Jimmie Ward, S, NIU
Hahahahahaha, surely this guy can't possibly be thinking of going with Jimmie Ward with the 21st overall pick, right? Wrong.
There was a major debate in my mind for this pick. When looking at the Packers last season, they had 2 key weaknesses: secondary play and pass rush. But when I looked at it, there was a fair discrepancy between what the Packers did to solve these problems. Mainly, this came in the form of Julius Peppers, who got 7.0 sacks last season (and even at 34 years old, has the potential for more). They also re-signed DE Mike Neal, who is only 26 years old and had a solid 5.0 sacks last season, as well as depth DT LeTroy Guion. Lastly, they locked up starting NT BJ Raji to a 1-year deal "prove it" deal. If Raji can return to his 2010 form, where he amassed 6.5 sacks, their pass rush starts to look scary.
But in the secondary, they did very little. Don't get me wrong here: re-signing Sam Shields to a 4-year contract is a huge deal that immediately improves the team. But outside of that move, the Packers did not do much. In fact, you could make the argument that they regressed. Currently, the Packers have 3 safeties on their roster: Morgan Burnett, Sean Richardson, and Chris Banjo. Special teams ace Micah Hyde can also be used as a safety from time to time. If you haven't heard of the last 3, I do not blame you. They are all backups or special teams players who would not be ready to start full time. Morgan Burnett was a starter last season, but he can be upgraded easily. They lost their other starter, MD Jennings, to the rival Bears. Finding a second starter in this draft is integral to the Packers success this upcoming season.
Combine this with the fact that the depth for secondary this draft is not as good as the depth for pass rush. The Packers could easily find a guy like Jerimiah Attachou or Marcus Smith in the 2nd round to bolster their pass rush and still be fine. But in my opinion, there is only 1 player left in this draft who I feel could start at safety. Bucannon? Nope. Terrance Brooks? Negative. Jimmie Ward? You betcha.
Now let's go into what makes Ward worthy of a pick this high. Let me start out with his speed. While he is not the fastest person in this draft class, he still showed some solid speed at his Pro Day with a 4.47s 40-yard dash (he did not run at the combine). He also told the scouts watching before he ran that he still needs to undergo surgery to put a screw in his foot, showing not only that he is tough but that he could possibly run faster post-op. He had a very strong Senior Bowl showing, and is rising up the draft boards of many teams. While he might be on the smaller side at 5'11" 193 lbs, Ward has the ability to play both the strong and free safety positions, as well as special teams and could possibly make the transition to CB if needed.
He doesn't shy away from a tackle, and he has had his fair share of large hits. He is a smart player, and his versatility will serve him good in the NFL. But what really draws me to a player like this is the similarity to a player that we all have known and loved for years: Weapon X, Brian Dawkins. Both were a little on the shorter side (Dawkins was only 6'0") and were hard-hitting ball hawks. And we all know how Dawkins turned out.
So to summarize, the Packers had two main needs that needed to be addressed very early in this draft. And while they were able to help fortify their pass rush, they didn't improve their secondary. In fact, it probably regressed. In need of a starter, the Packers go with a versatile safety out of Northern Illinois who can hit hard, has solid hands, and can make an impact immediately. If he was taller or went to a bigger name school, my bet is that there is no doubt he goes higher in this draft. But at 21, I feel that the Packers get good value for a position they are in desperate need for.
1 Houston Texans (Imp) - Teddy Bridgewater, QB, Louisville - [Explanation]
2 St. Louis Rams (starship 007) - Sammy Watkins, WR, Clemson - [Explanation]
3 Jacksonville Jaguars (sports00fan00) - Jadeveon Clowney, DE, SC - [Explanation]
4 Cleveland Browns (InHinkieWeTrust) - Johnny Manziel, QB, TAMU - [Explanation]
5 Oakland Raiders (SleepingDuck) - Khalil Mack, OLB, Buffalo - [Explanation]
6 Atlanta Falcons (jimmyrustler) - Greg Robinson, OT, Auburn - [Explanation]
7 Tampa Bay Buccaneers (AnthroEagle) - Blake Bortles, QB, UCF - [Explanation]
8 Minnesota Vikings (pot) - Anthony Barr, OLB, UCLA - [Explanation]
9 Buffalo Bills (wow4444) - Jake Matthews, OT, TAMU - [Explanation]
10 Detroit Lions (kamjam) - Mike Evans, WR, TAMU - [Explanation]
11 Tennessee Titans (NowWhat?) - Justin Gilbert, CB, OK State - [Explanation]
12 New York Giants (Anthony DiBona) - Eric Ebron, TE, UNC - [Explanation]
13 St. Louis Rams (ILL Eagle) - Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, S, Alabama - [Explanation]
14 Chicago Bears (JerkyBoy) - Calvin Pryor, S, Louisville - [Explanation]
15 Pittsburgh Steelers (KJ Brophy) - Taylor Lewan, OT, Michigan - [Explanation]
16 Dallas Cowboys (Patrick Wall) - C.J. Mosley, LB, Alabama - [Explanation]
17 Baltimore Ravens (rohan915) - Zack Martin, OT, ND - [Explanation]
18 New York Jets (del.champion) - Brandin Cooks, WR, Oregon State - [Explanation]
19 Miami Dolphins (HD) - Aaron Donald, DT, Pittsburgh - [Explanation]
20 Arizona Cardinals (NCeagle) - Kony Ealy, DE, Mizzou - [Explanation]
21 Green Bay Packers (ablesser88) - Jimmie Ward, S, NIU - [Explanation]
22 Philadelphia Eagles (jhn) -
23 Kansas City Chiefs (PeaceVT) -
24 Cincinnati Bengals (deg0ey) -
25 San Diego Chargers (StoneColeKiller58) -
26 Cleveland Browns (P_Roach17) -
27 New Orleans Saints (bebin) -
28 Carolina Panthers (MikeKafka) -
29 New England Patriots (Amateur_Hour) -
30 San Francisco 49ers (AndyMcNabb) -
31 Denver Broncos (dceagles) -
32 Seattle Seahawks (eagles0132) -