NFC North draft review: Green Bay Packers

In this third of a four-part series focusing on the NFC North, the Sports Xchange reviews the Green Bay Packers' draft. The Packers moved on from the Favre era by drafting two quarterbacks.

Unless they have a change of heart and remove him from the reserve/retired list before next season, the Packers indeed have put the Brett Favre era behind them.

No matter the possibly suggestive remarks Favre has made in recent interviews that he isn't long for retirement, the unusual outcome of Green Bay's draft last weekend indicated otherwise.

General manager Ted Thompson and head coach Mike McCarthy both said the starting job belongs to Aaron Rodgers, who has been biding his time behind Favre since being taken by the team in the first round of the 2005 draft.

However, the Packers picked not one, but two prospective backups to Rodgers: Louisville's Brian Brohm in the second round and LSU's Matt Flynn in the seventh.

"We feel like we've got two young guys that can come in and compete to make the roster," Thompson said.

The Packers hadn't selected two quarterbacks in the same draft since 1989, three years before Favre arrived via trade from Atlanta as their irreplaceable offensive leader for the next 16 seasons.

Thompson said at draft's conclusion April 27 that he's not anticipating a comeback by Favre, who has yet to file his retirement papers with the league.

He also said Craig Nall, who served as the No. 3 QB late in the 2007 season, likely won't be re-signed.

Thompson wound up settling on the draft to get insurance in place for Rodgers, who didn't play enough backing up iron-man Favre to give anyone reason to believe he will be an effective starting QB from the get-go. Plus, Rodgers has been prone to injuries the last couple years.

Despite having a few veteran free agents in for visits, including former division rival Daunte Culpepper on April 23, the Packers will go with a youth movement in moving on without the 38-year-old Favre.

The news from the draft probably wasn't met with applause from Rodgers. His bosses, however, insisted that the selections of the two quarterbacks shouldn't be construed as them having question marks about Rodgers' readiness to assume the starting job.

"He knows how we feel about him," McCarthy said. "He knows what his role is on our football team, and he'll be given every opportunity to be successful here as the Green Bay Packers' quarterback."


No first-round pick for the first time in 22 years. Taking two quarterbacks. Trading up for the first time.

The 2008 draft was anything but conventional for the Packers under fourth-year general manager Ted Thompson. With no glaring needs to address on a team that returns 20 of 22 starters after going 13-3 and nearly advancing to the Super Bowl last season, Thompson stepped out of his oft-predictable comfort zone.

The Packers came away from the weekend with nine players — one more than what they were slated to have — and none of them could have a prominent role next season. The manner by which the picks were made spoke to Thompson's desire to fortify the quality of depth at a number of key positions.

"I think they're good investments in the team, both in the short haul and the long term," Thompson said. "It was a little bit more fun (Sunday with rounds 3 to 7). Sometimes on the second day, you're really scrambling. But, (Sunday) we felt like we had guys rated that weren't going, and we were surprised. Sometimes, we're (saying), 'What does everybody else know that we don't know?'"

As much as Green Bay's body of work this year lacks pizzazz, with the exception of what could prove to be a tremendous value pick with quarterback Brian Brohm late in the second round, Thompson might have cornered the market on an all-name class. Packers fans will get a spelling lesson with second-round receiver Jordy Nelson, third-round tight end Jermichael Finley and fifth-round offensive lineman Breno Giacomini. Thompson was guilty of flubbing the latter, referring to him as "Geno."

While it wasn't surprising the Packers traded out of the first round — little value remained at No. 30 — their top selection of Nelson early in Round 2 was a head-scratcher. Nelson made his mark racking up yards after the catch at Kansas State last season, but the Packers were the league's best for "YAC" with a "Fab Five" of Donald Driver, Greg Jennings, James Jones, Koren Robinson and Ruvell Martin. The group hasn't been broken up, so where does that leave Nelson?

Finley, a young but talented prospect, has an opportunity to get on the field right away if he can shore up his blocking inadequacies and make Packers backers forget about Bubba Franks, who was cut.

