Around the NFC North: 3 non-Packers ready to make the leap

In a perfect world, a handful of second-year players on the Green Bay Packers roster will follow-up promising rookie seasons by establishing themselves as good to great players in 2015. Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, Davante Adams and Cory Linsley are three Packers poised to make that transition.

But what about the rest of the NFC North? Unfortunately, the Packers aren’t the only team with talented young players. Here are three second-year players who could become problems for the Packers in 2015.

Teddy Bridgewater
The Vikings second-year quarterback is probably the most obvious selection here, so let’s cover him first. I could never figure out why Bridgewater fell so far in the draft. In a league where QBs like Jay Cutler and Matthew Stafford command $100 million contracts, how can teams let a player like Bridgewater fall to the end of the first round?

Anyway, when Bridgewater took over last season, he showed why he might have been the steal of the draft. He completed 70 percent of his passes in each of his last four games and showed the mental makeup and intangibles of a five-year veteran. In 2015, Bridgewater should have Adrian Peterson, coming off a “bye” season, for a full year as well. Uh-oh.

Anthony Barr
Before his season was cut short by an injury, Barr racked up 70 tackles, four sacks, and a fumble return for a touchdown in overtime against Tampa Bay. In addition to having the perfect combination of size and speed to dominate a game, Barr is paired with one of the best defensive minds in the NFL in head coach Mike Zimmer.

As a defensive coordinator, Zimmer’s players rarely regressed. If that track record of developing defensive players holds up in Zimmer’s role as a head coach, Barr will be scary good.

Marquess Wilson, WR, Chicago
I’m going to cheat a bit and highlight Wilson even though he’s a third-year player. After showing flashes during his rookie season, Wilson broke his clavicle last training camp and never got on track. Some say Wilson could be on the roster bubble since he was drafted by the previous Bears’ management team. I say nonsense.

Wilson is 6-foot-4 and should get an opportunity to show what he can do now that Brandon Marshall is gone. If I’m right about Wilson, that’ll give the Bears three receivers (Alshon Jeffry, rookie Kevin White and Wilson) 6-foot-3 or taller. Combine those wideouts with 6-foot-6 TE Martellus Bennett and the Bears receiving corp will be tough to deal with, even for a Packers secondary with a basketball-playing background.

Let’s throw in a bonus category: Wild-card second-year player who could break out:

David Fales, QB, Chicago
What if John Fox and the Bears new coaching staff see Jay Cutler throw one too many backbreaking interceptions and find him a seat on the bench?

Fales would likely be Cutler’s replacement. Coming into a situation with Jeffry, White, Wilson and Bennett as your targets and Matt Forte in the backgroun isn’t a bad situation to come into. I’m not predicting we’ll see Fales play and play well in 2015, but stranger things have happened.

Here’s another bonus category: Second-year NFC North player who worries me the least:

Eric Ebron, TE, Detroit
He only caught 25 passes in his rookie campaign and dropped four. I don’t see Ebron as having the route-running skills to be an effective outside receiving threat and he’s not tough enough or sure-handed enough to consistently be a threat inside.

Surviving Sunday: Packers News, Notes and Links for the Football Deprived

When ya’ll fire up the grill this Memorial Day weekend, what will you be cooking? Here’s my ideal Memorial Day meal:

