Reviewing the 2007 draft: Part 1

In this first of a two-part series,'s Steve Lawrence reviews the Green Bay Packers' 2007 NFL draft and offers his "hindsight is 20/20" alternative draft choices. Today, it's Rounds 1 through 3.

Perhaps the most amazing thing about the Packers' rise from 8-8 to 13-3 is that they did it without overwhelming contributions from their rookies. In fact, of the Packers' 11 draft picks last year, only one — sixth-round Mason Crosby, was a difference-maker.

That, of course, doesn't mean Ted Thompson's Class of 2007 was a bad one. It's far too soon to render such a verdict.

With that said, here's a review of the first three rounds of last year's draft, with a look at other prospects who were available in the picks immediately after the Packers made their choice.

1st round (No. 16): Justin Harrell

Fans attending the draft at Lambeau Field let Thompson know in no uncertain terms what they thought of his first-round pick. A chorus of boos rained on Thompson when he tried to explain his reasoning.

Is it possible the fans, not the football expert, got it right? Harrell's rookie season was forgettable. If not for injuries to Johnny Jolly and Colin Cole, Harrell might not have played a meaningful snap all season.

Before proclaiming Harrell a bust, though, it's helpful to remember that he missed most of his senior season at Tennessee with a torn biceps. The surgery cost him most of the Packers' offseason program, so he came into training camp far behind mentally and physically.

Also, it's helpful to recall that Jolly, a sixth-round pick in 2006, looked like a long shot to even make the 2007 roster — especially after failing his pre-camp conditioning test. Instead, Jolly blossomed into one of the Packers' top defensive linemen until a shoulder injury ended his season.

Could a similar jump be in Harrell's future? It had better be, because the Packers might let stalwart Corey Williams depart in free agency to open a spot for Harrell.

Hindsight is 20/20 pick: Thompson's only semi-major free-agent signing last year was cornerback Frank Walker, who didn't pan out. That made for a revolving door of less-than-stellar nickel cornerbacks.

Two players who could filled that void, and been a long-term answer at a position where the Packers are solid but aging, were available when Thompsn nabbed Harrell. At No. 18, the Bengals drafted Leon Hall, who started 10 games and intercepted five passes. At No. 20, the Giants selected Aaron Ross, who started nine games and intercepted three passes, then picked off a pass against the Packers in the NFC championship game.

2nd round (No. 63): Brandon Jackson

Jackson, like Harrell, wasn't exactly a popular choice, mostly because he was nothing special at Nebraska until the second half of his senior season.

Still, because of his receiving ability and experience in the Packers' zone scheme, he was handed the starting job entering training camp. He didn't hold it for long, showing all of the explosiveness of a wet tissue in averaging 3.3 yards per rush during the preseason and 2.6 per rush while starting the first three regular-season games.

Late in the season, though, Jackson showed some promise. He has no big-play ability and he has no chance of unseating Ryan Grant, but Jackson showed strong instincts and after-contact ability late in the blowout loss at Chicago, in rushing for 113 yards against Detroit in the regular-season finale and adding 34 yards on eight rushes in the thrashing of Seattle in the playoffs. With 267 yards, he ranked sixth among NFL rookies in rushing.

Hindsight is 20/20 pick: The Packers traded down from No. 47 in the second round, acquiring the Jackson pick (second-to-last in the round) along with a third- and sixth-round selection. If Thompson had stayed at No. 47, he would have had his choice of three running backs: Kenny Irons (No. 49, Cincinnati), Chris Henry (No. 50, Tennessee) and Brian Leonard (No. 52, St. Louis).

Irons' season was lost to a knee injury during the preseason. Henry rushed for merely 119 yards. Leonard rushed for 303 yards, caught 30 passes and started seven games as a change-of-pace halfback and undersized fullback in front of Steven Jackson.

At No. 53, Cleveland selected cornerback Eric Wright, who started 13 games. At No. 56, Broncos defensive end Tim Crowder had four sacks.

In the 10 picks after Thompson used No. 63 on Jackson, not one player made more than a small impact, so you could argue Thompson did the best he could in what looks like a weak segment of the draft.

3rd round (No. 78): James Jones

Not only was Jones one of Thompson's best picks, but he was one of the best picks, value-wise, in the entire draft.

Thirteen wide receivers were selected ahead of Jones, including six in the first round, and he was the fifth receiver taken in a span of six picks in the third round.

Jones ranked third among all rookies with 47 receptions and 676 yards, and caught at least two passes in 13 of 16 games. With his size and route-running skills, he could be a 70-catch, move-the-chains sort of receiver once age finally catches up to Donald Driver.

Hindsight is 20/20 pick: Jones was easily the best player available between No. 78 and the Packers' next pick. The next-best choice was Seattle defensive tackle Brandon Mebane, who started 10 games and had 29 tackles and two sacks after being taken with the 85th pick.

3rd round (No. 89): Aaron Rouse

The Rouse pick was acquired when the Packers traded down in the second round. It seemed like a curious selection, because even though Rouse was an impressive physical specimen at 6-foot-4 and 223 pounds and was one of the hardest-hitting players in Virginia Tech history, he lost his starting job for part of his senior season.

But, he was one of the Packers' most impressive rookies, recording interceptions in two of his three starts in place of Nick Collins. If he can make enough mental strides during the offseason, he'll have a shot to unseat Collins in training camp this summer.

Hindsight is 20/20 pick: There were 10 more picks after Rouse in the third round. Only one, Buffalo quarterback Trent Edwards — who the Packers obviously had no need for — made a bigger impact. The next-biggest impact came from Colts defensive tackle Quinn Pitcock, who started one game, played in nine and recorded 18 tackles and 1.5 sacks as the 98th selection.

Coming Wednesday: The rest of the draft.

Steve Lawrence is a regular contributor to E-mail him at

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