Bulaga injury brings new test of Packers GM Ted Thompson's drafts

Jay Sorgi

Bryan Bulaga. Photo: Image by Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Bulaga injury brings new test of Packers GM Ted Thompson's drafts

CREATED Aug. 5, 2013

GREEN BAY - Sometimes, the most unfair circumstances produce the toughtest tests in life.

Such is the case with Packers general manager Ted Thompson and the stable of offensive linemen he has gathered up after one of them, Bryan Bulaga, went down for the year with a knee injury.

Reports from those like Journal Sentinel writer Bob McGinn, who broke the story, say that the Packers may be looking at David Bakhtiari to take over a starting role on the line after Bulaga's injury.

It may also mean Marshall Newhouse could fill the left tackle spot itself, while Bakhtiari could go to a different location.

Now, however, is when we find out if Ted Thompson really did his job.  There's a few factors to look at.

First, who's in the stable of linemen:

Here's the draft picks Ted Thompson has made at the offensive line positions since 2009, and who is still around Packers camp:

Still on Packers roster:
- Bakhtiari (tackle/guard, 4th round, 2013, Colorado)
- J.C. Tretter (guard/center, 4th round, 2013, Cornell)
- Andrew Datko (tackle, 7th round, 2012, Florida State)
- Derek Sherrod (tackle, 1st round, 2011, Auburn)
- Bulaga (tackle, 1st round, 2010, Iowa)
- Newhouse (tackle, 5th round, 2010, TCU)
- T.J. Lang (guard, 4th round, 2009, Mississippi State)

No longer in Packers camp:
- Caleb Schlauderaff (lineman, 6th round, 2011, Utah)
- Jamon Meredith (tackle/guard, 5th round, 2009, Eastern Michigan)

Seven out of nine still on the roster is certainly not bad, particularly considering only two of them were drafted earlier than the 4th round.

Next, who's NOT in the stable of linemen:

To go over the list of linemen the Packers passed over in the last five years in the first few rounds would take a long, long time.

However, it brings up two schools of thought:

1) The Packers did not do enough in terms of picking linemen earlier in the draft.

2) The opportunity cost of picking O-linemen instead of guys like Morgan Burnett, Randall Cobb, Casey Hayward and Nick Perry (who could still turn into a great pass rusher opposite Clay Matthews) is too great.

We'll never know the true answer.

It's fair to say that offensive line is one of the three most important positions in the NFL, perhaps only behind quarterback and defensive line.

Having to weigh the lack of higher draft picks in the offensive line versus the opportunity cost of not picking the future stars they picked is still an impossible task.  More time is needed there - certainly more than one injury-affected 2013 season.

Finally, what can we expect from the linemen still healthy:

Is it too much to ask for a 5th-round draft pick like Marshall Newhouse or a rookie like David Bakhtiari to perform well enough in protecting the backside of Aaron Rodgers against world-class pass rushers like Aldon Smith, DeMarcus Ware, Jared Allen and Julius Peppers - all of whom will go up against the Packers this year?

Perhaps.

But unless Thompson has a free agent up his sleeve, the Packers are forced to go patchwork again to solve the riddle of protecting Aaron Rodgers.

Considering all these factors, it's probably not fair to judge Thompson on how well he's drafted offensive linemen based on who's left and healthy. 

But the fruits of his labor will perhaps unfairly decide whether his moves were right, Aaron Rodgers remains upright, and the Packers move right to Super Bowl contention again.

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