Summing up the Packers' draft

Review, notes on Green Bay's 11 selections in NFL draft

Those weren't cheers that greeted general manager Ted Thompson when he came out to speak to fans during a draft party at Lambeau Field after the team's first selection was made April 28.

The boo birds were out in full force in response to Thompson's taking Tennessee defensive tackle Justin Harrell with the 16th overall pick. The choice came as a shock to many because Harrell wasn't projected to go that high in Round 1 and of the team's needs, defensive tackle ranked far down the list.

"I think it's great because that's what the Green Bay Packers are all about, is fans like that that have passion and they care," Thompson said. "We are doing everything we can to make this the best team possible. If they disagree with our decisions, that's OK. It's just as long as we believe we're doing the right thing, then we can take a few shots."

Harrell was only the fourth defensive tackle taken by the Packers in the first round since 1970 -- Vonnie Holliday was the last in 1998. Harrell will have to be more than serviceable for the Green Bay supporters to change their tune on Thompson's approach to his third draft with the team.

The timing of the selection was puzzling because the Packers seemingly were set with Ryan Pickett and Corey Williams as the returning starting tackles and have a couple emerging prospects in Colin Cole and Johnny Jolly. Plus, they re-signed Cullen Jenkins, a productive hybrid end-tackle, to a hefty four-year contract before the start of free agency.

Yet, the club was high on Harrell, never mind his injury history, and is convinced the imposing run stopper can be a front-line contributor.

"We're going to build this football team strong with the offensive and defensive lines," head coach Mike McCarthy said. "You just cannot have enough big guys."

That rationale prompted the Packers to pass on one of the top receivers still on the board (Tennessee's Robert Meachem or LSU's Dwayne Bowe), Florida safety Reggie Nelson, Michigan cornerback Leon Hall, Miami tight end Greg Olsen, even Notre Dame quarterback Brady Quinn. Any one of most of those players would have satisfied a great need - and appeased the fans.

"We don't draft based on needs, and I know that's boring ... but we don't think that's the best policy," Thompson said. "We think really and truly that the more good football players, regardless of position, that you can add to your team, the better off you are as an organization and as a team."

True to his track record of trading down to accumulate more players, Thompson swung two draft-weekend deals to turn nine picks into 11. The marquee pick of Harrell notwithstanding, offense was the emphasis, with seven players targeted to play on that side.

Second-round pick Brandon Jackson has untapped potential as a West Coast running back, but it will be asking a lot of him to assume the full-time role vacated by Ahman Green's free-agent signing with Houston. The Packers' chance to get Cal standout Marshawn Lynch fell by the wayside when Buffalo took him at No. 12.

Meanwhile, the jury is out on whether third-round safety Aaron Rouse can displace Marquand Manuel as a starter and what impact, if any, James Jones (third round) and David Clowney (fifth) can make for a receiving group that is without Randy Moss. Long the subject of trade rumors involving Green Bay, Moss was traded from Oakland to New England on the second day of the draft for a fourth-round pick this year.

The team's best value selection of the entire process might have come at the back end of three straight picks midway through the sixth round with strong-legged kicker Mason Crosby, who will challenge incumbent Dave Rayner.

"I hope that, in time, they would think this is a good draft," Thompson said of the fans.

GM Ted Thompson again resorted to some wheeling and dealing throughout the draft to stockpile picks, turning nine into 11. The quality of those selections doesn't jump out as a blue-chipper ensemble, especially at the team's positions of needs. In fact, rather than land a top-line player at running back, receiver, safety and tight end, Thompson surprisingly chose to first bolster the depth on the defensive line.

Tennessee tackle Justin Harrell, though, can't be written off so easily as the No. 16 overall pick. If not for a season-ending arm injury sustained in the second game last season, Harrell probably would have been out of reach in the middle of Round 1 for Green Bay, which has drawn criticism for reaching for him. Yes, Harrell is injury prone. If he can find a way to stay healthy for an extended period, however, Harrell's natural abilities suggest he will become the Packers' best interior lineman before long.

Harrell, an uncanny run stopper who gets off the ball well, and Ryan Pickett give the defense a formidable tackle duo on early downs. Harrell is raw as a pass rusher, but the team can get by in the interim with Corey Williams, who held down a starting job most of last season.

Brandon Jackson was pegged to be a second-day draftee, but the Packers thought otherwise and grabbed the somewhat obscure Nebraska running back after trading down to the back end of Round 2. Jackson started only a third of the games he played in three years, but team officials deem him a suitable fit for the zone-blocking run scheme.

Jackson and holdover Vernand Morency are shaped in the same mold, as shifty backs who can make the requisite cuts and slip defenders. Both will likely share the load at the outset as the offense goes forward without franchise back Ahman Green, who signed with the Texans in free agency.

The hard-nosed Jackson, though, has considerable upside as an underused rusher in college. He is a multi-faceted player with solid receiving skills and is comfortable in the West Coast offense. If injury problems with both shoulders are behind him, Jackson might have the type of impact receiver Greg Jennings, another under-the-radar prospect taken in the second round, had as a rookie last season.

