Wednesday, March 16, 2011

My Take -> Epic Mock Draft Volume 1

Greetings, G-Force.

Presently, it's 5:49 on a Wednesday cocktail hour in March. I just completed a 5 mile run. To refresh, I'm sitting on my balcony. Sipping an Aguila, the last of which I brought with me from Miami Beach to Denver. I chose a light beer tonight as tomorrow will be flocked with Guinness. I'm wearing shorts, sandals & a t-shirt. Culture's Cultural Livity disc is ringing in the background. Last I looked, it was 71 degrees outside. There's 2 robins picking at the grass in my front yard. Must be spring time again. And, I've decided to take a moment to bask in a quenching XLV thought. Pop Tarts!

If you're looking for CBA commentary, at this time, this blog is not the place for that topic. The original intention of the blog was to provide an optimistic yet realistic view of the Green Bay Packers. For all posts in which I'm the author, presently, I intend to keep it that way. I'm excited for other authors to possibly join the blog as they'll diversify the flavor. Once again, I'd like to reiterate that if you'd like to post a take to the blog, simply write to me & I'll add you as an author.

I've begun a thoroughly analyze the NFL Draft. I've watched all of the Senior Bowl practices that I have on DVR. I've watched the 1st half of the East-West Game & the 1st half of the Senior Bowl. I've done a fair amount of reading on the Texas vs. the Nation game. Over the last 2 weeks, I've committed 10-15 minutes a day to internet researching the draft.

As I've delved into the Draft, I've started to compile a list of guys that scream Ted Thompson to me. Some have been uncovered via reading that the Packers have attended their Pro Days. Others just by watching the way that they move. And some of the players are guys that I've enjoyed watching over the last year. Here's the list so far along with the expected round that they'll be drafted:

QB: Christian Ponder, FSU. Round 1-2. It wouldn't shock me if he ends up being the top QB in this draft.
Greg McElroy, Alabama. Round 5-7. Screams Matt Flynn to me.
Scott Tolzien, WI. Round 6-7. It's been widespread that McCarthy spent significant time with him during the WI Pro Day. Would be a good developmental prospect.

RB: Mikel LeShoure, IL. Round 1-2. If Marshall Faulk says that the kid has an NFL career, I believe him.
Ryan Williams, Va Tech. Round 1-2. While I can envision Thompson drafting a RB early in the '11 draft, I've seen Williams single-handedly dominate games.
Jordan Todman, UCONN. Round 3. He catches the ball. He's deceptively elusive. Small shake to him. Runs harder than he appears.
Shane Vereen, Cal. Round 3. When healthy & given the chance, this guy has performed at elite levels. Good hands.
Noel Devine, WVU. Round 7. I've been watching him forever. He's a Home Run waiting to happen. Wishful thinking, but have to include him.
Anthony Allen, Georgia Tech. Round 7. Not the fastest guy. Not the best shake. Straight ahead kind of guy that seems to be in the mold of Thompson's style.
Nic Grigsby, Arizona. Round 7. Sometimes, you just get a feeling about a guy. I have that feeling about Grigsby. Kid can fly. Underrated prospect.

FB: Charles Clay, Tulsa. Round 3-4. If there is one guy I'm certain the Packers will draft, it's Charles Clay. Can play TE. But, he's a FB. An H-Back. Much in the mold of Rod Bernstein. A bigger Larry Centers. Not a great blocker, but he's decent. Terrific hands out of the backfield. He's versatile. Good after the catch. He's a utility player who creates match-up problems. The Packers interchange the TE & FB. Clay seems to fit this description identically. From now on, he'll be included in my mock draft.
Stanley Havili, USC. Round 4. He, too, is a match-up problem. More of a threat as a pass-catcher & a runner than a blocker. He runs like a HB, in many ways. Similar to Kuhn. I can see him playing special teams as well.

