Packers add to Rodgers’ coverage by drafting Mississippi St. tackle
GREEN BAY The Green Bay Packers moved to beef up their offensive line with the final pick in the first round of the NFL draft, taking Mississippi State tackle Derek Sherrod.
With Thursday night’s pick, the Super Bowl champions now have used their first-round pick on an offensive tackle in back-to-back drafts. Green Bay took Iowa’s Bryan Bulaga last year.
Although Sherrod played left tackle in college, Packers general manager Ted Thompson wouldn’t commit to having him play on that side in the pros.
“Where he’s going to play, I don’t know, but I know this: You can never have too many big men,” Thompson said.
And the Packers can never have too much protection for franchise quarterback Aaron Rodgers.
“You like to keep him safe,” Thompson said. “You certainly do.”
Sherrod started 36 of 47 career games at left tackle for the Bulldogs.
According to a scouting report distributed by the Packers, Mississippi State was second in the SEC and 16th in the nation with an average of 214.85 yards rushing per game last season. And the report said Sherrod did not allow any of the 23 sacks given up by the Bulldogs’ offensive line last season.
He earned a bachelor’s degree in business in August 2010, graduating with a 3.54 grade point average.
In some ways, the Packers went into the draft looking like a team with few pressing needs.
Even beyond winning the title last year, the Packers expect to bring back a wave of high-profile injured players from last season, including running back Ryan Grant and tight end Jermichael Finley.
But going into the draft, there were a few specific areas Thompson might have been tempted to target.
One was on the offensive line. The Packers took Bulaga last year with the intention of making him their left tackle of the future. But Bulaga ended up filling in—and playing well—at right tackle after an injury to veteran Mark Tauscher last season.
Veteran Chad Clifton played well at left tackle for the Packers last year, but Green Bay needs a long-term replacement plan for him. It’s not clear whether that will be Sherrod or Bulaga, but now they at least have multiple options.
Another area of potential need was at outside linebacker, where the Packers paired several players with Clay Matthews last year. UCLA’s Akeem Ayers and Arizona’s Brooks Reed still were available when the Packers made their pick.
Green Bay also could have been looking for help at defensive end, given the fact that Cullen Jenkins is expected to leave via free agency and Johnny Jolly’s NFL future remains unclear after another round of legal trouble. The Packers presumably drafted the player they expect to replace Jenkins last year—second-round pick Mike Neal, who showed ability before a season-ending shoulder injury.
Ohio State defensive end Cam Heyward went off the board just before the Packers picked, going to the Pittsburgh Steelers, the team the Packers beat in the Super Bowl.
Green Bay also was linked to Alabama running back Mark Ingram in the run-up to the draft, but the New Orleans Saints moved up in a trade to take him at No. 28.
Going into later rounds, the Packers also could use help in the return game and depth at wide receiver.