With the draft only three days away, let’s take a look at the last draft class we can make meaningful judgments on: 2012. With their fourth season approaching and fifth year options on the line, some players have a lot to live up to still, and that is true in Green Bay.
In 2011, the Packers had their greatest regular season in recent memory, dismantling opponent after opponent on the way to a 15-1 season, making them easy favorites for the Super Bowl. But a tough Giants team dispatched them in the Divisional Playoffs to make them question the defense. So, naturally, they went defense heavy in this draft, with mixed results. Let’s take a look.
Round 1 (28) – Nick Perry, LB. USC
BAP: Harrison Smith, S. Notre Dame
In need of an impact pass rusher opposite Clay Matthews, Ted Thompson took a flyer on a raw USC linebacker who had never played with his hand up before. Perry had some great talent as a pass rusher, especially in the bull rush, but he needed to refine his finesse moves. His biggest problem in his first three years has been health. He missed time in his first two years and struggled to contribute outside of short spurts. He was healthy last season but was shuffled along in the rotation due to the signing of Julius Peppers. Facing a make-or-break season in Green Bay, what can he do to make him a part of the future? Maybe it is a move to inside, he has the size. Smith on the other hand has emerged as a playmaker at safety.
Round 2 (51) – Jerel Worthy, DT. Michigan State
BAP: Lavonte David, LB/S. Nebraska
A move back up for Thompson, Worthy fell significantly on draft day due to concerns about his position in the NFL. Was he a 4-3 tackle or a 3-4 end? He played more like a penetrating 4-3 tackle due to his quickness off the ball, but was drafted to be an end here. He also battled injuries, including a devastating knee injury that wiped out his 2012 and 2013 season just after he was starting to get comfortable. Unable to make the team last season, he was traded to New England, who also cut him. He spent the season on the Kansas City practice squad. A big miss for Ted. David has become one of the best linebackers in football, something the Packers could really use right now on the inside.
Round 2 (62) – Casey Hayward, CB. Vanderbilt
This pick paid off for Ted with the exception of 2013. A playmaker from Day 1, Hayward led all rookies with six picks his first season and looked to be a star in the making. He missed most of 2013 with a hamstring injury and got up and down playing time last year due to the depth at corner that the team had. He looks to be the man opposite Sam Shields this season outside and hopes to continue his upward trajectory.
Round 4 (132) – Mike Daniels, DL. Iowa
Now, we hit a true home run. Daniels was undersized and fighting a shoulder injury at Iowa, and so he fell due to these unfortunate circumstances. Lucky for the Packers, he was there at 132 and has been a force at defensive line. A vocal leader of the team, his energy and motor fuel the defense and he is a key member of the team. But outside of his hustle, he is a natural football player. He has tremendous talent, the foremost trait being his strength, and has been rated as one of the best defensive ends in the NFL the past two seasons. He is next up for an extension.
Round 4 (133) – Jerron McMillan, S. Maine
BAP: Josh Chapman, DT. Alabama
Sadly, Daniels is the last impact player from this draft. McMillan was a small-school prospect who packed a punch in the back end. A run-stuffing safety, he was expected to do just that, but he was forced into action too early due to injuries and terrible play around him. He was completely ineffective in his role and got cut in 2013. He has since bounced around the league, never catching on to any other team.
Round 5 (163) – Terrell Manning, LB. NC State
BAP: Alfred Morris, RB. Florida Atlantic
Another hyped prospect who missed, many saw Manning as a third round prospect, but like Daniels he was undersized. A speedy linebacker who had the potential to become a sideline to sideline player, he fought a debilitating virus his rookie season that wrecked that year, then struggled to get on the field when healthy. Cut in 2013, he played for a bit in San Diego, but has never really caught on anywhere.
Round 7 (241) – Andrew Datko, OL. Florida State
BAP: Antonio Allen, CB. Purdue
A mammoth tackle from the ACC, Datko was the blindside protector for EJ Manuel for years, but never had a real role to project in the NFL. Only an average athlete by league standards, he wasn’t particularly great at either run or pass blocking. A depth player was his ceiling, but he never really stuck out and was cut in 2013.
Round 7 (243) – BJ Coleman, QB. Tennessee-Chattanooga
BAP: Vontaze Burfict, LB. Arizona State
We needed a backup after Matt Flynn left, and Coleman was an intriguing arm to pick late here. A rocket for an arm is what got his name called, but he never really developed. He showed flashes, but something never clicked. He was supposed to be Flynn’s successor, but couldn’t beat out Graham Harrell and was out of the league in 2013.
UDFA – Don Barclay, OL. West Virginia
The only notable UDFA from 2012 was the swing lineman Barclay. A good run blocker, he jumped in as a starter as a rookie and held his own, before starting the entire 2013 season at right tackle after Bulaga’s knee injury. He was solid but profiles better as a backup swing tackle and guard. He was projected to do just that last season before a torn ACL ended his season in training camp. He will fill that same role this coming year.
Home Runs (1) – Daniels
Good Picks (1) – Hayward, Barclay (UDFA)
Average (1) – Perry
Misses (5) – Worthy, McMillan, Manning, Datko, Coleman——————
Mike Wendlandt is originally from Iola, Wisconsin and graduated from Drake University in 2015 with a degree in History. With a significant journalism background both in writing and broadcasting, Mike can be heard as the play-by-play voice of Central Wisconsin High School sports on WDUX FM 92.7 and on Twitter @MikeWendlandt.
Mike Wendlandt is a writer covering the Green Bay Packers for PackersTalk.com.