WR: Leonard Hankerson, []_[]. Round 1-2. He has the size, speed, and flair to be a big-time NFL player.
Jerrel Jernigan, Troy. Round 2. Kick-return skills. McCarthy would have to devise plays for him. He'd have to find a way to make him fit. I imagine he'd be able to successfully do so.
Randall Cobb, Kentucky. Round 2. Electric player. Every time he touches the ball, you feel something good is going to happen. Would love him in Green Bay.
Jeremy Kerley, TCU. Round 4-5. He's a Texas kid, which makes this possible. We know Ted Thompson loves Texas players.
Ryan Whalen, Stanford. Round 5. Reminds me of Jordy Nelson in many ways.
Stephen Burton, West Texas A&M. Round 7. Another Texas kid. Ran a sub 4.4 at his pro day. He's super quick & has NFL size.
Lester Jean, FAU. Round 7. Great production at the college level. Often talked about in South Florida circles. The Packers were at his Pro Day.
Jamel Hamler, Fresno State. Round 7. Ted Thompson likes players from TX, CA, FL, and MI. Especially receivers.

TE: Virgil Green, Nevada. Round 4. The Packers spent significant time with him at the Combine. Nevada was loaded with athletes this year.
Rob Housler, FAU. Round 3-4. The Packers spent time with him at his Pro Day. Has the size & speed to create difficulty for opposing defenses.
Julius Thomas, Portland State. Round 5. Ted Thompson likes athletic TE's. Thomas is a former PF in college basketball. Much like Jimmy Graham last year, he could burst onto the scene late in the season next year.

DL: Adrian Clayborne, Iowa. Round 1. It baffles me how someone so productive at the college level could start to dip down draft boards due to a less than stellar combine. We need to replace Cullen Jenkins. Mike Neal is part of the solution. Clayborne could be the other piece.
Cameron Heyward, Ohio St. Round 1. NFL bloodlines. He, too, would be a nice addition to replace Cullen Jenkins.
Muhammad Wilkerson, Temple. Round 1-2. True athlete. Great mobility for a big man. Looks the part.
Kendrick Ellis, Hampton. Round 2. Supposedly there were 5 times at his Pro Day. The Packers were one of them. He's huge. 6-5. 345. Our Big Beefy formation was crucial to our success. Another thing I've learned about Ted Thompson on draft day is that he doesn't necessarily draft for this year rather he drafts for next year. Next year Howard Green is a FA & Pickett will turn 33.
Terrell McClain, South Florida. Round 5-6. Super athletic big man. Fits the 3-4 DE spot. Holds the point of attack. Ultra quick for his size.
Blaine Sumner, Colorado School of the Mines. Round 6-7. Rumor has it that 3 teams showed up at the Colorado School of the Mines Pro Day. The Broncos, Bills & the Packers. During the Pro Day, Sumner tied the Combine record with 49 reps on the bench. The Packers witnessed this.
Brandon Bair, Oregon. Round 6-7. While it's clear that 300 lbs is the ideal weight for a DE in the 3-4, the last two years Thompson has drafted someone in the 280-290 range in the later rounds. Bair gives the effort needed to succeed. He's active with long arms. In many ways, he's a poor man's JJ Watt.
Frank Kearse, Alabama A&M. Round 7. The Packers have spent significant time with Kearse during the off-season. 6-5, 325. He'd give Raji a breather. He'd also fit the Big Beefy package.

