Published May 01, 2014
(SportsNetwork.com) - The Green Bay Packers saw what life was like without Aaron Rodgers for an extended period of time last year and the results were hardly pretty.
A broken collarbone sidelined the superstar for seven straight weeks as the Pack floundered before A-Rod returned with his Superman cape to lead Green Bay to a season-ending victory over the Chicago Bears to secure the team's third straight division title despite a pedestrian 8-7-1 record in the downtrodden NFC North.
Rodgers has been helping cover up a deeply-flawed roster in Titletown for about three years now, dating back to the time highly-regarded general manger Ted Thompson began missing more often than not on his high-profile picks.
The chickens have started coming home to roost and it's time for Thompson to reverse course and become the guy he was in the mid-2000s, especially boosting what has been a dismal front seven save for Clay Matthews while also addressing needs at safety, tight end and the offensive line.
The Packers brought in Julius Peppers to play opposite Matthews, but expecting a player in his mid-30s who has always played with his hand in the dirt to excel in space is the very definition of pounding the square peg in the round hole.
UCLA's Anthony Barr has been falling in recent mock drafts and would be a much better fit as an edge defender in the 3-4, and although the former running back is raw, Barr has the ceiling of a top-five prospect.
If Barr is off the board, focus on Louisville's Calvin Pryor or even former Northern Illinois star Jimmie Ward at safety.
2013 Record: 8-7-1
Top Needs: S, TE, WR, DT
First Three Picks: No. 21, No. 53, No. 85
Number of Selections: 9 (1, 2, 3, 3, 4, 5, 5, 6, 7)
CALLING THE SHOTS: Thompson has enjoyed a cozy existence in the Badger State, cobbling together a sterling reputation which may not be all that it's cracked up to be when you put it under the microscope. He was certainly on the right track back in 2005 when he selected Rodgers with the 24th overall pick out of Cal. Since then there have been far too many misses, however, and the 2013 version of the Packers showed more than a few holes, ones that were often covered up by arguably the best player in football. All that said, Thompson is still among a handful of executives regarded as the most respected when it comes to personnel decisions.
RECENT FIRST ROUND HISTORY: 2013 - Datone Jones (DE, UCLA); 2012 - Nick Perry (OLB, USC); 2011 - Derek Sherrod (OT, Mississippi State); 2010 - Bryan Bulaga (OT, Iowa); 2009 - B.J. Raji (DT, Boston College), Clay Matthews (OLB, USC); 2008 - none; 2007 - Justin Harrell (DT, Tennessee); 2006 - A.J. Hawk (LB, Ohio State); 2005 - Aaron Rodgers (QB, California); 2004 - Ahmad Carroll (CB, Arkansas); 2003 - Nick Barnett (LB, Oregon State).