Packers Draft 2013: Where Should Green Bay Upgrade in the First Round?

USA TODAY Sports

With Brad Jones back in the fold, the Packers' draft strategy changes. We break down some positions of interest to try to understand what Ted Thompson will do early on in the draft.

Many mock draft websites have recently been projecting the Green Bay Packers to select Arthur Brown from Kansas State with the 26th pick in the first round of the 2013 NFL Draft. Up until yesterday, this seemed like a logical pick to improve the interior linebacking corps and to push A.J. Hawk and Desmond Bishop. Now that Brad Jones has returned to the Packers, this seems like a highly unlikely target, as there are five players who could compete for the two starting inside linebacker spots.

With that, we decided to take another look around the roster and try to identify what position the Packers will decide to improve using their first round pick, and we encourage you to vote in the poll and give your reasoning in the comments.

Defensive Line

Projected starters: B.J. Raji, Mike Neal (DE), Ryan Pickett (NT)
Key reserves: Jerel Worthy, C.J. Wilson

There are several reasons why defensive line is an area of need for the Packers this year. Raji has not turned into the game-changing nose tackle that he was drafted to be, and entering his fifth year he has shown much more consistency and disruptive ability at left defensive end instead. That forces the question of what to do at nose tackle, where Ryan Pickett has been effective. However, he's 33 and will be 34 in October, and his contract is up after the 2013 season. It seems highly unlikely that he would be brought back as a starter beyond then, and there's no true nose tackle on the roster to replace him (save for Raji potentially shifting back).

Then there's the right end spot, which has seen more bodies go through it than a New York morgue. Mike Neal brings some pass-rush ability but needs to answer consistency questions. Jerel Worthy showed some promise in the run game, but is a major question mark for 2013 after suffering a torn ACL. C.J. Wilson can eat up run gaps, but does virtually nothing against the pass. A big, physical presence at the 5-technique could help solidify that position and help Clay Matthews be more effective rushing off the edge.

Offensive Line

Projected starters: Marshall Newhouse (LT), T.J. Lang (LG), Evan Dietrich-Smith (C), Josh Sitton (RG), Bryan Bulaga (RT)
Key reserves: Derek Sherrod, Don Barclay

The right side of the line is fairly solid, assuming that Bulaga's injury heals normally. Sitton is one of the best guards in the league, and Bulaga has developed into a very good right tackle. Dietrich-Smith has some issues with pass-blocking but may be the unit's best run-blocker.

The bigger questions are on the left side, where Newhouse has had some struggles with elite pass-rushers. Lang looked very good in the playoff game against San Francisco, but struggled at times throughout the regular season. Sherrod looks to return from a broken leg that made him miss all of 2012, but his role is unknown. It's entirely possible that the Packers look to the interior or if a tackle slides down to draft a tackle, but I think the needs here can be just as effectively addressed in later rounds.

Tight End

Projected starter: Jermichael Finley
Key reserves: Andrew Quarless, D.J. Williams, Ryan Taylor

Finley is the starter but he struggles blocking, is split out as wide receiver plenty, and has one year left on his contract. Bringing in a young player to push him could both improve the blocking at the position while allowing the team to let Finley leave in free agency. Quarless has plenty of potential and may be the best blocker at the position, but there's little tape on him since he also missed all of 2012. Williams appears to be moving into more of an H-back role and hasn't done much as a receiver.

Safety

Projected starters: Morgan Burnett, Jerron McMillian
Key reserves: M.D. Jennings, Sean Richardson

Burnett has one starting spot on lock-down. The other is still up in the air, as McMillian looks to continue progressing into a starting-caliber safety. The tools are there, but he's still raw and needs to improve. Jennings and Richardson bring different things to the table, and Richardson could provide a physicality to the position the Packers haven't seen in a long time. With all those questions, it's entirely possible that a first-round prospect could step in and start on day one.

Wide Receiver

Projected starters: Jordy Nelson, James Jones, Randall Cobb
Key reserves: Jarrett Boykin, Jeremy Ross

Hear me out. I don't think the Packers should or will draft a wideout in the first round, but I think it's worthy of discussion. We've discussed it ad nauseum: James Jones is a free agent next off-season, while Nelson and Cobb's contracts are up after 2014. It tends to take at least one year before a Packers wideout really becomes effective in the offense (Cobb, Jennings) and in some cases more (Nelson, Jones). I could only see this happening if a highly-rated wide receiver like Tavon Austin starts dropping, which I don't expect. But it's at least worthy of a brief discussion.

Trade Down

Oh yeah, then there's that. Ted hasn't actually traded down out of the first round since 2008, and he's traded up into the first round just as often (to get Clay Matthews in 2009). But this year, with little top-tier talent and lots of value in the second round, it seems more likely than in other recent drafts.

Tell us what you think. Did we blatantly miss a crucial position of need?

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