OLB: Martez Wilson, IL. Round 1. Might be the ideal prospect for the Packers. Played OLB early in his college career. Made the transition to ILB. A total beast. Can see him being a guy opposite CM3.
Akeem Ayers, UCLA. Round 1. During the '11 college season, at one point, I wrote that he was my favorite player in college football. It didn't end that way after I watched him play Oregon. Still, I have no doubt that he can play at the next level.
Justin Houston, Georgia. Round 1. Played in a 3-4 in college. Had great success. Can get to the QB. Can he drop in coverage? That, I don't know.
Brooks Reed, Arizona. Round 1. It baffles me that he's considered a 1st round prospect. Early in the college season, I was writing about him before most draft publications even listed him. I wrote about his motor. I wrote that he was a closer late in games. I wrote that he could pressure the QB. I envisioned him as a 5-6 round prospect, 4th at best. Now, I read that the Packers were front & center at his pro day. Shocked. I wouldn't mind him being drafted as a Packer. Just not in the 1st round. I'm not center that he's a massive upgrade over the Brad Jones/Erik Walden/Frank Zombo combination.
Sam Acho, Texas. Round 2-3. While I am not positive that he's an ideal fit, man, he's had quite the offseason. Texas' defense struggled this past year, but Acho has been a superstar in the Combine & in the post-season bowl game. Gifted. Gets around the edge. At times, he's unblockable.
Dontay Moch, Nevada. Round 2-3. Did anyone have a better combine than him? I was writing about him early in the year as well. I first saw him on ESPN against Mizzou 2 years ago as he was stripping Blaine Gabbert on a sack. He can fly around the corner & has the size to play.
Marc Scheichl, Colorado School of the Mines. Round 5-7. So, I wrote about the Packers being present at this Pro Day. Well, Schiechl became the talk of local sports radio for a night after he posted a 35-inch vertical jump and ran up 38 reps on the bench pressure. He stands just over 6-2 & weighs 251 lbs. Speculation was that the Packers were a huge player in conducting drills that tested his ability to drop in coverage and play as an OLB as he was mainly a DE at the college level. Further, he hold the D2 record with 45 career sacks. He was a man amongst boys. By request, he's been invited to attend the pro day for Air Force.
Cheta Ozougwu, Rice. Round 6-7. The most naturally gifted of the bunch. Moves with grace. Totally fluid. Good lateral movement. Played DE in college, but I believe his skills translate to OLB in the NFL. Runs like Walden. Good developmental prospect.
Matt Berning, Central Michigan. Probably an UFA. But, what would a Ted Thompson prospect list be without a guy from Central Michigan? He needed to be on the list.

ILB: Casey Matthews, Oregon. Round 3-4. It's in the genes.
Colin McCarthy, []_[]. Round 3. Immediately, he'll be a stallion special teams player. Finds the football. Moves well. Gets sideline to sideline.
Greg Jones, Michigan State. Round 3-4. Another guy whose stock has plummeted post his collegiate career. At one time, he was considered a top-15 prospect. Now, we might last until Day 3.
Mario Harvey, Marshall. Round 7. You know when you watch someone play one time & he instantly catches your eye? That happened to me with Mario Harvey. Not ideal size nor speed. But, he plays like Desmond Bishop. Crushes you. I'd take him in a heartbeat in Round 7.

CB: Aaron Williams, Texas. Round 1-2. I've loved his game since the first time I watched him play.
Curtis Brown, Texas. Round 2. With all this talent on defense, it amazes me that Texas couldn't stop anyone this year. Many think he is better than Williams. Not me.
Ras-I Dowling, Virginia. Round 2-3. Without the injuries, he'd be a top-15 pick. Plus, he's got a sublime name.
Richard Sherman, Stanford. Round 4-5. Raw. Only played one year of CB. Previously, he was a WR. Has great size. Small similarities to Ras-Al. We struck gold with a 1-year collegiate CB last year.
Ryan Hill, []_[]. Round 5. Ended up starting over DeMarcus Van Dyke. Had a great pro day. His stock is flying high.
Devon Torrence, Ohio State. Round 7. Every time you watch him play, he's grabbing highlights. Will get beat on occasion, but worth a look this late.

S: Tyler Sash, Iowa. Round 3-4. Not the fastest guy. Not the biggest guy. Just a football player. No doubt, Ted Thompson loves this guy.
Zac Etheridge, Auburn. Round 7. The leader in the secondary for the National Champs.

At this point, I envision a draft that includes additions to the DL, OLB, ILB, OL, QB, WR, and Charles Clay. With the compensation pick for AK-74, I expect either another DL or another OL. Per the norm, I'd prefer to see the Packers trade down. Unless Gabe Carimi is available. But, I hear he won't fall past Chicago. If Carimi is off the board, I wouldn't mind a trade down to accumulate more picks to continue to build depth & training camp competition.

As always, this will change in the near future. In fact, if you would have asked me yesterday, it would have been different. But as of now, my ideal mock draft is as follows: (as always, I don't list OL)...

