Posted by ESPN.com's Kevin Seifert
Sam of San Francisco makes an interesting point, one that takes us into a discussion few would have predicted just a month ago:
Kevin, despite all the talk about the packers needing an upgrade to help out their new 3-4, isn't offensive tackle an even bigger need? Clifton is coming off two knee surgeries, Tauscher is a free agent coming of an ACL, and no one likes the idea of Daryn Colledge protecting Aaron Rodgers' blind side. They have to take a tackle somewhere, right?
Simply put, Sam, I agree strongly. Ultimately, I think it will lead to a fairly serious debate about whether the Packers should consider troubled but talented Alabama offensive tackle Andre Smith with the No. 9 overall pick in next month's draft. (Pete Dougherty of the Green Bay Press-Gazette delved into this issue a bit here.)
Clifton had what amounted to clean-up procedures on both knees after a season in which he took a notable downturn in performance. Coach Mike McCarthy said last month at the annual scouting combine that Clifton believes the surgeries will help him in 2009 and added: "He feels he'll feel better this year than he did this past year."
But eventually, the Packers are going to have to identify Clifton's successor. Yet their top in-house candidate, Colledge, might also figure into the 2009 right tackle mix if Tauscher doesn't return, isn't ready to play when training camp opens or is ineffective after having his torn anterior cruciate ligament repaired in December.
The Packers also will consider 2008 draft choice Breno Giacomini at right tackle, but as the draft gets closer you would think some people will be tempted by the prospects of grabbing Smith -- once considered the top player in the draft -- with the No. 9 pick.
Smith followed a disastrous combine with a disappointing statistical performance Wednesday at his Pro Day, although NFL.com analyst Gil Brandt reported Smith "looked far better in his positional drills."
There is still a lot to be determined about Smith's draft status, but as of now there appears to be a reasonable chance he will be available at No. 9. The real question is whether his character issues, combined with an apparent lack of preparation for the physical aspects of pre-draft festivities, make him too much of a risk at No. 9. (Wednesday, ESPN.com analyst Todd McShay placed Smith in his third tier of draft prospects, meaning he is worthy of a top 20 pick.)
From a football perspective, Smith is as talented as any offensive lineman available in the draft. That leaves the Packers facing less of a football decision and more of a character evaluation.
What do you think? Is Smith worth the risk if he's available at No. 9? Or is that too high of an investment to make on a prospect who is in freefall?