No. 32 Could Start For Champs

On April 28, the Packers are scheduled to make their first pick, the last pick in the first round of the draft. While speculation runs rampant as to who that might be, the percentages over the past decade, even for Super Bowl winners, indicate that at some point in 2011 that player will be in the starting lineup.

The last pick of the first round of the draft has treated the Packers pretty well over the years. Dave Robinson in 1963, Ezra Johnson in 1977, George Teague in 1993, Craig Newsome in 1995 and Ross Verba in 1997 all came in as rookies and contributed.

The latter three players earned full-time starting roles in their first seasons. Teague started 12 games at safety, Newsome all 16 at cornerback and Verba 11 at left tackle for a team defending a Super Bowl championship.

So, while conventional wisdom may lead one to believe the unlikely possibility of these Packers, Super Bowl champions with a deep roster, landing a rookie starter in the first round of the draft April 28, recent history would suggest just the opposite.

Regardless of how a team looks on paper, first-round rookies often get thrust into the spotlight – even for the team with the last pick, which always goes to the league champion barring any trades or unusual circumstances.

Last isn't bad

The Packers' history with the last pick in the first round:

1945 – Walt Schlinkman, FB, Texas Tech

1962 – Earl Gros, FB, LSU

1963 – Dave Robinson, LB, Penn State

1977 – Ezra Johnson, DE, Morris Brown (pictured)

1993 – George Teague, DB, Alabama

1995 – Craig Newsome, DB, Arizona State

1997 – Ross Verba, T, Iowa

2011 - ???

In fact, of the last seven Super Bowl champions that made the last selection of the first round, only one failed to select a player who did not start at some point the following season. In 2009, defensive end Evander "Ziggy" Hood of the Steelers played in all 16 games, but did not become a starter until his second season.

By contrast, guard Logan Mankins started all 16 games his rookie season in 2005 for the two-time defending champion Patriots. He continued that streak for the next four seasons.

Others among the last seven champions who have earned starts despite the long odds include the Saints' Patrick Robinson in 2010 (4 starts), the Giants' Kenny Phillips in 2008 (3 starts), the Colts' Anthony Gonzalez in 2007 (9 starts), the Patriots' Ben Watson in 2004 (1 start), and the Ravens' Todd Heap in 2001 (7 starts).

Three times over the past decade, the final pick of the first round has gone to a nonchampion and those teams have found success, too. In 2006, the Giants picked defensive end Mathias Kiwanuka, who made nine starts his rookie season; in 2003, the Raiders selected defensive end Tyler Brayton, who started all 16 games; and in 2002, the Redskins landed quarterback Patrick Ramsey, who started five games.

As No. 32 overall picks go, the most famous over the past 10 years was Drew Brees, who was the first pick of the second round for the Chargers in 2001. Though he played in only one game his rookie season, he became a regular starter thereafter, eventually landing in New Orleans, where he became a Super Bowl champion.

With 16 players coming off injured reserve to join a roster that has proven itself to be Super Bowl-worthy, the Packers are expected to have unprecedented levels of internal competition in 2011. But between now and September, there could be changes. The lockout has left free agents in limbo and other uncertainties – like injuries – always exist.

The Packers biggest "needs" on paper are arguably at offensive line, defensive line and outside linebacker – three positions where the draft is deep in talent and three positions that might look inviting to the Packers at No. 32.

Agree or disagree?: Discuss hot Packers topics in our, free forums. Leave publisher Bill Huber a question in the subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum.

Matt Tevsh has covered the Packers since 1996. E-mail him at

Packer Report Top Stories