Holes in roster Packers need to patch

The Olympics have the passing of the torch. England's Royal Buckingham Palace has its changing of the guard. And the Green Bay Packers' Brett Favre will eventually retire and pass his job on to the next Titletown signal-caller.<p>

Brett Favre has already announced that he will definitely play through next season, but how much is certain about the rest of his future with Green Bay? The possibilities are many, but it is a good bet to assume he will probably be around for a few more years. Then again, he may retire after the 2004 season, much to the dismay of Cheesehead heartthrobs everywhere.

Green Bay will eventually hang up his cleats, and the Packers will eventually need to fill the gap at quarterback that he leaves behind. How they fill that gap may haunt them for years, or it may turn out to be a move that keeps the team in annual playoff contention.

Having lost to the Eagles in the divisional round of the playoffs, the Packers have the 25th overall pick in the NFL draft this year. This may be the time and place to acquire a quarterback. Will a rookie signal-caller be able to learn the Packers' complex West Coast offense and adjust to the NFL's complex, blitz-happy defenses in just one off-season? The answer is more than likely no, so that pick will most likely be spent on another position. However, should the decision be yes, then a nice fit for the Packers could be J.P. Losman of Tulane. He may be a bit of a reach for the first round. If Green Bay decides to wait until the second round or later to draft a signal-caller, Phillip Rivers of North Carolina State would be a nice fit to Green Bay's West Coast offense.

Green Bay is one of the more complete teams in the league, and there are no glaring weaknesses within the ranks of their roster. There are several different possibilities of what position the Packers could draft.

At tailback, they have arguably the most complete back in the league in Ahman Green, who had 1,883 yards rushing with 15 touchdowns to complement the 50 receptions for 367 yards and 5 scores he had receiving. Green is supported by Notre Dame alum, Tony Fisher, and the ex-Miami fullback, Najeh Davenport. The two combined for 620 rushing yards and 3 touchdowns. With William Henderson, who is arguably the best blocking fullback in the league, and Nick Luchey, an athletic, 270-pound big-man that played fullback, tailback, and tight end in college, Green Bay had the top rushing attack in the NFC this year. Rest assured that none of the players that Packers draft will line up in the backfield, unless it is at quarterback.

In the 2001 NFL draft, the Packers drafted Robert Ferguson, the wide receiver from Texas A&M. The following year, 2002, Green Bay chose Javon Walker, from Florida State, with the 20th overall pick in the draft. Both have been able to live up to their expectations, especially Walker, who has caught nine touchdowns this year. Unless Ferguson or Walker experience a freak injury, the Packers will most likely decide not to draft a wideout.

The Green Bay offensive line is considered one of the best in the league by many circles of NFL experts. Chad Clifton does an excellent job of protecting Brett Favre's blindside, and Marco Rivera is one the best guards in the league, which is showcased by his upcoming trip to Hawaii. They are a strong, but mobile, line that gets the job done for head coach Mike Sherman. There is absolutely no need for the Packers to draft an offensive lineman.

The loss of Vonnie Holliday during the off-season brought about many question marks regarding the Packers' run defense. Green Bay's line held opponents to an average of 106.3 yards per game, which was tenth best in the entire NFL. They could quite possibly draft a defensive end with the twenty-fifth overall selection, and USC's Kenechi Udeze, who announced he would forego his senior year to enter the draft, might be on the draft board here.

Nick Barnett was a frontrunner for the league's defensive rookie-of-the-year trophy until it was eventually won by Terrell Suggs, the Ravens' pass-rushing outside linebacker. Barnett, who recorded 109 tackles, 3 picks, and a couple of sacks, was the Packers' first-round selection in last years' draft. Hannibal Navies and Na'il Diggs, both outside linebackers, make-up the reset of the Green Bay linebacking corps, and the pair seems to be able to hold their own in most situations. Several NFL Draft experts believe that linebacker could be a possibility for their first overall pick, but it is unlikely that Green Bay will draft a linebacker in the first round. However, it will not be surprising if they pick a linebacker on the first day.

Mike McKenzie, a Memphis alum who has spent all five seasons of his career with the Packers, is supposedly among the league's elite in missing tackles. Al Harris can manage his own, as showcased in Green Bay's wildcard victory over the Seahawks, but he is not necessarily a superstar. Another cornerback might be a good pick for the Packers. Three cornerbacks that Green Bay might be able to draft with the 25th selection are Will Poole of USC, Derrick Strait from Oklahoma (Strait won the Nagurski award, which awarded to the nation's top defender), or Nathan Vasher of Texas. All are top-notch corners. If Green Bay chooses to draft for a corner in the middle rounds, then Tusculum's Ricardo Colclough or Montana State's Joey Thomas might entertain Green Bay's needs. Whether it be in the first round or any other round, the Packers are in need of another corner.

Looking at the Packers' defensive backfield again, they may also be in need of a decent strong safety. Marques Anderson was named rookie defensive player of the week on numerous occasions during his first season in 2002, but he seemed to not be able to renew his playmaking talents this year, which could lead to the loss of his starting position. Bob Sanders of Iowa or Florida's Gus Scott could be good mid-round selections for the Packers.

The most underrated position in football, the punter, could also be a concern for the Packers. Josh Bidwell, their current punter, is a free agent this season, so they may need to eventually go with a punter in this draft.

Whoever Green Bay drafts this year will hopefully make plays and not make the Packers regret their decision.

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