Round 1: If Clayborn or Heyward are available, I'd like one of them. However, I don't foresee that happening. Right now I'm tugging between 3 guys: Leonard Hankerson, Muhammad Wilkerson & Martez Wilson. For now, I'm sticking with Hankerson. We need to continue to load Rodgers with weapons. True, YOTTO is coming back, but I believe Hankerson would be a terrific compliment to Jennings. He can play the slot & learn from Driver. He can replace Jones and run the deep routes. He'll make the difficult catch. He has a nose for the end zone. He'll bring more swagga to Lambeau. We struck it rich with the []_[] last year. I have a feeling that most of the players from the []_[] will have better pro careers than they did college careers as Randy Shannon was not gifted with developing players. While I'm taking Hankerson, note that I've listed 4 defenders as potential replacements. We must continue to add to our front 7. The front 7 was dominant over the last 6 games of the XLV run.

Round 2: I'm tugging between two players: Jerrel Jernigan & Kendrick Ellis. Jernigan would solve a problem at KR. He's also a weapon at WR. He'd add more diversity to the offense, but I've already gone Hankerson in Round 1. Therefore, Ellis is the selection. We learned in 2011 that when the Packers stop the run, we're tough to beat. Stopping the run puts our 3 Pro Bowl DB's in position to make plays. Ellis would aid in this component of the game. He'd also be a terrific long term compliment to Mike Neal. One side note: if Christian Ponder falls this far, it'd be interesting to see how Thompson would respond.

Round 3: Presently, for me, it's a no-brainer that the Packers draft an ILB in Round 3. McCarthy, Matthews & Jones are all talented players who played for big time Universities & made a number of impact plays against top-notch competition. Of course, I'm going with Casey Matthews. I'd love another long-haired wonder in our LB core!

Round 4: Book it. For the rest of my mock draft preparation, I'm selecting Charles Clay in Round 4. He's a Ted Thompson guy. Over the course of the next 6 weeks, two things won't change: 1.) I'll have the Packers selecting an ILB in Round 3 & I'll have Charles Clay as the pick in Round 4.

Round 4a: I'm budgeting a 4th round pick as compensation from the loss of AK-74. I see some project a #3. I doubt we'll get that due to his injury. If Ras-I Dowling is around, he's the pick. If healthy, he'd have been a 1st rounder. No doubt. But, injuries derailed his year. He has talent. He was better than Chris Cook & the Viqueens used a top pick in the 2nd round on Cook last year. Dowling's stock is dropping fast, but I don't see him falling this far. So, the Packers select Richard Sherman. While raw, he's showed he can play the ball. Solid hands. Still learning the position, but he'll receive guidance from some of the best next year.

Round 5: Marc Scheichl. Clearly, the Packers have a genuine interest. His production at the D2 level is unmatched in the history of the game. I imagine that it's a priority to find someone opposite the Claymaker in the 2011 Draft even though I really liked the way Walden progressed. Scheichl interests me.

Round 6: Scott Tolzien. McCarthy needs a QB to develop. Tolzien has the tools. He's smart. Well-spoken. Generally, he makes good decisions. He's deceivingly mobile. He understands the game. He could develop into a legitimate QB.

Round 7: Nic Grigsby. He has the quickness. He sees the seam & goes for it. Didn't see a lot of him in college, but what I did, I really liked. I hope Thompson accumulates a couple of late rounders as I see solid talent later in the draft. I like names such as Jamel Hamler, Bruce Miller, Frank Kearse, Mario Harvey and Brandon Bair. I believe that all have the talent to play in this league.

XLV for life!

Go Pack Go!

Talkin' S-Mac.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Random Packers Vibes!

Greetings, G-Force.

I wanted to remind you that we'll have to wait until pick #32 in the 1st Round before we make our initial selection in the 2011 NFL Draft. Ever since my good mate, Vargas, & I conjured a plan to someday open a restaurant called the "Irish Mexican" - I've based my NFL Draft Party around Irish & Mexican goodies. Well, and maybe a lil' Zyr Vodka. Looks like this year, I'll have to stack the plate of nachos a little higher. And, potentially, I'll have to buy an extra 4-pack of canned Guinness.

