With the 2009 NFL Draft a week old, and the initial media-hype and critiquing wrapping up, I figured today was the best day to take a look back on how the Packers did. Coming into the draft, every draft hub around speculated the Packers could have gone in a number of different directions. However, as we all know, especially the final days leading up to Draft Day, players’ stock rise and fall like gas prices. Fortunately for the Packers, two players in particular, Tyson Jackson and Darrius Heyward-Bey, were those late-risers. And because of their controversial selections at 3rd and 7th overall by the Chiefs and Raiders, respectively, Ted Thompson reaped the benefits, having his choice between two prime players at their respected positions: Michael Crabtree and B.J. Raji. Interestingly, it was leaked Friday night by the Journal Sentinel’s Bob McGinn that Crabtree was the highest rated player on Green Bay’s board, and should he fall he may have been too good to pass up. And just as rumor had it, the stars aligned perfectly for Thompson, giving him his choice. Take the flashy receiver, who has the potential to be a future superstar at a position of strength? Or take one of the only true nose guards in the class to anchor your new defense for years to come? And as it turned out, management opted for the beef. Putting sexiness on the back-burner for a second, this was the right pick. Yes, I understand the receiving core isn’t necessarily built for the future at present with Donald Driver aging and Jennings not yet locked up. However, not only would Crabtree have demanded more money as a premier position player, but he was someone the Packers just did not have the luxury of taking.
Raji will come in and have a chance to be the Packers’ next plug in the middle, Ala Gilbert Brown. What a lot of people tend to forget was it was the defense, not the offensive, that held this team back last year. Namely, the rush defense, and when you have two backs on divisional rivals (Peterson and Forte) running circles around you, it needs to stop. For all those still hating the pick, here’s a stat for you: in their two games against the Packers, Forte accounted for 205 of the Bears’ 518 total yards (40%), while Peterson racked up 339 of the Vikings’ 716 (47%). Raji will not only demand double-teams at 335 pounds, but he’ll allow fellow linebackers Aaron Kampman, Nick Barnett, A.J. Hawk and newcomer Clay Matthews to fly around and make plays. Thompson then did something completely out of character, trading up to get the alluded to USC linebacker, Clay Matthews, the second from the trio of stud linebackers to here his name called early-on. Thompson was apparently so enamored with Matthews that he might have made him the pick should Raji not have slipped. So just like that, after only what had been a few hours, the Packers found themselves not selecting until the 4th round on Sunday, barring another trade-up. Yes, I realize that in giving up three picks (one second and two thirds) for Matthews and a 5th, Thompson got ripped off, but if Matthews pans out, no one is going to remember the trade that was unquestionably a head-scratcher.
Sunday, the Packers proceeded to add six new players to the roster, including two highly-touted tackles T.J. Lang and Jamon Meredith, a bruising fullback in Quinn Johnson, a defensive end in Jairus Wynn, a corner/safety hybrid in Brandon Underwood and finally another linebacker in Brad Jones. The phones didn’t stop ringing either, as 11 more undrafted signees were brought on, most notably, Northwestern running back Tyrell Sutton and a former teammate of Greg Jennings at Western Michigan, receiver Jamarko Simmons. And sitting here a week later, after the dust’s settled and the meticulous scrutinizing is over, all that’s left to do is lace-up the cleats, strap-on the pads and play.