For Each Draft Pick Who Makes It, Vet Must Go

OT Bryan Bulaga (Mike Roemer/AP)

So, which veterans will be looking for work? Some decisions are easy, such as at running back, where there's a big void for James Starks. Some aren't so easy, like at tight end, where Andrew Quarless will battle Donald Lee and Spencer Havner.

In his five drafts, 42 of Ted Thompson's 51 draft picks landed on the active roster during their rookie season. That includes seven of his eight draft picks last year. So, odds are pretty good that at least six of this year's seven picks will make it to the roster. For each draft pick that makes it, a veteran will have to go. If the rookies are winners, who will be the veteran losers?

First round: Bryan Bulaga

Chad Clifton, Mark Tauscher and T.J. Lang aren't going anywhere, so who are the other veteran tackles? Allen Barbre and Breno Giacomini. Barbre has proven he can't play when it counts, allowing seven sacks while starting the first seven games at right tackle last year. During offseason workouts, Barbre lined up at left tackle — the most difficult position on the line — and left guard, where he stubbed his toe when given a chance to win that job in 2008. Looks like the writing is on the wall for Barbre.

Second round: Mike Neal

Neal, the much-talked-about defensive end from Purdue, is a lock to make the team after showing excellent athleticism to go with his renowned strength. Last year's defensive line group included Cullen Jenkins, Johnny Jolly, Ryan Pickett, B.J. Raji, Jarius Wynn and Michael Montgomery, with Anthony Toribio promoted from the practice squad in Week 17 and Justin Harrell on injured reserve. Montgomery has left for Minnesota, so there's already space for Neal.

Third round: Morgan Burnett

Burnett is a lock after such a strong offseason that he's considered no worse than a coin flip to beat out incumbent starting safety Atari Bigby. Matt Giordano wasn't re-signed, but Derrick Martin returns, Charlie Peprah was brought back and Will Blackmon was moved from cornerback to safety. They join Pro Bowler Nick Collins and Bigby among the veterans. The locks are Collins and Burnett, with Martin a good bet because of special teams and Blackmon (if healthy) because he's the best kick returner. Even if he loses his starting job, Bigby probably makes it just for proven depth. That makes Peprah the odd man out.

Fifth round: Andrew Quarless


Andrew Quarless
Bill Huber/Packer Report
Other than defensive line, tight end is probably the Packers' best position. Budding star Jermichael Finley will start but there will be a dogfight for the two backup positions. Quarless turned around his life and his career at Penn State to become the school's single-season and career receptions leader. Donald Lee has 36 starts over the last three seasons and can block and catch. Spencer Havner moved from linebacker to tight end and caught seven passes — four of which went for touchdowns. His 45-yard touchdown stands in stark contrast to Lee's longest catch from the last two years, 26 yards. Havner is one of the best special-teams players on the club but missed the offseason work after suffering a broken scapula in a motorcycle accident. The selfless Lee is the clear leader of an inexperienced position group, a fact that can't be overlooked even with his deficiencies. My hunch is Quarless doesn't make the roster, but if he does, Lee is the odd man out.

Fifth round: Marshall Newhouse

A three-year starter at left tackle at TCU, Newhouse was stationed almost exclusively at guard during the offseason workouts. Intelligent with quick feet, Newhouse has a ton of potential. As you probably know, he battled Indianapolis' first-round pick, Jerry Hughes, during practice at TCU, and as college scouting director John Dorsey reminded me, Newhouse dominated Koa Misi (second round, Miami) in the game against Utah. Last year, the Packers kept nine linemen. Chad Clifton, Mark Tauscher, Josh Sitton, Scott Wells, T.J. Lang and Bryan Bulaga are locks, and chances are they'll keep both Jason Spitz and Daryn Colledge. The other veterans are Allen Barbre, Breno Giacomini and Evan Dietrich-Smith, who is seen as the possible center of the future. Since we cut Barbre to keep Bulaga, that means Giacomini is out if the Packers keep Newhouse.

Sixth round: James Starks

This is an easy one. The Packers didn't re-sign Ahman Green so there's an opening for Starks.

Seventh round: C.J. Wilson

Ryan Pickett, B.J. Raji, Cullen Jenkins and Mike Neal are locks, which accounts for four spots. Jarius Wynn looks stronger and more sure of himself and is a pretty good bet to take a fifth spot. That leads to three big questions. What happens with Johnny Jolly? Can Justin Harrell stay healthy and contribute? Do the Packers go with six defensive linemen, like last year, or keep seven, to take advantage of the depth? Even if Harrell emerges from training camp healthy, can the team actually risk a roster spot for a player whose bum back could act up in Week 2 or Week 4 or Week 8? My hunch is the Packers keep seven, with Wilson providing depth under the assumption that Jolly will be suspended.


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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at packwriter2002@yahoo.com, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/packerreport and Facebook under Bill Huber.

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