Fiery, rugged Josh Sitton, a fourth-round pick from Central Florida, stands the best chance among this year's draftees to break through to a starting job at the unsettled guard spots.

The attention grabber on an offensive-oriented weekend — seven picks were made on that side — was how the Packers have begun rebuilding the quarterback position following the retirement of 16-year starter Brett Favre in March.

Aaron Rodgers, a first-round choice in 2005, is the anointed successor. Nevertheless, Thompson and head coach Mike McCarthy sought ample protection by latching on to starting-caliber Brohm and LSU's Matt Flynn in the seventh round.

"It's an important position to shore up in terms of depth, and we feel like having these three guys helps our team in that regard," Thompson said.

Green Bay made five trades in the course of the draft — most notably the unprecedented move up made by Ted Thompson to get Wake Forest defensive end Jeremy Thompson higher in the fourth round — and netted a sixth-round draft pick in 2009.

BEST PICK: Brian Brohm, QB, Louisville. Three years after Aaron Rodgers tumbled from a possible No. 1 overall pick to the Packers at No. 24, Brohm fell in Green Bay's lap late in the second round (56th overall) as Rodgers' likely top backup. GM Ted Thompson breathed a sigh of relief after attempts to trade up in the round to get the standout from Louisville fizzled. Rodgers has been handed the reins as the successor to Brett Favre, who retired in March, but Brohm could make things interesting by the end of training camp if he performs like the top-10 prospect he was pegged as had he entered the draft last year after his junior season. A new head coach, a drop-off by the team and an injury (sprained ankle) to add to Brohm's long list of medical setbacks factored into his draft stock plummeting this year.

COULD SURPRISE: Josh Sitton, OG, UCF. The versatile fourth-round draft pick from Central Florida could be labeled a starter of the present or a starter of the future. The imposing Sitton (6-3, 324) will get a shot to outmuscle a crowded cast of young competitors for a starting job to be had at both right guard and left guard. If that fails for the here and now, Sitton could be sitting pretty as a prospect to be groomed in the next few years to replace veteran Mark Tauscher at right tackle, Sitton's preferred position in college. Packers offensive line coach James Campen said of Sitton's tenacity: "Once he gets his hands on you, he's Velcro; you're not getting off this kid."

A closer look at the Packers' picks:

Round 2/36 — Jordy Nelson, WR, 6-3, 217, Kansas State

For the second straight year, GM Ted Thompson's first pick elicited boos from fans attending a draft party at Lambeau Field on Day 1. Nelson didn't have the name recognition of a few other receivers who were available at the time after the Packers moved back from No. 30 in the first round. Still, his upside as an athletic playmaker with deceptively fast speed suggests he'll contribute more as a rookie than questionable first-round draft pick Justin Harrell did at defensive tackle last year. His productivity as a punt returner made him more attractive.

Round 2/56 — Brian Brohm, QB, 6-3, 230, Louisville

The heir apparent to Aaron Rodgers, who no longer will be the QB-in-waiting behind Brett Favre. The Packers lucked out in not having to trade up from the back end of Round 2 to bag Brohm, who would have been a high first-round selection in 2007 had he not returned to Louisville for his senior season. He's a prototypical West Coast-system quarterback, with solid decision-making, accuracy in the short passing game and mobility. Brohm, however, doesn't have a strong arm, and his injury history is lengthy.

Round 2/60 — Patrick Lee, CB, 6-0, 200, Auburn

Lee meshes with the Packers' defensive philosophy for being a good-sized, physical corner suited to play bump-and-run coverage. After only one full year as a starter, however, Lee will need time to develop and won't be pushing aside aging starters Al Harris and Charles Woodson anytime soon. Lee figures to be spending a lot of extra time on the practice field with coach Lionel Washington to rectify his spotty skills defending receivers down field.

