The Prospects Atop Packers' Board

In the culmination of weeks of conversations with scouts and other sources, Packer Report provides an educated guess into the handful of prospects that general manager Ted Thompson hopes will be available during Thursday night's first round.

Barring a trade, the Green Bay Packers will be on the clock at about 10:30 p.m. Central, getting ready to make the last pick of the first round.

By now, as general manager Ted Thompson would say, the goose has been cooked. The draft board has been set, practically every scenario imaginable has been played out and the lines have been cast in case Thompson wants to go fishing up or down the draft board.

After talking to numerous sources since the Super Bowl and, especially, the last week, here is our best, educated guess at what's been finalized at 1265 Lombardi Ave.

Bulaga bookend

The Packers have several draft needs, but if you're going to be a pass-first team with a Hall of Fame-caliber quarterback that has a disconcerting history of concussions, you had better protect him like the Secret Service protects the president. At this point last year, the Packers had concerns at left and right tackle. Bryan Bulaga fell to the Packers in last year's draft; a second tackle would give the Packers the security of Clifton-Tauscher, The Sequel.

The pick: If Mississippi State's Derek Sherrod, who didn't allow a sack in three seasons as a starter, falls to No. 32, Thompson might fly to New York and personally run the draft card to the commissioner. Not only does Sherrod have great feet and long arms, but he was a finalist for the academic version of the Heisman.

Matthews bookend

The need at outside linebacker is debatable. Brad Jones, Frank Zombo and Erik Walden aren't exactly a who's-who, but they were good enough to rotate in and out of the starting lineup for the league's second-ranked scoring defense. Zombo and Walden combined for seven sacks — not half bad considering Walden played only a half a season.

The pick: For all the chatter about Brooks Reed, there are fewer questions about UCLA's Akeem Ayers. While Reed was a steady, fiery defensive end at Arizona, Ayers played linebacker and was an all-around solid player for the Bruins. We've consistently heard that outside linebackers coach Kevin Greene likes Reed. Greene liked Clay Matthews, too, and we know how that worked out. My hunch is Ayers is their preferred player; but my hunch is Ayers will not last to No. 32 because Reed is basically a 3-4 outside linebacker while Ayers can play linebacker in either scheme.

Diving into the depth

Cameron Heyward
Jamie Sabau/Getty Images
The deepest position group in this draft is at defensive line. Combine the depth there with the quarterback frenzy that could take place as desperate teams go through desperate measures to get a quality signal-caller, and that could push a tremendous value to the Packers at the end of the first round. Considering Green Bay figures to lose Cullen Jenkins, won't get back Johnny Jolly and has to be worried about 31-year-old Ryan Pickett (eight missed games in last four seasons), an end wouldn't be a bad addition.

The pick: Ohio State's Cameron Heyward and Temple's Muhammad Wilkerson could be on the board. Of them, Heyward seems to be the favorite. He's smart, has a passion for the game and — for what it's worth — has the DNA as the son of the late, great running back Craig "Ironhead" Heyward.

Luxury pick

Would there be a more hotly contested training camp battle in the entire NFL than Ryan Grant vs. James Starks as the starting halfback? Sure, unless ...

The pick: ... Alabama's Mark Ingram or Illinois' Mikel Leshoure are available. Ingram seems to be a long shot, with the Patriots coveting him and owning the 17th and 28th picks of the first round, but he'd be a strong consideration — perhaps only behind Sherrod among realistic possibilities. Leshoure, however, is a heck of a consolation prize. At 6-foot and 230 pounds, he's got the size that Thompson has shown he likes by riding the likes of Grant (222) and Starks (218). For all the talk about not relying on one runner to carry the load, that's exactly the history under coach Mike McCarthy. Leshoure had seven games of 20-plus carries en route to a staggering 1,697 yards in 2010.

Moving on up ... or down

Moving up or down isn't a cut-and-dried thing at this point. If the one player Thompson really covets is within striking distance, he'd attempt to go and get him. That's exactly what happened with Clay Matthews in 2009. On the other hand, if Thompson has a handful of guys in mind and they're all gone, he'd try to retreat to where he sees value on the board. That's exactly what happened with Jordy Nelson in 2008.

Based solely on educated guesswork, Sherrod might be the guy Thompson would go after. In a trade back, some possibilities are Cincinnati (No. 35), Cleveland (No. 37), Arizona (No. 38) and, especially, Tennessee (No. 39). According to a source, the Titans love TCU's Andy Dalton. In that case, Leshoure, Reed, guard/center Stefen Wisniewski or any of the receivers (such as Kentucky's Randall Cobb) could be the target.

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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at

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