  • Steak, preferably T-bone or tenderloin, from beef raised on my in-laws family farm in Ringle, Wis. I cook my steak slowly over low heat on a charcoal grill. Get that propane stuff outta here. I like my steak medium rare or rare. If you listen closely, you can still hear the slab of meat mooing before I cut into it.
  • Potatoes, diced, salted (heavily), buttered, sprinkled with pepper, wrapped in tinfoil and grilled. You can also add mushrooms, green pepper or onions for an added touch. Now, you can go a couple different ways with how you grill the potatoes. I lightly spray the tinfoil with cooking oil and put the potatoes directly on the coals. This makes the bottom layer of potatoes crispy and crunchy. If you don’t want them crispy and prefer your potatoes to be more soft, spray a lot of cooking oil on the tin foil and put the potatoes on the top rack of the grill, not directly over the heat. Either way, be generous with the salt. You really can’t salt them too much. I don’t like things too salty, but no matter how much salt I’ve put on the potatoes using this method, they never taste “too salty.”
  • Salad, whatever your wife wants to make so it seems like the meal is somewhat healthy.
  • Corn. Odds are you won’t have corn on the cob this early in the spring. What I do every summer is freeze some corn from a particularly good batch of sweet corn every summer. That way I always have good-tasting corn to eat while I wait for sweet corn season to kick in again.
  • Beer. My personal favorites are Spotted Cow or Surly Furious. If you’re not a beer person, try a Lazy Uncle Jack: Jack Daniels, sweet and sour, a cup full of ice and black berries.
  • Venison sausage. Whenever I grill meat, I like having a side meat to throw on the grill just for the hell of it. This gives you a little extra meat to eat during the main meal, and ensures you’ll have leftovers the next day. My side meat is usually homemade venison sausage from my dad. Other good side meat options include brats, brats or brats.
  • I’m not picky when it comes to dessert. Something sweet or chocolaty does the trick. But if I absolutely had to pick just one thing, I’d go with a homemade strawberry rhubarb pie. My brother-in-law makes a strawberry rhubarb pie that makes me cry it tastes so friggin’ good.
  • If you want to go all out and make an appetizer, try smoked egg salad. It’s great on bread or crackers. Put a dozen eggs in boiling water, boil for 2 minutes, cover and let eggs sit in hot water for 8 minutes before draining and covering in ice water. Peel the eggs and place them directly on the grill grate, and smoke for 30-40 minutes. Dice the eggs, add 1/2 cup mayo, a squirt of lemon juice, 2 teaspoons of mustard, and a dash of kosher salt, pepper and paprika. Serve and enjoy.

Packers News, Notes and Links

  • Would you pay between $34 and $55 to watch a flag football game if that flag football game included Brett Favre? That’s too rich for me. I’d pass.
  • I like to think I stay fairly up to date on pop culture and Hollywood. However, I had never heard of the movie “Pitch Perfect” until “Pitch Perfect 2” was released last week and several Packers made cameos. I guess I’m not as hip as I think I am. Anyway, if you want to know how the Packers got involved in “Pitch Perfect 2,” read this.
  • Keep an eye on undrafted rookie RB John Crockett. I really like this kid and have talked to a few people who have worked with him. They all say he has what it takes to make it.
  • Have you ever yearned to hear my silky smooth voice? Then listen to this. Thank you to Brian Carriveau for having me on the Railbird Central podcast this week to talk Packers and the new NFL extra point rules.
  • Only in Green Bay……

Non Packers links and other Nonsense

  • The NFL made some changes to the extra point this week. Boo.
  • Click here if you were ever curious what was on Osama bin Laden’s book shelf when we finally found him.
  • Former Timberwolves GM David Kahn chose to draft Johnny Flynn over Steph Curry. Being a Wolves fan is really, really difficult.
  • Aaron Rodgers should bring a different teammates’ kid to every postgame news conference this season.
  • I always enjoyed David Letterman and was sad to see him sign off this week. One of the reasons I liked Letterman was that he’d give some love to metal bands on his show. Here are some of the best metal performances on Letterman in the show’s history.

Hurrumph. The NFL shouldn’t mess with the extra point

When it comes to changes in my favorite sports, I’m an old fuddy duddy. I don’t want change. I want things to stay as they are, exactly what I’m used to.

I was one of those people who didn’t want the wild card introduced in baseball. I also scoffed at the notion of interleague play and instant replay in baseball. Turns out, I’ve actually grown to love all three of those things. I may be an old fuddy duddy who’s reluctant to embrace change, but if something ends up working, I can at least admit when I’m wrong.

In football, I’m still sour about all the rule changes that have turned the NFL into a hyper-passing league. I miss the days when there were just as many superstar running backs and middle linebackers as star quarterbacks and defenses didn’t have to play with one arm tied behind their back.

Don’t get me wrong, I still love football. I’ve accepted the fact that even mediocre quarterbacks can throw for 4,000 yards these days. But unlike the changes made to baseball, I haven’t acknowledged that they’ve made the game better. Because they haven’t.

Hurrumph.

Now the NFL wants to mess with the extra point. What did the extra point ever do to you, NFL? Leave it alone!

SI’s Peter King points out that NFL teams have only missed 26 of their last 4,939 PAT kicks. Some say that makes the PAT predictable. That may be true, but predictability isn’t a reason to overhaul an area of the game.

On those 26 occasions when a PAT kick was missed, it’s cool to see (as long as it’s not the Packers doing the missing). It’s a rare and memorable play. I can’t find the clip online, but I remember having a Vikings game on the radio for some reason about 10 years ago and Paul Allen went bonkers after Minnesota’s kicker missed an extra point.

It was hilarious! Those moments would be gone if the NFL changes the rule.

The odds are good that the PAT does get changed during league meetings later today. I’ll cross my arms, shake my head, sigh, and complain about how the NFL was “so much better back in the day.”

