While no one expected him to reveal the team's draft board in his pre-draft press conference, the Packer's new general manager Ted Thompson was even more tight-lipped than most expected. But it certainly wouldn't require a genius to figure out what the team's primary needs were. The Packers finished the 2004 season ranked 25th in team defense, and the only thing that would surprise Packer fans about that ranking is that it indicates that 7 teams actually did a worse job of playing defense than the Packers did in 2004. Safety and linebacker appeared to be the biggest needs on defense, but it could easily be argued that the Packers needed help on all three levels of the defense. On offense the main need seemed to be offensive guard, but the team could have also used a solid addition at the tight end position to backup Bubba Franks.
Round One - Aaron Rodgers/QB/California (#24 overall pick)
While everyone suspected that the Packers would use their first round pick on defense, no one suspected that Aaron Rodgers would be available with the 24th selection. Ted Thompson faced a real dilemma when the pick arrived, draft Aaron Rodgers or draft a defensive player for need? The best prospects available that would have filled the Packer's biggest needs on defense were Michigan cornerback/safety Marlin Jackson (selected at #29 by the Colts), Oklahoma safety Brodney Pool (selected at #34 by the Browns) and Nebraska linebacker Barrett Ruud (selected at #36 by the Buccaneers). While most considered Rodgers a top 10 overall value, the remaining defensive players carried a consensus late round one/solid round two grade. Certainly picking a defensive player must have been a real temptation, but the choice probably became an easy one when looking at the overall value of the players. How often does a team have a luxury of getting a top 10-graded quarterback with the 24th pick of the draft? With the selection of Rodgers the Packers obtain a quarterback of the future along with a player who could develop into a solid backup quarterback very early in his career.
Rodgers started his college career at Butte College before transferring to California prior to the 2003 season. He played for the Golden Bears in 2003 and 2004, and finished his career at California with 63.8 completion percentage while throwing 43 touchdowns versus only 13 interceptions. Rodgers is intelligent, has good arm-strength and good mobility. The biggest concern regarding Rodgers was his height, but he measured in at an even 6-2 and weighed 223 pounds at the Indianapolis Combine. Rodgers ran the 40-yard dash in 4.75 seconds, had a 34.5-inch vertical leap and scored an impressive 35 on the Wonderlic exam. Rodgers has all the necessary tools to become a solid NFL starting quarterback.
Round Two - Nick Collins/S-CB/Bethune-Cookman (#51 overall pick)
When the 51st pick arrived there were still a couple very attractive defensive prospects on the board. Oklahoma's Dan Cody carried a round one grade on most boards, and Clemson's Justin Miller carried a late round one/early round two grade on most boards. However, Thompson went in a different direction and selected the athletically gifted Nick Collins.
Collins was a partial qualifier and sat out his first season of college football in 2001. He played strong safety in 2002, free safety in 2003, and moved back to strong safety in 2004. Collins has a good build and is an exceptional athletic talent. However, Collins was known as a hot-and-cold player as a college performer. While Collins' athletic ability allowed him to make some great plays, he also had the reputation of being a poor tackler who would also take too many bad a
ngles. His lack of football instincts led many scouts to conclude that he would be better off playing cornerback where he would have limited responsibilities and would only have to worry about one receiver. Collins' numbers at the Indianapolis Combine were as follows: height = 5-11 1/8, weight = 206, 40-yard time = 4.38 seconds, vertical jump = 40 inches, Wonderlic score = 14. Personally I felt Collins was a reach in this area of the draft. He has the raw talent to be a good NFL player, but it may take him a year or two to contribute and his college career indicates he may always be a better athlete than he is a football player.
Round Two - Terrence Murphy/WR/Texas A&M (#58 overall selection)
After Thompson selected a defensive back with the previous selection, it's likely that the Packers would have liked to come back and take an inside linebacker or defensive end with this next selection. However, there may not have been a defensive end or inside linebacker worth taking with this pick. In fact, the next defensive end and inside linebacker that were selected both had some medical issues that likely caused their stock to drop. Notre Dame defensive end Justin Tuck (selected at #74 by the New York Giants) suffered an ACL injury in 2003 and didn't look like quite the same player in 2004, and Florida inside linebacker Channing Crowder (selected at #70 by the Miami Dolphins) has had 4 ACL surgeries between his two knees. If the medical issues caused the Packers to downgrade both of these players, there wasn't a defensive end or inside linebacker candidate available at #58 which represented proper value for the pick. So, as with pick #24, Thompson reverted back to taking the best available player which turned out to be Texas A&M wide receiver Terrence Murphy.
