Breaking down the Packers' draft
Eric Huber of RapidDraft.com and Bill Huber of PackerReport.com break down the Packers' 2011 draft.
Do you believe the Packers were targeting Derek Sherrod throughout the entire first round?
Eric: Yes. I think Ted Thompson knew that Anthony Castonzo, Tyron Smith and Nate Solder were going to be long gone, and that Bears offensive line coach Mike Tice was in love with Gabe Carimi.
It couldn't have turned out any better for the Packers, because, of all the offensive tackles taken in the first round, I believe Sherrod has the quickest feet and fits the Packers' pass-first offense the best.
Bill: It's not that I "believe" it — I know it. I was told before the draft, and wrote in my final draft piece, that Sherrod was the man Thompson wanted and would consider trading up to get him. In the end, Thompson stayed put because Sherrod, Mark Ingram, Mikel Leshoure and Cameron Heyward all got into range and he would have been perfectly happy with all four.
Can Sherrod fill the shoes of a Chad Clifton?
Eric: Not completely right away, but over time I believe he has the athletic ability and awareness to have a more productive career than Clifton. The one thing Sherrod does that Clifton doesn't always do is seal off the edge by forcing the outside pass rusher inside or just stopping him in his tracks. Aaron Rodgers should feel plenty of comfort in the pocket knowing that Julius Peppers and Jared Allen won't be steamrolling towards him like a freight train.
Bill: In many ways, they're very similar players. Sherrod didn't allow a sack, incredibly, during his final two seasons — impressive stuff since, I don't think, that Mississippi State scheduled the Sisters of the Poor or Burning Stump University in those seasons.
I'm not sure what they're going to do right off the bat. My guess, based on just a hunch and no insider information, is that Sherrod will start at right tackle and Bryan Bulaga replaces Daryn Colledge at left guard.
What was your immediate reaction to the Packers drafting Randall Cobb?
Eric: When Jim Taylor announced Randall Cobb, I took a lap around my father's house like the Packers just won the Super Bowl again. Earlier in the day, I gushed to several people about Cobb and his abilities both on special teams and as an offensive play maker. In other words, I thought he was the perfect fit for this pick, and low and behold, the Packers drafted him. I'm still in shock.
Bill: There was no mystery at all to who they were taking when they were on the clock. I even turned around to Wayne Larrivee and said I'd "bet money" that the Packers would take Cobb. I wrote a story on possible second-round targets on Friday morning. My only mention of Cobb was in my paragraph on Troy's Jerrel Jernigan — I had been told that the Packers loved Cobb but, because he didn't figure to be available, Jernigan would be a fine Plan B.
I liked Cobb then and love him now after talking to his college position coach, Tee Martin. What's better than a talented, intelligent player? How about a talented, intelligent player who wants to be coached and wants to learn? That's Cobb.
Is James Jones now an afterthought?
Eric: If he didn't win his Super Bowl ring, I would maybe say no, but as soon as free agency opens, Jones will follow Benjamin to the highest bidder. Clearly, Thompson has made a statement of, "James, if you leave, oh well!" Besides, now Packer fans will be able to control their blood pressure and heart rate when Rodgers throws rainbows guaranteed to go the distance.
Bill: You might be right but I think the free agency-before-draft timing works out in the Packers' favor. As usual, wide receiver depth in the draft was outstanding. If a team needed a receiver, it probably got one in the draft. So, I'm not sure where he'd go at this point. He's a heck of a talent and I wonder if his consistency would improve under new receivers coach Edgar Bennett. Remember, Cobb essentially replaces Donald Driver in the long run. I'm in no hurry to kick Jones out the door, blood pressure notwithstanding. He's better than Brett Swain.
Were you surprised with the pick of running back Alex Green?
Eric: At first, yes. However, after looking at some more tape, I'm not. His willingness to run straight ahead instead of looking for the sideline or dancing around like Romeo, combined with his pass-catching ability and toughness will do him well in Mike McCarthy's offense.
Bill: Not one bit. I was told the plan was to get a running back in the first three rounds. Look at Ryan Grant and look at James Starks: They're big bodies. Everybody loves those 5-foot-8 guys who can juke a guy out of his jock, but that's not a skill that lends itself to playing at Lambeau Field in December and January. And like you said, the guy can catch. Everyone says this pick replaces Brandon Jackson on third down. That may wind up being true, but Green's size also lends itself to being a three-down back. Maybe Grant, who's owed $5.25 million in salary and roster bonus, will be the odd man out.
How soon do you anticipate Green making an impact?
Eric: Right away. I know I'm probably alone on this, but Ryan Grant is coming off a major ankle injury, James Starks hasn't played a full season yet and Brandon Jackson will most likely be looking for a new home once the lockout ends. Barring some kind of setback, I anticipate that Green will get his chance to silence the doubters as soon as he takes his first regular season tote against the Saints.
Bill: The Packers waited and waited and waited for Starks last year and I assume that's the plan for Green. The Packers would accept a 2.0-yard average if that meant no fumbles and no problems picking up blitzers. Green fumbled a lot in college and nobody knows his mental and physical aptitude to saving Rodgers' skin. They won't throw him out there until he's ready.
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