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COMMENTS ON PACKERS DRAFT 2007

by Jerry Gilbert
In the NFL Draft of 2007, Green Bay General Manager Ted Thompson basically filled needs. He says that he follows the best player available approach. By adding the qualifier, "best player available at a position of need," we can explain the first round, because a good case can be made that defensive tackle Justin Harrell was a better player than the receivers, running backs and defensive backs still available at pick 16. However, by the time of the trade down in round 2, the draft turned almost entirely into a process of filling needs. The selections of Brandon Jackson in round 2 and James Jones and Aaron Rouse in round 3 can only be explained at "need picks" at running back, wide receiver and safety, because the Green Bay Packers need help at those three positions.

As the second day began, the "best player" was traded away, and the Packers moved down in round 4 and selected small school offensive lineman Allen Barbre 6-4 300 Missouri Southern. Barbre was drafted to back up at left tackle, a position that has not had a backup for several years. Fans will recall that center Mike Flanagan and guard Daryn Colledge have been the reserve left tackles in the past two seasons when Chad Clifton was injured. Barbre has not played against NFL competition, but he has the size and quick feet needed contribute at either guard or tackle in the Packer offense.

David Clowney 6-0 188 Virginia Tech was drafted in round 5 to provide another candidate to join Donald Driver at wide receiver. With exceptional speed and willingness to battle with defenders, Clowney could provide the deep threat that the offense has lacked since the defection of Javon Walker. It is worth noting that Corey Bradford, with less speed and talent than Clowney, provided an adequate target for long passes for several years. Certainly, the offense could benefit from a Javon Walker or even a Randy Moss, but a speedy sure handed receiver, such as David Clowney can provide Brett Favre with a target that none of the players now on the roster can provide. If he is a long pass threat as a rookie, the offense will be better.

At the end of round 6 and in Round 7, Ted Thompson selected three more players to fill needs. Colorado's Mason Crosby is a kicker to compete with incumbent Dave Rayner, who was no more than adequate last season. Both Rayner and Crosby have strong legs, and the survivor of their competition should provide the Packers with a reliable kicker for both field goals and the kickoff. Florida Running Back DeShawn Wynn 5-10 232 is a bigger back who may be able to help replace Ahman Green. As with Clowney, this was an insurance selection to increase the likelihood that the need is filled, and in the happiest situation, all four will contribute because each brings distinctive skills to the Packers. The final selection was tight end Clark Harris 6-5 256 Rutgers, who was drafted to help fill the need created by the loss of David Martin in free agency. Many observers see Harris as being much better than seventh round talent. He may indeed be ready to help at tight end.

Because the Green Bay Packers did not have a need at linebacker, the first two picks in round 6 seem to qualify as best player available selections. Korey Hall 6-0 236 Boise State, is an excellent athlete with a "fight till the whistle blows attitude", who was drafted as a player most likely to excel on special teams. However, the Packers are trying him at fullback, which is an area of need. The immediate next selection in round 6 was Desmond Bishop in inside linebacker, 6-2 241 California, who is a legitimate prospect at a low priority position. The Pac 10's leading tackler in 2006, Bishop probably was the best player, on many draft boards, at pick 192. He is the only selection in this draft who appears to have been the pick because he was the best player at any position at the time he was chosen.

A second way to view this draft is that there was a consistent focus on special teams. For the Green Bay Packers to return to the playoffs, the one third of each game played by special teams needs to become significantly more productive. Two candidates are obvious. Four year special team stand out in college Korey Hall, could become the special team captain in the next few years. Kicker Mason Crosby likes to make tackles after he kicks, and there are others who could become special team standouts. Receivers James Jones and David Clowney were gunners and special team blockers in college. They also have some experience as returners.

Believe it or not, offensive tackle Allen Barbre was the gunner and leading tackler on his team's punt coverage unit. Barbre is likely to be on these teams if he makes the squad. Another player with the size, speed and attitude to excel on coverage units is safety Aaron Rouse, who played on special teams at Virginia Tech. Linebacker Desmond Bishop and tight end Clark Harris are two more players who may be on special teams. Finally, do not count out the running backs Jackson and Wynn who may be kick returners, and who may also participate in the blocking or coverage units. Contrary to the experience of many college starters, several of these players were proud special team performers in college, and they might bring an attitude of pride in the job to help the Packer units.

There is a dark cloud hanging over these draft choices. Many of them do not have a multi year college resume. Brandon Jackson, James Jones, David Clowney and De Shawn Wynn were not standout performers until their final year in college. Many "one year wonders" in college seem to fail in the National Football League. Jackson did not enter 2006 as featured back because he had been plagued by injuries most of his college career. Clowney ran track every year and was in a crowded talent pool at Virginia Tech, but , as his final opportunity dawned, Clowney added weight and concentration and emerged as a top receiver. DeShawn Wynn was available at the end of the draft because he appeared not to care about excelling until his final season at Florida. Whether he can stay focused on football is an open question, but since high school, Wynn has been viewed a major talent who only needs to stay with a program to be great.

For different reasons, Justin Harrell and Aaron Rouse were good performers two years ago but not outstanding in 2006. Harrell missed most of the season after he was injured. Rouse simply under performed in 2006 according to most scouts. They are fine athletes, but neither has shown much since 2005.

The law of averages is not kind to players with frequent injuries and players who did not perform consistently well over a college career. These are the kinds of players often selected on the second day. Ted Thompson's gamble was to also select such players on day one.

This could turn out to be a very good or very bad draft depending upon injuries and attitude. The top two picks rate as "injury prone" on some draft boards. Other selections, such as James Jones and Aaron Rouse, are rated by many as "reaches. They will have to perform as the Packers expect them to perform to be of value. Nevertheless, these are players chosen by the Green Bay staff to fill needs on the team. If even a majority of them succeed in that role, the team will be better.

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