Packers Go Offensive in First Round

By Troy A. Sparks, BASN Staff Reporter
Updated: April 23, 2010

GREEN BAY (BASN) — Bright lights in New York and the big stage highlighted this year’s opening round of the 75th annual NFL Draft at Radio City Music Hall.

In the media auditorium at Lambeau Field, media covering Green Bay awaited for the start of the draft. And they waited and waited for almost three hours.

That’s because Green Bay, with their 11-6 record, including a playoff loss at Arizona to the Cardinals, owned the 23rd overall pick. The last time Green Bay had the No. 23 selection was in 1976 when they picked Mark Koncar from Colorado.

Koncar would play five seasons for the Packers. In recent years, teams picked running backs at that slot. Green Bay didn’t need a running back in the first round.

They may pick up one in the later rounds to push the three running backs currently on their roster. For the Packers, their immediate needs were on the offensive and defensive line.

A total of 16 players were invited to Radio City, and they could have been gone before the Green Bay staff got its turn. Last year, they had the ninth overall pick and two first round selections as a result of their 6-10 record in 2008.

The NFL Draft — on ESPN and the NFL Network — was done in prime time for the first time, at 7:30 eastern time. It was pleasing for commissioner Roger Goodell.

He thought that carrying the draft on a Thursday evening will attract more viewers, such as Joe Hardhat, who comes home from work and turns to the sports network to relax.

Goodell understood that less people would tune in on a Saturday afternoon to watch a draft because they’re out doing other things.

Many of us predicted that the St. Louis Rams, who owned the top pick, would select Oklahoma quarterback and former Heisman Trophy winner Sam Bradford, and they did.

After an hour and 15 minutes, 12 players were selected. It was a fast-moving draft. Green Bay general manager Ted Thompson didn’t screw up the first round picks from last year, and we didn’t expect him to screw up this time.

With him, you had to wonder if he would take the best available or the position player that fit their needs. Entering his sixth draft, Thompson chose 28 offensive and 22 defensive players and one from special teams the past five years.

Green Bay fulfilled their draft need, picking offensive tackle Bryan Bulaga from Iowa. The last time Green Bay picked an offensive lineman from Iowa was when they drafted Ross Verba.

Verba started for the Super Bowl XXXI champion Packers. Bulaga is 6-foot-5 and 312 pounds. He’s expected to learn to play both tackle positions.

With an aging Mark Tauscher, who was re-signed, oft-injured Chad Clifton and other unproven offensive linemen, the need to grab Bulaga, who was in New York, was now.

Shoring up the offensive line is a big concern for the Packers. Quarterback Aaron Rodgers was sacked 51 times in the regular season and five times in the playoff game against Arizona.

“We were surprised that Bryan was still available,” Green Bay general manager Ted Thompson said. “We felt like it was a good valuable pick for us.”

Thompson likes the upside of Bulaga, who has a good future here. “He’s a tough guy,” he said. “He’s athletic. He’s got great size. He’s the real deal.”

Added offensive line coach Joe Philbin: “Depending on how quickly he adjusts to the pro game, he can certainly help us a lot potentially and hopefully. Obviously, we drafted him with the belief that he’s gonna come in here and compete and do that right away.”

Help for the Green Bay offensive line is finally on the way.