Terrence Murphy was an immediate impact player as a true freshman at Texas A&M in 2001 (36 catches, 518 yards, 3 touchdowns). He started in 3 games as a sophomore, and was a regular in the starting lineup during his junior and senior seasons. He was named a first team All-Big 12 performer after catching 56 passes for 721 yards and 3 touchdowns as a senior. Murphy didn't post eye-catching statistics during his college career, but he didn't play in a receiver-friendly offense and was subject to inconsistent play from the quarterback position. But even without the huge statistics, Murphy was rated a top 10 overall prospect by both the Blesto and National scouting services prior to the 2004 season due to his overall performance on the college gridiron and his natural athletic ability. Murphy has good size, runs well and flashes explosive ability on the football field. It should also be noted that Murphy has the reputation of having a great work ethic and seems to have a real love for the game of football. Murphy's Indianapolis Combine results were as follows: height = 6-0 7/8, weight = 202, 40-yard time = 4.42 seconds, Wonderlic score = 15. Murphy also posted a 41.5-inch vertical jump at Texas A&M's Pro Day. I had Murphy carrying a late round one grade on my board due to his overall package of size, athletic ability, work ethic and all-around performance as a college player. Murphy also returned kicks during his career at Texas A&M, and will likely be counted on to serve in that role early in his career as a Green Bay Packer. Don't be surprised if Murphy emerges as a good NFL starter two or three years down the road. Personally I thought Murphy represented excellent value in this area of the draft, and think Thompson may have landed a potential steal with this selection.
Starting with the Packer's third round selection (#89), Ted Thompson executed a series of trade down's which netted the Packers 5 day two selections. The trades break down as follows:
-The Packers trade a 3rd round selection (#89) to the Panthers for two 4th round selections (#115, #126)
-The Packers trade a 4th round selection (#126 obtained from the Panthers) to the Eagles for 5th, 6th and 7th round selections (#167, #175, #245)
-The Packers trade a 6th round selection (#175 obtained from the Eagles) to the Patriots for 6th and 7th round selections (#195, #246)
In summary, these trades had the net result of the Packers trading a 3rd round selection (#89) for a 4th round selection (#115), a 5th round selection (#167), a 6th round selection (#195) and two 7th round selections (#245, #246).
Round Four - Marviel Underwood/S/San Diego State (#115 overall selection)
Marviel Underwood was a three-year starter at free safety for San Diego State University. He finished his college career with 36 starting assignments, 222 tackles, 7 interceptions and 20 pass breakups. Underwood has below average height for a safety prospect, but has a solid build and runs faster than most safeties. He is known for being an intelligent, aggressive player who shows good range on the football field. However, Underwood only has average instincts and needs to improve his tackling. Underwood's Indianapolis Combine numbers were as follows: height = 5-10 , weight = 205, 40-yard dash = 4.49 seconds, vertical jump = 38 inches, Wonderlic score = 24.
The consensus value indicated Underwood would be drafted in the range of the fifth round through the seventh. Therefore, I feel that the Packers may have selected Underwood a round too early. But Underwood does have good speed for a safety and could develop into a good coverage safety with a couple years of NFL experience. Underwood should, at worst, provide depth at the free safety position, but his speed and coverage ability gives him a chance to develop into a starter down the road.
Round Four - Brady Poppinga/OLB/Brigham Young (#125 overall selection)
Brady Poppinga is a classic tweener who could fill a role at linebacker or as a situational pass-rusher. Poppinga served a LDS mission immediately after high school, and saw his first action on the college gridiron in 2001. He played at defensive end during the 2001, 2002 and 2003 seasons, and moved to linebacker for the 2004 season. Poppinga's best season statistically was in 2002 when he totaled 14 tackles for loss and 8 quarterback sacks. Poppinga has great size and runs very well. He is very aggressive and plays the game with great intensity. On the downside, Poppinga doesn't look real fluid when operating in space and may project best to a situational pass-rusher role. Poppinga's Indianapolis Combine numbers were as follows: height = 6-3 1/8, weight = 259, 40-yard dash = 4.60 seconds, vertical jump = 35 inches, 26 bench press reps of 225 pounds, Wonderlic score = 25.
Poppinga was considered a 5th round value by most so he represented solid value with the 125th pick. Early indications are that the Packers will insert him into the strong side linebacker position. Look for Poppinga to contribute to special team's early on, and maybe even see the field as a situational rusher until he learns the in's-and-out's of being an NFL linebacker.
