2013 NFL Draft: Green Bay Packers Top 5 Needs

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Green Bay Packers Top 5 Needs

Brian Spurlock-USA Today Sports

General manager Ted Thompson preaches building a team through the NFL Draft. The Green Bay Packers hold the 26th overall selection in this year's 2013 NFL Draft. Thompson has historically loved to trade down and stockpile his draft picks. However, last year he decided to trade up multiple times, so basically, the Packers drafting at 26 is a fluid situation.

Thompson has also stated over and over that the Packers will stick to their board and select the best player available. However, based on last year’s draft, I wouldn’t say he sticks to his board religiously. The Packers ranked dead last in defense following the 2011 season and defense was the theme of the draft. He obviously knows the Packers are Super Bowl contenders and will address areas of need.

For a team that has won 26 regular season games the last two seasons, the Packers surprisingly have some glaring needs. The defense showed signs of improvement, in 2012 but was wildly inconsistent and downright embarrassing in the playoff loss to the San Francisco 49ers. Meanwhile, the offense didn’t run around defenses at a video game-like pace as it did in 2011. It was more of a grind it out season for head coach Mike McCarthy and company.

The Packers will return some players from injury and Thompson could turn to the free agent market to up the talent in Green Bay. But the most successful way to build a winning franchise is through the draft. With that said, here are the top five needs for the Green Bay Packers in next month’s NFL Draft.

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5. Wide Receiver

Scott Olmos-USA Today Sports

The chance of wide receiver Greg Jennings returning to the Packers looks like it's slim to none at this point. Couple that with the retirement of Donald Driver and the Packers will address the wide receiver position in the draft.

True, the trio of Jordy Nelson, Randall Cobb and James Jones is better than most, but Thompson will make sure to surround Aaron Rodgers with plenty of playmakers to target. As the NFL becomes a pass-heavy league, four and five-receiver sets have become the norm.

A pipe dream prospect to fall to the Packers at 26 is Cordarrelle Patterson. Most likely targets would be Terrance Williams, Markus Wheaton (pictured above) and Quinton Patton.

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4. Inside Linebacker

Inside linebacker
Brian Spurlock-USA Today Sports

The Packers' lack of physicality up the middle became obvious against the 49ers in the playoff loss. They should get a boost from Desmond Bishop and D.J. Smith as they return from season-ending injuries. However, rebounding from serious injuries can be a tricky situation to predict.

The starting inside linebackers for the Packers to end the season, Brad Jones and A.J. Hawk, may not be back in Green Bay. Jones is a free agent and the Packers could save roughly $5 million by releasing Hawk. That's a lot of money dedicated to a player who hasn't been involved in a turnover play in two years and was a two-down player last season.

First round targets to add depth on the inside are SEC linebackers Alec Ogletree (pictured above) and Kevin Minter. Later round prospects Kiko Alonso and Jon Bostic are players to watch.

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3. Left Tackle

Brett Davis-USA Today Sports

The left tackle position is a need due to the guy who plays the quarterback position. If the Packers can find an elite left tackle in the draft they will take him. While Marshall Newhouse is an above average pass blocker according to ProFootballFocus, he struggles with consistency. Limiting the amount of hits on an elite quarterback should be one of the team's top priorities.

Unfortunately, the Packers likely won't be able to get a starting left tackle in the first round where they are picking. If D.J. Fluker were to somehow fall to that spot, he would be a great choice for the Packers, but I don't see that happening.

Other mock drafts have had the Packers drafting guards in the first round. They are already strong up the middle with T.J. Lang, Josh Sitton and Evan Dietrich-Smith, so I don't see that as a logical selection. Possible targets for a tackle include Terron Armstead, Barrett Jones and Dallas Thomas.

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2. Safety

Kim Klement-USA Today Sports

The Packers decided to part ways with Charles Woodson this offseason and M.D. Jennings doesn't appear to be the answer at safety. Jennings recorded just one interception and two passes defended. Morgan Burnett has proven to be an above average safety, but the Packers have sorely missed having an impact safety since the injury to Nick Collins.

For the Packers' secondary to be complete, they could use another ball hawk at safety. Some early round targets include Matt Elam (pictured above) and Greg Reid. Other names to watch are Phillip Thomas, Bacarri Rambo and J.J. Wilcox.

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1. Defensive Line

Brett Davis-USA Today Sports

The biggest position of need in my mind is the defensive line. The Packers were gashed by physical running backs (see Adrian Peterson and Frank Gore). Ryan Pickett isn't getting any younger and will be an unrestricted free agent after the season - as will B.J. Raji.

The rest of the defensive line brings more questions than answers. Mike Neal has never proven to be a consistent every-down end. Jerel Worthy will be returning from an ACL injury and Mike Daniels looks like a situational pass-rusher. C.J. Wilson provides good run support but little in rushing the passer.

The Packers have not had a defensive end effective against both the pass and run since Cullen Jenkins departed in free agency. That makes Margus Hunt (pictured above) an attractive prospect at the end of the first round. He's tall, fast and has long arms, which makes him suited to be an end in the 3-4 scheme. Other prospects the Packers could target to just beef up the line would be John Jenkins, Jonathan Hankins and Jesse Williams.