I have no idea which player Green Bay will choose in the first round, and anyone who tells you differently is lying. Ted Thompson is as tight-lipped as any GM in the league and his staff is every bit as secretive. Therefore, nothing he does should really surprise anyone. In fact, I’d only be surprised if our picks actually turn out to be the same. So for whatever it’s worth, here’s my annual exercise in futility:
Picking last is great if you’re a fan of the Packers, but it’s brutal if you’re also a writer trying to predict which player Thompson will select. This is no exaggeration – in the past week I’ve had 10 different players going at 32. Running back Mark Ingram, offensive linemen Danny Watkins and Derek Sherrod, defensive ends Adrian Clayborn, Cam Heyward and Christian “Cheech” Ballard and linebackers Brooks Reed, Akeem Ayers, Jabaal Sheard and Justin “Chong” Houston have all at one time or another been my choice. And in each case, doubt quickly crept in and I changed my mind. I’ve been the epitome of indecisiveness for the past week. In short, I’ve been to this particular mock draft what Mike Tice and the Vikings were to the real one in 2003.
On second (and sometimes third and fourth) thought, I came to the conclusion that Ingram and Clayborn weren’t going to be available and that Ballard and all four outside linebackers probably weren’t quite worth the 32nd pick. That left Watkins, Sherrod and Heyward. I dismissed Watkins because of the position he plays. I’m just not a believer in taking an interior offensive lineman in the first round unless that player has a very big upside. And while Sherrod plays tackle and does have a very big upside, 12 offensive lineman have been drafted by Thompson since 2005 and this kid isn’t similar to any of them.
And then there was one. Heyward came into the offseason as a likely top-20 pick, but now there’s a fairly decent chance he’ll be available when the Packers pick at 32. What did the former Ohio State star do to hurt himself in the past three months? Absolutely nothing. The “problem” is that Heyward simply doesn’t jump out at scouts – either on video or in person. He’s more steak than sizzle. And while that might not appeal to some GMs, you can be sure Thompson isn’t one of them. Here’s what Chad Reuter of CBSSports.com wrote: “He has a great attitude, work ethic and immense talent. Well-liked by his teammates and coaches, he has fun playing the game. Hustles without wearing down much during the game. Don’t expect him to post big sack totals, but he’ll hold up well at the point of attack, especially as a five-technique defensive end in the 3-4 alignment.”
The player described in that quote sounds a lot like A.J. Hawk – another former Buckeye star who was just recently re-signed by Thompson to a contract worth over $30 million. Heyward won’t replace Cullen Jenkins as an edge pass rusher, but he should be stout against the run and be able to provide a decent push up the middle in obvious passing situations.
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THE HEYWARD FILE
Son of former NFL running back Craig “Ironhead” Heyward… Had 33 tackles and 2.5 sacks in 8 starts as a true freshman in ’07… Had 36 tackles and 3 sacks in 10 starts as a sophomore… Enjoyed his most productive season in ’09 – recording 46 tackles and 6.5 sacks in 12 starts… Had 48 tackles and 3.5 sacks in 13 starts as senior… Underwent Tommy John surgery on his elbow in January and did not work out at the NFL Combine… Similar to former LSU standout Marcus Spears, who was a first-round pick of the Cowboys in 2005.