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Thompson explains this year's strategy

The Sports Xchange
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--Ted Thompson was in an almost apologetic mood toward the end of a draft like no other in his decorated tenure as Green Bay's general manager.

The Packers went into this year's draft with 12 picks, which is par for the course on Thompson's watch. Green Bay averaged 10 picks each year since his first draft on the job in 2005.

Thompson, though, limited the bounty this time around. He traded up three times - equaling his total number of trade-ups the previous seven years - and made do with eight picks.

"It's horrible," Thompson said jokingly about giving away draft choices. "I told 'em (his staff) I was ashamed. I'm not my father's son anymore. My father is very frugal. It's pathetic.

"But, in this case, I felt like it was appropriate. I feel like we have a good, solid team. I felt like where we knew we felt like we were getting quality we should try to do it."

With an unquestioned emphasis on defense, the Packers' Achilles' heel last season, Thompson took USC defensive end-turned-linebacker Nick Perry in the first round (No. 28) on Thursday night and then got bold.

Thompson traded up twice in short order on Day 2 of the draft Friday night to wind up with more help for the league's worst-ranked defense with a pair of second-round picks: Michigan State defensive lineman Jerel Worthy (No. 51) and Vanderbilt cornerback Casey Hayward (No. 62).

The Packers moved up eight spots to take Worthy, whom some considered first-round material, by making a trade with the Philadelphia Eagles. Green Bay relinquished its original second-round pick (No. 59) and also a fourth-round pick (No. 123).

No sooner did Green Bay have Worthy, who will be moved from tackle to end on the line, than it swung a trade with the New England Patriots to get an additional pick late in the second round to take Hayward.

"I'm going crazy," the notoriously conservative Thompson said afterward. "We liked those guys. We had 'em rated as guys that could come in and help our team and be a part of our team."

The deal with the Patriots cost the Packers their lone third-round pick (No. 90) and their only fifth-round pick (No. 163).

In an odd twist, Green Bay wound up recouping that fifth-round choice at the same spot when Thompson executed his last big trade Saturday.

He connected with the Patriots again for a shot to take North Carolina State linebacker Terrell Manning at No. 163. To do so, Thompson parted with the Packers' lone sixth-round pick (No. 197) and two of their four seventh-round choices (Nos. 224 and 235).

"It's almost like kissing your sister - you come back and you trade for your own pick or something," Thompson said. "It's just the way it worked out. It was a place where we felt like a player (Manning) was being undervalued a little bit, and we didn't know how long he would be undervalued."

--Green Bay closed the draft with a pair of seventh-round compensatory picks, which couldn't be traded.

The selection of Florida State offensive tackle Andrew Datko (No. 241) snapped the Packers' unprecedented streak of taking defensive players with their first six picks in this year's draft. Green Bay concluded its draft two picks later by taking Tennessee-Chattanooga quarterback B.J. Coleman.

Defensive coordinator Dom Capers didn't mind the run on players to add to his unit. Last year, Capers watched Thompson go exclusively with offense (three players) the first two days of the draft and take only one defensive player in Green Bay's first six picks.

"It just tells you, that patience is a virtue," Capers said. "Last year was a long draft, all right, so this year's been obviously, I think, a good, productive draft for us in terms of being able to get players at all three levels of our defense."

Head coach Mike McCarthy, the play caller for the offense, was OK with all but the final moments of this year's draft being devoted to the defense. The Packers don't have any glaring holes with their explosive offense, having replaced departed Pro Bowl center Scott Wells with veteran free agent Jeff Saturday early in the offseason.

"For Ted to trade up three times in one draft was fun," McCarthy said. "It was fun to sit next to him and watch him growl through it. It was important to trust your board."

Since the league merger in 1970, the most consecutive defensive players the Packers selected at the outset of a draft was four - in 1984, 1999 and 2003.

--Given the investment the Packers made in Hayward, particularly trading up 28 spots from the third round to get him in the second, he will be looked at as a possibility to crack the starting lineup next season.

The Packers are stacked at cornerback as is with starters Charles Woodson and Tramon Williams, nickel back Sam Shields and re-signed dime back Jarrett Bush. Yet, the high selection of Hayward was made with more than just long-term intentions in mind.

If Hayward can prove to be starter ready as a rookie, that could pave the way for moving veteran Woodson to safety on a permanent basis. The Packers have a spot to fill after they released Pro Bowl free safety Nick Collins, who suffered a career-threatening neck injury last September, before the draft.

Capers hinted at the position switch for Woodson, who is going into his 15th pro season and will turn 36 in October. He has been used in a versatile role with the Packers in recent seasons.

"There's been games he's lined up at safety already. There's been games he lines up at nickel, dime, corner," said cornerbacks coach Joe Whitt, who also cited Woodson's cameo appearance at inside linebacker during a playoffs win over the Philadelphia Eagles in the 2010 season.

