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Playing Draft Day Roulette

Green Bay has two major needs heading into next month's draft: offensive tackles and defensive players that fit the 3-4. I can't say for certain which need is greater than the other; a case can be made for both. I believe, however, that it's more important for Green Bay to draft offense early. I've always thought that the offense depended more on people that fit the system and that the defense depended more on the system that fit the people. That's why, this year, I think that Green Bay should (and will) focus on the offensive line with their first pick in the draft.

There are four tackles that deserve to go in the top-15: Jason Smith, Eugene Monroe, Michael Oher, and Andre Smith. They'll probably go in that order, even though Andre's talent is more than Oher's and possibly Monroe's. Additionally, Eben Britton and William Beatty figure to go somewhere in the late first-early second range. Green Bay needs to grab one of these tackles, and probably in the first round. We all know that Ted Thompson likes to trade down in the draft, accumulate more picks, and grab the player he targeted for a lower price. Let's take a look at how he might do it in 2009.

First of all, let me point out that Green Bay is in excellent shape with four picks in the first three rounds (three of their own, one from the New York Jets). I firmly believe that Thompson will draft at least one viable starter from these picks, mainly because he can't afford not to.

I also want to point out that, while I am clearly in the offensive tackle camp, I understand and accept that defense might be the way to go this year. Especially in light of the shift to the 3-4, an infusion of rookies that are talented enough and/or experienced in such a system is indisposable. Despite all this, I stil think that the first pick needs to address the holes on the offensive line because it will keep our offense kept up with the competition.

Finally, I want to include one important current event that could throw everything I'm about to say completely off kilter: Jay Cutler's bitch-o-rama in Denver. (Editor's note: waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah!) If Cutler gets traded, there's no telling how that affects Denver's draft strategy. Plus, if he gets traded to a team that needs a quarterback that picks before Green Bay (like Detroit), it will have a huge effect on what players are picked before the Packers go on the clock. I honestly have no idea if it's good or bad. Say Cutler goes to Detroit. They almost automatically pick an offensive lineman to help protect him, making the run on offensive lineman start sooner than the Packers get to pick. Or, maybe it causes Stafford to drop to Green Bay and tempt another team to make a deal with the Packers to jump up and get him while Green Bay gets a few more picks. Who knows? All I know is that I'm writing this out based on the state of affairs as of Monday evening.

Okay? Okay. Let's get to it!

Overall, here's my list of players that have a legitimate shot at being drafted in the top-10 (loosely organized by position):

  • Matthew Stafford (QB)
  • Mark Sanchez (QB)
  • Michael Crabtree (WR)
  • Jeremy Maclin (WR)
  • Jason Smith (OT)
  • Andre Smith (OT)
  • Eugene Monroe (OT)
  • Brian Orakpo (DE/LB)
  • Aaron Curry (DE/LB)
  • B.J. Raji (NT)
  • Everette Brown (LB)
  • Malcom Jenkins (DB)

Of those twelve players, eight will almost surely be taken when the Packers go on the clock. That means that at least four of this group will likely be available at the ninth pick. Moreover, since Green Bay doesn't need to consider a QB or WR, we can eliminate the first four players (Stafford, Sanchez, Crabtree, Maclin) based on need (or lack thereof). But which of the remaining eight are going to still be available?

Based on the various mock drafts around and other articles, it's hard to nail down who'll be taken where. However, the general consensus is that Jason Smith will be taken in the top-5, and I've seen Eugene Monroe fall anywhere between picks 3 and 15. That leaves the Packers to wait on the odd man out between Monroe, Andre Smith, Michael Oher, and/or any of the defensive players they might want.

This is where things get tricky, especially if the Packers follow my advice and have Andre Smith targeted on their draft board. We know that Thompson likes to trade down and get more value back in terms of picks. But we also know that Thompson doesn't want to come out of the first round empty-handed. Whoever the players available at 9 are, it's hard to tell who's worth taking at that spot and who's worth leaving on the board. It's especially hard when this draft has a lot of teams looking to draft offensive tackles and 3-4 defensive players. In short, the question is this: Can Thompson afford to trade down in the first round and still get his top rookie?

I'll answer that question with a question and then a whole lot of speculation. Remember my January article that praised Ted Thompson as the draft day genius? I used a lot of the same principles in my analysis here, including the handy draft pick value chart provided by ESPN. In the table below, I have the 10 teams that are slated to draft picks 9 through 18 (in order). I included each team's first four picks, the total value of those four picks, whether the team has a hole at OT, a hole within the front seven of a 3-4 defense, and if they are willing to trade draft picks (based on previous trade history and picks available in 2009).

Team First 4 Picks Value Need OT? 3-4 Needs? Willing?
Packers 9, 41, 73, 83 2240 Yes Yes Yes
49ers 10, 43, 74, 107 2070 Yes No Yes
Bills 11, 42, 75, 106 2027 No No Yes
Broncos 12, 48, 79, 110 1889 No Yes Yes
Redskins 13, 44, 80, 111 1872 Yes No Yes
Saints 14, 112, 114, r7(16) 1245.2 Yes No No
Texans 15, 46, 77, 108 1773 Yes Yes Yes
Chargers 16, 78, 109, 140 1312 No Yes No
Jets 17, 52, 76, 111 1612 No No Yes
Bears 18, 49, 84, 115 1544 Yes No Yes

Why did I stop with Chicago at pick 18? Because if Andre Smith falls to the Bears, they will have the same reaction that we did when Aaron Rodgers fell to 24: snap him up and thank goodness he fell this far. If the Packers want Andre Smith on their team, they absolutely cannot let Chicago have a shot at him, because they will certainly target an offensive tackle in the first round. The same could be said for the Redskins, Saints, and Texans; all of whom have holes on the offensive line and could decide to take the risk on drafting Andre Smith.

So what does this all mean? For starters, it shows how flexible the Packers are in terms of what kind of players they're looking at. Packer fans will be happy if we come away with an offensive tackle or a 3-4 defensive player after round one. Second, it shows how who the Packers trade with will likely determine who they end up drafting. For example, trading with the Redskins means that Green Bay wants a player that fits the 3-4 defense (because Washington need a tackle), while trading with the Broncos means that Green Bay wants an offensive tackle (because Denver needs to draft a defender).

Here's what I want to see. If Andre Smith falls far enough, and if Green Bay decides to take the risk, I want them to tempt Buffalo with the 9th overall pick in return for the 11th overall and the Bills' third rounder (75th overall). The 49ers don't want anything to do with Andre Smith, and the Bills could jump up to take Malcom Jenkins (a player they could certainly use) before San Francisco gets him. This would be huge in terms of adding more young talent to the team, which is exactly what an extra third-round pick can do for you.

This is, of course, nothing more than pure speculation. Real front office people have more information on both what they prefer and what other teams prefer, and more importantly, they know what risks they can afford to take (unless you're Matt Millen, but he was never really a front office guy). Disclaimer aside, I seriously think that this route might be a way to both add a great player that fills a gaping hole in the roster and pick up another draft choice for whatever purpose.