By RICK SOLEM
The NFL draft gets under way at 7 p.m. tonight.
It’s easy to think about the Green Bay Packers last couple of seasons and know where things went wrong: Defense, defense, defense.
So, obviously, the focus of the draft would then surround … defense. That’s a good plan, but is it the smartest if Green Bay wants to protect its investment?
Green Bay is about to make Aaron Rodgers the high paid player in the NFL. So, drafting linemen early seems the obvious solution given Rodgers' career.
Rodgers was the most sacked quarterback in the NFL last year (50 times) and has been the most sacked quarterback in the league since 2008 (202), though that may be because the Bears’ Jay Cutler missed a combined seven games the last two seasons.
Ben Roethlisberger was the second-most sacked quarterback since 2008 (198). And the two tied for being sacked the most in 2009 (50).
Green Bay has no big names on its offensive line. In fact, it’s quite mediocre.
Of Green Bay’s projected starting lineup, no player was drafted above the third round and two of those linemen were undrafted free agents. All of them are 26 years old or younger.
Green Bay has drafted linemen early in two of the last three drafts and it’s been hit or miss ... but mostly "hit," as in injury.
Tackle Bryan Bulaga, who was the 23rd pick by the Packers in 2010, was solid until he dislocated his hip mid-season and his return is in question.
Green Bay also drafted Derek Sherrod 32nd overall in 2011, but he broke his leg in Week 15 of 2011 and hasn’t been back since.
So pure luck – or lack of it – would tell Green Bay to steer clear of first-round linemen, but, then again, both Bulaga and Sherrod were on the field as rookies. That’s either a testament to their skill set or to Green Bay’s desperation to protect Rodgers. Or both. Or neither. Who knows.
And predicting who the Packers will take also: Who knows?
Sports Illustrated’s Peters King predicts the Packers will draft a defensive tackle named Star, as in Star Lotulelei out of Utah. There is no consensus of the four “experts” at NFL.com. There, Green Bay could be drafting a running back, free safety or offensive lineman.
Yahoo Sports has them taking defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson out of Missouri or safety Jonathan Cyprien of Florida International, while ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr. thinks they’ll go running back with Alabama’s Eddie Lacy.
In other words, mock drafts are worthless and it may be better to just wait for the commissioner to call whoever's name.
2012: 51 (1st)
2011: 36 (t-6th)
2010: 31 (13th)
2009: 50 (t-1st)
2008: 34 (7th)
Total: 202 (1st)
2012: 30 (t-14th)
2011: 40 (3rd)
2010: 32 (11th)
2009: 50 (t-1st)
2008 46 (2nd)
Total: 198 (2nd)