Sitting down to write about the Packers is a precious time in my week. Without fail, my lil' dog Ziggy jumps on my lap. Yeah, he's my kid and he loves talking Packers football. I grab a tasty treat; today, it's Double Stout from Green Flash Brewery. It's 12 ounces and 8.8% of absolute goodness. I put on my favorite music at the time; today it happens to be Papa Wemba, a Congolese musician who offers a solid mix between inspiring and soul settling musical tones. Hopefully, these vibes will allow me to channel my inner Ted Thompson. With that, I present to you what I'd do if I were Ted Thompson. No, this is not a prediction. I'll leave that to the journalists. This is simply how I'd act if I were the GM of the 13-time World Champions.
QB: (3) Aaron Rodgers is the MVP and the starting QB. I wholeheartedly wish that we could make a move at back-up QB. Graham Harrell is not the answer. While it's been well documented that James Jones has not been desired in trade attempts, I'd have to imagine that Joe Philbin and the Miami Dolphins might be interested in a straight-up swap of Jones for Matt Moore. I'd be all over it. If Moore isn't obtainable, what's happening with Colt McCoy and Matt Hasselbeck? Both are going to be back-ups. Is either available? Also, I know it's not happening, but say what you want about Vince Young - no matter your take, he's better than Graham Harrell. With that said, if i don't have a trading partner, I have to keep Harrell. Also, I'm in the minority in my beliefs, but I'd keep BJ Coleman. The Packers have tried with great intent to hide Coleman from scouts. It doesn't matter. I wouldn't expose Coleman. And, if Coleman gets his chance this weekend, he will impress. Sure, he'll be inaccurate on some throws, but he'll also show glimpses that he's a legitimate developmental prospect.
RB: (5) Cedric Benson looked better in Green & Gold than anyone we've seen at RB since Ryan Grant went wild in the '07 Divisional Playoff game against Seattle. Preseason or not, Benson looked fluid, well rested and full of burst. James Starks is a must keep. Yes, he has injury problems. But, we don't need him for 16 games. We need him healthy in December, January and February. And the memories of 2010 are still too fresh. Alex Green will get his chance to make an impact this year. Brandon Saine showed promise as a 3rd down back last year. It's been frustrating that he hasn't been healthy. Kuhn is the lone FB on the roster. With the way McCarthy shifts his TE's, there is no reason to keep more than one FB.
WR: (5) Jennings, Driver, Cobb and Nelson are obvious. They're sticking around. By the way, it was great to see Jennings "Be Great" and bust ankles in the open field. Good stuff. As mentioned earlier, I'd be targeting a trade that involved Jones. Assuming it doesn't happen, he, too, is kept. Here's where the problem comes. Coming into the preseason, all the rage followed Gurley & Borel. Well, we're 3 preseason games in and neither has done anything to stand out. In fact, I can't imagine a scenario in which Borel sticks around. Further, I can't be convinced that Jarrett Boykin has not been one of the best 53 players in the preseason games. He's displayed legitimate gifts. Purely as a WR, I'd rather have Boykin than Gurley and Borel. However, Gurley has shown skills in punt coverage. And, last year, we read about Gurley's punt blocking skills. Still, there is only so much room on the roster. And, with that, the hardest cut on the roster is Jarrett Boykin. It'll surprise if he makes it to the practice squad. Borel & Gurley also have practice squad eligibility. Doubt either makes it that far.
TE: (4) J-Mike, DJ Williams, Crabtree and Ryan Taylor are all going to be on the team. McCarthy values TE's. I was hoping Finley was ready for a Pro Bowl season, but his injuries have been frustrating. DJ Williams has shown that he's enhanced his skills in the route running department. Really liked him running the slant against Cleveland. Crabtree has not had consistent hands, but he's the best of the TE's with respect to blocking. Ryan Taylor's development from year 1 to year 2 has been disappointing thus far. Still, he has special teams talents and he sticks around. Though, I will admit that it was awfully tough to send Boykin to the practice squad instead of releasing Taylor. Quarless is on the PUP list.