Damn, it feels good to be a Cheesehead! Yes, we're Super Bowl Champions. As proud supporters, yes, we the G-Force are Super Bowl Champions! Beauty! While the CBA & impending lockout is a total buzzkill, it's not enough to thwart the continued excitement that the final 6 weeks of the 2010 NFL Season brought to life. XLV FOREVER!

I got my Super Bowl goodies in the mail from the Packers Pro Shop. When I pulled out my XLV Flag, I couldn't help but run around the house. Wrapped in the flag, I belted out "Olè, Olè, Olè, Olè...Olè, Olè!" I couldn't help myself. It was instinctive! Purely natural.

Cheers to Ted Thompson. Have to like the AJ Hawk signing. Hawk & Bishop will be manning the middle of our defense for the next 4 years. Together, they had great continuity. They were teammates. They complimented each other. They were in lock-step. Unified.

Speaking of such camaraderie, in case you missed it, I wanted to share a Twitter conversation between Clay Matthews & Aaron Rodgers:

Rodgers writes to Matthews: were u the big man on campus dropping clawledge and looking for designs for ur next tribal tattoo??
Matthews replies: When r we gonna take out ur SB MVP camaro n look for cougars!? I just got a new barbed wire tat around my ankle!! #clawledge
Rodgers responds: when u stop dousing ur hair with water 5 times a game on the sideline just so u can do that hair flip u love to do
Matthews comes back with: Chicks dig the flip. And so does Suave!! :) Is it true ur dating Mila Kunis!? Ur so Hollywood bro!! #MVP
Rodgers writes: if by dating u mean met for the first time the other night, then yes. Uve changed bro. Ur so socal now. sorry I forgot that guys like u stay at the 4 seasons
Matthews jabs: You've changed... I want my old friend back!!

Camaraderie. Teammates. Locker room leaders. Youthful. Playful. Together - forever. Our Offensive MVP & Defensive MVP = Littering a conversation with fun sarcasm. Further evidence of their relationship is revealed as Matthews talks about hanging out with Rodgers' brother at sporting events. Additionally, it appears as though Twitter shows that Rodgers has relationships with Matthews' brothers. Making the relationship even thicker is the fact that Matthews' brothers seem to have brotherhood with Rodgers' brothers as they exchange messages back & forth. Clearly, the relationship between Rodgers & Matthews is deeply rooted. Bring out the Belt!

I believe that team camaraderie is partially the reason that Thompson signed Hawk. In some ways, Hawk defines the Packers of 2010. The consummate team player. Early in the year, he was buried on the depth chart. He never complained. He was the subject trade rumors. He never said anything negative about the organization. He played thru pain. As the captain of the defense, he engineered a terrific defensive performance throughout the 2010 NFL Season.

Oh, and via twitter, the Claymaker had something to say about this as well: Happy 2 see AJ Hawk inked a new 5 yr deal w/ the PACK! I still have better hair!! #longhairdontcare #suave

Barnett, on the other hand, challenged the Packers organization publicly. He negatively responded to Aaron Rodgers' comments prior to the Super Bowl as well. At least partially, I imagine this played a part in Thompson's decision making. Barnett has played his last down in Green & Gold. At this stage, I'd trade him for a 5th or 6th round pick. Though I doubt we'll even get that.

If you haven't watched the replay of the 2nd Quarter of the Packers at Atlanta playoff game in the last week, what are you waiting for? Live that moment again. As I reflect on games that I've gone to in my life & think about the most fun Quarters that I've attended, a quick look at my top 5 would be:

5.) 4th Quarter: Dallas @ Green Bay in Week 13. I was sitting in section 22 - approximately 40 rows from the field. I was with my Mom, my brother Bob & my sister, Marni. The Cowboys had been the thorn in the Packers side throughout the 90's. Leading 24-10, the Cowboys started driving as Troy Aikman hit Michael Irvin on a deep ball. Jerry Jones walked out of the tunnel & onto the field. Wearing a trench coat, he enthusiastically applauded along the Cowboys sideline. Emmitt Smith punched it into the end zone to cut the score to 7. Then the Packers went to work. Favre to Freeman for 6. Levens pounded away as he marched near 200 yards rushing. Pounding through defenders, Levens was Dorsey the Horsey! Levens punched it in to give the Packers a 21 point lead. The party was finished when Darren Sharper picked up a fumble & danced into the end zone. 21 fourth quarter points & Mac was blaring "Mama don't let your babies grow up to be Cowboys" through the loud speakers at Lambeau!

