Who's No. 5? On the offensive

In the second of a three-part series, PackerReport.com's Steve Lawrence examines the players who will be on the draft board when the Green Bay Packers make the fifth selection in the first round of Saturday's NFL draft.

Predicting who will fall into the Green Bay Packers' hands when they spend the fifth pick of the NFL Draft on April 29 is nearly impossible.

After all, who knows what the Saints will do at No. 2? Will they use it on defensive end Mario Williams, or will they trade down a couple spots to get linebacker A.J. Hawk? What quarterback will the Tennessee Titans draft at No. 3? The so-called sure thing, Matt Leinart, the wickedly athletic Vince Young, or the guy who's drawn comparisons to Brett Favre, home-state product Jay Cutler? With a lot of money locked into the quarterback position, will the Jets draft another one with the fourth pick?

With all of that indecision, this is the second of three columns in which I'll talk about the guys most likely to be available at No. 5, their strengths and weaknesses, how they could help the Packers and, finally, the percentage chance of them being drafted by Green Bay on Saturday.

We started last weekend with the quarterbacks, a position in which I see a 20 percent chance the Packers will take either Matt Leinart, Vince Young or Jay Cutler. Today, I continue with two more players who could be available that could interest the Packers: offensive tackle D'Brickashaw Ferguson and tight end Vernon Davis.

D'Brickashaw Ferguson, offensive tackle, Virginia, 10 percent

So, Brett, you don't think we've done anything to help the offensive line. Well, how about D'Brickashaw Ferguson?

That would be the message sent by Packers general manager Ted Thompson should he select Ferguson with his first-round pick. Certainly, Thompson wouldn't pick Ferguson just to make Favre happy; Thompson's off-season inaction speaks volumes. But adding Ferguson to the mix makes a suspect offensive line suddenly a lot less suspect.

Ferguson's natural position is left tackle; he was an All-American there last season. The Packers are in great shape there, however, with Chad Clifton. Ferguson would have to move to right tackle, and right tackle Mark Tauscher would move to guard. Have Kevin Barry battle William Whitticker for the other starting guard spot, and promising Scott Wells lines up at center, and suddenly the Packers' line looks pretty formidable.

"I'm a beast. I see myself as a bodyguard," Whitticker said during the scouting combine. "I'm personally responsible for the health and welfare of my quarterback, and I'll do anything in my means to protect them."

Ferguson is intelligent, athletic and powerful. He's also a hard worker, having turned his 260-pound frame into a lean and mean 312 pounds. All those extra pounds haven't caused him to lose a bit of his mobility. With nimble feet and long arms that seemingly were made for pass blocking, he's been called the best tackle prospect since Orlando Pace a decade ago.

"He's a sure bet," Titans coach Jeff Fisher said at the combine. "There's no doubt."

At the Senior Bowl, Ferguson dominated all comers.

"They don't get much more impressive than him," Tom Modrak, the Bills' assistant GM, said.

The question to answer if you're Thompson: How do I want to build my team? With the fifth pick, Thompson can add an impact player at practically any position. If he picks Ferguson, Thompson has elected to build a dominating offensive line, which would be a very good thing if Favre retires and Aaron Rodgers is the starter. A quarterback's best friend is a great running game, and with Ferguson, Clifton and Tauscher up front, the Packers should be able to run the ball.

Drafting Ferguson, however, means a lot of shuffling up front, since two of the Packers' top blockers, Ferguson and Tauscher, would be on the move. Thompson might be better served drafting a quality guard later in the draft.

Vernon Davis, tight end, Maryland, 25 percent

Face it: The Packers need playmakers. With Javon Walker forcing his way out the door and Terrence Murphy's career cut short with spinal problems, the Packers' receiving corps consists of steady Donald Driver, and oft-injured and disappointing Robert Ferguson. Needless to say, the Packers have few weapons that are going to scare the Chicago Bears' defense.

Adding a pass-catching playmaker has been a priority, but the free-agent crop was lousy, and there isn't a receiver worthy of being picked fifth.

But there's tight end Vernon Davis.

Davis has the type of athletic skills that look like misprints. People who are 6-foot-3 and 254 pounds shouldn't be able to run the 40-yard dash in 4.38 seconds and have a 42-inch vertical jump. He bench pressed 225 pounds 33 times. That vertical jump would have tied for best if he were a wide receiver, and his repetitions in the bench would have tied him for third among offensive linemen.

"If you were just grading players on athleticism, there are four unbelievable athletes in this draft: Reggie Bush, Mario Williams, Antonio Cromartie, and Vernon Davis. On tape, he's one of the most impressive guys in the draft," Baltimore Ravens director of college scouting Eric DeCosta told the Boston Globe.

Not that Davis is just a workout wonder. He was an All-American tight end who averaged 17.1 yards on 51 catches last season. So it's not as if he looks like Tarzan but plays like Jane.

Like San Diego's Antonio Gates and Kansas City's Tony Gonzalez, Davis is a walking mismatch.

"You've got a tight end who can make moves like a wide receiver," Davis said. "When there's a linebacker on you, that's kind of a mismatch."

Yeah, kind of.

Try to play base defense, and there isn't a linebacker on the planet with the speed to keep up with him. Play nickel defense, and Davis is just too big and strong for any cornerback to defend.

Then they have to try to tackle him.

"He doesn't think another human being can bring him down," Maryland coach Ralph Friedgen said.

"Some cornerback or safety trying (to tackle him one-on-one) will break in half," DeCosta said.

The question to answer if you're Thompson: With all the glaring needs on the Packers, do they draft a tight end at No. 5? Davis can run and catch circles around the Packers' Bubba Franks, but it's not as if Franks is a stiff.

Perhaps the better question for Thompson to answer: How can you not draft Davis? As you read this, you can understand why Favre can't decide if he wants to play another season. Who's he going to throw the ball to? Now, imagine this offense with Davis. Imagine Davis running deep down the middle. Imagine Driver suddenly having single coverage, as the free safety sees the streaking Davis and can't cheat. Imagine Franks running the short routes underneath. Imagine Ahman Green drifting out of the backfield. Suddenly, the Packers have some weapons. Suddenly, the Packers have someone on offense that defenses need to worry about.

"I want to revolutionize the tight end position," Davis told Scout.com's Baltimore Ravens Web site (ravens.scout.com/2/523554.html). "I want to be remembered as someone who changed the way people think about tight ends and what they can do. I want defensive coordinators to have to use their imagination to stop me from scoring touchdowns. I want to be the next big thing in the NFL."

Lawrence is a regular contributor to PackerReport.com. Send comments to steve_lawrence_packers@yahoo.com.


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