More Badgers needed in Green Bay

PackerReport.com's Bob Fox explains how the Green Bay Packers can benefit in the upcoming NFL draft by looking in their own backyard for high-quality NFL prospects.

In the long, storied history of the Green Bay Packers, the team has drafted 36 members of the Wisconsin Badgers. The NFL draft has been around since 1936. The 36 selections from Wisconsin is second all-time in Packer history, only behind the Minnesota Golden Gophers with 41 players drafted.

Recently, the Packers have not been so receptive to bringing in talent from Madison. The Ron Wolf and Barry Alvarez eras in Wisconsin began at almost the same time. Both men quickly turned their respective programs around. Years of losing became a distant memory as both the Packers and Badgers began to build consistent winners. Wolf had a lot of respect for Alvarez and his program. In fact, he offered Alvarez the head coaching job in Green Bay after he fired Ray Rhodes after the 1999 season. You wouldn't know that from some of Wolf's draft day decisions regarding players from Wisconsin.

The 1992 draft was Wolf's first draft in Green Bay. The Packers had the 5th overall selection in the draft. Wolf wanted a quality CB. His two top choices were Terrell Buckley from Florida State and Troy Vincent from Wisconsin. Vincent had better physical attributes, but Wolf went with Buckley as his pick. Ironically, both players were still in the NFL through last season. Buckley had 50 career interceptions to Vincent's 47. Still, most observers will tell you that Vincent was the better and more consistent pro. In fact, imagine how Vincent might have fit in with the Packer defenses of the 90's with Reggie White, LeRoy Butler and company. The Buckley experiment only lasted three years in Green Bay as the diminutive CB was consistently getting beaten by bigger WRs like Michael Irvin. That wouldn't be the last time Wolf made a mistake on not going with a Badger.

The 2001 draft has been universally agreed upon as Wolf's worst draft with the Packers. It was his last draft. Ironically, Wolf did draft a Badger in the class, but not the right one. The class he drafted included DE Jamal Reynolds, LB Torrance Marshall, DB Bhawoh Jue, G Bill Ferrario (Wisconsin) and TE David Martin. Wolf also drafted a WR in the 2nd round. His name? Robert Ferguson. Wolf bypassed a WR out of Wisconsin to take Ferguson. His name? Chris Chambers. Wolf recently admitted that he blew that selection. Ferguson has been a disappointment while Chambers is one of the best WRs in the NFL. Imagine Brett Favre throwing to Javon Walker, Donald Driver AND Chambers.

Favre lets his receivers make plays. He will throw the "jump ball" quite often where the WR needs to out-jump or out-muscle the DB. Walker, Driver and Chambers can all do this. Ferguson can't. Ferguson took a vicious shot toward the end of the 2004 season. That may be one reason he wasn't effective fighting for the ball in 2005. Chambers meanwhile went to the Pro Bowl and played six inches taller than what he really is. Chambers would be the perfect weapon for Favre.

Wolf drafted two Badgers in his time in Green Bay. One was Ferrario in 2001, and the other was T Mark Tauscher in 2000. If 2001 was Wolf's worst draft, then 2000 was his best. Some of the selections besides Tauscher were TE Bubba Franks, T Chad Clifton, LB Na'il Diggs and DE Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila. Tauscher was a seventh round pick who ended up starting as a rookie and who has become one of the steadiest RTs in the NFL.

The Packers need to look in their backyard this draft and off-season. The Badgers will have three players entering the draft on the offensive side of the ball that can really help the team at positions of need. The players are RB Brian Calhoun, WR/KR Brandon Williams and FB Matt Bernstein. If you read my mock draft story last week you know that I would like to see the Packers select both Calhoun and Williams. Bernstein would be a wise selection as well later in the draft depending on who is left on the board and what team needs have been filled.

Calhoun's stock is rising to the point where some mock drafts now have him going late in the first round. Running a 4.3 40-yard dash won't hurt, especially after a monster junior year in Madison. Williams also is a hot commodity. His ability to make big plays on offense and special teams is a huge asset. Williams also appears to be moving up the board. Bernstein is a different matter. He missed most of his senior year due to a sports hernia. But before the injury, Bernstein was a crushing lead blocker with decent running skills and nice hands. William Henderson is still a pro's pro, but he isn't getting any younger and is an UFA. Backup FB Vonta Leach hasn't shown any special ability so Bernstein would be a nice addition.

The free agency market also has a former Badger out there in a position of need for the Packers. That would be LB Nick Greisen of the New York Giants. Greisen was a tackling machine at Wisconsin. He is a natural MLB that could help move Nick Barnett to the outside where his talents would be best utilized. The addition of Greisen would add quality depth to the Packers at the LB position and on special teams.

So will the Packers finally add some players from Wisconsin this year? The recent past has proven that they SHOULD have selected a couple of Badgers instead of the players they drafted. Hopefully the past will be a roadmap for the future with the Packers. The players from Wisconsin can play in the NFL, and play extremely well. The Packer mantra of the last several years has pretty much been, "We don't need no stinking Badgers!" That attitude needs to change starting this off-season. You want a couple of reasons? How about Troy Vincent and Chris Chambers?

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


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