Derek Sherrod slowly but surely built himself into an All-America in college.
The Packers slowly but surely waited for him to fall all the way to the 32nd overall pick of the NFL Draft on Thursday night.
The Packers nabbed Sherrod, a potential offensive tackle for the next decade, with the final pick in the first round. The three-year starter at left tackle for Mississippi State was a decent prospect after his junior season in 2009, earning first-team all-Southeastern Conference honors, but then he boosted his stock considerably with a decorated senior season in 2010 that included All-America recognition from seven different publications.
“It was a little bit of a long wait,” Sherrod said of sweating out the entire first round. “But it was a very good wait because I’m very happy with the pick.”
So are the Packers, who took a premier pass-protector for quarterback Aaron Rodgers in the first round for the second straight year. Just like a year ago with Bryan Bulaga, it’s unclear whether Sherrod is a left tackle or right tackle long term, but the Packers know they have another intelligent (3.5 college GPA), athletic big man to work with.
“We’ll figure out all those pieces, how it fits together,” offensive coordinator Joe Philbin said. “We’ll get to know him better and validate the things we saw on tape once we get him here.”
One tape Philbin remembers was Mississippi State’s road game at Alabama last season, noting it’s always a good test to see an offensive lineman operate in a hostile, noisy environment.
Sherrod was charged with either one sack or no sacks over his last two collegiate seasons, depending on which scouting report is consulted. "I take pride in not letting anybody touch my quarterback, or get near my quarterback," he said. Philbin said he also stood out for his ability to get downfield and block second-level defenders in the running game.
“We think he has a chance to be a complete player,” Packers General Manager Ted Thompson said. “He played against good competition for three, four years.
“If you can get quality big men, I think you always kind of lean that way, particularly if you’re picking late in the first round.”
A lot of big men were available as the first round came down to the final four selections. Then at No. 29 the Bears took Wisconsin tackle Gabe Carimi, the fifth offensive tackle to go, before the Jets and Steelers both took defensive linemen in Temple’s Muhammad Wilkerson and Ohio State’s Cameron Heyward.
If the defending Super Bowl champions have an immediate need, it’s probably on the defensive line, so the Packers may have been disappointed to see Wilkerson and Heyward go just in front of them.
Getting an offensive tackle that started three dozen games in college isn’t just a consolation prize, though.
“We think it’s a really good value to get a big man that late in the first round we feel like can come in and help us,” said Thompson, who said he took the requisite phone calls exploring trades both up and down, without anything materializing. “Where he’s gonna play I don’t know, but I know this – you can never have too many big men. The more run-blockers and the more pass-blockers we have, the better we’ll do.”
Even if, for Sherrod, it means another wait, with Bulaga and veteran Chad Clifton the starting tackles for the time being.
“I can always learn a lot more about the game of football,” Sherrod said. “Everybody can learn a lot more.
“I definitely plan on having a long career.”