While Ted Thompson may sit quietly in free agency, he is a junkie when it comes to the NFL Draft. Even when he lost Randall Cobb, James Jones and Jermichael Finley there is a reason he didn’t trade away draft picks for a replacement player. Thompson values draft picks like they are gold and when you have a track record even remotely similar to his, you can do whatever you want.
Thompson will enter the 2014 NFL Draft with his full stockade of draft picks in rounds one through seven. He is methodical, knowing when to move up the board, move down or stay put all with the knowledge that his player will fall. Last year we saw him wait patiently in the first round and he grabbed defensive end Datone Jones, that was followed up by Eddie Lacy towards the end of round two as Thompson’s patience paid off as the team now has the leading candidate for rookie of the year.
He filled needs at defensive end, running back, cornerback and even found a starting left tackle in the fourth round David Bakhtiari who has outperformed the first overall pick Eric Fisher
While we are only halfway through the 2013 season, it’s become clear what voids Thompson will have to fill in the 2014 draft. There are plenty of options as this year’s class is one of the richest in recent memory, which can only mean great things for one of the best general managers in the business.
First Round: Eric Ebron, Tight End, North Carolina
Even before Jermichael Finley went down with a spinal cord injury, there were questions about his future in Green Bay. The 26-year-old tight end will become a free agent in 2014 and is hoping to become one of the highest paid players at his position.
After struggling with drops in previous seasons it appeared Finley had turned a corner in his career and realized his potential. But while doctors may clear him, it still remains unclear if Green Bay will feel confident enough to bring him back and even if there is interest, are they willing to pay him.
If Finley doesn’t return to Green Bay, tight end will become a top priority for Thompson in the draft. Thompson believes in best player available and that strategy works perfectly when Eric Ebron lands right at their selection.
Ebron has established himself this season as the best tight end prospect in the 2014 class and even better than Tyler Eifert last season. Ebron is a wide receiver playing the tight end position, with great size, speed and hands he is a nightmare to cover for the defense. While he doesn’t excel as a blocker he doesn’t need to in this offense. He is the perfect piece for this offense
Second Round: Dominique Easley, Defensive Tackle, Florida
Green Bay’s defensive line has actually shown a lot of improvement this season with young players like Mike Daniels stepping up. The team has done a very nice job against the run but continues to struggle getting pressure without bringing extra blitz pressure. The team also must figure out what to do with B.J. Raji, Ryan Pickett and Johnny Jolly who will be free agents at the end of the season. Bringing in more depth on the defensive line and extra pass rush will be key as the team looks for players to pair next to Daniels and Jones.
Dominique Easley wouldn’t have even made it to the bottom of the first round if not for a torn ACL and meniscus in his right knee early in the season. It marked the second time Easley had torn an ACL, the first coming in 2011 in his left knee. Injuries will be a big question facing Easley entering the 2014 draft but if he can be cleared by doctors he is a top-15 prospect. He isn’t an ideal fit in a 3-4 defense but by putting on weight he can play defensive end and become a disruptive force on the defensive line.
Third Round: Dion Bailey, Free Safety, USC
The biggest need Green Bay will need to address in the draft is the safety position, but unless Ha’Sean Clinton-Dix falls to them in the first round, they may have to wait until the third round to land their guy.
Morgan Burnett has handled the move back to strong safety well but the play of M.D. Jennings at free safety has been less than
One of my favorite defensive back prospects in this class is USC Trojans safety Dion Bailey.
He made the transition to linebacker in 2012 but was moved back to safety in part because it’s the better position for him in the NFL. Coaches will love his versatility but what will make him a successful player in the NFL is his dedication to the game along with his natural ability. He offers great speed and instincts and plays coverage well, which is something Green Bay desperately needs. He is great value in the third round and could start alongside Burnett to turn around this Packers defense.
Fourth Round: Jared Abbrederis, Wide Receiver, Wisconsin
While wide receiver may not seem like a big need for fans outside of Green Bay, this is a pick that would make a lot of sense. Cobb and Nelson are the top wide receivers on this team and while Jones has played very well the past two seasons, he is entering a contract year and will turn 30 just a few months before the draft.
While there is a good chance the team could bring him back on a short deal, they also have Jarrett Boykin waiting in the wings and love to add additional weapons. If you don’t know who Jared Abbrederis is, you must have missed the torching he put on Ohio State cornerback Bradley Roby. Roby was considered by many to be the best cornerback in the 2014 class then was torched for big plays as Abbrederis finished with 10 receptions for 207 yards and a touchdown. He needs to become more consistent catching the football, as drops have continued to plague him this season. But in the fourth round he could work with coaches and serve as the team’s fifth wide receiver before he eventually steps up and becomes the third option for this team.
Fifth Round: Danny Shelton, Defensive Tackle, Washington
Adding depth to the defensive line remains a focus in the draft and a point of emphasis for Thompson every year. The Packers love to rotate in different players for each situation to keep players fresh and get the most production out of them as possible. Shelton has the right size to plug in at nose tackle. He may be 327 pounds but he moves very well for his size and does an excellent job eating up blocks and creating interior pressure. Plug him into this defense and you have another piece to add to this defense and help them become one of the best-run defenses in the NFL.
Sixth Round: Jimmy Garoppolo, Quarterback, Eastern Illinois
When Rodgers went down with a broken collarbone, you could feel the breath leave Lambeau field as players and fans knew their team was in trouble.
While any team with an elite quarterback is in trouble when an injury occurs, Green Bay really needs to find a backup quarterback.
While Jimmy Garoppolo may come from a small school but he has all the raw tools that make for a starting quarterback in the NFL.
He has very good size and a great arm, but really needs to work on his mechanics, footwork and presence in the pocket.
He is dominating the lower competition because of his physical ability but needs to go to an NFL team where he can learn from great coaches and a great quarterback. Garoppolo would find the perfect landing spot in Green Bay, a place where he can develop and the Packers have a good, young backup quarterback for insurance or trade bait.
Seventh Round: Brian Randolph, Free Safety, Tennessee
Green Bay is thin at the safety position and that has become clear this season. Jennings is a backup safety who shouldn’t be starting and Jerron McMillian just doesn’t belong on a playoff-caliber NFL roster. Bringing in more depth at free safety should be a goal for Thompson in the draft and he could grab another prospect in round seven.
While Brian Randolph may not be well known for a rebuilding Volunteers program, there is definitely promise worth looking at. He is a very smart player who has become the leader of the Tennessee defense, he knows how to make plays and clean up mistakes by the cornerbacks. The big question for him is health, he has struggled to stay on the field during his time in Knoxville. He falls to the seventh round because of durability concerns but is worth the gamble this late.