A draft loaded with defensive linemen, especially pass-rushers, may offer a pleasant temptation when it’s the Packers’ turn to pick with the final selection of the first day of the NFL Draft on Thursday.
What will General Manager Ted Thompson do? Trade up, trade out of the first round or stay at 32 and pick?
Here’s what we do know:
“They get good value. They move around and get good value. They’re not afraid to make trades. They consistently pick the best player available,” si.com draft analyst Tony Pauline said of Thompson and the Packers.
Pauline believes this draft could become known as the best-ever for defensive linemen. In classic understatement, Thompson agreed in his draft preview last Thursday that the crop of defensive linemen is strong.
“In general, it looks like a good group,” Thompson said.
Pauline sees the potential for half of the first-round picks to be defensive linemen or defensive linemen that project to outside linebacker in a 3-4 defensive scheme.
“I think you’ll have 16 defensive linemen drafted in round one,” Pauline said, including three players he sees in a 3-4 rush-backer role: Purdue’s Ryan Kerrigan, Georgia’s Justin Houston and Arizona’s Brooks Reed.
“I think he’s better off the ball,” Pauline said of Kerrigan. “The Chargers love him. If they take him, they’ll use him as an outside linebacker. They lost Shawne Merriman last year.”
What other positions might present strength late in the first round?
“Wide receiver is a good position, but you’re talking about the start of round two as opposed to the end of round one, but is there a big difference? Late in round one there are going to be a lot of versatile offensive linemen available; guys that can play tackle or guard, such as Danny Watkins of Baylor and James Carpenter of Alabama,” Pauline said.
“I think GMs will view it as a good draft because there are so many good defensive linemen and left tackles. It’s lacking at cornerback and they like to see a lot of good cornerbacks in the draft.”
Pauline is down on the quarterback crop, though it was thought last spring that this year’s draft would be the time to get a franchise quarterback. Several quarterback prospects had disappointing seasons last fall.
“I think they’re overrated and they’re going to be overdrafted. There’s too much risk,” Pauline said.
New England is the team that appears poised to have the most productive draft. The Patriots have three picks in the first 33 spots.
“Atlanta is a team that, if they get the right front-seven guy, it could push them to the next level. If the Jets can get a pass-rusher or somebody that can help the pass-rush, they win the AFC championship game. If St. Louis gets the proper piece – a good receiver, a good pass-rusher – they could take the next step,” Pauline said.
The Packers? Pauline has nothing but praise for Thompson’s team.
“He makes the final call and you can’t complain about the final calls they’ve made,” Pauline said of Thompson. “(John) Dorsey (director of college scouting) is a hard-working guy. I see him at every event. He stays to the end and talks to all of the players. He works.
“I think they can come away with another good pass-rusher, which is always going to improve a team. You can get some depth at the receiver position later on,” Pauline said of expectations for the Packers.
The Packers have nine picks: one in each round and an extra pick in the fourth, which is compensation for having lost Aaron Kampman in free agency last spring, and Carolina’s pick in the seventh round as a result of a trade for long-snapper J.J. Jansen.