time to develop, but he'll probably get a shot at DE. There's plenty of risk here, but it's a decent selection at a position of need.
4.5 Jerron McMillan, S, Maine. Your guess is as good as mine. He's an athlete and his pro day 40 (4.36) likely got him drafted this high, while his 3 cone agility performance was the best of all safeties at the combine. He's an athletic wild card that was ignored coming from a small school. He plays a position of need for the Packers and has all of the physical tools to succeed at the position, so I guess we'll all see what happens with him at the next level.
5. Terrell Manning, OLB, NC State. This is a great value pick. He was high on a lot of boards going into the season and injuries probably hurt his draft status. He came out a year early, so he still needs some development, but he's very versatile. There's probably little instant impact here, but he has all the ability to develop into a great player with time. He runs a 4.75 40 at 236 lbs and showed he can cover (5 INTs), tackle (192 tackles) and rush the passer (10 sacks) in 26 games as a starter. His instincts and motor are fantastic, it'll just take time. He could be similar to Desmond Bishop, a 6th Rd pick who turned into a reliable starter in his 3rd year.
7. Andrew Datko, OT, FSU. Shoulder injuries hampered his draft status. He's a four year starter with potential, he just needs to stay healthy. It's a risky pick, but worth a try in the 7th round. Plus there's that whole move him to guard where the team has little depth option.
7.5 BJ Coleman. QB, Tennessee Chattanooga. This is another "the brass did their homework" pick. He represents good value here. He left Tennessee when Lane Kiffin did. He's a hard worker and a film studier, seems like the ideal backup QB.
I'll close my draft comments with this: when I hear a football analyst talking about a guy not fitting into the Packers defensive "scheme," I immediately change the channel.
The Packers have quite possibly the most versatile defense in the NFL. Formations with one down lineman, operating primarily out of a two down lineman formation or winning the NFC Championship by dropping a 340 lb nose tackle into straight up pass coverage ought to indicate there's not much of a "scheme" the Packers try to run on defense. They'll find positions and situations that best suit the players they just selected and play them accordingly.