4.) 1st Quarter: San Francisco @ Green Bay in the 1996 NFC Divisional Playoffs. In the freezing rain, I was sitting in Section 22 with my brother Chad, approximately 9 rows from the field. After the Packers forced a Steve Young offense into a 3 & out, Desmond Howard returns the punt 71 yards for a TD. Again, Young walks onto the field. Another defensive stop. Another huge Howard punt return leads to a Brett Favre to Andre Rison TD. 14-0 Packers. An injured Young gets replaced by Elvis Grbac. This set the tone for the entire 1996 playoffs. It confirmed that the '96 Regular Season was not a fluke. We were, indeed, the best team in the NFL. Convincingly so.

3.) 2nd Quarter: Green Bay @ Atlanta in the 2010 NFC Divisional Playoffs. I was sitting upper deck with my brother, Bob, & my brother-in-law, Paul. Trailing 7-0, the Packers were driving. Just over 3 minutes into the 2nd Quarter, Rodgers hits Nelson to equalize! A special teams blunder makes it 14-7 Atlanta. Then the nearly unparalleled excitement begins. Kuhn gets the Packers even after he bulls his way into the end zone from a yard out. On this play, the "Freezer" was born! Then Chuckie gets a big sack to force 3rd and long to slow Atlanta as the Falcons entered the Red Zone. The following play, T-Mon kills the drive by baiting Matt Ryan into a bad pass. The MVP goes back to work. 5 times in the 2nd Quarter, Rodgers connects with passes of at least 20 yards. Punctuated with a tremendous TD pass to James Jones in the corner of the end zone. Then, on the final play of the Quarter, it's T-Mon to close the half. Ecstasy! I can't get enough of Joe Buck's call of that play. Seriously sensational!

2.) 1st Quarter: Pittsburgh vs. Green Bay in Super Bowl XLV. I was sitting 21 rows from the field with my Mom, Dad, and my brother, Chad. Obviously, there was a bit of uncertainty as to how the Packers would fare against the veteran Steelers roster. While I believed the Packers were the better team, seeing is believing. Rodgers hits Jordy for 6. Howard Green applies the pressure. Nintendo Nick grabs the pick. And the return. 14-0 Packers. It was SUPER!

1.) 3rd Quarter: New England vs Green Bay in Super Bowl XXXI. Sitting with my Uncle Pat approximately 25 rows from the field, the Packers entered the 3rd Quarter with a solid 27-14 lead. Early in the quarter, it was back & forth. The Packers were driving and looking to take a 3-score lead, which in essence, would have ended the game. On 4th & 1, Holmgren called a questionable run with Dorsey Levens to the outside of the field. Levens was stopped. The Patriots responded. Nerves were at an all-time high. Obviously, I'd never tasted a Packers Super Bowl Title before. I did not know what it felt like to be a Champion. After Curtis Martin cut the Packers lead to 27-21, Desmond Howard goes 99 yards for a Packers TD. Favre hits Chmura for a 2-point conversion & the lead was 14. After the Packers kicked off, it was vintage Reggie White. As the Packers faithful shouted "Reggie, Reggie" with wholehearted passion, the Minister of Defense responded. Dominating Max Lane on 3 straight plays, he sacked Drew Bledsoe twice. At this point, we knew the Packers would win Super Bowl XXXI. For the 1st time, I'd felt the Super Sensation. While the first 12 minutes of the quarter were nail biting material, the final 3 minutes were the ultimate. It was celebration time!

Continue to revel in the notion of Super Bowl XLV. Hopefully, the CBA will be agreed upon in the next week or so. If so, I'll have a post on the current state of the Packers union & how I'd approach the offseason. If it doesn't happen, I'll continue to slowly put together draft thoughts as the draft is now less than 2 months away.

Go Pack Go!


Talkin' S-Mac.