Green Bay Packers: Stephon Tuitt

GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Let's get this out of the way from the top; we know Green Bay Packers general manager Ted Thompson does not draft for need -- or so he says.

But in the months leading up to this week's draft, Thompson and his scouts have spent hundreds of hours not only discussing the prospects who will be available to them but also their current roster and its strengths and weaknesses.

With that in mind, let's break the 12 position groups that make up the roster into four parts based on the following categories of draft needs.

We will define them this way:
  • Part 1: Negligible -- positions where there is little or no need.
  • Part 2: Non-essential -- positions where there is a need but it is not paramount to fill.
  • Part 3: Secondary -- positions where there is a need but not at the critical level.
  • Part 4: Pressing -- positions where it is imperative that help be found.

First up are the negligible needs.

10. Defensive line: Whether you count recently signed pass-rusher Julius Peppers here or as an outside linebacker, it's still a deep position with the return of nose tackle B.J. Raji (who signed a one-year contract), a pair of draft picks last season in first-rounder Datone Jones and fifth-rounder Josh Boyd, and an emerging star in Mike Daniels. If the Packers need short-term help, they could re-sign veterans Johnny Jolly and Ryan Pickett. That said, Thompson has never been one to pass up a big-bodied player so it wouldn't be a total shock to see him take a defensive lineman high in the draft if the right one fell into his lap.

Possible players of interest: Ra'Shede Hageman, DT, Minnesota; Stephon Tuitt, DE, Notre Dame; Timmy Jernigan, DT, Florida State; Louis Nix III, DT, Notre Dame.

11. Running back: This could be as deep a group as coach Mike McCarthy has had in his nine seasons thanks to reigning offensive rookie of the year Eddie Lacy plus the return of James Starks, DuJuan Harris, Johnathan Franklin and John Kuhn. The only issues here would be if Harris' knee injury that kept him out all of last season and Franklin's neck injury that ended his rookie year in November remain problematic.

Possible players of interest: None.

12. Specialists: The Packers are set at all three spots -- kicker, punter and long-snapper. Mason Crosby's bounce-back year means the Packers may not even bring another kicker to training camp. Crosby is signed through 2015. Punter Tim Masthay is signed through 2016 and snapper Brett Goode through 2015. There are no issues with either one.

Possible players of interest: None.

Countdown to combine: Packers part 2

February, 18, 2014
Feb 18
1:00
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GREEN BAY, Wis. -- As we head toward the NFL scouting combine, which starts Wednesday in Indianapolis, it’s a good time to look at the Green Bay Packers' greatest needs this offseason and which prospects general manager Ted Thompson might be taking a closer look at during workouts and interviews this week.

Which position is the greatest need could be debated, but there’s no arguing that it’s on the defensive side of the ball. Before things get underway at Lucas Oil Stadium, we’ll look at three areas on defense where the Packers need help.

Monday was dedicated to the safety position.

Now, we look at the defensive linemen.

Why the Packers need help: All three of the preferred starters – Johnny Jolly, Ryan Pickett and B.J. Raji – are scheduled to become free agents next month unless the Packers work out new deals. Even if some or all of them return, the Packers need more from their front, especially in terms of a pass rush. That trio combined for just one sack (by Jolly) last season. To be sure, they don’t get many third-down pass-rushing opportunities, but they haven’t cashed in on many of their rushes of late. Raji hasn’t had a sack since 2011, while Pickett has been sackless since 2010.

The Packers have a couple of promising, young defensive linemen in Mike Daniels (6.5 sacks last season) and Datone Jones, their 2013 first-round pick, but Jerel Worthy (second round in 2012) hasn’t produced yet.

Dom Capers will always need a sturdy nose tackle in his 3-4 scheme, but considering how little base defense he plays, there may be a greater need for smaller, athletic linemen.

Defensive linemen the Packers should be watching:

Louis Nix III, Notre Dame: It’s a thin defensive tackle class, so it’s possible the 6-foot-3, 340-pounder from Notre Dame could go in the top half of the first round, and he might be the third-best defensive line prospect behind South Carolina’s Jadeveon Clowney and Florida State’s Timmy Jernigan. Clowney could go No. 1 overall and Jernigan is better suited for a 4-3 scheme. Nix is an ideal 3-4 nose tackle and could replace either Raji or Pickett.

Stephon Tuitt, Notre Dame: Nix’s teammate is a versatile lineman who could play either end or tackle in the Packers’ scheme. A high-motor player who gives maximum effort, something not all 6-6, 303 pounders can do.

Ra'Shede Hageman, Minnesota: Viewed as better pass-rusher than run-stopper who has rare athleticism for a 6-6, 318 pounder. Also has shown flexibility to play multiple positions on the defensive line, something Capers likes.

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