A closer look at the Packers' picks:

Round 1/16 (overall) -- Justin Harrell, DT, 6-4, 310, Tennessee
A surprise choice in the middle of the first round, given that the Packers didn't have a big need for a defensive lineman, but team scouts felt Harrell would have been a top-10 pick had he not suffered a torn biceps tendon early last season.

Harrell is perhaps a medical liability, having suffered an assortment of leg and ankle injuries earlier in career. However, the team felt it couldn't pass on Harrell's starting-caliber promise as a pure run stuffer with rare explosiveness off the line.

Round 2/63 -- Brandon Jackson, RB, 5-10, 212, Nebraska
The selection of the part-time player (only 11 starts in three years) has to be considered a reach, but Jackson has the makeup to help fill the void left by the free-agent departure of another former Cornhusker, Ahman Green, to Houston.

He averaged a gaudy 5.3 yards per carry last season and 92.8 rushing yards per game when given the chance to start. He brings added value as a capable pass catcher coming from a West Coast system. Jackson also has experience as a kick returner. There is cause for concern about his health, however, because he had both shoulders operated on in college.

Round 3/78 -- James Jones, WR, 6-2, 199, San Jose State
Jones doesn't fit the profile of the impact-type, deep-threat receiver Brett Favre covets. He's lacking big-time credentials, contributing as a receiver full time only last season, when he excelled with 70 receptions and 10 touchdowns to earn team MVP honors.

Jones has desired size and is physical going for the football with good hands but isn't a blazer (40 times were in the 4.5s). He should be in the mix as a punt returner, after averaging 11 yards per return in 2006.

Round 3/89 -- Aaron Rouse, S, 6-4, 223, Virginia Tech
A prototypical strong safety who is a punishing hitter and closes fast in run support. The converted linebacker will be in contention with struggling incumbent Marquand Manuel and Marviel Underwood for the starting job alongside Nick Collins.

Rouse, though, will have to regain the playmaking form of his junior season in 2005 after he was plagued by inconsistency and struggled in pass coverage last season.

Round 4/119 -- Allen Barbre, OT, 6-4, 300, Missouri Southern State
Division II product brings athleticism and quickness to a crowded offensive line. He was a fixture at left tackle for most of his four-year starting tenure and dominated from the spot last season with 94 knockdowns.

Lean in physique, Barbre will need to bulk up in his early development. He will be given an opportunity to win a backup job at the tackle positions, as well as both guard spots.

Round 5/157 -- David Clowney, WR, 6-0, 188, Virginia Tech
Projected to be a first-day pick, Clowney's draft stock fell for one reason or another. The true speedster was slowed during his combine testing by a hamstring injury. Clowney, a sprinting standout for Virginia Tech's track team, is a dynamic straight-line, downfield runner coming off the line of scrimmage. Shortcoming, though, is he isn't overly physical and tends to get knocked off his route running.

Round 6/191 -- Korey Hall, FB, 6-1, 230, Boise State
The Packers plan to make a fullback out of the 2006 Western Athletic Conference Defensive Player of the Year. Hall was a running back in high school but made his mark as a three-time all-WAC first-team performer on defense, producing 105 tackles and a team-high six interceptions last season. He was a special-teams ace for Boise State, likened to "a head hunter" by Packers special teams coordinator Mike Stock.

Round 6/192 -- Desmond Bishop, LB, 6-2, 239, California
With Nick Barnett and backup Abdul Hodge, a third-round draft pick last year, at middle linebacker, Bishop will be moved to the outside in his indoctrination to the NFL. Bishop has questionable speed but is regarded as instinctive in pursuit. He was Cal's leading tackler his only two seasons after transferring from a junior college and led the Pac-10 Conference with 126 tackles in 2006.

Round 6/193 -- Mason Crosby, K, 6-1, 212, Colorado
The top kicker in the draft fell from a possible late Day 1 selection. Crosby should be stiff competition for incumbent Dave Rayner, who is coming off only his first season as a full-time kicker in the league. Crosby has as much leg strength as Rayner does, if not more.

Crosby left Colorado with 31 school records, including points (307) and longest field goal (60 yards). He connected on a 71-yard boot in practice. For all of his might, accuracy hasn't been compromised with Crosby, who made 75 percent of his field-goal attempts.

Round 7/228 -- DeShawn Wynn, RB, 5-10, 232, Florida
Big-bodied back gives the Packers some flexibility in seeing what he can provide at fullback. Wynn wasn't a workhorse ball carrier at Florida and endured a knee injury last season. Still, he averaged 5.1 yards per carry as the featured guy in 2006, primarily between the tackles. He's a decent pass catcher. Hanging over Wynn are character issues and a resistance to be a team player.

Round 7/243 -- Clark Harris, TE, 6-5, 261, Rutgers
Another big target for Favre, but not unlike incumbent starter Bubba Franks, Harris is a plodder running routes and will never be a deep threat. Blocking is a liability. Harris has experience as a long snapper.

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