I hate the Pack.
Yes, it’s true, I really dislike the Green Bay Packers. But at the same time, I respect the Pack. Sort of like “buddy cops” “respect” each other in a “buddy cop” film. Like Riggs and Murtaugh from Lethal Weapon, or Turner and Hooch from…well…Turner and Hooch. Separately, Riggs is just some crazy suicidal maniac and Murtaugh is just “Too old for this s$%#.” But together they can dramatically take out Jet Li in the rain in Lethal Weapon 4 (which, by the way, I still don’t believe – I mean wasn’t Danny Glover like 60 by Lethal Weapon 4?). Separately, Turner is just Tom Hanks with OCD and Hooch is just a slobbery dog. But together they have the power to completely rip-off of the James Belushi movie, K-9, yet still be successful (and more memorable – honestly, did you even remember James Belushi did a movie called K-9? I didn’t think so. But I digress.).
So being a Bears fan all my life, without the cheeseheads, I’d just be some crazy football fan who likes to replace the word “the” with “da”. But there’s a reason for the rivalry. A rivalry that began in 1921, the Bears and Packers are closing in on 200 meetings in the regular and post season combined. Of note, the Bears–Packers rivalry is credited by some as the first ever ejection of players for fighting during an NFL game back in 1924. And being a Bears fan, I’ve had my fair share of Packers memories. Like going to the Brat Stop in Kenosha, Wisconsin and seeing a plastic bear with Mike Singletary’s jersey on hanging from a noose. Or when I went to wait for tickets for the 2009 NFL Draft in my Devin Hester jersey and had a group of four Packers fans charge me when they saw me, only stopping because they ran into the metal barrier surrounding the line and fell over. OK, so I never said Packers fans were smart, but at least they’re passionate about their team. And I really won’t ever forget sitting in what used to be Sutton Place bar in New York and watching the Bears lose the 2010 NFC Championship game amongst jeers of “You suck!” from surrounding Packers fans. But regardless of all that, I still respect the Pack.
They’ve got great history. Brett Favre followed by Aaron Rodgers. Sterling Sharpe, Antonio Freeman, Donald Driver, Greg Jennings, and now Jordy Nelson and friends? Sometimes, it just doesn’t seem fair. But heck, the trophy every team is playing for is the Lombardi Trophy, so you have to respect that. The Packers have one late pick in each of the 7 rounds, giving them some flexibility. So here’s what I think the Packers’ priority should be, in order, in the 2013 NFL Draft.
Priority (1) -- Running Back
Running back has been a perennial weakness for the Packers ever since Ryan Grant went down in 2010 with a bad ankle injury and never really came back. James Starks had flashes of genius in the 2010 playoff run up through the Super Bowl, but then never got his mojo back. And although the Packers apparently still feel good about DuJuan Harris, I just don’t think he’s a workhorse back. Missing out on Steven Jackson (thank goodness) leaves them with some limited options (Cedric Benson? As a Bears fan, I say go for it. I’d love not to have to worry about the Packers ground game.). Even if the Packers get a running back in free agency, I’d grab Eddie Lacy in the first round, and if he’s gone, Montee Ball in the second. This is absolutely priority one.
Proirity (2) -- Wide Receiver
When we think Green Bay, we naturally think air attack. And maybe it’s because they always seem to have an embarrassment of riches at wideout that we never think it’s an issue. With Randall Cobb and James Jones stepping up last year in light of Jennings and Nelson being injured at various times throughout the season, it’s understandable that you might think the Pack should pass on wideouts. But Jennings has now gone to the Minnesota Vikings and James Jones in is going to be a free agent after the 2013 season. So if the Pack wants to continue being competitive in the air, they need to keep looking ahead to make sure Rodgers has options to throw to. Besides, this draft has plenty of amazing wide receiver options, like Tavon Austin, Cordarrelle Patterson, Justin Junter, Keenan Allen and Quinton Patton. And if they want to go deep, they can check out Ace Sanders and Aaron Mellette, both of whom I covered in my last article (but hopefully not until the Bears fill their WR needs!).
Priority (3) -- Tight End
And along with a good air attack is a good pass catching tight end. Unfortunately for the Packers, Jermichael Finley, who looked good in 2011, hasn’t lived up to expectations or potential in 2012 and is now in his last year of his contract. He’s clearly not happy about a potential pay cut, and you have to worry about any player that publicly questions the leadership of his quarterback (especially if his quarterback is pro bowler Aaron Rodgers). Then there’s Tom Crabtree, who the Packers barely tried to retain and ended up leaving for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. And of course there’s Andrew Quarless, but coming off a leg injury from last season, who knows what he’ll do. With 7 picks, the Packers can certainly take a chance with a tight end in the draft after the first round. Perhaps Jordan Reed, Travis Kelce or Vance McDonald, but they can certainly go deeper if they miss on those high end options.
Priority (4) -- Defensive End and Defensive Tackle
Lastly, there’s that defensive line. Sometimes it was hard to tell if the Packers even had one. And now they need to at least replace Jerel Worthy after he tore his ACL in December (which means he’s unlikely to play in 2013 -- unless he’s super human, like Adrian Peterson). Even without the injury, the Pack need help on the defensive line as they haven't found a consistent player to pair with B.J. Raji and Ryan Pickett. And though the Packers lost linebacker Erik Walden to the Indianapolis Colts, they did take care of securing linebacker A.J. Hawk with a significant pay cut over the next three seasons amounting to at least $7.25 million in potential savings. Hawk isn’t great against the pass, but he’s serviceable against the run and allows the Pack to focus on other parts of their defense. At the end of the day, the Packers need to address the line first if they want to fix their defense. Without a solid line, having decent linebackers, safetys and corners won’t matter (although they could use a little work in the secondary as well).
I’m sure hoping that the Packers don’t find their Reggie Jackson autographed napkin (see my last article if you have no ideawhat I’m talking about), but with 7 picks, they have a good shot at it. If they don’t, they may end up being more like Murtaugh than I thought. The last thing they want is for Aaron Rodgers to get frustrated and start saying “I’m too old for this s!@#.”
By Ha Kung Wong (Twitter: @Rhihan)