The best available player

Is it running back Marshawn Lynch? Tight end Greg Olsen? A receiver? Packers GM Ted Thompson could face a difficult decision during Saturday's first round.

Ted Thompson will speak to the media today. No doubt, he'll shed no light on the Packers' draft plans. I can, however, guarantee he'll spout the oft-repeated cliché about taking the "best player available."

The first round of Saturday's draft will be interesting in that the Packers' three major needs on offense could very well test that line of thinking.

Green Bay needs a starting-caliber running back, a do-it-all tight end and a receiver to play second-fiddle to Donald Driver and eventually replace him as the No. 1 receiver.

When the Packers are on the clock with the 16th overall pick Saturday, there's a good chance they could fill either of the voids. Running back Marshawn Lynch, tight end Greg Olsen and at least a couple first-round talents at wide receivers could be on the board.

Which direction will Thompson head?

After Lynch, there's a pretty big drop-off among the running backs. The next-best prospects, Ohio State's Antonio Pittman and Auburn's Kenny Irons, may not have the size to be durable every-down backs.

The drop-off at tight end is much more pronounced. After Olsen, none of the other prospects can run. The Packers already have a lumbering tight end in Bubba Franks.

It's impossible to know how Thompson has his draft board set up. Given the depth at receiver — and the lack of depth at halfback and tight end in this year's draft — would he take a wideout in the first round, even if he had that player rated ahead of Lynch and/or Olsen?

Among the first-round possibilities at receiver are Ohio State's slight but explosive Ted Ginn Jr., who doubles as a much-needed kick returner; Tennessee's Robert Meachem, who has the best combination of size and speed among receivers not named Calvin Johnson; and LSU's big but relatively slow Dwayne Bowe.

Regardless of how his board is stacked, Thompson might be wise to pass on a receiver in the first round and see if someone like South Carolina's Sidney Rice, USC's Steve Smith or Ohio State's Anthony Gonzalez falls. If enough teams take that wait-and-see approach, some talented receivers could tumble out of the first round, meaning the Packers could get a second-round steal.

Then again, the receiver talk could be meaningless if Thompson goes after Randy Moss.

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


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