Round Five - Junius Coston/OG/North Carolina A&T (#143 overall selection)
In my opinion, Junius Coston was one of the best small school prospects available in the 2005 NFL Draft. Coston played at left guard as a true freshman, right tackle as a sophomore, and center as a junior and senior. Coston is a very good athlete for an offensive lineman. He does a good job of getting downfield and blocking on the move. But while Coston was a dominating force in college, he would occasionally have mental lapses and will need to show more focus if he is going to become a solid NFL performer. He also lacks some power in his punch, and will need to hit the weight room and improve his strength. Coston's Indianapolis Combine numbers were as follows: height = 6-3 3/8,
weight = 310, 40-yard dash = 5.33 seconds, vertical jump = 29 inches, 21 bench press reps of 225 pounds, Wonderlic score = 19.
Coston was considered a 6th round value by most so he represented reasonable value with the 143rd pick. Considering the fact that he played at a low level of competition, it's more than likely that Coston will see the inactive list frequently in 2005 if he makes the team. The Packers are probably looking at "redshirting" him in 2005, developing him, and hoping he can at least serve as a backup at all three interior offensive line positions down the road. Coston does have enough athletic ability to someday emerge as an NFL starter, but it's unlikely that he would be ready to step into a starting role until the 2007 season.
Round Five - Micheal Hawkins/CB/ex-Oklahoma (#167 overall selection)
Micheal Hawkins is a super-athletic prospect who is very raw and could be several years away from becoming a good NFL player. Hawkins comes from a rough background, as both parents had substance abuse problems that resulted in him being homeless at the age of 16. He turned his attention to football and became a star player, but quit the team during his senior year after a dispute with the head coach. Hawkins played in five games for the Oklahoma Sooners as a true freshman in 2002, but left the program after coaches criticized him for missing workouts. He made the squad of the Arena League's Dallas Desperados after a tryout but only saw limited action while battling through some nagging injuries. During workouts leading up to the draft, Hawkins was timed under 4.3 seconds in the 40-yard dash on some scout's stopwatches. The Packer's official website lists him at 6-1, 179 pounds.
While there is no question that Hawkins possesses incredible upside potential, his selection in the 5th round left me scratching my head. Hawkins may have the athletic talent of a Deion Sanders, but in this situation I feel the negatives far outweigh the positives. Hawkins has a very limited football background, has the reputation of being very difficult to coach, and hasn't been able to stick in one place very long. This pick may end up paying huge dividends for the Packers because the player has undeniable talent, but the fact remains that Hawkins is longest of long shots.
Round Six - Mike Montgomery/DE/Texas A&M (#180 overall selection)
Barely on the radar of NFL scouts prior to the 2004 football season, Mike Montgomery made a name for himself with a first team All-Big 12 performance as a senior. Montgomery began his college career at Navarro Junior College and transferred to Texas A&M prior to the 2003 season. Unfortunately, doctors diagnosed Montgomery with an irregular heartbeat when he arrived at Texas A&M. Further investigation showed that Montgomery had an extra blood vessel in his heart, which was corrected by surgery, but the process of the correction prevented Montgomery from having a big impact in 2003. Montgomery moved into the starting lineup as a senior and had a remarkable year, totaling 78 tackles, 8 tackles for loss and 5 sacks. Montgomery is a big defensive end that has the frame to carry 290 pounds. He has very good quickness and is a player with good upside potential. However, Montgomery is not very explosive and doesn't figure to present much of a pass-rush threat from a defensive end position. Montgomery's Indianapolis Combine numbers were as follows: height = 6-4 7/8, weight = 276, 40-yard dash = 5.07 seconds, vertical jump = 34 inches, 19 bench press reps of 225 pounds, Wonderlic score = 9.
Montgomery carried a solid 5th round grade heading into the 2005 NFL Draft, so he represented good value for the Packers in the sixth round. His selection was somewhat surprising, as many had speculated that the Packers would be looking at smaller, quicker defensive ends that could get upfield and pressure the quarterback. However, it wouldn't be surprising to see the Packers eventually bulk Montgomery up to the 295-pound mark and move him inside to a defensive tackle position. Montgomery figures to battle for a backup spot at left defensive end in 2005, and may have the overall ability to develop into a solid power end or three-technique tackle down the road.
