Thursday, May 7, 2009

2009 NFL Draft Grades: Green Bay Packers

A new era began in Green Bay last season. For the first time since 1991 Brett Favre was not the QB of the Packers. I'm serious. I know it flew under the radar but it happened, believe me. I think he retired for good. Or not. Anyway, with Favre gone everyone focused on whether or not Aaron Rodgers could adequately fill his shoes. Turns out they should have been more focused on a porous defense that cost them a shot at the playoffs.

Aaron Rodgers did his best Brett Favre impression, fueling an offense that was 8th or better in passing yards, total yards, and points scored. The Green Bay offense rarely missed a beat without #4 under center, scoring at least 16 points in every game and 24 or more in 10 contests. How did they win a mere six games? A craptacular defense, which allowed nearly 24 points per game (22nd in The League), kept Green Bay from keeping pace with Chicago and Minnesota. The porous defense had no answer for opposing rushing attacks, allowing 131.6 yards per game on the ground. If the offense plays the way they did last year and the defense improves just a tiny bit, the Packers will be challenging for the NFC North title again.

With new defensive coordinator Dom Capers the team will switch to a 3-4 scheme that has been spreading through the NFL since the turn of the century. The Packers needed a great defensive draft class to make the successful transition. Did they get it?

1/9/9 - B.J. Raji, DT, Boston College
1/26/26 - Clay Matthews, DE/OLB, USC
4/9/109 - T.J. Lang, OT, Eastern Michigan
5/9/145 - Quinn Johnson, FB, LSU
5/26/162 - Jamon Meredith, OT, South Carolina
6/9/182 - Jarius Wynn, DE, Georgia
6/14/187 - Brandon Underwood, CB, Cincinnati
7/9/218 - Brad Jones, ILB/OLB, Colorado

  • DL - Check!
  • LB - Check!
  • OL - Check!
The Packers, despite the departure of the selfish, ego-maniac that is Brett Favre, still had a spectacular offense in 2008. Their shoddy defense let them down way too many times. They needed to fix that, and they may have succeeded... at least on paper. They found their new NT, a requirement for a successful 3-4 scheme (are you listening, Denver?). They have a pass rushing specialist as well as a developmental ILB and possible backup DE. The little offensive help they needed was along the offensive line. We can check that off too. The only thing I can gripe about is them not getting a second CB or one earlier than round six.

GRADE: 95/100

Pick 1 - This wasn't even an option. The Packers needed to take Raji if he fell this far. Thankfully they did. For a 3-4 to work you need a sizable NT and Raji fills that space and then some. While he may have some character concerns, the Green Bay organization has the foundation to straighten him out and get the most out of him. NT is the most important position in their new scheme and now they have the need resolved. Grade: 9

Pick 2 - The Packers traded back into the 1st to grab a somewhat sliding Clay Matthews, whom numerous 3-4 teams passed on at first. It was a wise move by the front office; the rush LB position was a bit of a mystery and another key cog in the 3-4 defense. Matthews has the tenacity and dedication to become a force and could start as a rookie, like Raji. Grade: 9

Pick 3 - It's a good thing Green Bay found instant impact players with their first two picks because they wouldn't pick again until the fourth round. There they continued to fill needs gabbing OT Lang. Lang has the potential to develop into the successor to either Mark Tauscher or Chad Clifton. He provides ample depth. Grade: 8

Pick 4 - I hate to hate on FBs but I just don't see the need to draft one. Only three pure FBs were selected in 2009. It's likely that the best FBs from the class weren't drafted; it's just the way it goes with a dated position that is not important to the success of a team. Perhaps Johnson will become a star but someone like Brandon Hughes or Victor Harris may have been better. Grade: 5

Pick 5 - Based on value, this may have not just been the best pick by the Packers but of any team in the draft. Jamon Meredith should have been a second rounder. Period. Why did he fall to round five? It isn't because of talent. Green Bay effectively found their OTs of the future in one draft. Success! Grade: 10

Pick 6 - Wynn's an odd selection because based on his measureables he doesn't really fit into the 3-4 scheme. Generally 3-4 DEs are bigger than what Wynn is listed at (275). If he can add10-15 lbs. though it'll work. Or he could lose 15 lbs and become an OLB. As of now though he isn't the best fit and will need time to develop. Grade: 5

Pick 7 - Finally a CB to help a very old secondary. Starting corners Al Harris and Charles Woodson have been solid for years but need breaks here and there. Tramon Williams could be one future starter but Will Blackmon is strictly a return guy. Underwood needs some fine tuning but can be a serviceable #3 or #4. I doubt he becomes a #2 though, which I envision Coye Francies and Mike Mickens becoming who were selected later. Grade: 6

Pick 8 - Brad Jones was an OLB at Colorado but will have to transition inside in the Packers scheme. And to successfully do that he needs to add about 10 lbs.; his size right now is not conducive to taking on blockers and backs in the hole. Jones is a developmental guy for sure, one that will undoubtedly make the practice squad as he bulks up. Someone like Zach Follett, who is a tad bigger and more refined, may have made more of an impact faster. Grade: 5

GRADE: 57/80


Four great picks landed the Packers immediate starters (Raji, Matthews) or quality depth players (Lang, Meredith). They faded a bit later but the top of the draft is where it counts and they hit it out of the park. I would have liked to see an additional CB paired with Underwood. If they would have done that this would have been a slightly better draft. Regardless it was more than solid.


WHY: Like I said, two immediate starters. Two future OTs. That's a solid draft even if the other guys all flame out. Getting four starters from a draft should be what all teams strive to do. The Packers appear to have done that. Now they can come back and focus on the secondary in 2010.

NOTE: My "final grade" is weighted and is not a simple combination of "needs" and "talent".

Best Pick: Raji
Worst Pick: Johnson, I guess
Sleeper: Underwood
Instant Impact: Raji
Developmental: Jones

OTHER DRAFT GRADES - Green Bay Packers
CBS Sports (Prisco): B
CBS Sports (Rang): B+
ESPN (Kiper): A (Brooks): B+ (Fan's): B
Walter: A



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