Although each of the Green Bay Packers’ first three draft picks Saturday came with at least one question mark, it wasn’t enough for General Manager Ted Thompson to pass up on the chance to improve a defensive unit that ranked last in NFL last season.
The Packers selected Iowa defensive tackle Mike Daniels and Maine safety Jerron McMillian in the fourth round and moved up to draft North Carolina State linebacker Terrell Manning in the fifth round.
Daniels and Manning have dealt with injuries in the past while McMillian was arrested for disorderly conduct and failure to submit to arrest after a nightclub incident in December 2010.
Thompson said the Packers researched all three players and felt comfortable drafting each one.
McMillian impressed the Packers’ staff during a pre-draft visit last week, and his run-in with the law became a nonissue.
“Part of the reason you bring guys in is to talk about things like that, and we felt comfortable with that,” Thompson said.
Daniels started 21 games over his last two seasons, including all 13 in 2011, but was medically excused from the NFL combine after undergoing shoulder surgery to repair his labrum in late January. He was cleared to return to action two weeks ago.
Manning, who entered the draft a year early, tore the MCL and ACL in his right knee in high school before suffering an MCL sprain in his left knee and undergoing a scope because of minor cartilage damage this past season.
The injury caused Manning to miss two games, but he recorded a career-high 76 tackles in 11 games and led the Wolfpack with 5½ sacks and 14½ tackles for loss. He also had four forced fumbles.
“Everything’s 100 percent,” said Manning of the knee. “I feel very well. My knee didn’t give me any problems since I had the surgery.”
The Packers drafted another player with injury concerns, Florida State offensive tackle Andrew Datko, in the seventh round, but Packers coach Mike McCarthy said he’s fully recovered from a shoulder surgery that limited him to only four starts during his senior year.
Ted Thompson admits he doesn’t enjoy trading up in the NFL draft, but when the Packers’ general manager does, he sure makes it worthwhile.
After trading up only three times in his first seven drafts, Thompson traded up three times in the past two days, culminating in a move into the fifth round to select Manning with the 163rd selection
According to NFLDraftScout.com’s draft-choice value chart, the Packers had a total differential of plus-116.8, which equates to the value of a late third- or early fourth-round selection.
“Ted Thompson knows this business inside and out, he knows the value of a draft,” Packers coach Mike McCarthy said. “He puts a lot of stock in every draft pick one through seven. He takes a lot of pride and a lot of discipline in how he makes these decisions for the Green Bay Packer organization. I don’t think people realize when you do trade up, you’re giving up a pick, but that’s added value.”
Driver’s status up in air
Thompson and McCarthy remained noncommittal on whether 37-year-old wide receiver Donald Driver would return for a 14th season with the team.
Driver, who’s currently competing on “Dancing with the Stars,” had 37 catches for 445 yards and six touchdowns in 16 games last season, his lowest output since 2001. He became the franchise’s all-time leading receiver with 10,060 receiving yards and 85 touchdowns on 735 receptions.
“I would never speculate on something like that,” Thompson said. “He’s dancing right now. Doing good, too.”
The Packers began this week on a somber note with the release of veteran left tackle Chad Clifton, but are anticipating a healthy Derek Sherrod come training camp.
Sherrod, who was last year’s first-round draft pick, finished his rookie season on injured reserve after breaking his right leg during the fourth quarter of the Packers’ 19-14 loss to the Chiefs on Dec. 18.
McCarthy also said there are no imminent plans to move Bryan Bulaga from right to left tackle with Clifton’s departure.
“I don’t see any reason to go down that road,” McCarthy said. “I think Bryan is on the verge of being a Pro Bowler at right tackle. I look for him to have that type of season. He looks great. He was here throughout the winter; I don’t think he’s even left Green Bay for a long period of time. He looks great.”
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