OTHERS TO WATCH
E.J. Manuel, Florida State; Tyler Wilson, Arkansas; Zac Dysert, Miami (Ohio); Tyler Bray, Tennessee.
“I think there’s always something to prove. I think you’re always looking for ways to better yourself. At this point in my career, there’s definitely things I can improve on. There’s always something to improve. It seems right now that I’m kind of working my way up as opposed to already being on the top, which is a position – I’ve been in both cases before. There’s always something to prove, and I’m out to prove something.” – Barkley, on those who doubt him despite his collegiate success.
Position analysis: Much of the offseason has been spent discussing when the Packers will make 29-year-old quarterback Aaron Rodgers the highest paid player in the game. It’s of course a matter of when, not if, and as Rodgers goes, so go the Packers. He is a franchise quarterback that every team craves, and in a quarterback-driven league, he’s not a luxury, he’s a necessity if the Packers are to remain perennial Super Bowl contenders. Rodgers wasn’t as statistically dominant as he was when he won the NFL MVP in 2011, but his quarterback rating was still the NFL’s best (108.0); he threw 39 touchdown passes; his interceptions went up to eight (but his interception rate was still only 1.4 percent); he still finished with 4,295 passing yards (eighth in the NFL). According to quarterbacks coach Ben McAdoo, Rodgers “may have been more valuable this year than he was last year.”
Although Rodgers hasn’t missed a game because of injury since suffering his second concussion of the year late in the 2010 season, there’s still reason for concern for his safety, as he took an NFL-high 51 last season. (Since taking over as the starter, Rodgers has absorbed 202 sacks in five seasons, most in the NFL over that time.) Behind Rodgers is Graham Harrell, who was handed the No. 2 job in training camp last year and ended the preseason with a terrific game against the Kansas City Chiefs (13 of 15, 223 yards, two touchdowns, no interceptions, maximum passer rating of 158.3). But his first three exhibition showings ranged from poor to pedestrian (32 of 63 for 261 yards with one TD and two INTs for a passer rating of 53.7). Harrell figures to face some competition from B.J. Coleman, a seventh-round draft pick a year ago who even McAdoo admits is an unknown.
Draft strategy: After using their first six selections on defensive players last year, Coleman was one of two offensive players taken and was the Packers’ last pick (No. 243 overall). He was the 10th of 11 quarterbacks drafted last year, and it wouldn’t be surprising to see the Packers take a flier on another late-round QB this time around. Unless he’s sold on Coleman, general manager Ted Thompson could take another developmental QB for coach Mike McCarthy, offensive coordinator Tom Clements and McAdoo. In the last 21 drafts, the Packers have taken 13 QBs: Ty Detmer (1992), Mark Brunell (1993), Jay Barker (1995), Kyle Wachholtz (1996), Ronnie McAda (1997), Matt Hasselbeck (1998), Aaron Brooks (1999), Craig Nall (2002), Rodgers (2005), Ingle Martin (2006), Brian Brohm and Matt Flynn (2008) and Coleman.
NEXT: Running backs.
Listen to Jason Wilde every weekday from 9 a.m. to 10 a.m. on “Green & Gold Today” on 540 ESPN, and follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/jasonjwilde.