Round 3/91 — Jermichael Finley, TE, 6-4, 243, Texas

The Packers started Day 2 of the draft by addressing a need, what with Donald Lee the only proven player at the position after the release of Bubba Franks. However, Finley is a developmental player, coming out of college as a redshirt sophomore. He has great hands and is athletic with the receiving skills to stretch the field, but he's not overly fast, is raw as a blocker and must bulk up.

Round 4/102 — Jeremy Thompson, DE, 6-4, 264, Wake Forest

Ted Thompson finally showed some gumption in trading up for the first time in four years as the team's GM to take Jeremy Thompson. He was a better run stopper than pass rusher in college. The Green Bay scouts, though, attribute Thompson's modest sack numbers (6 1/2 last season) to different roles he was put in as a versatile lineman. He has room to fill out his good-sized frame. Older brother Orrin Thompson is a backup offensive tackle for the Packers.

Round 4/135 — Josh Sitton, OG, 6-3, 324, Central Florida

Resourceful lineman — he primarily lined up at right tackle in three full seasons as a starter but also has experience at right guard and left guard — will be in the mix for the starting spots at guard and also could be a viable replacement in the next few years for aging right tackle Mark Tauscher. Sitton was a catalyst last season in Kevin Smith's rushing for 2,567 yards, only 61 behind Barry Sanders' single-season college record.

Round 5/150 — Breno Giacomini, OT, 6-7, 303, Louisville

Converted tight end started at right tackle all last season, drawing notice as an effective pass blocker with quick feet and hands. He has good size to get a look at both tackle spots in the coming months and plays with a nasty disposition.

Round 7/209 — Matt Flynn, QB, 6-2, 227, LSU

One-year starter for the national-champion Tigers after having been the understudy to 2007 top draft pick JaMarcus Russell. Flynn is a heady signal caller with good, accurate touch in the short passing game. He is versatile as a runner and can throw effectively on the run but isn't a strong downfield thrower. Durability should be a concern after he suffered a high ankle sprain early last season.

Round 7/217 — Brett Swain, WR, 6-1, 200, San Diego State

The top receiver for the Aztecs each of the last two years has a chip on his shoulder because of knocks he took leading up to the draft for not being a blazer. He was quick enough after the catch to churn out numerous big plays in college, primarily operating out of the slot. Could get a look on returns and would need to stand out in other areas of special teams to stick around at a crowded position.


—A day after self-uttered vague comments on national TV perpetuated the notion that Brett Favre won't be staying in retirement long, the Packers took action to show they are indeed moving forward without their longtime quarterback.

The team put Favre on the league's reserve/retired list April 25. The move took Favre off the roster and allowed the Packers to recoup about $12 million against the salary cap this year.

"Brett knew this change in his roster status was coming, and he fully understood our need to make the move in advance of (last weekend's) NFL Draft," general manager Ted Thompson said.

While making a rare appearance on the "Late Show with David Letterman" on April 24, Favre reiterated that he's retired, although he hasn't filed paperwork with the league, but he didn't sound convincing that a comeback won't happen.

"I think when training camp gets close, I will ... something's bound to happen," Favre told Letterman.

"Something's bound to happen, what does that mean?" Letterman asked.

"I don't know," a smiling Favre replied. "Did I just say that?"

"You said, 'Something's bound to happen.' So, this makes me think you're not retired," Letterman said.

"Butterflies or ... I don't know. Something's bound to happen," Favre said.

Favre was in New York City last week for a promotional event. In an interview that appeared on ESPN after the Letterman show, Favre still left open to interpretation that he's not resigned to sit out next season.

"They know I'm retired," Favre said of the Packers. "Do they know 100 percent it's over and done with? I think a lot of people wonder that. I feel good about my decision. This is not to stir the pot. I question it sometimes: 'Are you crazy? You know you still love the game.' I don't love all of the other stuff that goes along with it. But, I'm retired."

—Mike Sherman made a public-speaking appearance in the Green Bay area April 25 for the first time since he was fired as Packers head coach after the 2005 season.

