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McGinn questions Sleepy Ted's choices

Discussion in 'Packer Fan Forum' started by net, Apr 29, 2007.

  1. net

    net Cheesehead

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    Playing the game of risk
    Questions swirl about Packers' picks
    By BOB McGINN
    bmcginn@journalsentinel.com
    Posted: April 28, 2007
    Green Bay - The Green Bay Packers chose to live dangerously Saturday in the first two rounds of the National Football League draft, selecting a talented nose tackle who couldn't stay healthy and a lightly used junior running back with an injury history of his own.

    Defensive tackle Justin Harrell of Tennessee was the 16th overall pick, and running back Brandon Jackson was pick No. 63 late in the second round.

    With the first of their two third-round picks (No. 78), the Packers took a flyer on James Jones, a wide receiver who flew under the scouting radar screen at San Jose State.

    Later, with the No. 89 choice, they went with Virginia Tech safety Aaron Rouse, a classic example of a player who in scouts' parlance "looks like Tarzan and plays like Jane."

    Orchestrating his third draft in Green Bay, general manager Ted Thompson took Harrell (6-4 1/2, 314 pounds) even though defensive tackle seemed just about the least of the team's concerns.

    "We don't draft based on need," Thompson said. "We don't think that's the best policy. We think really and truly the more good football players, regardless of position, that you can add to your team the better off you are as an organization and as a team."

    By taking Harrell, the Packers added what they rated as the finest defensive tackle in the draft. Among the players on the board at the time were Leon Hall, who rated a slight edge among teams as the top cornerback in the draft; Reggie Nelson, a dynamic ballhawk at safety; and Brady Quinn, the second-best quarterback.

    Thompson defended his choice of Harrell even though he had to sit out 15 games in his four-year career. His senior season was ruined by a torn biceps in Week 2.

    "I think he had the potential to be a single-digit pick," said Thompson. "He's a good pass rusher inside. He plays with length, he plays with his arms. He's a great athlete."

    Harrell weighed 300 at the combine in late February, then 314 a few weeks later at his pro day. At the lower weight, his 40-yard dash time of 5.06 ranked about average among the top 10 tackles.

    His vertical jump of 30 1/2 inches tied for second best among the top 12 tackles, and his strength in the bench press (31 reps at 225 pounds) was solid.

    Harrell's score of 24 on the 50-question Wonderlic intelligence test was the highest among the 12 best players at his position.

    "Outstanding football player who we really coveted at 16," coach Mike McCarthy said. "We are going to build this football team strong with the offensive and defensive lines. You just cannot have enough big guys. His versatility is what really stands out when you watch him."

    Harrell's 34 1/2-inch arms tied for eighth longest among the 50 defensive linemen at the combine. He also was the second tallest among the top 10 tackles.

    Scouts decried the absence of competent tackles with brawn in this draft. Thompson referred to the shortage of big run stuffers as "a big hole" after Harrell.

    The Packers will be keeping their fingers crossed that a player at probably the most physically demanding in football will hold up better in the pros than he did in college.

    Thompson said Harrell would be equally at home as a nose tackle or three-technique in a 4-3 defense. He had just four sacks in 35 games (25 starts) but the GM argued that he had pass-rush ability.

    Later, the Packers had this array of players on the board when their second-round pick (No. 47) arrived: wide receiver Steve Smith, running backs Kenny Irons and Chris Henry, defensive ends Victor Abiamiri and Ikaika Alama-Francis, linebacker David Harris and cornerback Eric Wright.

    Rather than make the pick, Thompson traded down for the 14th time in his career, enabling the Jets to move up 16 spots. In return for No. 47 and a seventh-round pick (No. 235), the Packers obtained a third-round pick (No. 89) and a sixth-round choice (No. 191).

    In the span of those 16 picks, Smith, Irons, Henry, Abiamiri, Alama-Francis, Harris and Wright all were selected by other teams.

    Thus, Thompson attempted to plug one of his primary needs with Jackson (5-10, 208). He was the sixth running back selected. Green Bay took Jackson over backs Antonio Pittman, Tony Hunt, Michael Bush and Lorenzo Booker.

    "Tough guy," coach Mike McCarthy said. "He fits our zone scheme running downhill. Very instinctive. Natural runner. Natural athlete. Excellent feet. No wasted steps. Looks like a natural catcher."

    Jackson underwent operations on each shoulder to repair labrum damage in the last two years, but McCarthy said he passed the team's physical.

    A third-year junior, Jackson hadn't done much of anything (two starts, 442 yards) until 2006. Then he broke out of a running-back-by-committee arrangement to gain 989 yards (5.3 average) and catch 33 passes.

    In all, he started merely 11 games and gained just 1,431 yards before declaring a year early.

    "We liked Pittman," McCarthy said. "I think with Jackson's (size) he really fits our run scheme."

    Said offensive coordinator Joe Philbin: "No. 1, we thought he was a tough guy. Could break some tackles. Pretty good size and speed.

    "There were two running backs who were highly thought of and there was subjectivity from there on out. I think he is a real fine player."

    Jones' modest credentials stamp him as one of the most unheralded high picks that the Packers have made in many a year. Wide receiver was considered by some personnel people as the deepest position in the draft, and Jones didn't cause many ripples in the talent pool.

    A two-year starter at San Jose, Jones (6-0 1/2, 207) caught 70 passes for 893 yards (12.8) and 10 touchdowns in 2006 and was named team MVP.

    Invited to the combine, Jones ran the 40 in just 4.54 seconds. His jumps weren't anything special and he scored 9 on the Wonderlic test in 2006. That was the lowest among 43 wide receivers at the combine for whom scores were available.

    In 44 games (21 starts) Jones averaged just 11.9 per catch. He also returned punts.

    "He's a real football player," Thompson said. "He has size. He's about 6-1, but he plays larger than that. When he goes for the ball defenders fall apart."

    Said Jones: "I am so excited that I am almost speechless."

    Rouse (6-4, 220) followed up an outstanding junior season with a dismal senior season. He has prototypical size but doesn't play to his numbers. He missed a lot of assignments in coverage and was an inconsistent tackler.

    "Like most Virginia Tech players, he's a very dynamic special-teams player," Thompson said. "He's a heavy hitter. In our opinion, the coaches say he's going to be fine in coverage."

    At the combine, Rouse ran 40 yards 4.58, then improved to 4.56 at his pro day. He did well in change of direction drills for his size but didn't show much strength in bench-press testing, lifting 225 pounds just 16 times.

    Rouse was the tallest safety in the draft and also one of the heaviest. His stature might be imposing but he hasn't come close to playing up to it.

    At safety, Rouse will join holdovers Marviel Underwood, Tyrone Culver and Atari Bigby in an attempt to dislodge Marquand Manuel as the starting safety opposite Nick Collins.
     

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