The 2011 Green Bay Packers entered the season as World Champions. Many had them as favorites to repeat and do it again. They suffered only one loss to the Kansas City Chiefs and finished out their season at 15-1. They went into the playoffs as favorites to win the NFC and had a first round bye. The Giants had other things in mind. The New York Giants went into Lambeau Field and upset the defending champions at home. It was a very strange sight to say the least considering the Packers had only suffered one loss throughout the season and every game they had consisted of a dominant performance. Entering the off-season, the Packers have been some-what active and look to bolster their defense in the draft.
In the 2012 off-season, the Packers need to address:
1) The Pass Rush – The Green Bay Packers finished with one of the worst pass rushing defenses in the league. As a team, the Packers collectively had 27 sacks, while Jared Allen led the league with 22 sacks alone. The Packers desperately need an outside linebacker on the opposite side of Clay Mathews. There were many times that defenses double and even triple teamed Mathews off the edge. Erik Walden was the opposite side linebacker but failed to produce for the Packers in 2011. Walden is currently a free agent, and is talking to a handful of other teams. As for the Packers, there is a very high chance that they target an outside linebacker within the first two rounds of the draft. If not the first, then the second for sure. The Packers have yet another need in the pass rush department, this time at defensive end. With the 3-4 defensive scheme that Dom Capers runs in Green Bay, the Packers will look to add depth to that position. Mike Neal, the 2nd Round Pick in 2010, will be suspended for the first 4 games of the season due to violating the league’s substance abuse policy. Ryan Picket is an old veteran defensive end who doesn’t have much time left in his football playing career. The Packers must head into the draft with these two positions on top of there needs list.
2) Free Agency – The Packers are not known for their free agent acquisitions, as GM Ted Thompson strictly builds through the draft. This off-season was a bit different. Thompson went out and signed veteran Center Jeff Saturday after Scott Wells signed with the St. Louis Rams. Another free agent the Packers signed was Defensive End Anthony Hargrove. Hargrove has been with a handful of teams from around the league but is not quite that elite talent in the NFL. None the less, he fills somewhat of a void at the position. Other free agents that the Packers lost were: QB Matt Flynn (Seahawks), and CB Pat Lee (Raiders).
3) Draft Needs – As established from before, outside linebacker and defensive end are major concerns when addressing draft needs. One that could very well be up there with both of those positions is safety. Nick Collins’ future is unsure at the moment (neck injury), and a recent report stated that his future will be determined after the draft. This means the Packers have to enter the draft as if Collins’ were not coming back. Other draft needs the Packers have are at running back, center, defensive tackle, and offensive tackle.
4) Draft Day – Draft day is right around the corner and with the needs at outside linebacker and defensive end being at the top of the list, there are a handful of prospects that Packers will be looking at with the 28th overall pick. The five most probable players the Packers will look at in the first round would have to be: OLB Courtney Upshaw, OLB Shea Mcclellin, DE Nick Perry, DE Whitney Mercilus, and DE Andre Branch. BTK Mock Draft 5.0 has the Packers selecting DE Whitney Mercilus / Illinois.
Written By – David Rantisi- NFL Draft and NFC North Writer
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