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Packers' 2014 Title Hopes Tied to 2013 Draft Class

The 2014 Green Bay Packers' championship aspirations depend on the returns they receive from their 2013 draft class.

Jonathan Daniel

Former Packers GM Ron Wolf believed that if he uncovered three starters in a given draft class, then he had a good year. The reasoning is simple; everyone is going to miss on some picks, but if you come away with three guys who can break into your starting lineup you've done enough to help your team.

It was Wolf, of course, who taught Ted Thompson the ropes of scouting and running a personnel department. Since becoming the Packers' general manager in 2005, Thompson has adhered to many of Wolf's practices and strategies.

Which is why Thompson must be pleased with his 2013 draft class.

In just their first year in the league, two players from the 2013 class became regular starters (running back Eddie Lacy and left tackle David Bakhtiari), while another became a major contributor in Green Bay's nickel defense (cornerback Micah Hyde). All performed at reasonably high levels, an impressive impact for first-year players.

But it's nothing compared to the impact the class could make in Year Two.

An astounding six members of the Packers' 2013 draft class could be starters this season. On offense, JC Tretter joins Bakhtiari on the No. 1 offensive line blocking for Lacy. While Tretter will miss some games early with a knee injury, there's no indication that he won't return to the starting lineup upon his return. Defensively, Micah Hyde shifts over to one of the starting safety spots while Datone Jones appears to have settled in as one of the starting defensive ends. And with B.J. Raji out for the season with a torn biceps, Josh Boyd is one of the candidates to replace him. In other words, the 2013 draft class could make up over a quarter of the Packers' starting offense and defense.

While it's too early to render final verdict on last year's draft class, the fact that six members could become starters this early in their careers reflects positively on Thompson and his staff. For the most part, these aren't injury replacements or players winning jobs on uncompetitive teams. Green Bay is one of the few realistic championship contenders, and as such winning a starting spot there requires considerable talent and skill.

Certainly not every potential starter mentioned will be more than average, but a few could be. The aforementioned Eddie Lacy has already earned All-Pro honors. In a league increasingly devoid of workhorse rushers, Lacy is a throwback. His punishing running style provides a needed complement to Aaron Rodgers and the passing game. Datone Jones' rookie year barely got off the ground due to an ankle injury, but an offseason spent remaking his body along with extra practice could turn him into a consistent interior pass rusher. Micah Hyde proved himself as a viable slot corner as a rookie, and now appears ready to handle safety duties à la 2012 Charles Woodson. And both David Bakhtiari and JC Tretter have the tools to develop into valuable offensive linemen.

But what matters isn't necessary how good these players can become, but how quickly they reach their potential. The Packers are designed to contend this season. If too many starters from the 2013 draft class are merely replacement level, it could be enough to sink Green Bay's title hopes. However, if the Packers receive quality play out of most of these players, they'll be well positioned to challenge for another Lombardi Trophy this year.

Jason Hirschhorn covers the Green Bay Packers for Acme Packing Company. He also serves as a contributor at various publications. His work has previously appeared on Hook’em Headlines, Beats Per Minute, and Lombardi Ave.