Packers general manager Ted Thompson has drafted a total of 14 defensive linemen over the past nine years, but just two in that group became regular starters.
Itís possible that total will increase if younger draft picks like Mike Daniels, Datone Jones, Josh Boyd or Jerel Worthy progress.
But as of now, just B.J. Raji and Johnny Jolly among Thompsonís D-line draft picks became every-down players. There have been a number of situational starters or contributors, but no bona fide stars.
Maybe that spotty track record is one reason Thompson decided to sign free agent Julius Peppers earlier in the offseason. Thompson also hit on another free agent defensive lineman in 2006 when he signed Ryan Pickett, who became a solid starter on the Packers defense.
In the fourth of an eight-part series ranking Thompsonís draft picks by position, I assess his crop of defensive linemen, from best to worst.
1-B.J. Raji, first round, 2009
His production tailed off last season, but Raji has been entrenched as a starter since 2010 and made the Pro Bowl in 2011. The Packers hope moving Raji back to nose tackle in 2014 will increase his production.
2-Johnny Jolly, sixth round, 2006
He missed three full seasons (2010-12) due to a drug-related suspension but still managed to return and earn a starting job last year. His best season came in 2009 when Jolly helped the Packers produce the No. 1 run defense in the NFL. He started every game in 2008 and 2009 but the suspension robbed him of his prime years. He is an unrestricted free agent and a neck injury places his future status up in the air.
3-Mike Daniels, fourth round, 2012
This ranking is based more on great potential than sustained production. Daniels has started just one game in his first two seasons but showed enormous promise last year in sub-packages. He was second on the team with 6 Ĺ sacks and looks like a real steal for his mid-round draft status.
4-Mike Neal, second round, 2010
He was originally drafted as a defensive lineman but has been used most effectively as an outside linebacker, where he started a career-high 10 games last season and produced five sacks. But in the new elephant role the Packers are creating on defense, itís possible Neal will be used as both a lineman and linebacker. His first three years were marred by injuries. When healthy, he has shown flashes and armed with a new two-year contract, could still develop into an impact player.
5-Dave Tollefson, seventh round, 2006
He spent a season on the Green Bay practice squad but never played in a game for the Packers, yet managed to forge a solid career elsewhere. Did the Packers miss the boat after drafting Tollefson with the 253rd overall pick? He was signed by the New York Giants in the middle of the 2007 season and played five years (10 sacks) as a reserve on a team that won two Super Bowls. He finished his career in Oakland in 2012.
6-C.J. Wilson, seventh round, 2010
He made 11 career starts in his first three seasons, plus three playoff starts, not bad for the 230th overall pick in the draft. He fell out of favor in 2013 and played in only eight games with no starts and signed as an unrestricted free agent with Oakland during the offseason.
7-Datone Jones, first round, 2013
His stock could rise after a non-descript rookie season that was hampered by a training camp ankle injury. Jones, who was drafted No. 26 overall, was used primarily as an inside rusher on passing downs. He played in all 16 games but never started and recorded 3Ĺ sacks. The defense could really use a big jump in his production from Year 1 to Year 2.
8-Josh Boyd, fifth round, 2013
This is another player whose value could rise dramatically, based on the potential he displayed late in his rookie season. He was inactive for the first five games but wound up playing nine games as a reserve in sub-packages.
9-Mike Montgomery, sixth round, 2005
He played six seasons with the Packers, mostly as a reserve, which is a lengthy tenure for any player taken so late in the draft. His eight career starts came in 2008, when he produced 2.5 of his five career sacks.
10-Jarius Wynn, sixth round, 2009
He lasted three seasons with the Packers and made four starts with 4 Ĺ sacks. Since leaving Green Bay he has played with Tennessee in 2012 and San Diego and Dallas in 2013.
11-Jerel Worthy, second round, 2012
Itís too early to write him off, considering he suffered a severe knee injury at the end of his rookie season. He started four games in 2012 with 2Ĺ sacks. Last year was essentially a rehab season, with Worthy appearing in two games late in the year.
12-Jeremy Thompson, fourth round, 2008
The Packers traded up to pick Thompson, but he played just two seasons with three starts before suffering a career-ending neck injury.
13-Lawrence Guy, seventh round, 2011
The 233rd overall pick spent his rookie season on injured reserve, then opened 2012 on the Packersí practice squad. He has played in 21 career games with Indianapolis and San Diego.
14-Justin Harrell, first round, 2007
He made just two career starts in four injury-plagued seasons. Even when Harrell was healthy he never displayed the kind of talent or drive expected of the 16th overall selection. It was Thompsonís worst pick as Packers GM.