by Troy Sparks
Green Bay – Only one thing in the NFL on-again, off-again, on-again lockout was allowed: The draft.
In a driving rain, April 28, I made it to the Lambeau Field media auditorium around 6:45 p.m. to watch the 2011 NFL Draft and see who the Green Bay Packers picked at No. 32. That put me on track to leave Lambeau between 10:00 and 10:30 p.m. The draft began at 7 p.m.
General manager Ted Thompson was a step ahead of his GM buddies. He chose not to trade up, keeping the pick himself.
For the second straight year, the top pick was a quarterback and another Heisman Trophy winner. Last year, St. Louis chose Sam Bradford and Cam Newton was the top pick for Carolina this year. Five of the first six players drafted were from the Southeast Conference.
Atlanta traded with Cleveland to get Julio Jones from Alabama. They must have a lot of confidence in him because the Falcons gave up first and fourth round picks this year and next. The Falcons had the No. 27 spot in the first round. Do they now have the speed to beat the Green Bay secondary downfield? It won’t matter because the Pack will be ready.
About one hour into the draft, three quarterbacks went in the top 10: Newton, Jake Locker and Blaine Gabbert. This might be the year of the quarterback.
The Houston Texans took Wisconsin defensive end J.J Watt with the 11th overall pick. I guess they took his 34 reps in the bench press at 225 pounds and a 37-inch vertical leap in consideration. It was the highest defensive player picked at the draft from the Badgers since Troy Vincent, who was taken seventh in 1992 by the Miami Dolphins. ESPN’s John Gruden called Watt a “self-made man.” Watt would be happy to get some love from everyone in Pewaukee, WI. I’m happy that Milwaukee King and Wisconsin product Lance Kendricks was picked early in the second round by the Rams. He was projected to go in the fourth round.
Chicago took trash-talking Wisconsin offensive lineman Gabe Carimi at No. 30. He boasted that he was one of the best linemen in the draft. Somebody needs to watch quarterback Jay Cutler’s backside and scrape him off the turf after he’s driven to the ground.
With Brett Favre gone from Minnesota, the Vikings drafted a quarterback. New coach Leslie Frazier and new assistant and former head coach Mike Singletary have defensive backgrounds, and they played defense on the Bears’ Super Bowl championship team. However, what do they know about developing a QB?
The Vikings selected Christian Ponder from Florida State at No. 12. My question is, will they let him sit back and learn from a veteran QB, or will they throw him to the wolves of NFC Central opponents? Don’t put Ponder in the game against the Packers because the defense will eat him up.
More than two hours into the draft and 20 picks in, I doubted if the Packers would swing a deal with the last 11 teams, all playoff participants, to pick higher than No. 32. If Green Bay was in the same position as last year, when they were 15th overall, we would have had their first round guy on a conference call before 10 p.m.
Five picks to go in the first round, and it was almost 10:15 p.m. It looked like the first day draft would go past the commish’s deadline of 10:30. There were rumblings among the media gallery that Green Bay would trade their first round pick. The Packers made their pick at approximately 10:37 p.m. They chose another offensive lineman, Derek Sherrod, from Mississippi State. I got the feeling that they will put him in the mix to learn on the job and to keep Aaron Rodgers off the ground. He’s 6-foot-5 inches and 321 pounds. Mark Tauscher may not be back with the Packers and Chad Clifton’s days are numbered.
Sherrod was graded high on the Packers’ draft board. Now they have bookend tackles for the future in Bulaga on the left side and Sherrod on the right side. Some scouts said that Sherrod is a smart and tough person who is a good athlete. Even though he started 36 games in college at left tackle, he might be groomed for the right tackle position.
Another scout said Sherrod has average strength who’s not real athletic and isn’t a power player. According to the Journal Sentinel, he was rated the fifth best tackle behind Carimi, who was rated fourth.
Whatever the critics say about Sherrod, Thompson felt he made the right call. Most people thought Sherrod would’ve been taken in the top 20. “I’m happy about (the pick),” Thompson said. “We think it was a good value to get a big man that late in the first round. Where is he gonna play? I don’t know. But I know this: The more run blockers, the more pass blockers we have, the better off we’ll be.”
“I’m very confident (playing either position),” Sherrod said on a conference call to the media. “I’ll definitely make sure that on every single down I win that down against my opponent. I’m gonna work hard and make sure that I try to dominate my opponent so they can’t beat me (one-on-one).”
According to Sherrod, he will make sure that Rodgers’ jersey stay clean. “I’m looking forward to meeting Aaron Rodgers,” he said. “I will go in and work hard and make sure that nobody hits the quarterback.” Sherrod is coming to rescue the Super Bowl MVP.
Rodgers was sacked 31 times in the regular season for 193 yards and eight times in the playoffs for 53 yards last season. I think the Packers made the right pick in the first round.
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