Do you believe the Packers were targeting Derek Sherrod throughout the entire first round?
Eric: Yes. I think Ted Thompson knew that Anthony Castonzo, Tyron Smith, and Nate Solder were going to be long gone, and that Bears offensive line coach Mike Tice was in love with Gabe Carimi.
It couldn’t have turned out any better for the Packers, because, of all the offensive tackles taken in the first round, I believe Sherrod has the quickest feet and fits the Packers’ pass-first offense the best.
Bill: It’s not that I “believe” it — I know it. I was told before the draft, and wrote in my final draft piece, that Sherrod was the man Thompson wanted and would consider trading up to get him. In the end, Thompson stayed put because Sherrod, Mark Ingram, Mikel Leshoure and Cameron Heyward all got into range and he would have been perfectly happy with all four.
Can Sherrod fill the shoes of a Chad Clifton?
Eric: Not completely right away, but over time I believe he has the athletic ability and awareness to have a more productive career than Clifton. The one thing Sherrod does that Clifton doesn’t always do is seal off the edge by forcing the outside pass rusher inside. This will be key in keeping Aaron Rodgers upright.
Bill: In many ways, they’re very similar players. Sherrod didn’t allow a sack, incredibly, during his final two seasons — impressive stuff since, I don’t think, that Mississippi State scheduled the Sisters of the Poor or Burning Stump University in those seasons.
I’m not sure what they’re going to do right off the bat. My guess, based on just a hunch and no insider information, is that Sherrod will start at right tackle and Bryan Bulaga replaces Daryn Colledge at left guard.
What was your immediate reaction to the Packers drafting Randall Cobb?
Eric: When Jim Taylor announced Randall Cobb, I took a lap around my father’s house like the Packers just won the Super Bowl again. Earlier in the day, I gushed to several people about Cobb and his abilities both on special teams and as an offensive playmaker. In other words, I thought he was the perfect fit for this pick, and low and behold, the Packers drafted him. I’m still in shock.
Bill: There was no mystery at all to who they were taking when they were on the clock. I even turned around to Wayne Larrivee and said I’d “bet money” that the Packers would take Cobb. I wrote a story on possible second-round targets on Friday morning. My only mention of Cobb was in my paragraph on Troy’s Jerrel Jernigan — I had been told that the Packers loved Cobb but, because he didn’t figure to be available, Jernigan would be a fine Plan B.
I liked Cobb then and love him now after talking to his college position coach, Tee Martin. What’s better than a talented, intelligent player? A talented, intelligent player who wants to be coached and wants to learn. That’s Cobb.
Is James Jones now an afterthought?
Eric: If he didn’t win his Super Bowl ring, I would maybe say no, but as soon as free agency opens, Jones will follow Benjamin to the highest bidder. Clearly, Thompson has made a statement of, “James, if you leave, oh well!” Besides, now Packer fans will be able to control their blood pressure and heart rate when Rodgers throws rainbows guaranteed to go the distance.
Bill: You might be right but I think the free agency-before-draft timing works out in the Packers’ favor. As usual, wide receiver depth in the draft was outstanding. If a team needed a receiver, it probably got one in the draft. So, I’m not sure where he’d go at this point. He’s a heck of a talent and I wonder if his consistency would improve under new receivers coach Edgar Bennett. Remember, Cobb essentially replaces Donald Driver in the long run. I’m in no hurry to kick Jones out the door, blood pressure notwithstanding. He’s better than Brett Swain.
Were you surprised with the pick of running back Alex Green?
Eric: At first, yes. However, after looking at some more tape, I’m not. His willingness to run straight ahead instead of looking for the sideline or dancing around combined with his pass-catching ability and toughness will do him well in Mike McCarthy’s offense.
Bill: Not one bit. I was told the plan was to get a running back in the first three rounds. Look at Ryan Grant and look at James Starks: They’re big bodies. Everybody loves those 5-foot-8 guys who can juke a guy out of his jock, but that’s not a skill that lends itself to playing at Lambeau Field in December and January. And like you said, the guy can catch. Everyone says this pick replaces Brandon Jackson on third down. That may wind up being true, but Green’s size also lends itself to being a three-down back. Maybe Grant, who’s owed $5.25 million in salary and roster bonus, will be the odd man out.
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How soon do you anticipate Green making an impact?
