The last time the Green Bay Packers were Super Bowl champions, only three of Ron Wolf's eight selections made the team — including none of the five players taken in the fifth through seventh rounds. In all, four rookies made the team in 1997 — first-round pick Ross Verba, second-round pick Darren Sharper and fourth-round pick Jermaine Smith joining undrafted Ryan Longwell, who won the kicking job after third-round pick Brett Conway bombed.
This time, Ted Thompson added 10 draft picks to the reigning Super Bowl champions. Among them are five players taken in the sixth and seventh rounds.
If so many draft picks failed to crack the juggernaut put together by Wolf more than a decade earlier, how are they going to make a team that will be fortified by so many key performers returning from injured reserve?
The good bets
— Third-round pick Alex Green: It'd be a major shocker if he doesn't make the final roster but the Packers do have a strong backfield with Ryan Grant, James Starks and, perhaps, free-agent Brandon Jackson. John Kuhn, another free agent, adds an extra ball-carrier to the mix. Green, however, has all the makings of being a three-down back. For the record, only Donnell Washington (2004) has failed to make the roster among third-round picks since Conway in 1997.
— Fourth-round pick Davon House: Like with Green, it'd be a major shocker if House doesn't make the team. Actually, it might be a bigger shocker. The Packers really didn't have an immediate need at running back, which could make Green expendable if he doesn't immediately impress. With Charles Woodson to turn 35 about a month into the season, the Packers have an urgent need to develop a cornerback after past draft picks Pat Lee (second round, 2008) and Brandon Underwood (sixth round, 2009) have failed to develop.
— Fifth-round pick D.J. Williams: Williams enters a loaded tight end group, with Jermichael Finley returning to join holdovers Andrew Quarless, Tom Crabtree and Spencer Havner. But with Finley's contract expiring after the 2012 season, the Packers were wise to grab arguably the best pass-catching tight end in the draft.
— Sixth-round pick Caleb Schlauderaff: The Packers need someone to take Jason Spitz's place on the roster. They also have a potential vacancy at starting left guard, where incumbent Daryn Colledge is a free agent. Schlauderaff was a four-year starter at left guard at Utah, super smart and possesses a mean streak.
The coin flip
— Sixth-round pick D.J. Smith: Assuming the Packers trade or release high-priced veteran Nick Barnett, Smith — a tackling machine at Appalachian State — probably will battle an undrafted rookie to be the fourth inside linebacker. Special teams will be the determining factor.
— Sixth-round pick Ricky Elmore: Elmore had a lot of production at Arizona, with 21.5 sacks during his final two seasons. His motor will make him a favorite of outside linebackers coach Kevin Greene. But Elmore slipped so far in the draft because of a lack of power and explosion, and he'll join a position group in which Brad Jones, Brady Poppinga, Robert Francois, Erik Walden and Frank Zombo all started games last season opposite Clay Matthews. That's a lot of experience to beat out.
— Seventh-round pick Ryan Taylor: Taylor was the real head-scratcher of a pick given the talent at tight end. However, the Packers wouldn't have drafted a player that had almost no chance of making the team based simply on the makeup of the roster. "He's going to make his mark as a special teams player," college scouting director John Dorsey told us recently.
— Seventh-round pick Lawrence Guy: Guy has some real upside but wasn't a dominant player at Arizona State and everyone from Dorsey to his old position coach in college told us that Guy should have returned to school for his senior season. Guy and holdovers C.J. Wilson and Jarius Wynn will battle for one or two spots.
The bottom line
While only three of Wolf's post-Super Bowl picks make the team, don't be shocked if eight, nine or even all 10 draft picks make the team, with Guy the biggest long shot of the bunch. Under Thompson, he has continually rebuilt the bottom one-third of the roster, swapping out players who failed to reach their potential with new players and fresh potential. Even a lockout depriving the rookies of valuable practice time won't change that fact.
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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at email@example.com, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/packerreport.