Early bird prediction

Prognosticator forecasts Packers' picks in April's NFL draft

The speculation is running rampant as to who the Green Bay Packers will select with their picks in the 2006 NFL draft. A lot of that will depend on some things that will happen between now and the draft. Free agency starts in early March. Who the Packers re-sign from their own roster and who they sign from other team's rosters will definitely factor into their draft day decisions. There is also the Brett Favre retirement possibility. I am still betting on Favre coming back. We also still have the combine coming up in late February and the Pro days that players will have at their respective schools. Players can really impact where they are drafted by strong or weak showings at those events.

This mock draft will be based on a number of factors. I believe that Ted Thompson will try and get at least a couple more picks by trading down or by trading a player or two. As it stands right now, the Packers have five picks, one in each of the first five rounds. I think the Packers will get an additional third round pick as compensation for the loss of Pro Bowl G Marco Rivera. I also think the Packers can get an additional 4th round selection by trading down a few slots in the third round. Finally, I believe that the Packers can get another fifth round pick by trading WR Robert Ferguson to the Philadelphia Eagles. The Eagles are desperate for help at wide receiver and although Ferguson has been disappointing overall in his time in Green Bay, he knows the West Coast offense and has shown glimpses of real talent. The Eagles might remember his two touchdown catches in the fourth and 26 playoff game. Anyway, based on all that, here is an early prediction of the Packers' 2006 draft.

1) DE Mario Williams, North Carolina State
Williams can be an imposing figure at 6-7 and 285 pounds. He can also give the Packers a great rotation at DE with Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila and Aaron Kampman. The Packers need to re-sign Kampman before the draft. Williams has the abilty to be a three down lineman as he plays the run well besides being a sack threat. Williams can bring some serious pressure to the QB and it's amazing how much a secondary can improve with a good pass rush.

2) RB Brian Calhoun, Wisconsin
Calhoun is the perfect back for the West Coast offense. He is not only a gifted RB, but Calhoun catches the ball extremely well. Calhoun is one of those backs that never seems to take a big hit and can hit the home run at any time. He also would be part of a nice rotation with Sam Gado and Ahman Green. Green wants to stay in Green Bay and the Packers could probably sign him to a one year deal that is affordable because of his injury status.

3) S Daniel Bullocks, Nebraska
The Packers hit the jackpot last year with their selection of safety Nick Collins. Bullocks could be the perfect complement to Collins. Bullocks has an eye for the football and can lay the leather as well. He would be an immediate upgrade over current starter Mark Roman.

3) MLB Tim Dobbins, Iowa State
Dobbins has nice size and speed for a MLB. He also has good playmaking ability which has been sorely lacking by Green Bay linebackers the last couple of years. His selection would also free up Nick Barnett to move outside where his skills are better suited.

4) WR/KR Brandon Williams, Wisconsin
Williams could help the Packers in two key areas. He would help the WR corp with his ablity to make yards after the catch. He also would be an immediate upgrade in both the kick and punt return units. Williams doesn't have great size, but he just make big plays.

4) G Fred Matua, USC
Matua has good size at 6-2 and 305 pounds. Matua helped Heisman trophy winner Reggie Bush and LenDale White have monster seasons in the running game. He also did a nice job protecting former Heisman trophy winner Matt Leinart in the passing game.

5) CB Josh Lay, Pittsburgh
Lay has excellent size for a cornerback at 6-2 and 195 pounds. The Packers need to find a cornerback that will be more consistent opposite Al Harris. Current starter Ahmad Carroll might be better suited as a nickel back. Either way, the team needs more depth at the position as Harris isn't getting any younger.

5) OLB Omar Gaither, Tennessee
Gaither brings some nice ability to the OLB position. He has excellent speed which is very important for the Packers defensive scheme. He also is a playmaker that can find the football. Bottom line, the Packers need to upgrade quickly at the LB position.

There is a good chance that the Packers' first four picks will start. Williams will be a key player on special teams. Matua would also have a chance to start. Both fifth round picks also would have an opportunity to win a starting job. The Packers could garner seven starters out of eight picks. And think about the impact Williams will have on special teams.

Bob Fox is a freelance writer from the Tampa, Fla., area. E-mail him at greenbaybob@hotmail.com.

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