Then I’ll hike up my pants and complain about the government.

We’ll see if I come around to PAT changes in football like I’ve come around to the changes made in baseball over the years. For now, I’m digging in my heels and hoping PATs stay just as they have been.

Now get off my lawn.

Surviving Sunday: Packers News, Notes and Links for the Football Deprived

Because I got fired up and went long on a couple of different points in the Green Bay Packers links and non-Packers links sections of this week’s Surviving Sunday, I’ll spare you the long, drawn-out intro and get right to it:

Packers News, Notes and Links

  • Folks were all up in arms earlier this week when a report was released highlighting how NFL teams, including the Packers, have received taxpayer dollars from the Department of Defense for various military marketing programs. The original report was light on details, and, in my opinion, reeked of a news outlet trying its hardest to cash in on the OUTRAGE culture that grips a certain segment of folks. The Journal-Sentinel did a little more digging for the Packers’ side of the story. Sounds like most of the funding went toward traditional marketing activities for the military, not “honor our troops” type of ceremonies that every team coordinates. I always find it baffling when we demand that our government behave more like the private sector, then when it does, we get angry. The private sector spends money on marketing and advertising. Our all-volunteer military has to market and advertise to help with recruitment, retention and general goodwill. Marketing and advertising costs money. A lot of it, especially when you’re partnering with the NFL. Yeah, it makes me squirm a bit to think about the Packers not doing “honor the troops” types of activities strictly out of the goodness of their hearts. But it sounds like the vast majority of the dollars were not dedicated to those types of activities. If that’s the case, this story is nothing to get OUTRAGED over.
  • Aaron Rodgers: Packers quarterback, NFL MVP, Super Bowl winner, Celebrity Jeopardy champion.
  • As the years have gone on, it’s kind of become cool to like Jarrett Bush. The guy works his ass off and goes all out on special teams. We still cringed whenever he lined up at defensive back, but we came to appreciate his attitude and take-no-prisoners approach to the game. If Bush is, indeed, done in Green Bay, I’ll miss him. Even though on several occasions I have unleashed a string of profanity that would make Andrew Dice Clay blush following a Bush blown coverage, I grew to respect him and appreciate what he did for the Packers when put into the proper role.
  • Brett Favre doesn’t think Tom Brady was cheating. Never mind that he also said he hasn’t been paying attention to the issue. That hasn’t stopped any red-blooded American from having an opinion before, so have at it, Brett!
  • Luther Robinson will forever be known as the dude who tipped that pass that led to that really awesome Julius Peppers pick-six against the Vikings on a random Thursday night.

Non Packers links and other Nonsense

  • I hate how whenever something like Deflategate happens, there’s a sector of people who try too hard to be contrarians or find some type of gray area on the issue. I’m a gray area guy myself. Most things aren’t black and white, but I think Deflategate is about as clear cut as you can get. The evidence overwhelmingly shows that Brady cheated. Four games is perfectly reasonable for what the evidence overwhelmingly shows Brady did. It doesn’t matter how much you hate Roger Goodell. It doesn’t matter how Goodell has handled past issues of discipline. It doesn’t matter if you think every team cheats and Brady was the unfortunate soul who got caught. It doesn’t matter if you had issues with the NFL’s reasoning for suspending Brady beyond the mere fact that he cheated. It doesn’t matter if you think deflating the football isn’t a big deal and didn’t give Brady any type of advantage. There’s overwhelming evidence that Brady broke the rules and a four-game suspension is more than justified. Period. Don’t overthink it. Leave the overthinking to lawyers.
  • That said, I laughed hard as I was reading this.
  • I just learned that Ric Flair has a podcast this week. WHY DID NOBODY TELL ME ABOUT THIS BEFORE?!?!?!?! Whooooooo!
  • I can’t say enough good things about Dave Koch Sports and his tremendous lineup of Action PC sports management games. If you’re a giant nerd like me, check them out and support a Wisconsin resident and fellow Packers fan.
  • Now what the hell am I going to do at the county fair that I can’t look at the chickens? Seriously, though. This bird-flu thing is a mess. My thoughts go out to the farmers dealing with it. Here’s hoping it gets cleared up soon.
  • \m/ New song from Lamb of God \m/

Will the Packers’ defensive “toughness” be questioned again in 2015?

Remember these types of columns and blog posts following recent Packers playoff exits? If you’re too lazy to click the link, the column calls the Packers “too soft to join the NFL’s elite.”

