Landing Williams demands a Saint-ly effort

Depending on what the New Orleans Saints do with the second pick in the upcoming draft,'s Steve Lawrence explains how stud defensive end Mario Williams could fall into the Packers' laps with the fifth pick

With the Houston Texans almost certainly going to select electric running back Reggie Bush with the first pick in the upcoming NFL draft, the New Orleans Saints are, unofficially, at least, on the clock.

It's the Saints who the Green Bay Packers, and the rest of the league, will be watching closest when the draft commences on April 29.

If the future of Brett Favre is the greatest mystery in pro sports, then the guy the Packers are flat-out drooling over is no mystery at all.

That would be North Carolina State's Mario Williams, who has been compared to Reggie White and Julius Peppers. Given those players are polar opposites - the late White was a powerhouse while Peppers is lightning fast for his size - the comparisons no doubt are slathered in hyperbole, but it's certainly a sign of the impact Williams would be expected to provide for the pass-rush impaired Packers.

Will Williams be available when the Packers are ready to exercise their No. 5 pick?

A lot of that depends on the Saints.

If the Saints stay at No. 2, then chances are pretty good they'll select Williams, since they signed Drew Brees during the off-season to be the long-term solution at quarterback.

But there are many teams that need quarterbacks, and there are few quarterback prospects in the draft who have star quality. That means the Saints' pick will be in high demand, and that could benefit the Packers.

If one of those quarterback-deprived teams makes a deal with New Orleans to move up to No. 2, then Williams could fall into the Packers' laps.

That's because the Tennessee Titans, who pick third, need a quarterback, with Steve McNair's future in jeopardy because of age, injury history and salary. They love USC's Matt Leinart and Texas' Vince Young, and they'd happily take whoever isn't taken with the second pick.

The New York Jets own the fourth pick, and though they signed Patrick Ramsey to back up the fragile Chad Pennington, quarterback probably remains a long-term concern. A perfect fit would be Vanderbilt's Jay Cutler - or Young, if he slips - a player with all the tools who needs some seasoning. If not Cutler, then it would be Williams or offensive tackle D'Brickshaw Ferguson, who would provide some bubble-wrapping for Pennington.

Why do the Packers covet Williams?

Take a look at their defense. Sure, they played well statistically last season, but game-changing plays came about as often as June snowstorms.

Put Williams at defensive end, and the Packers immediately solve several problems. Aaron Kampman is a solid end but hardly a difference-maker. His cohort, Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila, is a liability against the run, but because he's better than anyone else they have, he's rarely taken out of the game, and therefore he doesn't have the energy to do what he does best: rush the passer.

Replace KGB with Williams in the starting lineup, and you get a better run defender. On passing downs, Kampman moves to defensive tackle, and with him and Cullen Jenkins providing a push up the middle and Williams and KGB racing around the ends, the Packers' pass rush looks so formidable that Ahmad Carroll won't even have time to commit a penalty.

Add Williams and either/or LaVar Arrington or Charles Woodson, and the Packers will have the makings of a defense that, at worst, will make them something more than an afterthought in the improving NFC North and, at best, will help Favre make up his mind.

Lawrence is a regular contributor to Send comments to

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