With player transactions on hold indefinitely because of the reinstated NFL lockout, phone lines around the league fell silent Saturday night after the three-day draft concluded.
But the Green Bay Packers, a team that normally feasts on the undrafted free agent frenzy that follows the draft, made a couple of moves late in the draft that were perhaps a counter to the lack of an undrafted free agency period. The team made three trades on the final day of the draft, and although the moves netted only one extra pick, General Manager Ted Thompson moved back a couple of times and ended up with three sixth-round picks, two more than he had when the day began.
He began with two picks in the fourth round, one in the fifth, one in the sixth and two in the seventh. He finished with one pick in the fourth (New Mexico State cornerback Davon House, No. 131 overall), one in the fifth (Arkansas tight end D.J. Williams, No. 141), three in the sixth (Utah guard Caleb Schlauderaff, No. 179; Appalachian State inside linebacker D.J. Smith, No. 186; and Arizona outside linebacker Ricky Elmore, No. 197) and two in the seventh (North Carolina tight end Ryan Taylor, No. 218; and Arizona State defensive lineman Lawrence Guy, No. 233).
“There’s definitely a philosophy out there to acquire as many seventh-round picks as you possibly can to replace rookie free agency,” Packers coach Mike McCarthy said. “Those conversations did go on, but we feel good about having 10 picks (over the three days). There was a number of players that we talked about throughout the sixth and seventh rounds. Frankly, the way it fell, we just stayed true to our board. We didn’t get caught up in our depth chart and feel like we needed another defensive lineman here or another linebacker there.”
There will be free agency for undrafted rookies at some point after the lockout is lifted and the league year begins. It could be as soon as next week if the 8th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals in St. Louis decides to lift the lockout again. Despite a deep roster and the addition of 10 rookies this weekend, the Packers still will add undrafted rookies to their 80-man roster.
“There’s still spots on our roster to add players, sure,” Thompson said.
But a year after the Packers found the likes of cornerback Sam Shields, linebacker Frank Zombo and guard Nick McDonald on the Saturday night that followed the draft, there was nothing left for Thompson and his staff to do.
“Nothing, not in terms of doing our job, other than clean up (the draft room) and make sure we don’t spill stuff on the tables and things like that,” Thompson said. “It’s completely different than it’s been.”
Still, Thompson insisted his approach to the draft didn’t change.
“We tried as best we could to go about conducting business as usual,” Thompson said. “We tried to stay with quality and not reach too much, and we felt like we did pretty good with being disciplined in that area.”
The Packers plan to let Elmore compete for the starting right outside linebacker position, the one opposite star Clay Matthews.
Elmore never has met Matthews but has a connection to his family. He spent five weeks working out with Clay’s father, the former NFL star who goes by the same name, and Clay’s brother, Casey, to prepare for the draft. Elmore did so to help him make the transition from defensive end to outside linebacker.
“I got a chance to work out with (Clay’s father) before the combine, and he taught me how to stand up and get comfortable in a two-point stance and how to open my hips a little bit and what kind of game you need to expect in the transition to outside linebacker,” Elmore said. “As a D-end, your hand’s in the dirt. At outside linebacker, you’re moving around, you’re covering guys. He just painted a picture for me and helped me understand what I’m going to do.”
Elmore said he planned to reach out to his new teammate soon.
“(The Matthews) live 20 minutes from my house (in California), and I worked out with Casey, so I’m going to call him up and speak to him, and I will eventually meet him,” Elmore said.
As soon as the Packers took receiver/kick returner Randall Cobb in the second round on Friday, there were visions of running the Wildcat formation.
That’s because Cobb began his college career at Kentucky as a quarterback.
But the Packers never have run the Wildcat in McCarthy’s five-year tenure as coach, and with a quarterback as talented as Aaron Rodgers, taking the ball out of his hands seems unlikely.
“To me, the Wildcat is a package of deceptive plays and how much you want to major in it is really your choice,” McCarthy said. “But Randall was not drafted so we can play the Wildcat, I’ll make that clear. Now if we line up and do something like that, it will be part of our deceptions package that we have in every week.”
No more quarterbacks
Twelve quarterbacks were drafted over the three days, including seven in the first three rounds, but the Packers didn’t take one.
“They got ran pretty fast,” Thompson said. “If one of value would have been there at the right time, we would have done that.”
If coaches love winners, then Mike McCarthy and his staff are going to be enamored with D.J. Smith.
The Appalachian State linebacker won an NCAA Football Championship Subdivision championship and four Southern Conference championships and lost just 11 games during his college career. He never lost a game in high school as Charlotte Independence won four consecutive 4-A state titles.
According to Smith’s memory, he lost only two games in middle school. And now he joins the Super Bowl champs.
“I feel like I’m a little bit of a good-luck piece,” Smith said.
The Tar Heel experience
The University of North Carolina had a school-record nine players selected in the draft. That eclipsed the previous mark of seven in 1998.
The Tar Heels as a team finished just 8-5 in the regular season after 13 players missed time after receiving improper benefits. The program hoped to make a BCS bowl for the first time in school history.
The Packers made UNC tight end Ryan Taylor the No. 218 overall pick of the draft. He spoke about his troubled final year in Chapel Hill.
“Obviously, we had some really good players,” Taylor said. “We had a lot of hype and it was a little disappointing, but I think we dealt with it well. We had some great senior leaders and our quarterback T.J. Yates, did a really good job of holding us together.
“It was one of those things that happens and you keep moving and you grow from the experience.”