Tag Archives: Sam Shields

Green Bay Packers Draft Preview

28 Apr
NFL Draft

The 2015 NFL Draft begins Thursday night in Chicago.
Photo Credit: gannett-cdn.com

With the 30th pick in the 2015 NFL Draft, the Green Bay Packers select…

Ah, it’s that time of year, football fans: draft week. Optimism reigns supreme throughout the league’s 32 front offices and fanbases alike. Every team has a chance to win Super Bowl 50. Except the Bears, which is ironic considering Chicago is the host location of this year’s draft.

All jokes aside, the dawn of a new season is upon us. And with that season comes an opportunity for the Packers and their fans to move on from arguably the biggest collapse in NFL postseason history. The Packers’ 28-22 overtime loss against the Seattle Seahawks in the NFC Championship Game will never be erased from memory. It stings. It will always sting. But it’s time to move on.

No Super Bowl festivities took place in Titletown at season’s end. Yet there were still celebrations in the form of going-away parties for A.J. Hawk and Brad Jones. Packers fans even offered to help pack their suitcases for them as they departed for their new homes in Cincinnati and Philadelphia, respectively.

OK, maybe that didn’t happen. But I’m sure no one held the door for them on the way out of Green Bay.

The duo’s abysmal performance on gamedays surely had Packers fans raising their right hands and insisting they could play the inside linebacker position more effectively. And, to be fair, some of them probably could.

Funerals took place to mourn the careers of cornerbacks Tramon Williams and Davon House, who left the fruitful pastures of Green Bay for train wrecks in Cleveland and Jacksonville. But both players will rest peacefully, knowing they’re being paid a pretty penny to never sniff a Super Bowl again.

Nevertheless, the offseason continued. Free agency came and went. Outside free agents remained unsigned. And as sure as the sunrise, Ted Thompson haters came out of hibernation, equipped with pitchforks and picket signs.

I don’t understand how so much unwarranted criticism can be directed toward a general manager who has led the Packers on one of the most successful stretches in franchise history. It’s not good enough, apparently. As human beings, and especially sports fans, we’re never satisfied.

This generation of Packers fans has become accustomed to winning, seemingly unaware of the preceding dark ages that took place during the ’70s and ’80s. Coaches and general managers from other teams would threaten to trade players to Green Bay if they underperformed. It was a wasteland.

The Packers are thriving in today’s NFL, and their fans should appreciate these times because success doesn’t last forever. Keep things in perspective.

Year in and year out, fans beg Thompson to forgo his obligation to the salary cap and throw massive sums of money at free agents who, in all honesty, are free agents for a reason.

Packers General Manager Ted Thompson

Packers General Manager Ted Thompson.
Photo Credit: fansided.com

Money. Injuries. Age. Regardless of the red flags pinned to each free agent’s backside, more often than not, a cheaper asset is available in the draft.

And how, exactly, has Thompson managed to build a perennial contender?

Through the draft.

This is where Thompson earns his money. Sure, he has undoubtedly made some poor selections he’d like to have back, but it’s unrealistic to expect any general manager to hit home runs with every draft pick.

For the free agency fanatics, consider this: a bad draft pick is far less detrimental to a team’s salary cap than a free agent acquisition that doesn’t pan out. You don’t build a roster through free agency. You merely supplement it. Thompson has done that. Next time the Packers win a game, win the division, win the Super Bowl, don’t forget about the man in the booth who makes it all happen.

And I digress. Let’s get started.

With key contributors returning, such as Randall Cobb and Bryan Bulaga, the Packers remain equally as formidable as the squad that came within 3:52 of reaching the Super Bowl last season. A strong draft could potentially put the Packers over the top. And for a team that’s built on a draft-and-develop philosophy, that’s not such a bad proposition.

But there are holes to be filled.

Inside Linebacker

Hawk and Jones aren’t coming back, much to the relief of many fans. But someone has to step in alongside probable starter Sam Barrington and fill the void, make a difference – something Hawk and Jones didn’t do, at least not in a positive way. Clay Matthews moved inside temporarily last season to help shore up the run defense, but the Packers would ideally like to send him back outside as a permanent pass-rushing threat.

A number of quality inside linebackers could be available to the Packers in the first round. At 30th overall, the best options will likely include Eric Kendricks (UCLA), Benardrick McKinney (Mississippi State), Stephone Anthony (Clemson), Denzel Perryman (Miami – Fla.) and Paul Dawson (TCU).

Inside linebacker is the Packers’ greatest need, but none of the aforementioned prospects received a first-round grade and there isn’t a standout player in this class.

Thompson believes in drafting the best available player, not necessarily based on need. He doesn’t reach for players, either. For that reason, the Packers could go a different route.

Cornerback

Ha Ha Clinton-Dix

Ha Ha Clinton-Dix was the Packers’ first-round selection at 21st overall in the 2014 NFL Draft.
Photo Credit: jrn.com

With the departures of Williams and House, the Packers need to address cornerback early in the draft. Casey Hayward and Micah Hyde were primarily slot corners last season. Hyde also played safety until rookie fan-favorite Ha Ha Clinton-Dix took over full time. Either Hayward or Hyde will be thrust into a starting job opposite Sam Shields. But depth at the position must be improved.

