GREEN BAY PACKERS / 2013 TEAM NEEDS
Fan favorite WR Donald Driver and veteran C Jeff Saturday retired and free-agent WR Greg Jennings is considered as good as gone by most team observers. In addition, the futures of talented but tempestuous TE Jermichael Finley and RBs Cedric Benson and Ryan Grant are considered far from secure. Translation: GM Ted Thompson figures to be looking for reinforcements at every position.
TOP 3 OFFENSIVE NEEDS
OL — High picks could be spent on both a tackle and a center. Marshall Newhouse failed to make strides in his second season as the starting left tackle, and with Saturday not coming back, there is a dire need for depth at center behind Evan Dietrich-Smith — at the very least.
WR — Versatile second-year pro Randall Cobb emerged as a primary weapon, and James Jones had a career year (15 TDs counting playoffs). But there’s a serious need for help on the oustide with Jennings, who will be 30 next season, a good bet to sign elsewhere, and Jordy Nelson coming off a season in which he missed four games due to leg/hamstring injuries.
RB — While the Packers actually had a very effective mix-and-match ground game down the 2012 stretch featuring shifty free-agent pickup DuJuan Harris, the team would prefer to find a true go-to back that defines its running attack. Harris is best-suited as a change-of-pace back, and holdovers Alex Green and James Starks have had problems staying healthy.
Despite dramatic improvement in total yards and passing yards allowed (ranked 11th in both categories after ranking 32nd in both categories in 2011), more help for the defense remains a top priority after it imploded in the playoffs for the second year in a row against a bigger, faster and physically superior opponent.
TOP 3 DEFENSIVE NEEDS
DE — A prototypical 3-4 end with good length and the ability to seal the edge more effectively on outside runs would be a very worthy addition, especially with 2012 second-round DE Jerel Worthy suffering a knee injury late in the year that could compromise his 2013 campaign.
S — With veteran Charles Woodson, a key cog for a long time, getting cut, and both M.D. Jennings and Jerron McMillian still considered major works in progress, the team needs to find a safety adept at both run support and coverage who is also more than willing to be a physical enforcer type.
DT — The Packers need to bolster their inside pass rush and obtain more depth behind starting NT B.J. Raji, whose contract expires after next season. Raji came on strong as the 2012 season wore on. But he ended his season with a subpar effort in the playoff loss to the Niners that might make the team think twice about a long-term commitment.
2012 DRAFT REWIND
1st round (28): OLB Nick Perry / USC (GP/GS: 6/5)
Skinny: Up and down before going on injured reserve. Has great physical tools.
2nd round (51): DE Jerel Worthy / Michigan State (GP/GS: 14/4)
Skinny: Was so-so at best before suffering major knee injury late.
2nd round (62): CB Casey Hayward / Vanderbilt (GP/GS: 16/7)
Skinny: Escelled in slot, displaying Charles Woodson-like instincts.
4th round (132): DT Mike Daniels / Iowa (GP/GS: 14/0)
Skinny: Quick, active overachiever who outperformed Worthy.
4th round (133): SS Jerron McMillan / Maine (GP/GS: 16/0)
Skinny: Tough customer who worked hard and held his own.
5th round (163): OLB Terrell Manning / North Carolina State (GP/GS: 5/0)
Skinny: Made mark as physical wedge-breaker on special teams.
7th round (241): OT Andrew Datko / Florida State (GP/GS: 0/0)
Skinny: On practice squad entire year. Team high on his potential.
7th round (243): QB B.J. Coleman/ Tennessee-Chatanooga (GP/GS: 0/0)
Skinny: Cut and re-signed, also spent year on practice squad.
SUMMARY: With undrafted rookies Don Barclay and Dezman Moses added to mix, Ted Thompson gets a solid “B.”
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