When's it time to stray from plan?

Talent over need is great, says PackerReport.com's Steve Lawrence, but a Super Bowl contender needs the type of instant impact Nelson and Brohm may not provide

When is it time to stray away from the best-player-available philosophy?

When is it overkill to trade back to acquire more draft picks?

When is it time to make a bold move in hopes of acquiring a truly special talent?

Only time will tell if Jordy Nelson — the under-the-radar receiver Ted Thompson used the Packers' first draft pick on — will become the next Greg Jennings, another unheralded receiver Thompson drafted in the second round.

Nonetheless, it's appropriate to consider the draft board when Thompson traded out of No. 30 toward the end of the first round. Available were tight end Dustin Keller, safety Kenny Phillips, defensive end Phillip Merling and cornerback Brandon Flowers.

Those four players all would have filled needs, and all four were taken from No. 30 to No. 36, when Nelson was selected. So, these guys were hardly ham-and-eggers.

Perhaps Nelson ranked leaps and bounds ahead of those others. We'll never know.

Perhaps more likely, though, Nelson ranked an eyelash or two ahead of the next-best players on Thompson's draft board. If that's the case, when is it appropriate to stray just a tad from the best-player mantra?

Keller might have provided a big-play target and added depth at a position with nothing behind starter Donald Lee. Phillips might have provided the big-play safety the Packers haven't had since Darren Sharper. Merling would have added to the defensive line depth, at worst, and provided a Robin to Aaron Kampman's Batman, at best. Flowers would have provided instant depth at cornerback, and may have developed into a long-term replacement for Al Harris and Charles Woodson.

Instead, Nelson joins the Packers' deepest and most talented position. There's nothing wrong with adding depth — competition brings out the best in everyone — but this seems like too much of a good thing.

It's hard to imagine the Packers living and dying with four-receiver sets, like they did last year with Brett Favre. So, who sits? Nelson? Last year's impressive rookie, James Jones? And someone, either Ruvell Martin or Koren Robinson, will be out of a job. Hopefully, Thompson will be able to trade one, but he's not going to get much in return when teams know they can get him for nothing when he's been released.

Meanwhile, the trade gave the Packers an extra fourth-round pick. That's great, and by and large, Thompson's philosophy of more draft picks equals more chances to hit it big, is a proven winner.

But this is a team that was oh-so-close to reaching the Super Bowl last year. Even with Aaron Rodgers taking over for Favre, the Packers remain championship contenders because of a Rodgers' stellar supporting cast on offense, a young and strong defense and potent special teams.

Instead of trading back, why not be aggressive? Look at the Cowboys, who moved up a few picks late in the first round to get cornerback Michael Jenkins. The Cowboys saw a player they wanted at a position they wanted to upgrade, and went out and got their man.

The Packers didn't get their man at tight end, with the four clear-cut top prospects off the board.

The Packers didn't get their man to improve their guard situation, or get their man — in a deep class of tackles — to be a long-term replacement at left tackle.

The Packers hope they got their man at cornerback with Auburn's Patrick Lee — who neither has great height (6-foot), speed (4.53 in the 40) nor productivity (five career interceptions). The Packers also got their man in Louisville quarterback Brian Brohm. Now, Rodgers will have to look over both shoulders — one shoulder for Favre, the other for the hot-shot rookie.

But, the Packers do have Jordy Nelson. Lordy, lordy, that Jordy better turn into something special. In a hurry.

Steve Lawrence is a frequent contributor to PackerReport.com. E-mail him at steve_lawrence_packers@yahoo.com

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