SI.com draft analyst Tony Pauline says the Packers appear to be well-positioned in the first round of this year’s draft.
In what is being termed by many draftniks as a weak draft, Pauline believes the place to be is “the back half of the first round; 7-16 is a kind of no man’s land. The guys you’re going to take there are more late first-round picks than mid first-round picks,” he said.
The Packers own the 28th overall selection, and the beauty of this draft for General Manager Ted Thompson would seem to be the 12 picks he holds and the desire of a lot of teams to trade back to where he is.
“It’s a buyer’s market for trading up,” Pauline said. “The supply of teams wanting to come down is greater than teams wanting to come up.”
So what will the Packers do? Will they sit at 28 and select the best available player? Or might they trade up to select a player they’ve targeted?
“There are a lot of good pass rushers in this draft,” Pauline said, going right to the heart of the matter, which is the Packers’ need to improve what was the league’s worst pass rush (sacks per pass play) and defense (total yards) last season.
This year’s draft class is loaded with pass rushers, the majority of which would seem to fit as outside linebackers in a 3-4 defense, which the Packers employ. The Packers traded up to select Clay Matthews in 2009, and Matthews immediately became one of the league’s star pass rushers; he instantly changed the face of the Packers defense.
Might Thompson find that same player again and, in the process, put the Packers back into the Super Bowl? That’s exactly what Packers fans are hoping will happen on Thursday night, the first day of the three-day, 2012 NFL Draft.
The Packers have one pick in each of the first three rounds and also in rounds five and six, three picks in round four and four picks in round seven. The team’s 12 total picks is second in the league to Cleveland’s 13. Thompson certainly has the ammunition to bag a trade deal.
“Absolutely, considering there are more people that want to go down than come up. Not only can he do it, he’ll probably have the opportunity to do it,” Pauline said.
Where is this draft strong and weak?
“It’s a good (draft) if they’re looking for depth at receiver, a pass rusher, a guard. It’s not good if they’re looking for a left tackle or a safety,” Pauline said.
The Packers, of course, released left tackle Chad Clifton and safety Nick Collins in a span of three days this week.
“It’s good if most of (their picks) are positioned second round through fourth round,” Pauline added.
That’s exactly where five of the Packers’ 12 picks are positioned.
“Could you ever have too much money? No. Maybe parlay some of those picks to the future, if what they like isn’t there,” Pauline added.
It’s believed the first pass rusher won’t be picked until at least pick No. 7, which is held by the Jaguars, a team that has repeatedly announced its interest in trading back. Normally, a move from the bottom of the round into the top 10 would be costly but, as Pauline said, this would seem to be a “buyer’s market.”
“Melvin Ingram is going to be head and shoulders above everybody else,” he added, referring to the South Carolina star. Ingram is thought to have the most complete game of the pass rushers that fit into the 3-4, outside linebacker category.
A run on pass rushers could see as many as eight selected in the first round. Pauline said recent weeks have seen Boise State’s Shea McClellin and Syracuse’s Chandler Jones climb into the first round.
What if the Packers stay at 28?
“Where they’re picking, if he’s there, I would say Nick Perry (pictured). He’s probably the purest of the pass rushers. If he’s there, that’s a good pick for them. He might not be there. Then, do you think Whitney Mercilus can play 3-4 outside linebacker? I think yes, but there’s a lot of debate about that,” Pauline said.
Months of questions start getting answered on Thursday.