FOX Sports Wisconsin’s Paul Imig provides complete coverage of the Packers and the 2014 NFL Draft in his 14-part preview. You can find the entire series here.
TODAY’S POSITION: QUARTERBACKS
Importance (1-to-10 scale): 3
On the roster
The success of the Green Bay Packers starts and stops with quarterback Aaron Rodgers. Not everyone believed that to be true prior to the 2013 season, but the Packers’ 2-5-1 record in Rodgers’ absence made it plenty obvious. At age 30, with a contract that runs through the 2020 season, Rodgers isn’t going anywhere for a long time. There are few (if any) teams that wouldn’t trade their starting quarterback for Rodgers. Had general manager Ted Thompson not pulled the trigger on selecting Rodgers in the first round in 2005, who knows what the state of the franchise would look like today.
Matt Flynn made his money in unrestricted free agency two years ago, struck out with three different teams and eventually found his way back home (or, at least, his NFL home) to Green Bay midway through the 2013 season. After re-signing this offseason, Flynn is the presumed backup behind Rodgers and has proven that, if needed, he can run coach Mike McCarthy’s offense better than most backup-caliber quarterbacks.
Scott Tolzien has a stronger arm than Flynn, but the former Wisconsin Badgers quarterback showed his inexperience when thrust into a difficult situation last season. Interceptions were his undoing, but at age 26, there’s a lot to like about Tolzien — especially as a third-stringer. McCarthy certainly likes him and has every intention of continuing to groom Tolzien into a player who could eventually become No. 2 on the depth chart. Perhaps that happens as soon as the 2014 season if Tolzien can somehow beat out Flynn in training camp.
Last year, the QB position was given an importance of 4 in FOXSportsWisconsin.com’s pre-draft series. It drops to a 3 this year because the combination of Flynn and Tolzien behind Rodgers is stronger than the Graham Harrell/B.J. Coleman duo was.
Last five quarterbacks drafted
2012: B.J. Coleman, Tennessee-Chattanooga: seventh round (243rd overall) — released before the 2013 season
2008: Brian Brohm, Louisville: second round (56th overall) — waived September 2009, in the CFL
2008: Matt Flynn, LSU: seventh round (209th overall) — back with the Packers
2006: Ingle Martin, Furman: fifth round (148th overall) — released August 2007, out of the NFL
2005: Aaron Rodgers, California: first round (24th overall) — still with the Packers
Philosophy at the position
Thanks to Rodgers, it’s been easy for Thompson to largely ignore the quarterback position in the draft over the past five years. With the exception of using a seventh-rounder in 2012 on Coleman (which didn’t work out well), the Packers have been able to fill out the rest of their roster while the front office crosses its fingers that Rodgers stays healthy. Well, in what was the first extended absence in Rodgers’ six years as Green Bay’s starter, he suffered a serious injury last season. Thompson left the Packers ill-prepared to survive without Rodgers, trusting that Seneca Wallace could get the job done — a move that greatly backfired.
McCarthy stated at the NFL Scouting Combine that he was interested in drafting a quarterback this year. It’s unlikely that it would happen before Round 4, but it seems like Green Bay views Flynn more as a temporary best-No.2 option than a permanent best-No. 2 option. That could open the door for Tolzien as a long-term member of the Packers, but it could also make room for someone high on the Packers’ draft board to come in and learn from Rodgers and McCarthy.
Day 1 name to remember (Round 1)
Tom Savage, senior, Pittsburgh (6-foot-4, 228): Savage has worked his way into the conversation of potentially being the fourth quarterback chosen overall in this draft (behind the Big three of Johnny Manziel, Teddy Bridgewater and Blake Bortles). Like Bortles, and very much unlike Manziel, Savage has good size for the position. He bounced around at different colleges, beginning at Rutgers, transferring to Arizona and finishing out at Pittsburgh. Savage has great arm strength and has proven to be able to take a hit and stay in the game, but some of those hits are as a result of him not being very mobile by today’s NFL quarterback standards.
Savage says: "I definitely want to bring toughness. You have to be that guy who can take a couple of hits and keep your eyes down the field and still make the big time throws you need to make. Everyone here has big arms. You have to be accurate. You have to be a poised quarterback and be able to handle the pressure."
Day 2 name to remember (Rounds 2-3)
Zach Mettenberger, senior, LSU (6-5, 224): NFL coaches will love his size and arm strength (similar positives traits to Savage), but Mettenberger has almost no chance of leaving the pocket and being successful at the pro level. Pure pocket passers can still work in the NFL, but most of the ones who do succeed typically have better awareness than what Mettenberger showed in college. He started at the University of Georgia and had legal troubles before playing at the junior college level and eventually heading to LSU.
Day 3 name to remember (Rounds 4-7)
Keith Wenning, senior, Ball State (6-3, 218): Wenning would be the type of quarterback likely still available if the Packers waited until the seventh round to address the position. Known as a hard-working, smart, tough player, Wenning lacks arm strength and has limited athleticism. Maybe he’s the type of project McCarthy is interested in undertaking with Green Bay’s final pick.
FOXSports.com’s draft expert Peter Schrager says: "The Packers scored with drafting a then-backup quarterback nine years ago with a first-round pick in the twenties. Aaron Rodgers isn’t going anywhere and Matt Flynn’s a solid backup, but there are some intriguing names at the QB position in this draft that could be tempting at 21st overall. Savage played at three schools and is getting a lot of late April hype, but (he) has the size and the arm to back it up. I like Mettenberger, too. Big kid who can fling it. Go watch the UGA tape from this year. Mettenberger looks like an NFL quarterback in that film. Day 3 guys like Keith Wenning and David Fales could be nice late-round guys."