Three full seasons have passed since the Green Bay Packers made 10 selections in the 2011 NFL draft. While the most common draft grades come within minutes of a pick, the most accurate are saved for three years down the road. With the requisite time passed, it’s now worth looking back and evaluating the Packers’ 2011 draft class.
1.32 OT Derek Sherrod
Green Bay’s first-round pick is an impossible evaluation thanks to a devastating leg injury that cost Sherrod the better part of his first two seasons. Envisioned as the book-end left tackle opposite Bryan Bulaga, Sherrod has played in only 12 career games with zero starts. He’ll get a chance to win himself a starting job this summer, but 2014 is clearly his crossroads season. It’s very possible he’ll never realize his full potential and the Packers will move on after next season. No one could have predicted such a catastrophic injury derailing his early career, but getting zero starts and only 121 total offensive snaps over the first three years from a first-round pick represents a huge failure.
2.64 WR Randall Cobb
Cobb is one of the NFL’s premier slot receivers and the saving grace for an otherwise ugly draft class. He has 13 career touchdowns on offense and another three on special teams. Over the last two seasons, or 21 total games, he has averaged over five catches and nearly 140 all-purpose yards per contest. Overcame a broken leg to return for the 2013 season finale, and then caught two hugely important scores, including the game-winner that sent Green Bay to the postseason with a third-straight division title. Through four games last season (he broke his leg in Week 5), Cobb was on pace to catch 100 passes for 1,300 yards and eight scores. Given a full season with Aaron Rodgers, Cobb could very easily produce a Pro Bowl season. He’s a special player and one of the best values of the 2011 draft.
3.96 RB Alex Green
Green looked like an ideal fit for Green Bay’s offense—a one-cut, receiving-friendly running back with starting-level physical tools. That enticing profile never developed for Green, in part because of a season-ending knee injury during his rookie season. Maybe Green was overhyped from the beginning, but tearing up your knee as a cut-dependent back never helps. He returned in 2012 and eventually became a starter after Cedric Benson’s injury, but he lacked both explosion and production. He averaged 3.4 yards per carry and 6.9 per catch. The Packers cut him the following August. The Jets gave him 12 games in 2013 but he produced just 43 total yards. Injury again played a factor, but this was mostly a wasted third-round pick.
4.131 CB Davon House
Ideal size and speed made House a likable pick in the fourth round. But injuries and inconsistency have plagued his first three years, and he may enter next season as the team’s fourth or fifth cornerback, depending on where Micah Hyde is positioned. House finally played in all 16 games last season, but he made just five starts. Coaches seem to lack trust in him week-to-week. Over 27 career games, he has only one interception. His best contributions have probably come on special teams, which does have worth. Next season will be a big one for his future in Green Bay.
5.141 TE D.J. Williams
Many applauded the Packers’ selection of Williams, who finished college as the Mackey Award winner. Another pass-catcher for Aaron Rodgers? Unfair. But Williams never developed into much of anything, despite shining every August with helmets and shells on. Once the real lights came on, Williams played small and failed to develop a go-to trait. He gave Green Bay just nine catches and 70 yards over 26 games from 2011-12. By roster cuts at the end of last August, he was looking for new employment. He later played nine games for Jacksonville and New England in 2013 but didn’t catch a pass. Williams represents a failure of development.
6.179 G Caleb Schlauderaff
The Packers gave him one training camp before shipping him off to the New York Jets for a conditional draft pick—which ended up being a seventh-round pick in 2012. That pick was later packaged to the Patriots in a trade up for Terrell Manning. In other words, this was a complete failure spread over two years.
6.186 LB D.J. Smith
The Packers actually received 22 career games from Smith, an undersized tackling machine from small school Appalachian State. He made six starts as an emergency reserve in 2012 and actually fared well, registering two sacks and holding his own against the run and pass. But then he blew out his knee, and the Packers somewhat surprisingly decided to part ways in April of 2013. He latched on in both San Diego and Houston for last season, and he received a futures deal from Carolina in January. He could have been a nice reserve had he not suffered his injury, but his lack of ideal size was always going to be a detriment.
6.197 LB Ricky Elmore
A disaster from the very beginning. By the middle of August in 2011, it was obvious his transition from playing college defensive end to outside linebacker in the pros wasn’t going to work. Ted Thompson admitted his mistake and cut him during final cuts. Elmore still hasn’t played in an NFL game.
7.218 TE Ryan Taylor
Amazingly enough, no player from Green Bay’s 2011 draft class has played more games than Tayor’s 45. He hasn’t made much of an impact over those appearances, catching just eight passes for 45 yards and a score. But lasting that long as a seventh-round pick is still a nice feat. He’s stuck thanks to his toughness and special teams ability.
7.233 DL Lawrence Guy
The Packers never got a full look at Guy, who suffered a concussion in training camp his rookie year and then was placed on injured reserve. The Colts snagged him off Green Bay’s practice squad a year later. He played nine games for Indianapolis in 2012 and 12 for San Diego last season. Maybe he could have carved out a role in the defensive line rotation as a five-techinque. The Packers will never know.
Overview: This class would be viewed as an undeniable drafting calamity had Cobb not been found at the end of the second round. He’s a rising star amongst a group of injured and inconsistent picks. And most haven’t even stuck around. Of the 10 players selected from the bunch, only four remain on Green Bay’s roster. That’s a terrible retention rate and a serious black eye on Thompson’s draft history. Injuries obviously played a huge role for this class, but availability is an important asset in football. Sherrod could help save face if he comes out of nowhere and wins a job next season. If he doesn’t, this will likely go down as Thompson’s worst ever draft class.
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