The 2005 NFL Draft raised more questions than it answered for the Green Bay Packers and that has a lot of fans very uneasy. The prevailing wisdom heading into the draft was that the Packers had to address their biggest needs – the defense – if they are to win this season while Brett Favre still leads the team.
So what happens? Instead of using their number-one pick to snag a dominant pass rusher or a middle linebacker who could help the defense right away, a quarterback who was projected to be among the first five picks in the entire draft falls right into Green Bay's lap.
It was just a matter of circumstance that turned this draft upside down for the Packers. I don't think anyone could have predicted that a quarterback like Aaron Rodgers would slip all the way down to the 24th spot. The Packers probably had their eyes on a big time defensive player with their first pick, but the way things unfolded, General Manager Ted Thompson and his staff were faced with a choice they couldn't pass up.
I think the Packers made the right decision. First, Rogers had a very productive collegiate career. In just two seasons at Cal, he produced scary numbers: 424 completions in 665 attempts (63.8 %); 43 touchdowns; only 13 interceptions; and 5,469 yards for an outstanding 150.27 quarterback rating.
With all that, though, I'm not a big fan of the way he carries the ball. I think it's unnatural to hold the ball so high. He's very mechanical in his drop-backs and I think it affects the quickness of his release, especially when he throws deep. I'm sure the Packer coaches will work with him on his technique, but it's tough to break a bad habit when you've done it for so long. Holding the ball high slows you down when you drop back to pass. The norm for quarterbacks is to carry the ball around shoulder or chest high. When you're dropping back, it's a more natural movement to make. Still, the guy has big numbers, he's pretty mobile and is a good athlete. He also seems to be a proven leader.
This one has all the hallmarks of being a great pick for Green Bay down the road. There have been a lot of great quarterbacks in the NFL who looked unorthodox, but still got the job done. Rodgers could very well fall into that category.
It's what the Packers did with their selections after taking Rodgers that had me scratching my head a bit. There were still a lot of big time defensive players available in the second round. Green Bay passed over guys like Dan Cody (DE Oklahoma), Jonathan Babineaux (DT Iowa), Justin Tuck (DE Notre Dame) and cornerback Justin Miller from Clemson. Miller, by the way, has great speed and is an excellent kick return specialist. Being a Virginia grad myself, there were also two guys from Virginia who I believe could have really helped the Packers: outside linebacker Darryl Blackstock and defensive end Chris Canty. In my opinion, any of these guys could have offered immediate impact for the 2005 season.
Let's take a look at the other Packer picks:
Nick Collins (Safety, Bethune-Cookman)
Collins seemed like a huge reach to me, but the thing about the NFL draft is that it only takes one team to really like one player. As long as that team rates him high and sees something in him, that's all that matters. It doesn't matter that Collins was rated the 43rd best safety by the other scouts. As long as the Packers like what they see and believe that he fits into their system better than other players, that's all that matters.
Collins has some versatility and can also play the corner. Coach Mike Sherman is expecting Collins to compete immediately at safety. I hope he comes in and is a pleasant surprise, but the Packers really passed on some quality guys to get Collins.
Terrence Murphy (Wide Receiver, Texas A&M)
This was another surprise because I thought Green Bay would be looking to improve their defense. I guess Thompson felt that Murphy was the best player on the board at the time. I'm not saying Murphy's not a good pick. He's a quality receiver who put up some big numbers in college. I think he can come in and compete for that third wide receiver spot, especially with the question marks surrounding Robert Ferguson's durability. Murphy might also offer help as a kick returner. Again, I'll point to a pick the Packers didn't make; Justin Miller of Clemson is an excellent defensive back and kick return specialist and could have answered two Packer needs at once.
Marviel Underwood (Safety, San Diego State)
Surprise again! Didn't the Packers already pick a safety? If the Packers had drafted Collins to play cornerback this pick might have made a little more sense to me. On the bright side, Underwood has a reputation for being a solid player, a smart player and a big hitter. The competition in training camp for the safety spot is going to be fun to watch. Brady Poppinga (Linebacker/Defensive End, Brigham Young)
The Packers see Poppinga as an outside linebacker. If the Packers were looking to draft at this position, they could have had a great player in Darryl Blackstock from Virginia. Still, Poppinga seems like a pretty good athlete who can play in space, meaning he can cover running backs in the flat and tight ends downfield. Maybe he can also be a pass rusher. We'll just have to see how soon he will be able to compete. That's my main concern – the Packers need impact players now.
Junius Coston (Center, North Carolina A&T)
This is a guy who is supposed to be very versatile and can play both center and guard. It wasn't a bad pick in my view because the Packers need some versatility on the offensive line. This was the best guy available at that position and Green Bay feel comfortable that Coston can give them some depth. There are definitely some holes in the offensive line so Coston gets a good opportunity to come in and compete at guard.
Micheal Hawkins (Cornerback, Oklahoma)
Now, this was an interesting pick! You have to give a lot of credit to the scouting department to find a guy like this. He doesn't have a lot of playing experience, but they must have seen something they really liked. Packer scout Alonzo Highsmith says that Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops dismissed Hawkins after his freshman year because Hawkins couldn't handle "hard coaching" at that time. He came from a troubled family. He's going to be a project, a real developmental guy, but this kid has something you can't teach – speed. Plus, he's looking for a big opportunity to redeem himself.
Mike Montgomery (Defensive End, Texas A&M)
Finally, the Packers addressed this position, but you have to wonder how much help you're really going to get this deep into the draft. Realistically, I wonder if Montgomery will be able to contribute much this year. Defensive end is definitely a position where the Packers need help. If Montgomery can come in and compete and at least offer some depth, it will be a plus. Frankly, I thought Green Bay would have gone after a defensive end much higher in the draft, but maybe a trade or free agent signing is still in the works.
Craig Bragg (Wide Receiver, UCLA)
This guy had a good career, but it's interesting that the Packers brought in so many wide receivers. Bragg will probably make a good special teams player. He also has some experience as a punt returner. Kurt Campbell (Safety, University of Albany)
Here's another small-school product, but that doesn't mean he can't come in and be a solid NFL player. Again, he's probably a guy who will be used mostly on special teams. He has a reputation for being versatile, so that should help his cause.
Will Whitticker (Guard, Michigan State)
No question, the Packers need some depth on the offensive line after losing Mike Wahle and Marco Rivera. Hopefully, Whitticker can come in and compete for a backup position. Picking offensive linemen in the late rounds is not a bad idea. A lot of great offensive linemen were selected much lower in the draft.
The bottom line on this draft? In one respect, it's unfortunate because if they could have gotten some big-time defensive help for 2005 it could possibly have made the Packers a much stronger team for what might be Favre's last year. But that's selfish thinking because Packer fans want the team to do well right away. They see the clock ticking down. From a general manager's standpoint, you have to look down the road and think about the future. No doubt, Ted Thompson made some tough decisions. Now all fans will watch and wait to see how those decisions pay off.
Editor's note: Don "Majik" Majkowski will be inducted into the Green Bay Packer Hall of Fame in July. His career for the Packers spanned six seasons (1987-92), including being named to the Pro Bowl in 1989 when he led the NFL in passing yards. In addition to his duties with Packer Report, Majik is the football analyst for WSSP-AM, SportsRadio 1250 in Milwaukee.