How bad was the Green Bay defense last season? Bad enough to get general manager Ted Thompson to trade up twice in round two – something he had only done three times in the previous seven drafts. The objects of his affection were Michigan State defensive end Jerel Worthy and Vanderbilt cornerback Casey Hayward. Coupled with first-rounder Nick Perry of USC, the Packers have added two potential starters and a likely nickel or dime back to a defense that couldn’t slow down anyone a year ago.
Thompson had to give up third, fourth and fifth round picks to get Worthy and Hayward, but so what? Green Bay still has a pair of 4s, a 6th and four 7s – not to mention arguably the deepest roster in the National Football League. Here’s my analysis of the two players picked on Friday and a look at how they’ll fit in with their new team:
JEREL WORTHY (6’2 1/2, 308, 5.03) – I didn’t think he rushed the quarterback well enough to go in the first round, but he’s a bargain at 51. A little short for a 3-4 end, but he has more than enough strength to anchor against the run. And while he didn’t put up big sack numbers at Michigan State (12 sacks in three seasons), he was around the quarterback an awful lot. He’ll need to improve his bull rush at the next level. He was too reliant on quickness to beat guards and centers in college and he was too quick to let up when his initial charge was stymied. It’ll be up to highly respected defensive line coach Mike Trgovac to get the most out of this young man, and if he can, watch out.
VERDICT: Worth moving up for. At best, Jerel will prove to be a Worthy replacement for former Packer Cullen Jenkins. At worst, he should still be a sizable upgrade from Jarius Wynn, C.J. Wilson and the 2011 version of Mike Neal.
CASEY HAYWARD (5’11 1/4, 192, 4.53) – Corners who run over 4.5 at under 195 pounds aren’t supposed to go in the second round, but there are always exceptions. A handful of more physically impressive defensive backs were still on the board at 62, but none of them possessed this young man’s ball skills or football IQ – two things that are very important to Thompson, coordinator Dom Capers and assistant Joe Whitt Jr. All three men love corners who can pick off passes – something Hayward did 15 times in college (including 7 as a senior). And after watching so many blown coverages in 2011, I’m guessing they also kinda like the idea of adding a Vanderbilt man to the secondary.
VERDICT: Sam Shields regressed and rookie Davon House was a bit of a disappointment, so the door is open for Hayward. He’ll either play well enough to win the nickel job from Shields or he’ll push him to get better. It’s a win-win either way.
The Packers won’t pick again until the end of the fourth round, and by that point, Thompson will have no choice but to take the best player available regardless of position. A young quarterback to challenge weak-armed Graham Harrell, an interior offensive lineman to challenge journeyman Evan Dietrich-Smith and a safety to compete with veteran Charlie Peprah and youngsters Anthony Levine and M.D. Jennings would seem to be the top remaining priorities, but that doesn’t mean Thompson would pass up a talented running back, tight end or wide receiver. Remember, Ryan Grant is unsigned, Jennings can be a free agent in 2013 and Finley could hit the open market a year later.