Defensive issues, particularly in the area of “toughness,” have plagued the Packers since winning the Super Bowl four seasons ago. With the exception of some early-season run defense issues and the last 5 minutes of the NFC title game, the Packers defense took care of most of those issues in 2014.

But after the departure of Tramon Williams, who turned into a gritty and willing tackler after shying away from contact in previous seasons, and spending early-round draft picks on small defensive backs instead of bruising trench players or a hard-hitting middle linebacker, could the Packers’ “toughness” again be questioned in 2015?

“Toughness” is hard to define. Typically, if a team is winning games, their defensive “toughness” isn’t questioned. That’s not always the case with the Packers since their defensive meltdowns in the playoffs have been bad. Really bad. The Packers have been one of the NFL’s best teams, but their “toughness” is still questioned.

Playing defense today is mostly about match-ups and forcing turnovers. Green Bay’s defense has plenty of versatile athletes and playmakers, so they should be well-equipped to excel in both categories. But there are still plenty of good NFL teams that thrive on a strong running game and pushing around smaller, softer teams.

If Marshawn Lynch and the Seahawks steamroll the Packers in week 2, the soft label will make an ugly return to the Packers’ defense. It’ll get worse if San Francisco once again plows through Green Bay two weeks later.

We’ll find out early on just how “tough” the 2015 Packers’ defense will be. If they’re not tough enough, look for changes to be made like they were last season.

Moving Clay Matthews inside, scrapping the “quad” package, playing Morgan Burnett up in the box. Those types of moves improve the Packers on D last season and made them tougher. It’d be nice to not have to do much shifting to get to the right level of “toughness” in 2015.

“Toughness” might be hard to define, but you sure know when your team lacks it.

Surviving Sunday: Packers News, Notes and Links for the Football Deprived

 

When we’re looking back at the Green Bay Packers 2015 draft class five years from now, will we be nodding our heads in approval or shaking our heads in disgust at the players Ted Thompson passed up?

Versatility and special teams were the buzzwords surrounding this Packers’ draft. I’m not one of those people who gets all wound up about the draft. I say let’s see these kids play before we get too upset about passing up this player or that player.

But like most football fans, I do enjoy second-guessing. So for this edition of Surviving Sunday, I’ve put together a five-round Packers “Second-Guess Draft.” When I put my second-guessing hat on, these are the players I would have taken instead of the players actually drafted by the Packers.

I doubt my second-guess picks will turn out to be better than Thompson’s actual picks, but it’ll be fun to pull up this post a few years from now and compare.

Round 1

Actual pick: Damarious Randall, DB, Arizona St.
Second-guess pick: Malcom Brown, DT, Texas

Many would probably second-guess my second guess in this situation. Inside linebacker Stephone Anthony went to the Saints right after the Packers selected Randall. Obviously, the Packers need all the inside linebacker help they can get. But I want Brown in my second-guess scenario. There’s no guarantee that BJ Raji will be any good coming off injury or that Letroy Guion can repeat the success he had last season. Plus, both of those players are free agents next offseason. Brown seems like the type of big body the Packers need up front.

Round 2

Actual pick: Quinten Rollins, CB, Miami (OH)
Second-guess pick: Quinten Rollins

I had never heard or Quinten Rollins before the Packers selected him. After the selection, I thought, “Great, another basketball player with minimal football experience.” But after doing a lot of reading, Rollins’ ceiling seems so high that I think it’s a great pick. I second-guessed this selection when Thompson first made it, but not any more. I’d stick with Rollins in my second-guess draft.

Round 3

Actual pick: Ty Montgomery, WR, Standord
Second-guess pick: Paul Dawson, ILB, TCU

Here’s where the Packers get their inside linebacker. Dawson’s 40-time was awful, but anybody who spends a minute or two watching game-film of Dawson can see that he actually can play. It’d be tough to pass up the dynamic kick/punt return potential of Montgomery, but my second-guess pick here would be Dawson.

Round 4

Actual pick: Jake Ryan, ILB, Michigan
Second-guess pick: David Cobb, RB, Minnesota

This second-guess pick was a tough one between Cobb and Grady Jarrett, NT, Clemson. I went with Cobb because I think he’ll be a very consistent running back and will be able to step right into the third-down role once James Starks’ time in Green Bay is up. I also think Cobb might be a more steady runner than Starks should Lacy be injured for an extended stretch.

Round 5

Actual pick: Brett Hundley, QB, UCLA
Second-guess pick: Kenny Bell, WR, Nebraska

Here is where I would’ve picked up some additional wide-receiver depth in my second-guess universe. Bell has a sweet afro and is the kind of smart, route-running receiver Aaron Rodgers and the Packers seem to like.

