Sep 8, 2013; San Francisco, CA, USA; San Francisco 49ers wide receiver Anquan Boldin (81) escapes a tackle by Green Bay Packers cornerback Sam Shields (37) on a carry during the fourth quarter at Candlestick Park. The San Francisco 49ers defeated the Green Bay Packers 34-28. Mandatory Credit: Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

NFL Draft 2014: Assessing Needs Of The Green Bay Packers

The story of the 2013 Green Bay Packers goes a little something like this: Great big offense, itty-bitty defense, at least in terms of the relative contributions to the team’s 8-7-1 NFC North title winning campaign and ensuing loss in the wild card round to the San Francisco 49ers at Lambeau Field.

It’s obvious that defense must be a priority next week in the NFL Draft. Today, we’ll take a look at the most glaring needs on the defense in advance of a full-seven round mock draft Dairyland Express will be publishing on Monday morning.

Onto the needs:

The Pack was gutted by San Francisco’s Anquan Boldin over the middle of the field in Week 1 and things never really got a whole lot better.

Green Bay ranked near the bottom of the NFL in drive success rate, according to Football Outsiders. Teams gained an average of 33.99 yards per drive against the Packers, which was 28th in the NFL. Their 2.24 points surrendered per drive ranked 26th and their .717 drive success rate ranked 27th in the league. Given the offense ranked seventh with a drive success rate of .716, that illustrates the defense’s struggles.

Just in terms of depth alone, the Packers need help at safety. Currently, there are only three safeties on the roster—Morgan Burnett, Chris Banjo and Sean Richardson.

Inside Linebacker
The current starters are A.J. Hawk and Brad Jones, and neither one of them is known for their speed, something we’ve seen the 49ers, in particular, exploit over and over again. Jones signed a big contract last season (three years, $11.75 million—a bonanza for a one-time seventh-round pick), but disappointed with his performance on the field. Conventional wisdom is that Jones will be pushed this summer if he wants to keep his starting job.

Besides Hawk and Jones, the Packers also have Sam Barrington, Jamari Lattimore and Victor Aiyewa on the roster at inside backer.

Outside Linebacker
This isn’t as glaring a need, with the Packers planning to move Julius Peppers from defensive end to a standup outside linebacker spot in their 3-4 base opposite Clay Matthews. The Packers also have Nick Perry, Andy Mulumba, Chase Thomas and Nate Palmer on the roster, but might look to upgrade in the later rounds.

With Evan Dietrich-Smith, last year’s starter, gone to Tampa Bay in free agency, JC Tretter—a fourth-round pick out of Cornell who missed all of last season with a broken ankle—is at the top of the depth chart. With Garth Gerhart, who has never spent any time on an active NFL roster, as the backup.

Do the Packers really want to have Aaron Rodgers lining up behind an Option A and Option B, neither of whom has fired a shotgun snap in anger during a game? Do you really want to see that? My sense is there will be a center drafted, likely during the second and third rounds on Friday.

Tight End
With Jermichael Finley gone, Andrew Quarless is at the top of the depth chart and he showed last season with 32 catches for 312 yards that he lacked Finley’s ability to get down the seam and stretch the interior of a defense. Ryan Taylor, who had six catches a year ago, is also on the roster, as are Brandon Bostick (seven receptions) and Jake Stoneburner, who played in nine games and never caught a ball.

A pass-catching tight end would be a nice luxury to have. The trick will be finding one beyond the second day of the draft.

The Packers have Aaron Rodgers, yes. They have veteran Matt Flynn and last year’s emergency pickup, Scott Tolzien, behind him. But if Ted Thompson can find the right guy on the third day of the draft, he might look to draft a quarterback and stash him as the No. 3 next season, with an idea of that player moving up a slot on the depth chart in 2015. Of course, that was the thinking with B.J. Coleman in 2012 and, well … yeah.

Don’t miss the Dairyland Express NFL Mock Draft, coming Monday.

Tags: 2014 Nfl Draft Green Bay Packers

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