Monday, April 30, 2007

Semi-Sweet Aftermath

Like with most things in life, this past weekend leaves a typical Badger and Packer fan with some satisfaction and some hope for the future, but also with a lingering cloud of regret

To me, the most disappointing development of this weekend was the fact that one only Badger was drafted, Joe Thomas, the third overall pick. Roderick Rogers and Mark Zalewski, two of UW's defensive stalwarts over the past three seasons, were not drafted. Thankfully, they both appear to have signed free agent contracts-- with the Broncos and the Jets, respectively. Oftentimes, being an undrafted free agent is preferable to being a late round draft pick because the player gets to choose between interested teams. Therefore, the player can select the team where he has the best chance of success.
I wish Rod and Mark well. They were fine players at UW, leaders on great teams, and I believe both of them, if given the opportunity, can have successful NFL careers. My only advice to them is to make sure to finish their schoolwork at Madison and get their degrees, if they haven't already. Promising NFL careers can end very suddenly.

John Stocco remains unsigned, unfortunately. This is an odd development. In my opinion, Stocco has just as much pro potential as Sorgi or Bollinger, both of whom have been on NFL rosters for years. It looks to have been a tough year for quarterbacks. Only 11 were taken overall. Chris Leak wasn't drafted. Tyler Palko, the reputed signal-caller from Pitt, wasn't either. Neither was Zac Taylor, who ran the Nebraska offense the past two seasons, nor Jared Zabransky, the Boise State product, who has won more games than any other quarterback the last four seasons. It may be a difficult journey, but I hope John gets the chance to prove himself in the pros. He was a fine leader at Wisconsin.

So that's the bitter. I'm pretty sweet on the Packers' draft. To recap, here's what I said I wanted a few days ago:

1st Reggie Nelson, S, Florida
2nd Dwayne Jarrett, WR, USC or Sidney Rice, WR, South Carolina
3rd Michael Bush, RB, L'ville or Garret Wolfe, RB, N. Ill.
4th Offensive Tackle prospect
5th Corner prospect
6th Defensive Line/Situational Pass Rusher prospect
7th (3 picks) Whoever has potential, mixed in with a UW guy

That's a safety, wide receiver help, a legitimate running back, an offensive tackle prospect, a corner, and an addition to the defensive line.

And here's what we got:

1st Best Defensive Tackle in the Draft (according to Thompson)
2nd Running Back that staff preferred over Wolfe or Bush or Antonio Pittman or Tony Hunt
3rd Wide Receiver with decent potential
3rd Enormous, fast Safety prospect who gives awesome quotes (more about this later)
4th Freakish offensive tackle prospect
5th Exceedingly fast wide receiver prospect (our Bernard Berrian?)
6th All Pac-10 linebacker to back up linebacker spots, play special teams
6th WAC Defensive player of the year to convert to fullback, play special teams
6th Best Kicker in the Draft (according to Thompson)
7th Starting Running Back for Florida
7th Decent Tight End who may be long-term replacement for Rob Davis at long snapper

If Justin Harrell turns into Marcus Stroud or John Henderson, which the scouting staff obviously thinks he will, the draft will be, at the very least, a moderate success. Anyhow, added to the defensive line, check. Brandon Jackson, while maybe not a gamebreaker, looks like an improvement over every back on our roster with the exception, potentially of Morency. Deshawn Wynn may be crazy, but started at Florida this past season, and, at the least, looks like a good short distance back. Added a solid running back, check. James Jones has potential, and hopefully plays faster than his 40 time, while David Clowney may use his track speed to turn into something. Wide receiver help, check. Allen Barbre, while he might be a bit slow in the head, is fleet of foot-- the speediest, and potentially most athletic, offensive lineman in the draft. Offensive tackle prospect, check. Aaron Rouse is a huge, fast athlete at safety. Picked up a talented safety, check. Basically, we got the pieces that I asked for, with the exception of a cornerback (a situation that is still worrying--Blackmon better get healthy). And the Packers did so without having to abandon their "most talented player available" theory. At least as far as I know. So I'd call that a general success.

If I could be said to have a problem with all of this, it's my nagging doubts about the potential of some of our offensive draftees. Most of them look like they could develop into solid starters, the type of guys who could be good number two receivers (Jones, Clowney), or decent everydown backs. (Jackson) But I don't see any potential superstars. Now, I'm certainly not a professional scout, and maybe I'm just moping because they didn't draft bigger names. But it certainly seems like we could have taken a risk or two on a guy with a little more upside (like Michael Bush). Hopefully, an offensive player we took this year or last year (Jennings) will develop into something really special. Thompson was talking about Jones' leaping ability, and Clowney has blazing speed (although not much production). We'll see.

As far as next seasons goes, most of this year's class, if they make the roster, should contribute on special teams. With his speed, Clowney could be a kickoff returner. Jackson could challenge Morency (or Chris Brown or Corey Dillion) for the starting running back job, and at the least give the rotation some better depth. Jones and Clowney will hopefully both earn time at receiver. Rouse or Underwood might supplant Marquand Manual as the starting strong safety, and Harrell, if he can stay healthy, will likely become a big part of the defensive line rotation.

Still, I don't see any of this year's draftees making a big impact next season. And that's understandable. You can't expect to get an immediate impact player when your highest pick is in the middle of the first round. Instead, you get players that have potential, who you think can develop into good players, or maybe, into stars. What that means is that if the Packers are going to improve next season, some second and third year players (like Nick Collins and Greg Jennings, and the young linemen) must develop and step forward. The draft sows seeds for the future. Our current players are the ones who need to start blossoming.

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