Up to their eyeballs in youth

The Green Bay Packers used the recent NFL draft to build depth at various positions, but PackerReport.com's Matt Tevsh explains why the Packers would have been better off by adding a few experienced impact players.

Coming out of last weekend's minicamp, the Green Bay Packers can at least say they have established some pretty good depth at most positions on their team. Quarterback, running back, wide receiver, defensive line, linebacker, and kicker all have a number of quality players.

With that being said, some decent players will be released before the regular season kicks off, making general manager Ted Thompson's off-season look worse than some have already critiqued. Quite simply, it will boil down to a numbers game and not everyone, including draft picks, can stay.

Think about it, where are the Packers going to fit all these guys? There are only so many spots historically available at certain positions. Competition for practice squad positions will even be tight. Sure, every training camp, an inflated roster of players adds extra bodies to the sideline, but with increased expectations for many of them, there are sure to be more disappointments than surprises this preseason.

Thompson's plan for the Packers has worked fairly well since taking over a little over two years ago. He has built a young nucleus of talent with a few solid veterans giving him a team on the verge of becoming a playoff contender. His draft philosophy of choosing the best player available is a good one, but even a good general manager has to adapt his philosophy when the right time calls for it. That right time was this off-season, yet the Packers added young depth they did not need. Now they have an abnormal number of players fairly equal in value at multiple positions. That will make for nothing other than maybe interesting training camp practices.

More than anything, the Packers needed a couple of impact players, particularly on offense, to complement the young roster of talent previously amassed. Thompson was wise to pass on free agency because this year's pool was weak, but not making a blockbuster trade and not using the draft properly as a bargaining tool cost the Packers a chance to really take a big step this year.

Again, Thompson added draft picks during draft weekend. Some of those selected will be hard-pressed to make the type of impact the Packers need this year or into successive years.

Justin Harrell? He could be an anchor on the defensive line, but with hard workers on the interior like Corey Williams, Colin Cole, and Cullen Jenkins, the Packers should get better and stay fresher in stopping the run with what they already have.

Brandon Jackson? He could be a nice complementary player, but has never been a No. 1 running back. They have a guy already like that in Vernand Morency, whose impact might just be diminished by becoming a starter.

James Jones and David Clowney? Both are intriguing wide receiver picks, but neither may see the field over the next few years with Donald Driver, Greg Jennings, a sleeper in Carlyle Holiday, and the possibility of contributions from Robert Ferguson and Koren Robinson.

And Mason Crosby? He was a great pickup in the sixth round, but his inclusion means that at least one good kicker with a strong leg will end up with another team come September. Incumbent Dave Rayner is no slouch himself.

Thompson's draft was really not that bad, but rather lacked a sense of appropriateness to where the Packers are as a team. They are no longer in a transition mode and they do not need to create much competition at certain positions.

How about trading multiple picks to move up in the draft? Or making a sweet offer for a player on another team? For this year and this team, it was worth a shot.

In addition to veterans like Ferguson and fullback Brandon Miree, promising first- and second-year players like wide receiver/punt returner Shaun Bodiford, wide receiver Ruvell Martin, and safety Tyrone Culver may not have a roster spot. While none of those names stand out to the average football fan, consider four of the five were starters at some point over the last two years for the Packers and they at least have played important roles.

Thompson might just have a differing opinion than the majority when he evaluates the talent already on his roster, which, of course, he built almost in its entirety by himself. He at least sends that message considering positions where the Packers really needed improvement – cornerback and tight end – have been mere afterthoughts this off-season.

The Packers certainly have depth, but depth does not always translate to getting it done on game days. Only so many players can play and even fewer can make a difference in the outcome of the game.

How much depth is too much? It looks like the Packers are about at that point.


Matt Tevsh

Matt Tevsh is a regular contributor to PackerReport.com and Packer Report. E-mail him at matttevsh@hotmail.com.


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