Eric: Right away. I know I’m probably alone on this, but Ryan Grant is coming off a major ankle injury, James Starks hasn’t played a full season yet and Brandon Jackson will most likely be looking for a new home once the laboring child’s play ends. Barring some kind of setback, I anticipate that Green will get his chance to silence the doubters as soon as he takes his first regular season carry against the Saints.
Bill: The Packers waited and waited and waited for Starks last year and I assume that’s the plan for Green. The Packers would accept a 2.0-yard average if that meant no fumbles and no problems picking up blitzers. Green fumbled a lot in college and nobody knows his mental and physical aptitude to saving Rodgers’ skin. They won’t throw him out there until he’s ready.
Which three players on day three do you expect to have the biggest impact?
Eric: Davon House, D.J. Williams and Ricky Elmore. House is a fast and physical cornerback who will be utilized almost immediately in certain nickel situations; I just hope he doesn’t watch any Ahmad Carroll highlights. Williams was perhaps one of the steals of the draft, and may make Thompson look like Albert Einstein once his career concludes. And Elmore is a player who was lost in the shadow of linebacker Brooks Reed, but was far more productive as a pass rusher. If he adds some bulk he will be part of the defensive end rotation; perhaps another C.J. Wilson from an impact standpoint.
Bill: House, for sure, though certainly not this year unless Dom Capers runs a whole lot more dime than he has in the past. That’s one guy I was all over throughout the draft process. He’s big, fast and wants to be good, and he’ll get every chance with the great Joe Whitt as his position coach. I couldn’t agree more on Williams. He was the second-ranked tight end in the official league rankings that we were given. He’s short for the position but is talented and wants to be great. I kind of think Caleb Schlauderaff has a chance. His official NFL scouting report is pretty darned impressive.
Overall, how do you feel the Packers draft went?
Eric: Considering they had virtually the last pick in almost every round, I think it went very well. The biggest need was filled, and Thompson was able to snag the most versatile receiver, and a few developmental prospects with high motors who want to win.
Bill: I would have liked it a lot better had they taken Greg McElroy with a late-round pick. With his contract expiring at the end of this season, I can’t imagine Matt Flynn will be here in 2012. He’s ready to start. So, I guess they’ll have to add a veteran retread next offseason, which I suppose is fine, but I would have liked to have seen a young guy with some talent added to the mix.
What picks stood out, either bad or good, among other NFC North teams?
Eric: The Bears’ selection of Gabe Carimi was interesting. Carimi is a stout run blocker, but his pass blocking skills aren’t there yet. In other words, Chicago just put a band-aid on the whole idea of protecting quarterback Jay Cutler. Another 50-plus sacks wouldn’t surprise me.
In Detroit, Lions fans are about as excited about having Nick Fairley as Charlie from “Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory” was when he found the golden ticket. However, I’m not jumping for joy, and to be fair, neither was Fairley at the time he was selected. As good as Fairley looks on tape, he doesn’t seem like the type that will put in the extra work to become great at the next level. Remember Dewayne Robertson? I do think that Detroit’s selection of Mikel Leshoure will pay off, and was perhaps the best pick of their draft.
And, as Vikings fans “ponder” whether or not their new quarterback can make an impact at the NFL level, I’m starting to “wonder” why so many are so down on the Vikings’ overall selections. To be honest, I think besides the Packers, Minnesota grabbed more values than any of the other NFC North teams. Tight end Kyle Rudolph will be a great asset for the Vikings offense (potentially right away), Christian Ballard was a huge steal in round four if he can work through his drug issues, and I was very impressed when I evaluated the tape on cornerback Brandon Burton. Add in a couple of blue-collar guys in Brandon Fusco and Ross Homan late, and their draft board looks above average.
Bill: I really can’t criticize any of the teams. I can’t imagine a division as a whole did as well as the NFC North.
I really think the Packers and the Lions are the class of the NFC from a long-term perspective. As if their defensive line wasn’t dominant already, good luck blocking Fairley and Suh. How do you double team two defensive tackles when the ends aren’t exactly chopped liver? Titus Young’s speed on their rug really adds a dimension — assuming Matthew Stafford’s shoulder doesn’t fall apart in the next breeze. At worst, Carimi will be the Bears’ right tackle. I think that’s a great pick for what they do. As for Minnesota, Christian Ponder doesn’t exactly have a history of durability and the Vikings did him no favors with the offensive line.
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Eric Huber is a contributing writer for OnMilwaukee.com. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org