Green Bay Packers general manager Ted Thompson smiles as he speaks to the media on Thursday night after the Packers selected UCLA defensive end Datone Jones in the first round of the 2013 NFL draft. Evan Siegle/Press-Gazette Media
Green Bay Packers general manager Ted Thompson insists he doesnít draft for need.
So maybe it was simply a remarkable coincidence that the player he selected in the first round of the draft Thursday night ó UCLA defensive lineman Datone Jones ó just so happens to play a position the Packers desperately had to shore up.
Thompson said he was surprised Jones was available with the 26th overall pick in the first round, but isnít that what all general managers proclaim during the draft?
No one is doubting Thompsonís sincerity, and he probably wouldnít care if you did. All he is concerned with is that the Packers landed a player that can help the defense right away.
Make no mistake, the Packersí defensive line was in a state of decay, and Thompson acted swiftly and decisively to stop the bleeding.
B.J. Raji is the best defensive lineman on the team, but he canít do it alone. Raji is in desperate need of help, and Jones could be the man to provide it.
Ryan Pickett, 33, has maybe one good season remaining in his aging body. But after that, the Packersí defensive line is bulging with question marks.
Jerel Worthy is recovering from a serious knee injury and might not be ready to play until midseason. Mike Daniels has much to prove. Mike Neal is injury prone. C.J. Wilson isnít an impact player.
The Packers have been searching for a replacement for Cullen Jenkins ever since he departed in free agency following the Packersí Super Bowl title in 2010. Jenkins took pressure off Raji and the rest of the defensive unit by providing some pass rush and an ability to play both inside and outside.
The Packers are obviously hoping Jones can fill that significant void.
Thompson has been reconstructing his defense for the past two years. Consider it a work in progress.
When the Packers ranked dead last in yards allowed during the 2011 season, Thompson used his first six draft picks a year ago to bolster his beleaguered defense.
Although things improved, it wasnít nearly enough. The Packers got pounded in the divisional round of the playoffs by the San Francisco 49ers in January to the tune of 579 yards and 45 points.
Thompson clearly knew he had more work to do, and he said he couldnít believe his good fortune when Jones was still available late in the first round.
Meanwhile, Jones said getting to play for the Packers is a dream come true. Thatís another common refrain on draft day, when all is sunny and the future looks bright.
But drafting a defensive lineman in the first round comes with no guarantees. Thompson can attest to that after selecting eventual bust Justin Harrell in 2007.
Jones has a lot to prove and his impact on the defense remains to be seen.
But thereís a lot to like about Jones. Packers defensive coordinator Dom Capers talked glowingly about Jonesí high character. During his teleconference with the local media Jones invoked the name of former Packers great Reggie White. Scouts also say Jones has a strong work ethic.
In other words, Jones could be a perfect fit in Green Bay.
Thompson, as well as the Packersí defense, is counting on it.
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