Sherman spoke about leadership at St. Norbert College, where one of his daughters is enrolled.

He didn't express any ill will toward the Packers in comments made after his address. Sherman was coach for six years and doubled as general manager for four years before being relieved of those duties in favor of Thompson in 2005.

"Tremendous memories of Green Bay," said Sherman, in his first year as head coach at Texas A&M. "This was a phenomenal experience. Great organization, great people and the fans, unbelievable. Packer fans are just a unique group of people. I'll always remember them for that."

—The Packers will begin a busy seven-week stretch of on-field work with a rookie orientation camp from May 2 to 4. The practices are for the team's draft picks and undrafted free agents.

The mandatory minicamp for the full roster is June 17 to 19, preceded by voluntary organized team activities spread out over four weeks beginning May 19.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "I don't think so. But, who knows? We'll see. I think the kid's going to be a really good player." — General manager Ted Thompson, when asked whether he deserved to get booed by some fans attending a draft party at Lambeau Field on April 26 for the team's initial pick of Kansas State receiver Jordy Nelson early in the second round.


Had Tony Palmer stayed healthy, he just might have provided some relief last season for an unsettling situation at the two guard spots.

A neck injury sustained in Week 2, however, ended Palmer's season and threatened his playing future thereafter. With Palmer not fully recovered, the Packers cut him April 25.

The coaches were high on Palmer, a second-year player formerly of St. Louis. His combination of size (6-2, 311), strength and nimble feet made him stand out as an effective run blocker in the interior prior to the injury. The Packers also tried him at center.

Green Bay last week also released two other offensive linemen: tackles Chris Patrick and Cliff Washburn. Both were on the team's practice squad for a time last season, then re-signed in January.

FRANCHISE PLAYER: DT Corey Williams (tendered at $6.363M; traded to Browns for second-round pick in 2008 draft).



—TE Ryan Krause, a better receiver than blocker, offered little after being promoted from the practice squad at midseason. His return is uncertain, although a spot was cleared when the team cut veteran Bubba Franks as a salary-cap casualty.

—QB Craig Nall returned to the team late in the season as the No. 3 guy at the position. Nall wasn't interested in continuing to serve as the caddie for both Brett Favre and Aaron Rodgers, but with Favre off in retirement, Nall could be brought back for a chance to compete for the No. 2 job.

—T/G Tyson Walter spent the entire season on injured reserve because of a toe injury. The versatile, rugged veteran is worth bringing back to compete for a backup spot.

UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENTS (not tendered offers)

—WR Carlyle Holiday (not tendered as ERFA), a converted quarterback, missed all but the season-opening game with a knee injury but, when healthy, has shown to be a dynamic situational receiver.



—RB Ryan Grant proved to be a godsend for a previously anemic running game the second half of the season and can write his ticket as a franchise back by racking up proficient performances for a full season.


—LB Brandon Chillar: UFA Rams; $5.4M/2 yrs, $550,000 SB/$1M RB; 2008 cap: $3.15M.

—OT Joe Toledo: FA Dolphins; terms unknown.


—S Atari Bigby: ERFA; $445,000/1 yr.

—DT Colin Cole: RFA; tendered at $1.47M; terms unknown.

—TE Tory Humphrey: ERFA; $445,000/1 yr.

—FB John Kuhn: ERFA; $445,000/1 yr.

—WR Ruvell Martin: ERFA; $445,000/1 yr.

—RB Vernand Morency: RFA; $927,000/1 yr.

—LB Tracy White: UFA; $1.8M/2 yrs, $250,000 SB.


—LS Rob Davis: UFA; retired.

—QB Brett Favre (retired).

—TE Bubba Franks (released).

—OG Tony Palmer (released/failed physical).

—CB Frank Walker: UFA Ravens; $3.5M/2 yrs, $1.25M SB.

—DT Corey Williams: Franchise FA re-signed and traded to Browns; $38M/6 yrs, $16.5M guaranteed.

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