Top of draft rearranged

Saints' signing of Brees has trickle-down effect on Green Bay

This past week the New Orleans Saints signed free-agent quarterback Drew Brees away from San Diego, and although the move doesn't directly affect the Packers, it does impact them somewhat.

The Saints were expected to draft USC quarterback Matt Leinart with the No. 2 pick of the draft, but with the addition of Brees, the Saints' quarterback issues are over. However, they do have a desire to add a defensive end, and North Carolina State's Mario Williams' name has been thrown around like dough in a pizza parlor.

Williams likely was a target for the Packers with the fifth pick of the draft, but it's unlikely the Saints trade down — which has been suggested — below the Packers' spot, since they know Green Bay also covets the pass rusher.

So now the top four picks of the draft will likely be:

1 Texans: Reggie Bush, RB, USC;
2. Saints: Williams;
3. Titans: Leinart;
4. Jets: Vince Young, QB, Texas.

This leaves the Packers with the option of picking Ohio State linebacker A.J. Hawk or Virginia offensive tackle D'Brickshaw Ferguson. Either player is expected to be a stud, but neither addresses the Packers' need to get DE Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila off the field on running downs, making him a pass-rushing specialist, which he really is.

This predicament isn't a bad thing, however. Hawk has the perfect last name for a linebacker, because he's a ball hawk. He dominated games in college no matter how players attempted to block him. His addition would give the Packers two young linebackers — the other being Nick Barnett — who can make plays with speed. They also have an attitude which is needed to be a star player.

Furthermore, the addition of defensive tackle Ryan Pickett, who's an upgrade over any Packers interior lineman from a year ago, could give the Packers' linebackers more opportunities. Give Hawk and Barnett chances and the defense will improve. Picking Hawk at No. 5 is not a bad thing.

As for Ferguson, his addition would shuffle the Packers' offensive line, but that's not a bad thing. Adding Ferguson would mean the Packers could move Mark Tauscher from right tackle to a guard spot, and this doesn't mean Tauscher would lose his effectiveness. Moving a tackle to guard has been met with success in the NFL as Dallas' Larry Allen went from the outside to the inside and continued to be voted to Pro Bowls. Tauscher at guard would be an improvement after what happened last year at the guard position. Then the Packers insert Ferguson and the questionable offensive line, which showed improvement late last season, becomes possibly a strength. This affects the running game, which improves, and gives the quarterback (whoever he's going to be) more time to throw.

Picking Ferguson at No. 5 is not a bad thing. It's likely when the Saints added Brees the Packers cringed a little, knowing what it meant. I know I'm no Mel Kiper, but I've watched enough football and listened to enough "experts" to know Hawk or Ferguson would not necessarily be a step down for the Packers. Both are quality and if either are the fifth pick on April 29, Packers fans should be OK with it. I am.

The Minnesota Vikings think they're better off with Brad Johnson than waiting for Daunte Culpepper to recover from last year's knee injury? Good. The Vikings traded Culpepper to Miami earlier this week and that gentle applause you heard was the rest of the NFC North.

Johnson is on the wrong side of 35, is as mobile as a tree and last year was fool's gold. Johnson played well last year after Culpepper's injury, rallying the Vikings to a 9-7 record, but at his age what can be expected this season?

He might be good for one year, might be. However, Culpepper should be good for another six to eight years. Now the Vikings have to find a quarterback for the future, and that process is never easy.

Also, if Peyton Manning doesn't go beserk and throw 49 TD passes in 2004, who's the MVP that season? Culpepper, who broke Brett Favre's NFC record of 38 TD passes with 39. In 2004, Culpepper had a plus-28 TD-interception ratio. Think the Vikings trade the 2004 MVP? No. Culpepper gets a pass on the 2005 season (12 INTs, 6 TDs) and comes back in 2006, when healthy, as the starter. That's the slack MVPs get.

Last year, adjusting to life without Randy Moss, Culpepper struggled, but with an offensive-minded coach like Brad Childress on the sideline, he would've improved Culpepper and the Vikings' QB issues would be settled for a while. Now, they need to do some work, and Johnson's not a guarantee to make it this coming season.

Doug Ritchay

Editor's note: Doug Ritchay is a regular contributor to E-mail him at

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