Packers NFL Draft Grades - Day No. 1

NOTE: This was posted originally on Saturday night.

The Packers had two picks on Day No. 1 of the NFL Draft, but one of the picks wasn't what we were expecting. They had the Nos. 9 and 41 picks overall, but went and made a trade with New England. A 1st (No. 26) and a 5th (No. 162) for a 2nd (No. 41) and two 3rds (Nos. 73 and 83).

No. 9 overall: Boston College DT B.J. Raji. He's been the projected pick for about the last three weeks. The run defense was awful last season and he's the best defensive tackle in the draft, so this makes a lot of sense. At 337 lbs. he fits the bill as a nose tackle in a 3-4. There has been some talk that he's athletic enough to play end in a 3-4, but I doubt that will happen much. Maybe in short yardage situations. They are switching to a 3-4, but defensive coordinator Dom Capers has said they will play in a 4-3 formation too. So they still need two defensive tackles some of the time (a lot of the time?). He'll probably get a chance to beat out DT Ryan Pickett and DT Johnny Jolly as the lone tackle in the 3-4, but all three will play a lot in a rotation.

No. 26 overall: USC OLB Clay Matthews. My initial reaction was bad. They gave up three picks for LB A.J. Hawk v.2.0? Or maybe a LB Brady Poppinga clone. But now I'm willing to give this pick the benefit of the doubt. First, former LB, now GM, Ted Thompson knows a lot more about linebackers then I do. Second, only one OLB was selected on Day 1 after Matthews (and that was Virginia LB Clint Sintim). I had considered a lot of college DEs as possible NFL OLB, but maybe it's unrealistic to expect most college defensive lineman to make that switch. Even Sintim might have to move to DE in the NFL. But Matthews, as Mike Tanier explains, is a linebacker who can play in space, drop back in pass coverage, and can stop the run. Matthews, along with LB Nick Barnett and Hawk, are not elite pass rushers, but in a well designed blitz package, they'll put enough pressure on the QB to force mistakes and create a few sacks per season. Poppinga has been the weak link on the defense for a couple seasons, and LB Brandon Chillar hasn't shown enough to beat him out. The Packers needed to upgrade the linebacker position and traded up to grab the best outside linebacker available.

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