OL: (8) This is the biggest challenge. Newhouse, Lang, Saturday, Sitton and Bulaga make up a nice OL. Reggie Wells has grit and experience. He also has guard and tackle versatility. Dietrich-Smith was reliable as a back-up last year. He sticks around. Sherrod has not been healthy and I wondered if he was destined for the PUP list, but the Packers clearly think he'll be back sooner than that since he was not placed on the PUP list today. Since he's not on the PUP list, he's obviously a lock to be on the active roster. Datko wasn't as good as we had hoped he'd be this preseason and therefore, he goes to the practice squad.
DL: (6) BJ Raji, Jerel Worthy, Ryan Pickett, CJ Wilson, and Mike Daniels are locks to be rotating on the defensive front. The last spot goes to either Merling or Muir. I really wanted Merling to grab it. He didn't do so. The job goes to Muir who has played with great energy and heart. Muir might only last 4 weeks with Mike Neal coming back after then.
LB: (9) Clay Matthews, Nick Perry, DJ Smith, and AJ Hawk are the starters. Man, does that Bishop injury hurt. Totally sucks. I've been really impressed with Robert Francois. Loved his two tackles on special teams against the Browns. He, too, is battling an injury, but he's a keeper. So is Jamari Lattimore. Epic pick-6 by Lattimore! Moses hasn't impressed me like he has others, but he did look like he was more aware against the Bengals. Still, he's slow off the snap of the ball. And, that is concerning. Regardless, Moses gets a spot. We have not heard the last of Erik Walden. He will make some plays for the Packers in 2012. I had high hopes for Terrell Manning. He's been timid. Almost afraid of making a mistake. Still, Manning makes the team as the 9th LB. So'oto is a solid practice squad candidate. We've seen the end of Brad Jones in Green Bay.
DB: (10) Woodson, T-Mon, Burnett, Shields, Bush, Hayward, Shields, House, McMillan and MD Jennings make the squad. Jennings has not been as impressive as I hoped and I considered keeping Richardson over him, but I believe that Richardson can sneak his way onto the practice squad.
Specialists: (3) Crosby, Masthay and Goode. All are in the upper tier of their positions.
Practice Squad: (8) I'm assuming Borel and Gurley don't make it this far. Though I would be shocked if Boykin did as well. Still, I have to have some fun with this! So I'm keeping: Boykin, So'oto, Richardson, Datko, Ross, Guy, Barclay, Tyler.
A couple of quick notes:
* Rodgers looks like he's having fun out there. I like it.
* Benson. Yes, Cedric Benson! Tell me that you were as stoked as I was!!!
* Greg Jennings. Be Great, Greg. Be Great.
* Randall Cobb. Love watching him run the slant. Only a matter of time before McCarthy gets creative with him. Likely in Week 1.
* DJ Williams. Like his route running this year. Looks to have grown in that area.
* TJ Lang. Don't feel like he's been finishing blocks well.
* BJ Raji. Man, it feels like he's been pushed backwards more this preseason than I ever remember before. With that said, love the combination of Worthy, Raji, Matthews, and Perry on 3rd Downs. They'll get to the QB. Often.
* Nick Perry. He has a phenomenal bull rush. Get to work, Kevin Greene. When this guy develops a spin move to compliment the bull rush, he'll be wicked.
* Clay Matthews. Great to see his energy last week.
* DJ Smith. The most sure tackling player on the team.
* Casey Hayward. Catch the ball, mate.
* Sammy Swagga Shields. Keep it up, playa!
* Lattimore and Francois offer good versatility.
* If one thing is certain, I'm not exposing BJ Coleman to the prospect of FA. He's not a practice squad guy, he needs to be kept. Painful for the numbers, but it's a requirement. QB's with that arm are tough to find.