 

Packers News, Notes and Links

  • If you missed out on all the draft podcasts from the Packers Talk Radio Network, be sure to Packers draft There are a lot of great pods that go in-depth on the Packers’ selections.
  • This Packers draft post from Acme Packing Co. on the Packers 2015 draftees is also a great read. In my opinion, the immediate best case scenario for this class is they take the Packers special teams from awful to good. Long term best case scenario is Rollins turning into an all-pro and Jake Ryan steadily improving in 2015.
  • Want to know more about the Packers undrafted free agents? Packers undrafted free agents from Jeff Albrecht has you covered. I’m most excited to see what John Crockett, RB, North Dakota St., can do.
  • The Packers Nick Perry the fifth-year option of OLB Nick Perry. A good decision by the Packers. Let’s see if putting some pressure on Perry leads to more production.
  • Bye bye Jarrett Bush The Packers gave Rollins Bush’s No. 24. That likely means Bush won’t be back with the Packers.

Non Packers links and other Nonsense

  • Turns out Tom Brady likely wasn’t Mr. Innocent in “Deflategate.” I’m not saying the Patriots don’t win the Super Bowl if Deflategate never happens, but this isn’t some little thing to just brush off, either. Obviously, if Brady and the Pats didn’t feel like deflating the football would give them some type of advantage, they wouldn’t have done it. With so many NFL games, especially late in the season, being decided by the slimmest of margins on one or two key players, any little advantage helps. In Brady’s case, it appears that he got that advantage by cheating.
  • This is a tough read, but a worthwhile one.

Around the NFC North: NFL Draft edition

The 2015 NFL draft is complete and the Green Bay Packers are still the best team in the NFC North. But that doesn’t mean we should completely ignore the other teams in the division.

Just like the Packers added a bunch of new players, the Vikings, Lions and Bears now have new faces as well. Let’s recap the draft for the Packers’ divisional foes and ask ourselves if any of these teams are now in position to grab the NFC North title belt away from the Packers.

Minnesota Vikings

1 (11) — Trae Waynes, CB, Michigan St.
2 (45) — Eric Kendricks, LB, UCLA
3 (88) — Danielle Hunter, DE, LSU
4 (110) — T.J. Clemmings, T, Pittsburgh
5 (143) — MyCole Pruitt, TE, Southern Illinois
6 (185) — Tyrus Thompson, T, Oklahoma
6 (193) –B.J. Dubose, DE, Louisville
7 (228) — Austin Shepherd, T, Alabama

Are the Vikings ready to unseat the Packers?
No, but they’re getting damn close, in my opinion. Mike Zimmer is an excellent coach. Teddy Bridgewater barely scratched the surface of his ability last season. Waynes and Kendricks add to an emerging defense and offer two more weapons to try and slow down Aaron Rodgers, Eddie Lacy & company. Even general manager Rick Spielman seems sensible, unlike Vikings GMs of the past.

With the exception of the Adrian Peterson drama, these Vikings don’t appear to be the bumbling and bungling Vikings we’ve grown to know and despise. They might be a year away from serious contention, but the Vikings are getting closer to being the real deal.

Best pick
Waynes. You can never have enough talent in the secondary when you play against the likes of Rodgers, Jordy Nelson, Alshon Jeffrey and Clavin Johnson twice per season.

Possible late-round sleeper
Clemmings. In addition to Clemmings, the Vikings also drafted two other tackles in the late rounds. All three will provide competition/motivation for former No. 4 overall pick Matt Kalil, who’s regressed big time since his rookie season.

Detroit Lions

1 (28) — Laken Tomlinson, G, Duke
2 (54) — Ameer Abdullah, RB, Nebraska
3 (80) — Alex Carter, CB, Stanford
4 (113) — Gabe Wright, DT, Auburn
5 (168) — Michael Burton, FB, Rutgers
6 (200) — Quandre Diggs, CB, Texas
7 (240) — Corey Robinson, T, South Carolina

Are the Lions ready to unseat the Packers?
LOL! No. I know it’s silly to dismiss a team’s draft class before training camp even starts, but I’m not worried at all about an offensive lineman from Duke and a fumble-prone running back doing much to close the gap between Green Bay and Detroit.

I thought last year’s Lions’ draft class, led by tight end Eric Ebron, wasn’t very impressive and I feel the same about the 2015 class.

Best pick
Tomlinson. I guess if I had to pick a best Lions’ pick, it’d be Tomlinson. He doesn’t frighten me at the moment, but I could change my mind once he lines up against the Packers’ smallish defensive front.

