All about depth for Packers

Green Bay's first-day picks reinforce skill positions, says Packer Report's Todd Korth

Ted Thompson never ceases to surprise draft experts and Green Bay Packers fans. If you guessed that Green Bay was going to take wide receiver Jordy Nelson with its first overall selection of the NFL draft Saturday, then you probably also were correct on every game in the recent NCAA men's basketball tournament, right? Didn't think so.

What Thompson and the Packers again showed us so far this draft is that their player evaluation and rating system is a little different than others, but it's hard to dispute their ways. Thompson has quickly improved the Packers through the draft in his previous three seasons, so until Green Bay struggles because of the draft, all Packers fans can do is put their trust in Thompson.

That, however, didn't stop a few who gathered in the Lambeau Field Atrium for the team's annual draft day part from booing Thompson when he addressed fans following the team's first selection. Last year, the general manager was booed for selecting defensive tackle Justin Harrell with the 16th overall pick of the draft. On Saturday, he wasn't booed quite as loudly, but fell short of 100 percent approval with the surprise pick of Nelson.

"The more loyal fans stood up and clapped a little bit, but I got my share of heckling," Thompson told the media gathered in an auditorium far from the Atrium area.

So far the Packers have used this draft to build depth at three skill positions – wide receiver, quarterback and cornerback. At first glance, that's a great approach. Most every starting position is set anyway, so why not reinforce positions where there never can be enough difference-makers?

All three positions are currently pretty strong, though, the depth is somewhat questionable. Thompson and head coach Mike McCarthy did something about it today.

"We're always trying to push the envelope. We're always trying to get better," Thompson explained. "I don't think you can ever say, ‘OK, we're set at this position, so if a good football player gets to us or falls into our laps, we're going to pass it up because we're set at that position.' We're never going to do that. We're always going to try to get better. We may be considered to be strong at a particular position, but you could have a couple of nicks or ankle sprains and then you're not quite as strong. As you saw this year and the past couple of years, Mike (McCarthy) and his staff like to spread it out and throw the ball and use five-receiver sets and things like that. I don't know if we'll use (Nelson) as a punt returner, but I think he has five punt returns this past year and two of them for touchdowns. Whether he does that in the NFL or not, we'll see, but that's the kind of playmakers we're looking for."

The Packers feature Pro Bowl players at wide receiver and cornerback, and are locked on Aaron Rodgers picking up Brett Favre left off. Many football experts feel that wide receiver Donald Driver has a few more good seasons left in him. The same goes for cornerbacks Charles Woodson and Al Harris. All three have been to Hawaii in the postseason, but injuries happen frequently in football. Without adequate backups, a team can go from a contender to a big disappointment with injuries to players at skill positions.

If Rodgers goes down with an injury, which many fans feel he might, the Packers need a solid backup. Whether that's Brohm, time will tell. It all depends on how he picks up the offense. Look for the Packers to sign a veteran quarterback as the No. 2 behind Rodgers till Brohm gets more comfortable. Still, the Packers were expected to select a quarterback in this draft to help fill the void left by Favre, anyway, and Brohm is solid pick, if not a steal. Many experts felt he would have been selected a lot higher in last year's draft if he would have come out, but he opted to stay at Louisville for another season and his production slipped under the Cardinals' new coaching staff.

"The thing I like about Brian is his consistency," said McCarthy. "He does everything good. ... I think he gives us a quarterback that has played a lot of football in college, is very polished as far as being in a two-back scheme, a one-back scheme, playing in the shotgun. I'm excited he's part of our quarterback group."

Nelson? Lee? The jury is out till training camp to see if they will be able to step in and make an immediate impact as part-time players, or perhaps fill-in starters. But there is no reason to think they won't be able to pitch in.

The Packers got big contributions from a handful of rookies last year, including wide receiver James Jones, fullback Korey Hall and kicker Mason Crosby. Running back Brandon Jackson had a chance as a starter but was sidelined by injuries and lack of production before Ryan Grant seized the starting position for good. Harrell was a disappointment for the most part, but he got to play late in the season last year because of injuries to two other players in front of him on the roster. He will have to show some improvement this offseason, or the bust tag will soon be thrust upon him.

Driver, Woodson and Harris will be moving on, or released before Packers fans know it. Rodgers will be given an opportunity to be a longtime starter, but nothing is guaranteed. Selecting Nelson, Brohm and Lee makes all the sense in the world from the standpoint of preparing players to step in right away and start within a year or two, if needed.

"I look at our team the way we've operated going from year one to year two, and now year two to year three … we must improve from within," said McCarthy. "That's something our whole football team has done a very good job of. Now through the draft, we'll obtain good, quality football players, which I think we've done today — men of character that I think fit the Green Bay Packers organization and community. They will be given opportunities to produce and contribute. We feel they fit where they do already, but if we need to adjust to make them successful, we will. I think they all have an opportunity to contribute just like a number of our young players did last year."

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