Packers’ draft: Hoping to find a few good men

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Upcoming draft picks key to Green Bay’s present, too
The NFL draft is the gift that keeps on giving in Green Bay. It affects the future, to be sure, while also having a terrific impact on the present.
There are several identifiable traits among Super Bowl champs:

  • They have an exceptional head coach.
  • They are fueled either by a great quarterback, a suffocating defense, or both.
  • Another common trait: The rookies develop quickly, establish roles early and contribute mightily along the way.

The salary cap, roster turnover and a “win now” mentality requires rookies to be up to speed today rather than tomorrow.
It’s why coaches push for as many OTA’s, minicamps and camaraderie-building outings as they can schedule.
Clearly, the Packers have many of the elements to reach Super Bowl 51 in Houston. (I use numbers, rather than Roman numerals, now that the NFL let that genie (Super Bowl 50) out of the bottle.
They have head coach Mike McCarthy. They have a tremendous quarterback in Aaron Rodgers. They have Pro Bowl receiver Jordy Nelson back off injury, and they have Eddie Lacy running to daylight rather than the dinner table.
Defensively, the prospects are better than they were last year. Rookies Damarious Randall and Quentin Rollins are the real deal. They proved worthy of the first and second picks in the draft. In many ways, their development coincided with the defensive secondary’s improvement.
Inside linebacker Jake Ryan was up and down, which is understandable, so I’m going to reserve judgment there. However, the reality is Ryan wasn’t good enough as a rookie to elevate the inside linebacker position, or even keep it consistent.
So what about this year’s draft class? Fortunately, GM Ted Thompson has the ammunition to trade up if he sees fit, as well as the flexibility to stay put or move down as dictated by the draft.
Fans can take this to the bank: The Packers will be significantly better following the upcoming draft. Rest assured, now that the tight end position has been addressed with the signing of Jared Cook, Thompson will turn his attention to other needs.
A starting-caliber, versatile offensive lineman might be tempting with the 27th pick. Those players are difficult to find, and with Josh Sitton, T.J. Lang and David Bakhtiari’s contracts up it makes sense.
Drafting an offensive lineman might be wise but only if there isn’t a surefire (as sure can be in these cases) defensive player who could make an immediate impact.
Ohio State’s Darron Lee is intriguing. So is Alabama’s Reggie Ragland. Lee is similar to Micah Hyde but much bigger (6-1, 230) and faster (a legit 4.4) – almost a hybrid linebacker. Lee would solve the Packers’ difficulties covering tight ends and running backs out of the back-field.
Ragland is a thumper in the best sense. He’ll take a ball-carrier head-on in the hole and win. He also has pass rush ability which may allow defensive coordinator Dom Capers to utilize Ragland as Clay Matthews’ alter ego.
They could line up inside, outside or wherever. They might rush the passer, drop into coverage or hammer the back. If Ragland is the real deal he could have a huge impact.
Beyond that, the Packers could use another big-bodied player along the defensive line. It’s almost impossible to pass on a player such as Baylor’s Andrew Billings because they don’t make many 6-3, 325-pound men who can move like he does.
A player like Billings (if he’s a stud) should make teammates such as Datone Jones (lining up in the Elephant position) much better. It also could allow Nick Perry to use his pass-rush skills because Billings would occupy two blockers.
The Packers also could use another pure edge pass rusher to spell both Matthews and Julius Peppers.
Beyond that, I expect Thompson to select at least one running back and perhaps another receiver. As last season proved, you can never have too many of either.
Chris Havel is a national best-selling author and his latest book is Lombardi: An Illustrated Life. Havel can be heard Monday through Friday from 4-6 p.m. CDT on WDUZ FM 107.5 The Fan, or on AM-1400, as well as Fan Internet Radio ( Havel also hosts Event USA’s MVP Parties the evening before home games.