Round Six Craig Bragg/WR/UCLA (#195 overall selection)
Craig Bragg was a solid college performer who had a big junior year but was prevented from having a big senior season due to injury. Bragg redshirted in 2000 but went on to start in 3 contests in 2001. Bragg caught 8 touchdowns as a sophomore and totaled 1065 receiving yards as a junior. He was poised to have a big senior season, but missed three games in the middle of the year due to a shoulder dislocation. Bragg did have good success as a punt returner as a senior, averaging 15.0 yards per punt return with 1 punt return for a touchdown. Bragg isn't the biggest, fastest, or most athletic receiver, but he has good quickness, knows how to set up defensive backs and get open, and seems to understand the nuances of playing the wide receiver position. Bragg didn't do full workouts at the Indianapolis Combine, but he measured in at 6-0 5/8, weighed 196 pounds, recorded a 36-inch vertical jump, and scored a 27 on the Wonderlic exam. Bragg ran the 40-yard dash in approximately 4.55 seconds in later workouts.
Bragg carried a 5th round grade entering the 2005 NFL Draft, so he was well worth a pick in round six for the Packers. Bragg has a good chance to stick as a 5th receiver and punt returner for the Packers, and seems to have the receiver savvy to become a #3 receiving option down the road.
Round Seven - Kurt Campbell/OLB/Albany (#245 overall selection)
Kurt Campbell played defensive back in college, but the Packers will likely shift him to a linebacker position. Campbell played cornerback for Albany in 2001 and 2002. He played a rover position in 2003 and 2004 and finished his senior season with 34 tackles and 3 pass breakups. Campbell missed significant action in 2002 and 2003 due to various injuries. Full workout numbers were not available for Campbell, but some reports indicated that he was running the 40-yard dash in approximately 4.45 seconds during post-season workouts. The Packer's official website lists his height and weight at 6-1, 230 pounds.
Campbell seemed to be below the radar until just a few weeks before the draft. His stock continued to creep up as he performed workouts for over a half a dozen NFL teams. At the time of the draft I did not expect Campbell to be drafted, but after reviewing the number of teams that worked him out I was not surprised to see him selected. Campbell will likely be looked at to contribute on special team's early, and might have a home at the weak side linebacker position in the future.
Round Seven Will Whitticker/OG/Michigan State (#246 overall selection)
Will Whitticker showed flashes of greatness in college but was an inconsistent performer. Whitticker redshirted in 2000 but earned several All-Freshman honors in 2001 after winning the starting job at right guard. Whitticker started in 8 games as a sophomore but served as a backup in 2003. Whitticker moved back into the starting spot at right guard as a senior and had a fine season. Whitticker has the size and athletic ability to be a fine NFL guard. He has a naturally big body and can get out and block in space. However, Whitticker was an inconsistent player during his college career. Whitticker was not invited to the Indianapolis Combine, but his Pro Day numbers were as follows: height = 6-3 5/8, weight = 336 pounds, 40-yard dash = 5.38 seconds, vertical jump = 29 inches, 29 bench press reps of 225 pounds.
Whitticker was a decent late round pick as a developmental prospect. At times Whitticker showed NFL ability in colle
ge, although at other times he simply looked like an average college player. If he continues to improve and shows more consistency, he has a chance to make a contribution in the NFL.
Final Draft Grade = C+
Overall, I would consider Ted Thompson's first draft for the Green Bay Packers to be a mild success. While Thompson failed to address many of the team's pressing needs, the majority of his selections represented reasonable to good value. While I think the selection of Nick Collins was a major reach in the second round, I feel that the Aaron Rodgers and Terrence Murphy selections could prove to be steals. While the majority of day two selections were good picks, none of them left me feeling that the Packers landed a future star. The only day two selection that I really questioned was Micheal Hawkins, but there is no question that Hawkins can succeed if he dedicates himself and the Packers are patient with him.
The "good" of the draft was that Thompson was able to secure reasonable to good value with 7 or 8 of the 11 selections. He also entered this draft with 7 picks and emerged with 11 players, and did not have to sacrifice draft position within the first two rounds (first three picks) of the draft in order to obtain more picks. He was able to obtain a consensus top 10 quarterback in the bottom half of round one, filling the "quarterback of the future" role (and perhaps the primary backup role in 2005) which has been a question mark for the last couple of seasons. He also added depth to the wide receiver group, the offensive line group, and the defensive secondary group, all of which were positions that needed additional depth. The "bad" of the draft was that Thompson was unable to fill many pressing needs on the defensive side of the ball with early round picks. Outside of Brady Poppinga (and longshot Kurt Campbell), Thompson failed to add anymore linebackers to a group that badly needs additional depth. And even though many would consider it a minor detail, I was disappointed that Thompson failed to select a tight end considering the Packer's glaring lack of depth at the position behind Bubba Franks. Overall, I would consider this an above average draft for the Green Bay Packers.