Packers bolster offensive line on day three of draft
Seemingly determined to protect its biggest investment, the Green Bay Packers gave quarterback Aaron Rodgers some help on Saturday.
The Packers, who signed Rodgers to a five-year contract extension on Friday, used their first two picks on Day 3 of the NFL draft on offensive linemen. Colorado's David Bakhtiari was taken with the 109th overall selection and Cornell's J.C. Tretter at No. 122.
Rodgers was sacked a league-high 51 times last season, so adding a pair of blockers might help give the Packers' franchise quarterback some much needed relief.
The Packers followed up by grabbing its second running back in as many days via the draft, trading up to take UCLA running back Johnathan Franklin at No. 125.
In the final round, the Packers picked up two wide receivers - Grand Valley State's Charles Johnson and Maryland's Kevin Dorsey - after two of Rodgers' main targets departed during the offseason, with Greg Jennings signing with Minnesota and Donald Driver retiring.
Packers coach Mike McCarthy insists the Packers didn't draft the offensive players solely based on the fact they secured Rodgers for the long term.
"The reality of it is, we've helped our football team and that's the way the draft board is set every single year," McCarthy said. "I understand when you put numbers on a spreadsheet and you're over $100 million and then right after that comes four players on offense, I think it's natural to think that we stopped there and said 'Hey, we got to hurry up and put some people around Aaron Rodgers.' But that's really not the case."
After selecting defensive players with their first six picks in the 2012 draft, the Packers stockpiled their picks this year and had nine selections on the final day of the draft.
"We felt that the draft was pretty solid through the middle rounds, so we wanted to try to accumulate some picks in that area. I think the more picks the better," Packers general manager Ted Thompson said. "I hope we improved in all facets of our game today, whether it would be special teams or defense or whatever."
Bakhtiari, a 6-foot-4, 299-pound tackle, started 33 of 34 games for the Buffaloes, 22 at left tackle and 11 at right tackle. Bakhtiari entered the draft after his junior year and allowed just 5 ½ sacks and only 11 quarterback pressures in three seasons at Colorado.
Offensive line coach David Campen likes Bakhtiari's versatility, being able to play both left and right tackle, and his solid footwork.
"I feel I can play left tackle, but wherever the Packers want me to play that's where I'm going to play," Bakhtiari said in a conference call with Wisconsin reporters. "They're going to give me the playbook, they're going to let me know the position and I'm going to study it and try and (play) the best I can."
Bakhtiari left college a year early because he was under the impression he could be selected in either the second or third round. However, he likes that he fell to the Packers in the fourth round.
Tretter, 6-foot-3 ½ and 307 pounds, is just the seventh Ivy League offensive lineman ever selected in the NFL draft. He started all 20 games at left tackle in the final two seasons at Cornell after playing tight end his first two years. During his senior season, Tretter allowed just one sack on 853 pass plays while registering 214 knockdowns.
When Tretter enrolled at Cornell, if he didn't make the NFL, he wanted to become a sports agent. On Saturday, Tretter was asked to give a scouting report on himself.
"I think the off-the-field stuff is great. Good kid, smart, heady player, understands defenses, understands blitzes and stunts," Tretter said. "Obviously, the low level of competition, some people worry about that. But I think I've got all the tools to make the next step and I think that showed at the combine."
After picking Alabama running back Eddie Lacy in the second round on Friday, the Packers traded Denver picks Nos. 146 and 173 to get Franklin.
"You've watched Ted Thompson enough times in the draft room and when he goes up, we're going up for something and it's really good. And that was definitely the case," McCarthy said.
Lacy and Franklin offer the Packers -- who had just three somewhat unproven tailbacks in DuJuan Harris, James Starks and Alex Green -- two different styles of running backs.
"Eddie Lacy being a bit more of a bigger back, a downhill type of runner and Johnathan Franklin being more elusive, more of a make-you-miss type of guy," Packers running backs coach Alex Van Pelt said.
Franklin rushed for a school-record 4,403 yards, which ranks fifth in Pac-12 Conference history, and 4,936 all-purpose yards. A solid 5-foot-10, 201 pounds, Franklin averaged 5.59 yards per carry after starting 45 games in his career.
"I love the game of football and I just love the ball my hands," Franklin said. "If you want me to run the ball inside, I'll do that. If you want me to run outside, so be it. . I just love the game of football and I've got to constantly improve on my game every day."
After using four of their first five picks in the draft on offense, the Packers dedicated their two fifth-round picks and sixth-round choice to their 3-4 defensive scheme by selecting Iowa cornerback Micah Hyde, Mississippi State defensive lineman Josh Boyd and Illinois State linebacker Nate Palmer.
Hyde, picked 159th overall, finished his career at Iowa with 240 tackles after starting 38 consecutive games for the Hawkeyes. At 6-foot, 197 pounds, Hyde ran a 4.56 in the 40-yard dash at the combine, which is average for a defensive back. He also a punt returner during his final two seasons in college.
Hyde had eight interceptions during his career, but just one during his senior season. Packers cornerbacks coach Joe Whitt said the coaching staff with work with Hyde to increase his ball-hawking ability.
Green Bay used its compensatory pick at No. 167 on a run stuffer. Boyd, 6-foot-2 1/2, 300 pounds, amassed 33 tackles, 1 ½ sacks and 2 ½ tackles for loss as a senior on the defensive line. He played in 51 games in his career for the Bulldogs and had a team defensive line high of 51 tackles during his junior season.
Boyd was the second defensive lineman the Packers selected in three days after drafting UCLA defensive end Datone Jones at No. 26 overall.
The Packers selected Illinois State linebacker Nate Palmer 193rd overall. At 6-foot-3, 240 pounds, Palmer started all 24 of Illinois State's games over the past two seasons at defensive end. He registered 117 tackles, 17 sacks and 25 ½ tackles for loss in his final two seasons.
In the final round, the Packers added wide receivers Johnson and Dorsey. Green Bay received the No. 216 selection from Tennessee through San Francisco to take Johnson, who was a standout at Division II powerhouse Grand Valley State. Johnson, 6-foot-3, 225 pounds, had 2,229 yards receiving and 31 touchdowns during his two seasons with the Lakers.
The Packers' next pick No. 224, from Dallas through Miami, was used on Dorsey. The 6-foot-2, 210-pound receiver had just 18 receptions for 311 yards and four scores in his senior season.
With Green Bay's final selection of the draft, it picked a second linebacker of the day, South Florida's Sam Barrington, at No. 232. Barrington, 6-foot-1, 230 pounds, started 36 of 49 games during his career and amassed 258 tackles and 6 ½ sacks.
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