"The scheme and the game plan dictates where he lines up," Whitt added. "So, that's really a moot point because he's already going to line up where we need him that week."

Capers said it wouldn't be "a radical move" to turn Woodson into a safety "because of the way we've used him in the last three years, basically."

"We feel he can play any one of those positions," Capers added. "That's one of the things he brings to the table, is the flexibility that he gives you. That could potentially change from week to week; it has up to this point in time."

--In the process of loading up on defensive players, the Packers' brass intends to put many of them in new positions as soon as the rookie orientation camp, which will be May 11-13.

Top draft pick Perry is earmarked to be the starting right outside linebacker, opposite All-Pro and former college teammate Clay Matthews.

"I'm a go-getter, explosive, ready to get off the ball, stop the run and create havoc in the pass-rushing situations," said Perry, who led the Pac-12 last season with 9.5 sacks.

Worthy, a stout defensive tackle for Michigan State, is going to defensive end as the Packers try to give support to tackle B.J. Raji after losing Cullen Jenkins last year in free agency and getting next to nothing out of young replacement Mike Neal. Green Bay will be without the injury-riddled Neal for the first four games of next season because of a suspension for violating the league's policy on performance-enhancing drugs.

"He's a kid that's got very good movement skills for a big guy," defensive line coach Mike Trgovac said of the 6-2, 308-pound Worthy. "So, he's not going to be restricted to just playing a certain amount of downs. He'll have the opportunity to compete here for all three downs. That'll be up to him whether he can do it. He'll get the opportunity to compete for that."

The Packers also plan to move Manning, their fifth-round choice, to inside linebacker in their 3-4 scheme after he played outside on the weak side in North Carolina State's 4-3 front.

--The culminating pick of Coleman in the seventh round gave the Packers a quarterback in the draft for the first time since 2008, when they took Louisville's Brian Brohm in the second round and LSU's Matt Flynn in the seventh round.

Flynn beat out Brohm from the get-go and served as Aaron Rodgers' top understudy for four seasons. Flynn became an unrestricted free agent this offseason and signed with the Seattle Seahawks for a chance to start.

Coleman joins holdover Graham Harrell and fellow first-year player Nick Hill in the competition for the backup spots. McCarthy indicated the team isn't in the market to add a veteran to the quarterback mix.

"He was clearly the most excited young man on the phone of the eight (draft picks)," McCarthy said of Coleman. "He told me that's the best pick we ever made in Green Bay. I said, 'We've had some pretty good quarterbacks here.'"

An eager Coleman counts himself fortunate to have already worked with one of those Packers quarterback greats. Coleman has the same agent (Bus Cook) as the retired Brett Favre, and the two trained together at a high school in Favre's hometown of Hattiesburg, Miss., in January and February as Coleman prepared for the draft.

"Every second I was with him, you could learn something new," Coleman said. "He's one of the best. He'll go down as one of the greatest. ... What a great experience."

The 6-foot-3, 222-pound Coleman was a three-year starter at Tennessee-Chattanooga after he transferred from Tennessee, where he became dissatisfied after playing sparingly as a redshirt freshman.

--With recently released Chad Clifton out of the picture at left tackle, McCarthy made it known Saturday that right tackle Bryan Bulaga isn't under consideration to switch sides.

"I don't see any reason to go down that road," McCarthy said. "I think Bryan's on the verge of being a Pro Bowler at right tackle. I look for him to have that type of season."

The Packers made Bulaga their first-round draft pick in 2010 with the idea he would take over for Clifton at some point. Bulaga, though, replaced an injured Mark Tauscher at right tackle early that season and has stayed there.

Marshall Newhouse, who started 11 games when Clifton was hurt last season, is the favorite to take over as Rodgers' blind-side protector.

McCarthy said Derek Sherrod, a natural left tackle who was Green Bay's first-round pick in last year's draft, is on track to be ready for training camp. Sherrod suffered a season-ending broken leg Dec. 18.

The 6-6 Datko also could be in the mix at left tackle, provided his oft-injured left shoulder doesn't hinder him again. He's had multiple surgeries on the shoulder, the latest of which was in November after his senior season at Florida State ended after only four games.

The Packers cut Clifton, 35, on April 23 after he failed a physical. Clifton, a starter with the team since his rookie season in 2000, had reportedly been participating at the start of Green Bay's offseason program after he recovered from back surgery following last season.

QUOTE TO NOTE
"A great organization took a chance on me. They saw my potential. I'm just ready to go in and just prove everybody wrong and just make an impact." - Defensive end Jerel Worthy, a potential first-round prospect whom the Packers picked in the second round of the draft.

Copyright (C) 2012 The Sports Xchange. All Rights Reserved.

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