Possible late-round sleeper
Diggs. I almost like this kid more than Carter. He’s got the physicality that seems to frustrate Green Bay’s receivers.

Chicago Bears

1 (7) — Kevin White, WR, West Virginia
2 (39) — Eddie Goldman, DT, Florida St.
3 (71) — Hroniss Grasu, C, Oregon
4 (106) — Jeremy Langford, RB, Michigan St.
5 (142) — Adrian Amos, FS, Penn. St.
6 (183) — Tayo Fabuluje, T, TCU

Are the Bears ready to unseat the Packers?
No way. Kevin White was the best receiver in this draft, but he can’t play defense, which is where the Bears needed help in order to prevent Rodgers from constantly carving them up. Having John Fox as your coach should automatically upgrade the defense a little bit, but the Bears need a lot more help on D if they want to even entertain the idea of unseating the Packers.

Best pick
White. Why did Packers GM Ted Thompson use his first two picks on defensive backs? Because the receivers in the NFC North keep getting better.

Possible late-round sleeper
Amos. The Bears desperately need re-enforcements in the secondary. If they are to have any shot at slowing down the Packes, Amos needs to quickly develop from the rangy prospect he currently is into a contributing player.

Green Bay Packers 2015 NFL Draft: The Reasons Behind the Picks

When the Green Bay Packers’ turn to pick in the first and second round of the NFL draft came up, there were still several players left on the board who would have provided re-enforcement to the defensive line and inside linebacker positions.

And the Packers selected none of them.

Packers general manager Ted Thompson left many of us scratching our heads after this draft. Who’s he? Why’d they take that guy? Huh? Those questions were uttered by many Packers fans this weekend, particularly after the Packers’ selections in the first three rounds.

To answer some of those questions and hopefully alleviate some of the bewilderment, here are all of the Packers’ draft picks and the reasons why, in my opinion, Thompson made them.

Damarious Randall – Projected cornerback – Round 1, Pick 30 (#30 overall) – Replaces Davon House

Rationale: Ted Thompson and Dom Capers love versatile defensive backs with raw speed and the ability to come on a blitz every now and then. And with Tramon Williams and Davon House gone, the Packers needed to restock the shelf in the secondary.

Versatile, active, good ball skills, fast, center-fielder, blitzer. Do those terms and phrases remind you of anyone? They remind me of Charles Woodson. I’m not in any way saying Randall is the next Woodson, but the Packers love that Woodson type of player, and Randall checks off several Woodson categories.

Micah Hyde and Casey Hayward have Woodson’s skill set as well, but are nowhere near as talented. Could Randall combine that Woodson skill set with an abundance of talent? We’re about to find out.

Quinten Collins – Projected cornerback – Round 2, Pick 30 (#62 overall) – Replaces Tramon Williams (maybe?)

Rationale: Well, the Packers lost two cornerbacks to free agency, so you have to replace them, right? Either that or Thompson has a well-placed source who is telling him that the NFL is going to switch to flag football this season. Collins is another basketball player. Team him with Demetri Goodson and the Packers should be able to win a game of H-O-R-S-E against any other NFL team.

But in all seriousness, Collins seems like a bit of a project. He plays fast, reckless and aggressive — all desirable traits once they become honed. However, he needs work on technique and knowing when to gamble and when to play it safe. Packers cornerbacks coach Joe Whitt will have plenty of work to do with his two new draft picks, but the tools are definitely there for Whitt to build something out of Collins.

According to Pro Football Focus, only three other players received a higher coverage grade and only two other cornerbacks received a higher overall grade than Collins. Sure, it’s  a little frustrating that the Packers didn’t address the middle of their defense in their first two picks, but Thompson has picked up two talented, albeit raw, players to ensure the Packers secondary has a shot at remaining a strength, and maybe even improving.

Ty Montgomery – Projected wide receiver/returner – Round 3, Pick #30 (#94 overall) – Replaces DuJuan Harris

Rationale: It seems like it’s been forever since the Packers had a stud kick and punt returner. Montgomery had a down season as a receiver, but after averaging 28.7 yards on kick returns and 19.8 on punts during his career at Stanford, a lot of scouts projected Montgomery as the best returner in the draft.

I also wouldn’t be surprised if Montgomery is given the opportunity to line up in the backfield in a Cordarrelle Patterson or Shane Vereen type of role. Mike McCarthy has yet another chess piece to move around as he looks to create mismatches and finally conquer the tough, physical defenses that have been a thorn in the Packers’ side since winning the Super Bowl in 2010.