With the '12 College Football Season beginning this Thursday, I had to kick it off with a Mock NFL Draft for April '13. After all, this is the "If I Were Ted Thompson" Edition. I'm giving the Packers a bonus 4th for Scott Wells and a compensatory pick in the 6th for Matt Flynn. Total bummer that Wilson beat out Flynn. Hurts our draft stock. Due to time constraints, I've solely used the CBS Draft Scout Tracker to give rough estimates as to where players will be picked.
Round 1: With the 32nd pick of the 2013 NFL Draft, the Green Bay Packers select Jake Matthews, OT, Texas A&M. Yes, he's Clay's cousin. So, that part of it is fun. But, really, the reason for the pick is that the Packers OL needs more depth. Newhouse has been good, but he's not a superstar. Matthews has that ability. Further, Sherrod has yet to prove he's worthy of protecting the NFL's MVP. Last year, you might recall that my good mate, Stack, suggested the Packers draft Kawaan Short, DL, Purdue. Today, he's my runner up for the 1st Round. I also considered Shayne Skov, ILB, Stanford.
Round 2: If I didn't like BJ Coleman so much, this pick would be Geno Smith, QB, WVU. Instead, I'm going with Kenny Vaccaro, S, Texas. Hate to say it, but Sir Charles Woodson is getting older. Vaccaro can play in the box. He can cover. He mixes it up in run defense. Vaccaro edges out Robert Lester, S, Alabama; Knile Davis, RB, Arkansas; Sylvester Williams, DL, UNC; and Nico Johnson, ILB, Alabama.
Round 3: Desmond Trufant, CB, Washington. Looks like this is early for him. Doesn't matter. I'm high on his game. Gets his head turned. Not afraid to be physical, even though he's only listed at 185 lbs. I like his game. Excited to see more of him this year.
Round 4a: Kenny Stills, WR, Oklahoma. First of all, he's the son of Ken Stills! Yes, THE Ken Stills! So, he has NFL genes. Further, I love his bounce. He's got game. He loves to compete. He has a thrill for the lights. He'd be great in our system.
Round 4b: Cierre Wood, RB, Notre Dame. Wood has the play making skills, the elusiveness and the size to be an every down back in the NFL. I love his football instincts. He makes defenders miss in the open field and he has a nose for the 1st down marker. At this stage, I rank him higher than Stepfan Taylor, RB, Stanford.
Round 5: Jon Bostic, ILB, Florida. Love how Bostic gets sideline-to-sideline. Sure tackler. Has the size, speed and athleticism to make it at the next level. Florida has legitimate NFL prospects (Sharrif Floyd & Dominique Easley) on the DL in front of Bostic, so he should be put in position to make plays in the SEC this year.
Round 6a: Anthony Rashad White, DL, Michigan State. I really hope he can play as he did at the end of last year. I also hope he measures at 6-2, 330. If so, this guy has beastly skills, if he's motivated. He was unrecognized due to the dynamite play of Worthy and Gholston, but don't sleep on Rashad White! Guy can play. He was huge in the bowl game against Georgia last year and it wouldn't surprise me if he gets off to a great start at the beginning of the '12 campaign.
Round 6b: Ray Ray Armstrong, S, Faulkner College. The former product from the _ is a legitimate prospect. Loaded with skills. Yet, it seems he was in constant trouble since enrolling at the University of Miami. Still, I love Ray Ray's game. At one stage, the _ thought he might be the next Sean Taylor. They even gave Ray Ray the #26. It wasn't meant to be. And, Armstrong was kicked off the team this year.
Round 7: James Vandenberg, QB, Iowa. Vandenberg is a decent decision maker and a good late round prospect. The Packers have had good fortune with Iowa prospects in the past.
One last thing, if I'm Ted Thompson, I'm doing everything I can to sell Jennings, Rodgers, and Matthews on signing a reduced rate contract with the Packers.
Go Pack Go!