What a wild moment with Michael friggin' Crabtree and BJ Raji still on the board, eh? Fun stuff. I kind of wanted Crabtree, thinking about him on one side and Jennings on the other for the next six years, but Raji makes far more sense. Honestly, I think drafting another wideout would have forced the Packers to make a losing trade of either Driver, Jones or Jordy Nelson, and probably would have ruffled Jennings' feathers in a serious manner-- not good given the team and his agent are in the middle of contract negotiations. Plus, I read somewhere that Jennings and Crabtree have the same agent. What weirdness that would be. Finally, if the team drafted Crabtree and reupped Jennings, that would be devoting a ton of money to the two players at the same position. Kind of a weird scenario.
My main concerns with Raji were (after reading far too many comments from Greg Bedard over at the Journal-Sentinel's Packer blog) (1) I was skeptical that he'd make a good 3-4 nose tackle, and was more suited to be a run stopped in a 4-3 front, and (2) the general fact that defensive tackles have a pretty high bust rate. (Ahem.) But he was the consensus top defensive tackle in the draft, and the Packers d-line totally let them down last season. Plus, that for someone who loathes Notre Dame, that remarkable highlight against the Irish is about the funniest thing ever.
The Clay Matthews pick is fascinating. First, there's just him as a player-- three immediate relatives were great NFL players, a walk-on at USC, redshirting, kicking ass on special teams, growing taller and gaining a ton of good weight, earning a schollie and then turning into a stud in his last season. Yeah, and he graduated with an International Relations degree four months ago. Whoa. His tapes make him look pretty relentless, with fine change of direction, and good ability to flight off blocks-- a big weakness for the team's current crop of linebackers. I suppose he's someone who could eventually supplant Poppinga, or replace Kampman after this next season, if the plan to move him to an LB position doesn't work out. Cool stuff.
My enthusiasm for the pick is tempered by the opinion of a close friend who covers USC football as a beat writer for a SoCal paper. He didn't trust Matthews, in large part, because of his lack of experience (he only started about 80% of one season), and because of his sudden weight gain-- something like 20 pounds of muscle in about a year. Of course, the three top notch USC linebackers were drafted in the exact opposite order of how he thought they should have gone-- since he also thought Cushing was injury prone, dumb, and on a Bill Romanowski like regime of performance-enhancing substances.
Then there's the cost of the Matthews pick-- both third round picks and the team's second rounder. Pretty damn steep. And when you hear it's the Pats on the other side-- well, you have to think your guys have been hood-winked. Hell, even Thompson said the way things worked out on the draft value chart weren't "great." But two things make me okay with it. First off, Thompson (and some other folks) seem to believe that the Packers have a pretty solid core, and don't have a ton of holes. (Whether this is an accurate view is something to be debated.) Second, there was the cacophony of opinions that this was a historically weak draft. If that's the case, and Matthews, as Thompson said, was a guy they had been talking about for weeks and thinking of ways to acquire, then I applaud their decision. Seriously. When confronted with a weak draft, moving up and sacrificing quantity for quality makes sense. What good are three picks in a crappy draft? How do they compare to one pick for a guy that you viewed as a legitimate talent and have been targeting and thinking about for weeks? Makes good sense to me. Of course, history will be the ultimate judge. It's quite likely some guys taken after Matthews or when the Packers would have picked in the second and third round will turn out to be excellent players.
But in defense of my theory, this morning, after taking a hard look at the guys available, the Pats went out and traded away two of their third round picks, for two second round picks next year. Maybe this draft is weak, and the Matthews trade did make sense, eh?