No team relies as heavily on their draft picks than the Green Bay Packers. They do not spend in free agency and prefer to promote from within. That has meant several extra middle to late round picks, but not in the first round.
Also, they have been playoff-bound with a couple deep runs, which has meant they haven’t had any high selections. They have tried to fill holes, but their track record in the opening round is not great.
Here is my ranking of the first round draft picks for the Packers since 2010.
#7 OT Derek Sherrod (2011, 32nd overall)
The Packers needed help on the offensive line when they were on the clock with the last pick of the opening round of the 2011 draft. They selected Mississippi State standout Derek Sherrod. He was the best lineman available, but was considered a bit of a project. Draft experts thought he was a backup with the potential to eventually become a starting left tackle.
However, an injury stopped his development less than a year into his professional career. He was in and out of the lineup before suffering a gruesome broken leg in Kansas City in mid-December. He missed all of the 2012 season and began 2013 on the physically-unable-to-perform list (PUP).
He got back on the field in November of 2013 and played in seven games. But, two days short of a full year from being activated, the Packers placed Sherrod on waivers. He went unclaimed and signed a future free agent contract with the Kansas City Chiefs at the conclusion of the season. He failed to make the team and was one of the final cuts as the Chiefs got down to 53 players. He has not played in the NFL since.
#6 DL Datone Jones (2013, 26th overall)
The Packers have drafted needs on the defensive line and secondary as well as the offensive line in the first round of the draft in recent years. That includes defensive lineman Datone Jones in 2013.
The Packers thought Jones would be a multi-dimensional defensive end in their 3-4 base scheme. However, he was not a good fit for that system. Regardless of the base defense, he is a bit of a tweener. He is not athletic enough to be a three-down defensive end, but undersized to play tackle in run situations. The Packers did not exercise his fifth-year option and allowed him to become an unrestriced free agent this offseason.
He registered 54 total tackles, nine sacks, seven passes defensed and one interception in 59 games (seven starts) over four seasons.
#5 DL Kenny Clark (2016, 27th overall)
After Jones failed to be what the Packers hoped he could be, they selected Kenny Clark in the opening round of the 2016 draft. Clark is thicker and stronger than Jones and should be a better fit in the 3-4 scheme.
After one season, there are still question marks surrounding his game. Can he overcome some size deficiencies with his strength? Will he be able to push the pocket without the necessary foot-speed and explosiveness?
At this point in his career, he relies on his strength a bit too much. He will need to add some additional skills to his repertoire.
#4 DB Damarious Randall (2015, 30th overall)
The Packers need better play from their cornerbacks in 2017. One of the key members of the secondary will be 2015 selection Damarious Randall.
Heading into Year 3, Packers fans should be confident Randall will take a big step forward. But, on the other hand, he wasn’t nearly as good last season than he was as a rookie. Every statistical category dropped for Randall, except for interceptions (which stayed the same with three). Games played decreased from 15 to 10, total tackles dropped from 53 to 35 and passes defensed went from 14 to nine.
All-in-all it was a disappointing second year for Randall. Despite his drop in play, the Packers did not add a cornerback in free agency to challenge the former Arizona State standout. This is a big year for Randall.
#3 OLB Nick Perry (2012, 28th overall)
The Packers have been waiting for Nick Perry display the pass rushing ability that led them to take him in the first round in 2012. It finally happened for the former USC star last season. After recording 12.5 sacks in his first four seasons combined, nearly doubled it with 11 in a contract year. He also set career-highs for total tackles and passes defensed as well as recorded his first interception in 2016.
Some believe the reason for his improved play is that he was a free agent after the season. Others believe that the light bulb finally went on. The Packers hope it is the latter. They signed him to a five-year contract extension in March.
#2 S Ha Ha Clinton-Dix (2014, 21st overall)
The Packers dire need in the secondary this offseason is not because of HaHa Clinton-Dix. The team’s 2014 top pick was not one of the problems. He has developed into one of the league’s best safeties and earned a spot in the Pro Bowl in 2016.
While his total tackles and sack numbers were career lows last season, he set career-highs in passes defensed and interceptions. His ball skills and hard hitting mentality make it very hard to throw over the middle against the Packers.
#1 OT Bryan Bulaga (2010, 23rd overall)
Offensive line was a problem for the Green Bay Packers heading into the 2010 draft. They selected Bryan Bulaga to help.
The former University of Iowa star struggled as a reserve his rookie before moving into the starting lineup. He finished the year as one of the better rookie tackles earning All-Rookie team honors.
He has the size and nastiness to go along with enough athleticism to play on the edge. But, is susceptible to speed rushers, especially the ones that generally line up opposite the offense’s left side.