In the first three rounds of the draft, Thompson has selected two athletic defensive backs and a receiver with a high ceiling as a returner. At the very least, the Packers special teams should be vastly improved in 2015.

Jake Ryan – Projected linebacker – Round 4, Pick #30 (#129 overall) – Replaces A.J. Hawk/Brad Jones/Jamari Lattimore

Rationale: We’ve been waiting for Thompson to draft an inside linebacker and he finally did! Actually, Ryan played outside his first three seasons at Michigan, but moved inside his final season and was team MVP. Look for him to stay inside in Green Bay.

Can Ryan play right away? Do the Packers need him to play right away? Will he plug the giant perceived hole at inside linebacker? These are all questions people immediately asked after Ryan was picked. The answers are: hopefully, maybe, let’s not put too much on this kid before he’s even signed a contract.

Ryan looks like more of a run-stopper than someone who can blanket a tight end or a running back in coverage, but I don’t have a problem with that. The Packers need more toughness in the middle, and after this draft, they’ve got an overflow of defensive backs to handle pass coverage duties. Let’s see if Ryan can shore up the inside against the run.

Brett Hundley, — Projected quarterback — Round 5, Pick #11 (#147 overall) — Replaces Matt Flynn

Rationale: When Matt Flynn played last season, it was apparent that he didn’t have much left. By trading up to get Hundley early in the fifth round, Thompson gives McCarthy a quarterback project to work on, a competitor for Scott Tolzien in training camp, and extra insurance for his MVP quarterback — who has suffered a significant injury in consecutive seasons.

Hundley has the arm, build, and scrambling ability to play quarterback in the NFL. What he needs to work on is his ability to throw the ball downfield. Fifty-four percent of his passes in 2014 traveled 6 yards or less through the air. He also needs to do a better job of what Rodgers does so well: keeping his eyes downfield as he moves around the pocket, always looking to make a play downfield before running.

The Packers have plenty of work to do to make Hundley into a capable quarterback. Hopefully another Rodgers’ injury doesn’t force Hundley to play before he’s ready.

Aaron Ripkowski — Projected fullback — Round 6, Pick #30 (#206 overall) — Replaces John Kuhn (in a year or two)

Rationale: Notice a pattern to the Packers draft picks so far? All of them should be special teams contributors right away. When McCarthy and Thompson set out to overhaul the special teams, I guess they weren’t kidding.

While Ripkowski works to familiarize himself with the Packers’ offense and whatever Rodgers wants him to do, he should be able to bring some pop to the special teams. Can Ripkowski eventually grow into the type of fullback who can pick up a 3rd and inches or catch a dumpoff pass, if necessary? I’m not so sure. But he does look like a sledgehammer type of blocker, and even played some snaps at tight end.

Ripkowski appears to be the player with the coolest name to come out of this draft for the Packers until…

Christian Ring0 — Projected defensive tackle/long snapper — Round 6, Pick #34 (#210 overall) — Replaces Brett Goode (eventually) and provides depth on d-line

Ringo or Ripkowski: Who’s got the cooler name? It’s a close race, but I’m going with the Pollack.

Ringo put up some crazy good numbers at Louisiana Layfayette, including 11.5 sacks and 20.5 tackles-for-loss as an undersized defensive tackle in 2014. Pro Football Focus ranked Ringo as the most efficient pass rusher in the draft.

Ringo will have to line up as a defensive end with the Packers before he’s small. His ceiling is probably a lesser version of Mike Daniels. If that doesn’t work out, he could become the team’s long-snapper of the future.

Kennard Backman — Projected tight end — Round 6, Pick #37 (#213 overall) — Replaces Brandon Bostick

In today’s NFL, labels don’t mean much. Sure, a player might have TE, WR or RB listed before their name, but it doesn’t mean those labels confine that player to specific duties. This is especially true when it comes to wide receivers and tight ends.

The line is becoming more blurred. Perhaps a more appropriate title for TE/WRs is “pass catcher.” That’s how I’d prefer to label Backman. He looks like a pass catcher. He’s got tight-end size and he’s labeled as a tight end, but I don’t see him blocking much. If he’s going to contribute, it’s going to be as a pass catcher.

 

Ted Thompon’s 2nd best draft pick for the Green Bay Packers is ____________

There is very little debate that Aaron Rodgers is Ted Thompson’s best draft pick during his 10 years as general manager of the Green Bay Packers. If Thompson would have passed on Rodgers because the Packers didn’t need a quarterback, the recent history of the Packers would have been quite different.