The following cornerback prospects have more talent than their inside linebacker counterparts and could potentially be available when the Packers are on the clock: Kevin Johnson (Wake Forest), Byron Jones (Connecticut), Marcus Peters (Washington), Eric Rowe (Utah) and Jalen Collins (LSU).

Defensive Tackle

Defensive tackle isn’t as much of an immediate need as inside linebacker and cornerback, but it’s worth considering for the future. B.J. Raji and Letroy Guion are both returning on one-year deals, which is encouraging in the short term but concerning in the long term. Additionally, Raji missed all of last season with a torn biceps, and Guion was arrested during the offseason.

The best options at defensive tackle who might be available at 30th overall are Malcom Brown (Texas), Eddie Goldman (Florida State), Jordan Phillips (Oklahoma) and Carl Davis (Iowa).

The Packers could also address tight end, but unless they land Maxx Williams (Minnesota) or Clive Walford (Miami – Fla.) it’s not worth taking one until later in the draft.

Most experts agree this is a relatively weak draft class. Many believe the bottom of the first round will feature second-round talent. This puts the Packers in a difficult position – a position I wouldn’t be surprised if Thompson trades out of.

As a matter of fact, that’s my prediction, albeit an unsexy one.

Trading down would allow the Packers to acquire an extra pick and select an inside linebacker at the top of the second round, where the value matches the need.

Thompson loves to trade down. Historically he’s been successful in doing so. With the 30th overall pick in hand, the Packers are in prime position to move out of the first round and still draft a player near the top of their board.

Over the years, fans have come to expect the unexpected from Thompson. It wouldn’t surprise me if he selected an offensive lineman and sent Packers nation into an uproar.

Regardless of how Thompson handles the draft, the Packers are locked and loaded for another Super Bowl run this season.

Enjoy the ride.

Jimmy Graham to Packers?

4 Mar
Jimmy Graham

The New Orleans Saints used their franchise tag on tight end Jimmy Graham on Monday. The tight end has drawn interest from the Green Bay Packers and Seattle Seahawks.
Credit: http://www.zimbio.com

As the NFL Franchise Tag deadline passed at 4 p.m. ET Monday, only four of the NFL’s 32 teams elected to use their franchise tag. One of those teams was the New Orleans Saints, who tagged tight end Jimmy Graham.

The Saints likely intended to use their franchise tag on Graham to buy themselves more time to work out a long-term deal, but they might have different intentions, possibly involving other NFL teams.

ESPN’s Adam Schefter suggested the Green Bay Packers could be a potential team interested in Graham. The Packers could sign Graham to an offer sheet, giving up two first-round picks to the Saints if they are unable to match the Packers’ offer.

Signing Graham looks sexy on paper. He certainly would fill a void on the Packers’ roster, but don’t be mistaken. While tight ends Jermichael Finley and Andrew Quarless are set to become unrestricted free agents, making a play for Graham would go against the draft-and-develop philosophy of Packers General Manager Ted Thompson.

During his tenure with the Packers, Thompson has proven to be reluctant when acquiring top-tier players via trades or free agency.

In addition, this year’s draft class has a great deal of depth at the tight end position.

In a win-now league, the Packers must still be mindful of their future. Sacrificing two first-round picks for one player – even if it happens to be one as talented as Graham – would be a risky move. It would jeopardize the Packers’ ability to build through the draft and improve their porous defense, which ranked 24th in the NFL last season.

An integral part in improving, or at least maintaining, their defensive unit would be re-signing cornerback Sam Shields, who has already announced he will test the market once free agency hits Tuesday, March 11.

The Packers have the sixth-most salary cap space in the NFL this offseason, $34.7 million to be exact. Ian Rapoport of NFL.com has reported the Packers will be big spenders in free agency. Look for them to spend that money on signing household names, such as Shields and center Evan Dietrich-Smith. Whatever money is left over should be spent on the defensive side of the ball.

With the Packers’ ample cap space, paired with a talented free agent pool, it’s not unthinkable for Thompson to slightly alter his approach this offseason. The last time he did was in 2006, when the Packers acquired cornerback Charles Woodson and defensive lineman Ryan Pickett.

The Buffalo Bills did not tag safety Jairus Byrd, and he will become a free agent next Tuesday. He would immediately fill a need for the Packers.

While it’s only a rumor and relatively far-fetched for now, the idea of seeing Graham in a Packers uniform is intriguing. Lining him up alongside Aaron Rodgers, Eddie Lacy, Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb would make the Packers a juggernaut on offense.

That being said, the Packers’ defense is a priority, and the risk associated with signing Graham would arguably outweigh the reward. When all is said and done, I doubt Graham will be on the Packers’ roster next season, but he’s worth keeping an eye on.

Would you like to see the Packers make a move on Graham?