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Without Injuries, Derek Sherrod Might Never Get His Shot

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Derek Sherrod was about as good of a fit for the Green Bay Packers in the 2011 NFL Draft as any player has ever been for a team late in the 1st round. Experts and amateurs agreed that he was a perfect fit for the Packers, in terms of need, talent, and fit for the system. Brandon took Sherrod in Mocking The Draft's bloggers draft and you guys voted for the Packers to pick Sherrod pre-draft. When Tex did a mock draft, he had Sherrod going at No. 29 and said "I'd love to see Sherrod fall to the Packers, but I just don't see it happening."

Sherrod was the pick at No. 32, and for once, the internet bloggers and commenters got a mid-to-late draft pick spot on. Ted Thompson thought along the same lines of all of us, allowing us to feel like we were smart and we actually know something about football for a few months. Honestly, we probably are still pretty smart as a group and we probably still do know a fair bit about football, though the majority of the membership on at least three of this network's blogs disagrees wholeheartedly.

And with that, I'm going to make a prediction: Derek Sherrod will not start a game for the Green Bay Packers this season unless one of five other offensive linemen gets injured.

This is not an attack on Sherrod in any way, shape or form. It is not an attack on the fans who thought he was the right pick, and it is not an attack on Ted Thompson. In fact, it is entirely possible that Sherrod never starts another game for the Green Bay Packers and that the selection of Sherrod was still the correct selection at that time.

The reason for this is that results-based analysis is only relevant if you're looking at the right results. Analyzing the success of a starting pitcher in baseball in terms of wins and losses makes no sense. Neither does analyzing the value of a forward in soccer based on goals scored. The same goes for categorizing the success of draft picks based on the number of starts that a player makes for a team.

When Sherrod was drafted, he was drafted by a team that believed they had an immediate need at offensive tackle. Mark Tauscher's career was over, Chad Clifton's was coming to an end, and Marshall Newhouse was a 5th round pick coming of of an injury who did not see any time in his rookie season. Even with the lockout denying rookies a full offseason, Sherrod would have a chance to contribute in his first year.

Sherrod had a tough preseason and he looked shaky initially in regular season games, but he seemed to improve almost with every quarter that he was on the field. By the time his fifth game rolled around, he was starting to look like a guy who had a future as a starting left tackle in the NFL. Then, in a stroke of awful luck, Tamba Hali inadvertently rolled into his leg, causing a double break. Sherrod's season was over just as it got started.

This opened the door of opportunity even wider for Newhouse, who thanks to injuries along the line, was already having an extremely productive season while playing multiple positions along the offensive line. As a reminder, here's what I had to say about Newhouse on this site in February of 2011.

Unlike the other offensive linemen that haven't seen much time, I think that Newhouse could have a serious future. He was a fantastic player in college and got unlucky with some injuries this season. He will be given every opportunity to impress in preseason and make the roster, and I like him to do so. He's a very mobile offensive lineman for his giant size, and he might get some time at right tackle if Colledge leaving and Clifton aging causes some kind of shuffle over the next two years.

Of course, I couldn't have predicted that he would progress so rapidly in 2011. Neither could Ted Thompson or Mike McCarthy, which is exactly why the team selected Sherrod with their first round pick. They certainly knew that Newhouse had potential, but after a full year off because of injury, they couldn't have possibly known that he was going to be ready to contribute in every game in 2011.

Because of the contributions of Newhouse and Sherrod in 2011, one of them will start at left tackle to open the 2012 season. Chad Clifton was cut, no free agents were signed and the Packers did not spend a pick in the first two days on an offensive lineman. The staff obviously has faith in both players, and for good reason, but Newhouse has the clear upper hand.

Here's a quote from Mike McCarthy on the two players, from a FOX Sports Wisconsin article that was linked earlier today in Cheese Curds.

"We're excited about Marshall contributing. He contributed last year. Derek (Sherrod) is fighting through his medical situation. He's improving. So you'll have competition there. I really like what I see in Marshall."

Marshall Newhouse is really good. Even better than the most optimistic speculators (me) could have imagined when they were (as I was) truly imagining him -- not projecting for any good reason -- as a starting tackle of the future. Derek Sherrod is a very good player who has the talent to start at tackle in the NFL, and by all accounts, he has the character as well.

But he's stuck.

He's stuck behind a healthy emerging left tackle prospect in Newhouse and a potential Pro Bowl-level right tackle in Bryan Bulaga. He's still recovering from a broken leg, and there's nothing he can do to win a job at the moment.

Sherrod might turn into a starter when he takes over a job due to an injury to another player. He might turn into one of the best multiple-position backups in the NFL and prove valuable for a decade. He might get traded for a draft pick a couple of years down the line, or he might walk away for nothing. In any event, he probably won't begin the season as the starter, and that's no one's fault. It doesn't mean he was a bad draft pick. It just means that he came into the team and got injured at the worst possible time.

By the time Sherrod heals completely, Newhouse might have impressed coaches so much that any competition for the job won't be wide open. If Newhouse and Bulaga never get hurt, there might never be a job for Sherrod to win.

Hat tip to Strohman for giving me the push to write this post with his comment in today's FanPost on the O-line. I've been thinking about doing something like this on Newhouse and Sherrod since Clifton got cut, but the spark finally got lit today.