But who is Thompson’s second-best draft choice? Luckily, if you’re a Packers fan, there have been plenty of prime candidates. Here are the top 5, in my not so humble opinion:

Clay Matthews, 2009
Not only has Matthews been one of the best defensive players in the NFL, Thompson uncharacteristically traded back into the first round to grab him. The rare Thompson trade-up gives Matthews a couple extra points in the race for second best Thompson draft pick of all time.

Josh Sitton, 2008
It’s not often you find a player who might be the best in the league at his position group in the fourth round, but that’s what Thompson did with Sitton. Durable, dependable, and really freaking good — Sitton ranks right up there with the best of Thompson’s picks.

Mike Daniels, 2012
The 2012 draft is one that Thompson would probably like to forget. Nick Perry, Jerron McMillian, Terrell Manning and B.J. Coleman…bleh. But Thompson struck gold once again in the fourth round with Daniels. Imagine how weak the Packers defensive line would have been without Daniels last season?

Nick Collins, 2005
Packers fans didn’t realize how good they had it with Collins at safety until Collins’ career was suddenly ended in 2011. Until the arrival of Ha Ha Clinton-Dix last season, safety had been a black hole in Collins’ absence.

Greg Jennings, 2006
Jennings over Randall Cobb? Yes, Jennings over Cobb, at least for now. With the Packers, Jennings put up big numbers and had several memorable moments, including a ridiculous catch from a ridiculous throw from Rodgers in Super Bowl XLV. Nothing wrong with being mad at Jennings for the way he left Green Bay, but don’t discount his impact on getting the Packers to where they are today.

So, who would I pick as Thompson’s second-best draft choice ever? I say it’s Matthews. It’d be nice if Thompson could draft Matthews a new hamstring, but when you look at talent, impact, energy, hustle and the complete package, Matthews delivers.

What say you?

Surviving Sunday: Packers News, Notes and Links for the Football Deprived

The NFL draft kicks off on Thursday and we’ll finally have some new Green Bay Packers players to root for. I’m not a Draftnik, but based on what I’ve read, listened to, seen, heard or thought, here are the top 5 players I’m most excited about possibly landing with the Packers in this year’s draft:

Maxx Williams, TE, Minnesota
How can you watch this and not get excited about Williams teaming with Aaron Rodgers?

Jalen Collins, CB, LSU
If Collins ends up in Green Bay, hopefully he’ll take up drinking Miller Lite instead of smoking weed. If he does, the 6-foot-1, 203-pounder has all the tools to be a star.

Eric Kendricks, ILB, UCLA
This year’s inside linebacker class isn’t jumping off the charts, but Kendricks looks like the type of versatile and athletic player who can complement the aggressiveness of Sam Barrington inside.

Ellis McCarthy, DL, UCLA
The Packers are going to need at least one fat guy for the defensive line out of this draft. If they can nab McCarthy on day 2 or 3, I’d be pleased.

Kenny Bell, WR, Nebraska
The Packers already are overloaded at receiver, but Bell stands out as another later-round find for Thompson as wide receiver.

Packers News, Notes and Links

  • Which dates do you have circled on the Packers’ 2015 schedule, which was announced on Tuesday? I’ve got Oct. 18 against San Diego because that’s the date for Throwback Weekend 5 and Thanksgiving Night against the Bears because 1) it’s against the Bears, 2) Thanksgiving night at Lambeau is going to be amazing, and 3) the Packers will be retiring the number of some guy named Favre.
  • Speaking of Packers vs. Bears: Did anyone else notice how pissed off Bears fans on Twitter were when they learned they opened the season against the Packers? Check out some of these tweets. My favorite: “So packers open with a bye week?”
  • Bob McGinn of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel is the best dead tree traditional newspaper reporter to read during the lead up to the NFL draft. Here’s McGinn’s profile of Iowa’s Brandon Scherff.
  • Want more draft insight? Download this week’s “No Huddle Radio” podcast where Jersey Al and Jason Perone break down cornerbacks and inside linebackers with Dan Shonka from Ourlads.com.
  • CheeseheadTV’s Aaron Nagler recently started a podcast and it’s really good. ESPN’s Adam Schefter was a guest this week.
  • A fun read here from Marcus at Lombardiave.com: Ranking the NFC North’s 10 best players.
  • Packers GM Ted Thompson held a pre-draft news conference this week and, per usual, didn’t say much of anything. But if you want a quick summary of the nothingness, Jason at Acme Packing Company sums it up.

Non Packers links and other Nonsense

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