GREEN BAY - The Packers will be busy in the upcoming NFL draft. Green Bay has 12 selections over the 3 days of the draft, thanks to compensatory picks awarded by the NFL.
A number of fans I've talked to have expressed a desire for the Packers to shed some of those picks in order to move up and theoretically pick more "impact" players as opposed to roster fillers.
While I'm covering my first NFL draft here in Green Bay, I see the Packers using most of those picks themselves.
Ted Thompson has shown in recent years he's not afraid to bring in a large draft class. Last year the team drafted 10 players. In 2006 they also added 10 draft selections, and 11 in 2005, Thompson's first as General Manager.
The reason this is important is because the high volume of picks allows Thompson to create depth which, as we saw during the past two seasons, has been a key to their success. The "next man up" philosophy is only successful if you have a "next man" who can do the job.
The Packers have not limited themselves to players from the big 6 or BCS conferences. During the Thompson era the Packers have selected 65 players in the draft, with 23 coming from outside the BCS conferences.
While this year Green Bay will have 4 selections in the 7th and final round, the smaller school pickups are far from just late-rounders.
During the 2005 draft Thompson selected Nick Collins from Bethune-Cookman in the 2 nd round. Collins, who suffered a potentially career ending neck injury last year, had gone on to become a fixture in the Green Bay secondary, earning 3 Pro Bowl selections.
In 2006, the Packers used a pair of second round selections to draft Greg Jennings from Western Michigan and Daryn Colledge out of Boise State.
Jennings has become the Packers top wide receiver and is a two time Pro Bowl selection. He has topped 900 yards receiving each of the past 5 seasons. Colledge signed with the Arizona Cardinals before the 2011 season and has appeared in every regular season game since getting drafted, starting 92 of the 96 games.
In the 7th round of that same draft, they picked up a Division II player, Dave Tollefson. He never made a regular season tackle with the Packers, but has had a solid career with the Giants, including 5 sacks this past season. Tollefson has since signed with the Oakland Raiders.
In 2007, the Packers selected 3 non-BCS players with James Jones making the biggest impact. Jones has 20 touchdowns in his first 5 seasons and 12 catches of 40 or more yards.
The next three seasons the Packers found ways to beef up the offensive line through this route: picking up a player each season who was either a full-time starter or a key fill-during last season's 15-1 regular season.
They took Josh Sitton out of Central Florida in the 4th round of 2008, T.J. Lang from Eastern Michigan in the 4th round of 2009, and Marshall Newhouse from TCU in the 5th round of the 2010 draft.
It's too soon to tell who will be the one to make their mark from the 2011 draft. RB Alex Green was picked in the 3rd round but missed the entire season with an injury. CB Davon House appeared in 2 games, making 1 tackle. LB D.J. Smith has the early lead with 43 tackles last season and an interception. Tackle Caleb Schlauderaff, one of the sixth rounders, who was traded to the New York Jets prior to the beginning of the regular season.
When you look at a breakdown of the NFC North rosters you see the difference in the way the Packers and their chief rivals utilize the small school guys.
The numbers are slightly skewed because the current rosters are not necessarily reflective of what the teams will open with, it's still an interesting barometer.
28 of the 65 players on the Packers current roster hail from alma maters outside of the big 6 conferences. The Vikings are next with 23 of 67 players. The Bears have 21 of 65, and the Lions are last with 17 of 59 players having played non-BCS football.
Obviously there have been players who've failed to make an impact after coming from schools that often play out of the spotlight, but none are likely to be listed among the top draft busts of all time. So when there's an unfamiliar name called during this year's draft, don't fret. You can just log on to fox11online.com to find out about the pick-up and ponder if he's the next impact Packer.
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