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Revisiting the what-could-have-beens of the Packers’ 2011 draft

A mostly unproductive 10-pick class for the Packers could have fared significantly better if just a few things went differently.

Green Bay Packers v Detroit Lions Photo by Leon Halip/Getty Images

Building through the draft has been a prevailing mantra of Green Bay Packers management since the day former General Manager Ted Thompson walked through the door. Back in 2016, the Packers entered training camp with a 90-man roster built of 79 players that had begun their career with the franchise. Of course, not all 79 players were drafted, but a significant number did join the team via the annual selection weekend.

As such a critical piece of the Packers’ year-to-year success, the 2011 NFL Draft proved to be a setback. Only only two players from that 10-player group are still in Green Bay, with one - Davon House - a returner to the squad after two seasons in Jacksonville. In fact, only four individuals made it to year three on the Packers 53-man roster, a hindrance for a promising team coming off a Super Bowl title. Here is a list of the Packers’ draft choices.

Packers’ 2011 Draft Class

Round Player Position School 53-Man Seasons with GB
Round Player Position School 53-Man Seasons with GB
1 Derek Sherrod T Mississippi State 3.5
2 Randall Cobb WR Kentucky 7
3 Alex Green RB Hawaii 2
4 Davon House CB New Mexico State 5 (Two Stints)
5 D.J. Williams TE Arkansas 2
6 Caleb Schlauderaff G Utah 0
6 D.J. Smith LB Appalachian State 2
6 Ricky Elmore LB Arizona 0
7 Ryan Taylor TE North Carolina 3
7 Lawrence Guy DT Arizona State 0

Randall Cobb clearly has been the silver lining for the Packers from this draft, one that suffered mightily from first-round pick Derek Sherrod’s broken leg as a rookie. Sherrod’s long-term absence left a glaring dent in Green Bay’s offensive tackle depth, which the Packers tried to fill with players such as Don Barclay and Marshall Newhouse with little success. Injuries also hampered third-rounder Alex Green, who saw limited action in two full seasons with the team and left Green Bay searching for answers at running back in the coming years. A depressing note was that three of the Packers’ third day picks never saw a regular season game in a green and gold uniform.

But hindsight is 20/20 and things could have turned out much differently when revisiting that draft, especially in the first round. And while third-day picks can be a shot in the dark to find lasting talent, there were some gems available. Here are a few.

First Round

It’s hard to call Sherrod a bust when injuries devastated his career from the start. But it’s very possible that the Packers’ draft could have been viewed in a much more positive light had three of the four selections before pick 32 fell differently.

On the lookout for a running back, Green Bay could have had Mark Ingram fall into its lap if not for New Orleans pouncing at pick 28. Though Ingram has not been the perennial All-Pro that some envisioned coming out of Alabama, he’s put together a productive seven-year career with the Saints and has proved to be a much more long-lasting backfield option than Green and 2013 Packers second-rounder Eddie Lacy.

Rumored to have interest in both Muhammad Wilkerson and Cameron Heyward to fill defensive end spots in the Dom Capers 3-4 defense, the Packers missed on both as each was taken in the two picks leading up to Green Bay’s selection. Both went on to have Pro Bowl seasons before earning lucrative second contracts. Either player would have fortified the Packers’ line as they struck out on Lawrence Guy in the seventh round (who has since gone on to have a rotational role outside Green Bay) and Jerel Worthy a year later. Luckily, the Packers were able to land Mike Daniels in 2012 after Worthy. Still, the Packers’ front seven would have been strong with Wilkerson and Heyward in the fold.

Fourth Round (Part One)

Two picks before the Packers selected Davon House with a compensatory pick, they had an opportunity to make a decision at pick 129. Instead, they traded that pick off to the Denver Broncos for fifth- and sixth-round choices. The Broncos used it to take tight end Julius Thomas, a small-school product from Portland State. Meanwhile, the Packers would take a tight end of their own with the fifth-rounder received in D.J. Williams.

Obviously, history is not on the Packers’ side with this swap. Williams and fellow drafted tight end Ryan Taylor never went on to significantly impact the Packers during their combined five years with the franchise. Thomas, on the other hand, qualified for the Pro Bowl in 2013 and 2014 and would have formed a tantalizing dynamic duo with Jermichael Finley in Green Bay. Thomas also could have filled in after Finley’s career-ending injury in 2013 and been an easy replacement after his subsequent retirement.

Instead, the Packers moved forward in the post-Finley era with Andrew Quarless and Richard Rodgers.

Fourth Round (Part Two)

It could have been much worse for Green Bay than adding House at the end of round four. He’s heading into his sixth season with the Packers and has been at least a stable cornerback when healthy. But Richard Sherman, who went just 23 picks later in the fifth round, could have been a club-changing talent in the Packers’ secondary during a period of time in which that unit arguably held the team back from reaching a Super Bowl.

House appeared in 40 out of 64 possible regular season games his first four years with the Packers and tallied two interceptions. Sherman played in all 64 games, totaling 24 interceptions en route to two Pro Bowl seasons. Certainly, Sherman’s fit in Seattle may not have been the same in Green Bay or led to the same level of stardom. But there’s a good chance he still would have become a tremendous asset to the defense.

Fifth Round

Similar to the fourth round, the Packers traded back at the end of the fifth round, acquiring later selections. While Green Bay would strike out with Ricky Elmore at the end of round six to be a developmental rush linebacker, staying put in the fifth round would have afforded them the opportunity to take Pernell McPhee.

Instead, the Ravens took McPhee two picks later and received 17 sacks over four seasons before McPhee cashed in as a free agent with the Chicago Bears. While injuries significantly slowed McPhee’s career with the Bears, he still added another 14 sacks in the Windy City in three seasons.

Imagine the likes of Clay Matthews, Mike Neal, and Nick Perry lined up with McPhee about five years ago. The Packers’ pass-rushing depth could have been relentless.