Starter Pack: Kiper praises Packers' rookies

January, 24, 2014
Jan 24
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A roundup of what's happening on the Green Bay Packers beat.

GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Mel Kiper Jr. liked the Packers draft right away last April and with a full season to watch the rookies, the ESPN NFL draft analyst saw nothing to change in his mind.

In an ESPN Insider piece Insider, Kiper gave the Packers' 2013 draft class the same grade -- a B-plus -- after the season that he gave it right after the draft.

We can't give away everything Kiper wrote -- that's what Insider subscriptions are for -- but here are some snippets:
“At the time, I wrote, ‘I love what Green Bay got out of this draft, particularly at two spots -- defensive end and running back.'”

Of course, he was talking about first-round pick Datone Jones, the defensive end from UCLA, and running backs Eddie Lacy (second round) and Johnathan Franklin (fourth round).
“After one season, I still love what the Packers got at running back, as Lacy has been everything they could have hoped for and completely changes the manner in which this offense can threaten you. But we'll need to see more from Jones, who was OK but not great and isn't yet a first-team player. But the draft was crucial elsewhere.”

Kiper went on to praise fourth-round pick David Bakhtiari, who started every game at left tackle, and fifth-round pick Micah Hyde, who played as the nickel defensive back and primary punt returner.
“Name another rookie who played a whole season at left tackle. Fifth-rounder Hyde also was good in a return role. Not a bad start for this draft class, and you have to believe Jones can and will give them more.”

In all, the Packers have retained 10 of their 11 draft picks. Only seventh-round receiver Charles Johnson is gone. He was signed off the practice squad by the Cleveland Browns in October. Another seventh-round receiver, Kevin Dorsey, spent the entire season on injured reserve.

In case you missed it on ESPN.com:
  • The Packers haven't officially announced the move, but running backs coach Alex Van Pelt will become the new quarterbacks coach. He will replace Ben McAdoo, who left to become the New York Giants offensive coordinator. It was a natural move for Van Pelt, who played the position in the NFL and has previously coached quarterbacks in the league.
  • We continued our position outlook series with the focus on the tight ends, where there are plenty of questions.
  • In our “Next Big Thing” feature, we looked at the most pressing concerns for the offseason.
  • Finally, Ian O'Connor authored a fantastic piece on legendary former Packers coach Vince Lombardi by talking to those who knew him when he was a young high school coach and teacher in New Jersey.
Best of the rest:
  • At ESPNWisconsin.com, Jason Wilde wrote about Van Pelt's path to becoming the Packers quarterbacks coach.
  • In the Green Bay Press-Gazette, Pete Dougherty talked to an NFL scout who said that of the two new coaches in the NFC North, the Packers should be more worried about what Mike Zimmer will do for the Minnesota Vikings than Jim Caldwell with the Detroit Lions.
  • In the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Tyler Dunne looked at some of the receivers at the Senior Bowl that might interest Green Bay, including one who has ties to Packers receiver James Jones.

Rob Demovsky

ESPN Green Bay Packers reporter

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