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Green Bay Packers find best players on offense in 2011 draft

Apr. 29, 2011
 
Green Bay Packers second-, third-round draft analy...
Green Bay Packers second-, third-round draft analy...: Pete Dougherty and Rob Demovsky break down the Packers' selections on the second day of the NFL draft.
Wide receiver James Jones, left, and running back Brandon Jackson may be the odd men out in the wake of the Green Bay Packers' 2011 draft. File/Press-Gazette

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James Jones and Brandon Jackson might never again wear a Green Bay Packers uniform, the future of Ryan Grant is uncertain, the teamís decade-long kickoff return drought might finally be over, and the Packers have supreme confidence in their defense.

Those are some of the conclusions that can be drawn from the second day of the NFL draft on Friday, when the Packers selected Kentucky receiver/return man Randall Cobb in the second round and Hawaii running back Alex Green in the third.

It was somewhat surprising that Packers General Manager Ted Thompson failed to address his defense, which is likely to lose defensive ends Cullen Jenkins and Johnny Jolly.

Thompson opted instead to give his offense some reinforcements and his return game a much-needed jolt.

That leaves Jackson and Jones, who were drafted by the Packers in 2007 in the second and third rounds, respectively, in limbo.

Both players might become unrestricted free agents, pending the outcome of the NFLís labor dispute. But even if they stayed, there would be a battle for playing time if not roster spots.

With the drafting of the 6-foot, 220-pound Green, the Packers feature a halfback trio that includes Grant and second-year player James Starks. All three could co-exist this season, but itís anyoneís guess what happens after that.

Grant, who opened last season as the undisputed starter before getting hurt in Week 1, must now fight for his future as a Packer. Jackson would appear to be the odd man out.

The presence of the 5-10, 192-pound Cobb not only gives the Packers depth at receiver, but more importantly offers the potential for a bona fide return man on the roster for the first time in 10 years.

The return game drought has been severe in Green Bay, where the Packers havenít brought back a kickoff for a touchdown since 2000.

Itís been a nagging problem that has been swept under the rug for too long. Finally, Thompson decided to do something about it.

Assuming Cobb pans out, the Packersí mix-and-match, return-man-by-committee approach will at long last be over.

Less certain is what defensive coordinator Dom Capers will do with a suddenly thin line. This was a draft rich in defensive ends yet Thompson so far has looked the other way.

Of course, he has six more picks on Saturday to bolster the defense, but the chances of finding immediate contributors in Rounds 4-7 are less certain.

Thereís also the matter of acquiring an outside linebacker to complement Clay Matthews.

Thompson can rightly claim that the Packers marched to a Super Bowl title with Frank Zombo and Erik Walden playing opposite Matthews, which means just about anything is possible.

Capers and outside linebackers coach Kevin Greene, who look like miracle workers, have proven they can grab someone off the street and mold them into serviceable starters.

Perhaps thatís why Thompson didnít look too concerned when it was pointed out he used his first three picks on offensive players, including first-round tackle Derek Sherrod on Thursday.

ďWe have learned the hard way that you can never have too many good players, and we really tried to stick by trying to take the best player, and thatís the way it worked out today,Ē Thompson said.

Mike Vandermause is sports editor of the Press-Gazette. Reach Vandermause at mvandermause@greenbaypressgazette.com or at www.twitter.com/MikeVandermause.

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