Packers position rank by need
First of 13.
State of the Packers
Chad Clifton and Mark Tauscher are in the twilight of their careers. Clifton, who turns 34 in June, started and finished just eight of a possible 17 games last season. His unavailability at the line's most important position hindered the offense through the first half of the season. When Clifton and Tauscher finally got settled in, the offense gelled and the Packers roared into the playoffs. But how long can the Packers afford to go with Clifton? At right tackle, Tauscher turns 33 in June. T.J. Lang might be his eventual replacement — and could even compete for that job this year.
Forget about ...
— There's no consensus on who's next on the pecking order. Before the Scouting Combine, it was Rutgers' Anthony Davis. After the Scouting Combine, it was Maryland's Bruce Campbell. Now, it's probably Iowa's Bryan Bulaga, though some teams prefer Davis or even Indiana's Rodger Saffold as the third tackle.
Bulaga (6-6, 314) was named the Big Ten's offensive lineman of the year in 2009, even though he struggled early while overcoming a thyroid condition. In the Orange Bowl, he dominated Georgia Tech's Derrick Morgan, who is a possible top-10 choice. Iowa runs a zone blocking scheme, and his relatively short arms (33 1/4 inches) notwithstanding, he should be a superb pass blocker. According to Iowa's count, in his two seasons at left tackle, Bulaga allowed 3.5 sacks but no additional pressures. Bulaga would probably be the Packers' dream draft pick.
There are major questions about the other first-round prospects, all of whom are more likely to be on the board at No. 23.
Davis' stock has fallen a bit after concerns about his weight. Davis (6-5, 323) was demoted briefly before last season after his weight ballooned. Scouts fear how Davis will react once he gets his signing bonus deposited. But when he's on his game, he's a marvelous pass protector with remarkably nimble feet.
Brown (6-5, 300) is a superior pass blocker because of his athleticism and long arms. Brown, a converted tight end, was voted the Pac-10's top offensive linemen by the conference's starting defensive linemen last season. Some scouts question Brown's passion for the game but his former offensive line coach, ex-Packers line assistant Pat Ruel, vouched for Brown in an interview with Packer Report last month. Brown needs to get stronger and might not be ready to play immediately, but with Clifton on board, he wouldn't have to. Bulaga and Davis are superior run blockers.
Somehow, Saffold flew under the radar. A four-year starter at left tackle, Saffold (6-5, 316) allowed only one sack as a senior. Still, it wasn't until he dominated during the week of practices at the East-West all-star game that Saffold started generating serious buzz in scouting circles. Throw in a strong workout at the Combine, and Saffold has become a surprise first-round prospect, a source said. He might not be perfect for a zone scheme, but the Packers' offense has been just fine with Clifton, who was drafted for a traditional blocking scheme.
As tends to happen in the last weeks before the draft, the game tape trumps workouts. So, Campbell (6-7, 314) might have fallen out of the first round after a jaw-dropping Combine workout in which he ran his 40 in a stunning 4.85 seconds and measured with airplane-like 36 1/4-inch arms. All of that screamed Pro Bowl. But he started only half of the 2008 season and managed just nine games in 2009 because of toe and knee injuries. He never earned so much as an honorable mention on the all-conference team.
The final first-round prospect — though more likely a second-rounder — is Jared Veldheer of Division II Hillsdale (Chester Marcol's alma mater). Veldheer (6-8, 312) has great athleticism and promise, but the obvious question is how he'll adapt to the huge leap in competition. Our source said Veldheer has the mental and physical makeup to make that leap with no troubles, but relatively short arms (33 inches) could be an issue. A year behind a guy like Clifton would be perfect.
— Top-tier offensive tackles don't grow on trees, so the talent level drops in a hurry from here. Massachusetts' Vladimir Ducasse, West Virginia's Selvish Capers and Mississippi's John Jerry are in the next group as second- and third-rounders, though all of them look like right tackles, with Jerry's and maybe even Ducasse's best spot perhaps at guard.
The hulking Ducasse (6-4, 331) moved to the United States from Haiti in 2002. He's going to be a project but he has undeniable tools. He started for three seasons at left tackle but struggled during Senior Bowl week with the increase in competition. Scouts need to determine if Ducasse ever will be able to handle NFL size and speed from the edge. Capers (6-5, 308) is athletic enough to play left tackle but played right tackle for the Mountaineers, in part because that was lefty Pat White's blind side in 2008. He desperately needs to get stronger. Jerry (6-6, 328) is the brother of Falcons defensive lineman Peria Jerry, their 2009 first-rounder. He's a good player but ill-suited for a zone scheme.
— Miami's Jason Fox (6-7, 305) is the last legit left tackle prospect. He manned that position capably for three seasons for the Hurricanes but his draft stock has plunged because of a late-season knee injury that needed to be cleaned up and a hamstring injury at his pro day. He could go in the fourth round; he also could go in the sixth.
— Texas' Adam Ulatoski (6-6, 302; a four-year starter), Virginia Tech's Ed Wang (6-5, 314), Notre Dame's Sam Young (6-8, 316; four-year starter) and Stanford's Matt Kopa (6-6, 300) are all late-round prospects at right tackle. All four have experience at left tackle. Wang, who is hoping to become the first Chinese player in the NFL, really struggled at the Senior Bowl but scouts love his tools. He'd be the first off the board in this group. The Packers watched Ulatoski closely at his pro day, according to a source. He was a second-team All-American as a senior and earned his degree in December 2008. Iowa's Chris Calloway (6-7, 323), who spent most of his career at right tackle, is well-versed in a zone scheme and is an interesting possibility considering Tauscher's age.
— Three small-school names to remember are Morehouse's Ramon Harewood (6-6, 341), Fordham's Andrew Tyshovnytsky (6-4, 317) and Eastern Kentucky's Derek Hardman (6-6, 305). Harewood played rugby, cricket, volleyball, rugby and soccer in his native Barbados. He enrolled at Morehouse to study applied physics and engineering and wound up being a three-time all-conference pick. Tyshovnytsky starred at right tackle for a team headlined by quarterback John Skelton. He won the National Strength and Conditioning Association's All-American Strength and Conditioning Athlete of the Year. His 40 times were in the 4.9s with 33 reps on the bench. Hardman was a first-team All-American as a senior, a four-year starter and a 4.0 student.
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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at email@example.com, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/packerreport and Facebook under Bill Huber.