Packers Improve Defense In Draft

During the first day of the 2009 National Football League draft on April 25, the Green Bay Packers vastly improved their defense by selecting defensive tackle B.J. Raji and outside linebacker Clay Matthews in the first round.

During the first day of the 2009 National Football League draft on April 25, the Green Bay Packers vastly improved their defense by selecting defensive tackle B.J. Raji and outside linebacker Clay Matthews in the first round.

But while many draft experts predicted that the Packers may end up with Raji, the selection of Matthews was a complete surprise. Packers’ General Manager Ted Thompson executed an unexpected trade with the New England Patriots to secure Matthews with the 26th overall pick.

At the first annual “Green Bay Draft Bonanza” at Grants Pub in Milwaukee, gasps of disbelief and applause erupted from the crowd when ESPN announced that the Packers had traded their next three picks of the draft to acquire the outside linebacker from the University of Southern California.

Ryan Mosher, a radiology student from Minnesota, traveled all the way from St. Paul to watch the collegiate draft with a few of his friends from Milwaukee. Mosher was in disbelief after Thompson traded to move up in the draft.

“I just can’t believe that Thompson made this move,” Mosher said. “He is known for always trading his picks away. This is ridiculous. This move made this draft and that four hour drive all worth it. I can’t wait to see Clay Matthews in a green and gold uniform.”

The general consensus at Grants Pub was that the Packers did a good job at filling the holes in their defense. This was especially true with the addition of Raji from Boston College. Last year the Packers were the seventh worst team in the league at stopping the run.

Brad Vanderveen, a former assistant defensive coordinator at Elkhorn Area High School, said that selecting Raji could be the key to the Packers’ future.

“Drafting Raji is going to change everything for this defense,” Vanderveen said. “He is a huge man who can push back his blockers and disrupt the run. He wasn’t the flashiest pick of the draft, but he was the smartest pick of the draft.”

Character Issues

Besides the fans at Grants Pub, there are others who believe that the Packers should have gone in another direction. Raji has been called lazy by his former coaches, and ESPN analyst Mel Kiper recently reported that Raji may have tested positive for marijuana.

Josh Maney, a personal trainer and former University of Wisconsin-Whitewater safety, said that Raji deserves the chance to prove himself in Wisconsin.

“I actually trained a player named Josh Martin from Boston College, and he said almost everyone at that program has at one time smoked marijuana,” Maney said. “No, I do not think it is a big deal. He’ll figure out that smoking weed will cost him too much money in the future.

New Defensive Scheme

Last year the Packers ranked in the bottom half of nearly every defensive category. Because of this, defensive coordinator Bob Sanders was replaced by Dom Capers. Along with his experience as a defensive coordinator and a head coach, Capers also brings with him a new defensive scheme.

Capers will attempt to change the Packers from a traditional 4-3 defense into a 3-4 defense. This new scheme is heavily dependent upon a dominating defensive tackle and physical outside linebackers. According to Vanderveen, this new scheme laid out the game plan for the Packers draft.

“Green Bay needed to draft this way in order to succeed with Capers’ style,” Vanderveen said. “We had some good linebackers with Hawk and Barnett, but we needed another fast linebacker and a big tackle to free up their blockers. This draft was picture perfect in that sense.”

Day Two

The NFL draft lasts two days because of time consideration. The first two rounds are held on the first day, while the other five rounds are held on the second day. After the selection of Matthews, the Packers did not select again until the second day.

On the second day of the draft Green Bay selected six more players. While none of the players was as newsworthy as Matthews or Raji, they did select some players who could eventually make the final roster. Cornerback Brandon Underwood from Cincinnati has a great chance to develop into a starter.

Green Bay’s Complete Draft

  • B.J. Raji Defensive Tackle Boston College
  • Clay Matthews Outside Linebacker USC
  • T.J. Lang Offensive Tackle Eastern Michigan
  • Quinn Johnson Fullback LSU
  • Jamon Meredith Offensive Tackle South Carolina
  • Jarius Wynn Defensive End Georgia
  • Brandon Underwood Cornerback Cincinnati
  • Brad Jones Outside Linebacker Colorado

The next step in the draft process for the Packers is to sign their new draft picks. It will be important for them to offer Raji and Matthews a contract early on as to avoid a damaging holdout.

Based on the contracts given to the players selected in the 2008 draft, Raji should be looking to make around $25 million over six years, while Matthews will ask for $13 million over five years.

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