Division foes a step ahead of Packers

Detroit, Minnesota and Chicago load up on offense through draft

NFL Draft weekend was designed to take Green Bay's offense to the next level. The 16th overall pick guaranteed an instant starter at running back, wide receiver, or tight end and the Randy Moss rumors were swirling again. For once, the Packers would splurge all of their top picks on weapons for Brett Favre.

Instead of seizing an opportunity to substantially elevate Green Bay's offensive firepower above their division rivals, general manager Ted Thompson once again strayed from conventionality.

It's Thompson's draft board. Not Favre's. Not the fans.' While Green Bay was stuck in Thompson's agenda in the first round, Detroit, Minnesota and Chicago landed instant playmakers. A healthy Justin Harrell bolsters the defense and Thompson may have found some offensive diamonds in the rough later on. But let's not kid ourselves. It was a painful first round. Three NFC North teams landed potential cornerstones that will hit the field immediately, while the other drafted a defensive tackle that may not even start.

It all started at the second overall pick, where Detroit held the key to the draft. Brady Quinn? Joe Thomas? Calvin Johnson? With so many options, Matt Millen just had to find a way to botch another draft, right? Wrong. He swallowed his pride and for the fourth time in his tenure, drafted a wideout in the top ten. Unlike Charles Rogers and Mike Williams, this one's for real. Undisputed NFL Draft king, Mel Kiper Jr., even declared Johnson a better prospect than Reggie Bush. Facing him twice a year is scary.

Say what you want about quarterback Jon Kitna, but the savvy veteran threw for 4,208 yards and 21 touchdowns last year. With Roy Williams (1,310-7), Mike Furrey (1,086-6), and Johnson operating in Mike Martz's video game offense, the Lions offense could easily become the division's best.

Green Bay trading up for Adrian Peterson proved just a dream five picks later. Now in purple and gold, the Oklahoma running back becomes a cheesehead's nightmare. The Vikings already had Chester Taylor on their roster but realized Peterson was too talented to pass up. Now head coach Brad Childress has arguably the league's best 1-2 punch in the backfield and they're running behind Pro Bowl guard Steve Hutchinson and Mount (Bryant) McKinnie.

The bleeding didn't end there.

Following the bizarre pick of Harrell, Green Bay fans watched helplessly as game-breaking tight end Greg Olsen conveniently fell in the lap of the Chicago Bears. As the defending NFC Champions, Chicago picked second to last. Rarely do teams ever land instant playmakers at this depth - ask Ron Wolf who infamously plucked John Michels, Ross Verba and Antuan Edwards in the glory years.

But leave it to agent Drew Rosenhaus … that Packer killer.

Olsen, one of Rosenhaus' clients, provides Rex Grossman a vertical threat down the middle to complement Mushin Muhammad, Bernard Berrian, and Rashied Davis. Nothing helps a struggling young quarterback like a sure-handed tight end safety blanket. Now that Grossman has one, he's almost guaranteed to improve from a 20-interception season. Without its offense holding them back, who knows how many games Chicago could win next year.

Sunday turned frustration to utter fury. New England dealt a fourth round pick to Oakland for Randy Moss, leaving the Packers' entire off-season acquisition list greener than ever. Nebraska running back Brandon Jackson (second round), San Jose State receiver James Jones (third), and Virginia Tech sprinter David Clowney (fifth) will be expected to contribute ASAP.

It didn't take much for the Packers' offense to reach elite status. A trade here, a pick there, baddaboom … the offense is locked and loaded. After virtually sleeping through free agency, it was assumed that Thompson had something up his sleeve for this weekend. Something to put Green Bay over the top- a trick he's been plotting for weeks.


Instead Brett Favre was once again left with a squirt gun as Kitna, Grossman and Tarvaris Jackson were given pistols.

Jones and Clowney could evolve into franchise bookend starters, but it's highly unlikely this year. If anyone doubted that Thompson doesn't care about Favre's dwindling window of opportunity, they were reminded of such over the weekend.

Now five very raw wide receivers (Greg Jennings, Ruvell Martin, Carlyle Holiday, Jones, Clowney) and a rookie running back (Jackson) are expected to make an impact this fall. An 8-8 team that is on the cusp of the postseason shouldn't be rebuilding on offense and peaking on defense. An experienced defense should've dictated Thompson to pursue veterans for the offense. Instead Green Bay is still a team straddling the line of playoff contention and full-fledged rebuilding. It was assumed Thompson would nudge Green Bay towards the former this past weekend.

It's commendable that Thompson isn't swayed by popular opinion and you can understand his logic. Harrell strengthens Green Bay's defensive line rotation. His 6-4, 305 lbs. frame will tie up blockers for A.J. Hawk and Nick Barnett to make plays ala Tony Siragusa and Ray Lewis on the 2000 Baltimore Ravens.

But is the talent gap between Harrell and Corey Williams greater than the difference between Olsen and Bubba Franks? Hopefully Thompson doesn't find out the hard way on NBC Sunday Night Football Oct. 7 against the Bears.

By then we should also know if Green Bay is a team in transition, or a team in contention. Right now that distinction is more blurry than ever.

Tyler Dunne is a student at St. John Fisher College in Rochester, NY. E-mail him at tydunne07@yahoo.com.

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