Apologies for the delay between articles, Drake has kept me extremely busy with broadcasting and writing there as well. But without further ado, we have arrived in 2009, which was coincidentally my senior year of high school and a great year for Ted Thompson and the Packers in April. The season before however, not so much. With Aaron Rodgers entrenched as the starter, the Pack struggled to a 6-10 record despite putting up some pretty solid statistics. Nothing came together though and it as back to the drawing board to work on the defensive side of the ball and Mr. Thompson hit it in a big way. Let’s take a look.
ROUND 1 (9) – B.J. Raji, DT. Boston College
The most mocked pick to the Packers arrived in a bundle as Raji, the dominant tackle from Boston College was taken 9th overall despite players like Michael Crabtree, Brian Orakpo, and Brian Cushing still there. Three years after the pick, it was a home run as Raji was the anchor of a Super Bowl defense and a Pro Bowler. In the last few years though there has been some second guessing of him due to his struggles after he moved to defensive end and had to take on a role less suited to his skill set. A natural disruptive force when positioned correctly, he was great in training camp last season before he tore his bicep in the third preseason game and missed the season. A free agent as of right now, we’ll have to see where he ends up, whether it is in Green Bay or somewhere else.
UPDATE: Raji has re-signed with Green Bay on a 1 year contract.
ROUND 1 (26) – Clay Matthews III, LB. USC
At the end of the first round, Pakers fans everywhere gasped and possibly fell out of their chairs when they saw the team trade back into the first round, something Ted Thompson never did. That pick was Matthews, a pass rusher who was seen as raw and undersized and a high risk pick. But man did that pick pan out. A force as a rookie, the Thor-lookalike dominated his first few years in the league, narrowing losing out to Troy Polamalu for Defensive Player of the Year in 2010. Despite struggling with nagging injuries, Matthews has been great for the Packers defense, providing energy and a relentless pursuit to that side of the ball. He was rewarded handsomely with a new contract a year ago but with 61 sacks in six years, he looks to be worth it.
ROUND 4 (109) – TJ Lang, OL. Eastern Michigan
A college tackle, Lang started his career as a swing tackle before settling in at left guard and becoming a mainstay for the team. Now, two years removed from moving to the left side, he makes up one of the top guard duos in the NFL with Josh Sitton. A tough player with the biggest mean streak on the team, Lang is always protecting his guys, as seen by his personal foul in the Divisional game against Dallas this past year. There is no doubt that he is a guy who will be a Packer for a long time still.
ROUND 5 (145) – Quinn Johnson, FB. LSU
BAP: Jasper Brinkley, LB. South Carolina
After the days of William Henderson, the Packers struggled to find his replacement, and Johnson was drafted to be that. The football version of a tank, Johnson was a converted linebacker in college who was known as a great road grading blocker but raw in all other aspects in the game. That proved to be true as he struggled to get on the field in his time in Green Bay. He was slower than the average fullback and was displaced by John Kuhn before catching on with Tennessee, whom he played for from 2011-2014.
ROUND 5 (162) – Jamon Meredith, OT. South Carolina
BAP: Thomas Morstead, P. SMU
As seen by the BAP here, this was a top heavy draft, but Meredith was a guy with a lot of potential who many were waiting to come off the board. His name popped up on Mel Kiper’s 10 best available players for hours before he was taken at 162nd overall. He ended up being empty potential, getting cut in his first training camp and then claimed by Buffalo off the practice squad. He has since bounced around to 8 teams, including a one week reunion in Green Bay last year. Not the greatest pick but you can afford to miss in the fifth round sometimes.
ROUND 6 (182) – Jarius Wynn, DE. Georgia
BAP: Matt Slauson, G. Nebraska
A serviceable player, Wynn hung around for a while in Green Bay, filling a depth role for the team and providing some decent run defense as well as the occasional pass rush. He lasted until 2012 before being cut and bounced around a little it before finding a new home in Buffalo where he re-signed this offseason. Through his six seasons he has 10.5 sacks.
ROUND 6 (187) – Brandon Underwood, CB. Cincinnati
BAP: Captain Munnerlyn, CB. South Carolina
A developmental pick, Underwood had the size and ability that coaches love, but he could never put it all together, especially when you factor in his off-field problems that may ruin his chance of ever playing in the NFL again. He played two years in Green Bay before being cut and has since migrated north to play in the CFL. In hindsight, Munnerlyn would’ve looked good in Green and Gold.
ROUND 7 (218) – Brad Jones, LB. Colorado
BAP: Julian Edelman, WR. Kent State
Now here is a player who has gotten a lot of hate, and rightfully so the past couple of seasons, but he was a solid, serviceable player for the Packers for a while, and that exceeds any expectations for the 218th player selected. However, the contract extension that he got a couple of years ago was a mistake that Thompson even admitted by cutting him after a disastrous 2014 for the linebacker. He is now in Philadelphia and will be a special teamer where he fits best. Edelman was picked just a few picks later and has become a hero in New England, but he was almost a Packer. He was ready to sign with Green Bay if he hadn’t gotten drafted. So close.
Final Count and Grades
Home Runs (3) – Raji, Matthews, Lang
Average (2) – Jones, Wynn
Misses (3) – Johnson, Underwood, Meredith
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.