The 2011 NFL Draft is a month away. Wow. Reread that again. Is anyone else as shocked by this as I am? Usually I'm obsessed with anything draft related by February 1st, with WalterFootball.com's mock drafts consuming my life, but this year I've been relatively apathetic. Not even revelations that Ryan Mallet is Eminem incarnate have done much to stir my interest.
There's also the fact that there might not be a next season. Collective bargaining really isn't my area of expertise so I won't be spending anytime attempting to provide some misguided insight into NFL-NFLPA talks, but it certainly appears that the two sides have a long way to go before there will be football in 2011. And while I'm positive some type of deal will get worked out eventually, it's still difficult to fully invest oneself in a season that could begin with an ugly lockout.
And then there's the draft itself. Simply put, this year's crop is boring. There's very little star power out there: no Calvin Johnson, no Darren McFadden, no Ndamudkong Suh. Sorry, but Nick Fairley and Blaine Gabbert don't do it for me.
Finally, reality is that the 32nd overall pick just really isn't that sexy. There doesn't seem to be much point in over-analyzing who the Pack will take, because the 31 selections made prior will really be what determines who Ted Thompson and Co. draft. In other words, we have little control in terms of who's still available, so it doesn't make much sense to get worked up about who we'll end up taking.
NOW, with that being said, I do think it is worthwhile to sit back and reflect upon what needs the Packers can address in this year's draft. I know the talk is that TT always goes with the best player available, and there may be some truth in that, but there's also the reality that his past three 1st round picks (Matthews, Raji, Bulaga) have come at areas of need. What I'm trying to say is Thompson takes a more nuanced approach than people give him credit for. While it's true that he doesn't reach to fill a need, I also don't think he sticks to his board with absolutely no exceptions.
So with all that said, we here at JonBob's will be providing you with the weekly profiles of players we think the Packers could possibly be selecting on April 28th with the last pick of the first round. Here's our first possibility:
Possible Packer: Adrian Clayborn, DE, Iowa
Even before Johnny Jolly went and destroyed his chances of ever again playing in the NFL, defensive end was a great need for Green Bay going into the draft. Justin Harrell is (and always has been) a non-factor; Mike Neal is recovering from a season-ending shoulder injury; and Cullen Jenkins,who in my opinion has been one of the team's best players over the past few years, seems bound for free agency. Replacing Jenkins' disruptive abilities as both a pass-rusher and a run-stopper will be no easy feat-- big men with that type of athleticism are just hard to find.
Iowa's Adrian Clayborn fits the bill. At 6'3, 280, Clayborn may not be the prototypically sized 3-4 DE, but he plays with the type of explosion, strength, and physicality that's needed at the position. Did I mention that he makes big plays? If selected by the Packers he'd probably need to add some weight, but I have no doubt in my mind that he has the skill-set to be a highly effective, chaos-wreaking DE in the Pack's scheme.
The biggest question is whether he'll be around at the end of the first round. Probably not. At the end of the 2009 college season, Clayborn was considered a top 10 talent, and for good reason: he posted 11 sacks on the year and absolutely dominated Georgia Tech in the Orange Bowl. But a less than stalwart 2010 campaign and a run in with the law have combined to drop Clayborn out of most mock draft's top 15. The consensus seems to be that he'll go around the twentieth pick, well before the Packers are on the clock. (UPDATE: NFP's mock has him going 27th)
But stranger things have happened (see: Aaron Rodgers, 2005 NFL Draft). And it's not like the Packers need Clayborn to fall all the way to them at No. 32 to have a chance of taking him. Ted Thompson has demonstrated that if he likes a prospect, he's willing to trade up for them, something he made perfectly evident with the recent selections of Clay Matthews and Morgan Burnett. And, after all, the point of this feature isn't to tell who the Packers will take, without a doubt...it's just a fun little way to think about who could be in the picture.