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NFL Green Bay Packers

Green Bay Packers: NFL Combine Provides New Targets For 2014 NFL Draft

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Green Bay Packers: NFL Combine Provides New Targets For 2014 NFL Draft

Packers
Brian Spurlock - USA Today Sports

Last year, remarkably with a record of 8-7-1 the Packers managed to squeak by the rival Chicago Bears and Detroit Lions and into the playoffs. Their stay didn't last long, however, and the defense is mostly to blame for that. Obviously, some rust was to be expected from franchise quarterback Aaron Rodgers as well so that contributed as well. On talent alone, the Packers are going to compete for the playoff year in and year out. If they want to get back to playing in February again then improvements will have to be made and that starts with this year's draft.

On the defensive side of the ball, the Packers have a few areas of need. The most pressing of those needs is the safety position. They need a ball hawk to replace the production that they lost with Charles Woodson's departure. While the secondary has been able to limit damage by making plays and turning over opponents, they shouldn't rely on that game in and game out. What they need is more fundamental pass coverage, which will allow them to still turn teams over while also limiting big plays.

The Packers also need to make an effort to generate more of a pass rush up front. They rely on the speed and quickness of their outside linebackers to help on exotic blitz packages, but the team can only run so many blitzes like that per game. By adding depth to the front line that can consistently produce a pass rush, they could help their young secondary as they're developing. Everything on defense has a trickle-down effect and that starts on the defensive line.

On the offensive side of the ball, there isn't quite as much work to do in Green Bay. Given the fact that both starting tight ends from last year's squad will be unrestricted free agents, that's definitely a direction the team could decide to go in. Even though they will be getting healthier this season, the offensive line is another area that the Packers need to improve via free agency or the draft before the season starts.

As said before, the Packers are going to compete for the playoffs year in and year out, but how far they go in those playoffs will largely be determined by the tough decisions they make in this year's draft. Plenty of needs should be filled and it's up to general manager Ted Thompson to decide which positions are of highest priority.

Jacob Kornhauser is a writer for RantSports.com. "Like" him on Facebook, follow him on Twitter or add him to your Google+ network.

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S Calvin Pryor, Louisville (Round 1)

Pryor
David Manning - USA Today Sports

Perhaps the area of most need is in the secondary. Clinton-Dix from Alabama would be perfect in this spot, but there's a good chance he won't be available when the Packers are drafting. Pryor isn't a huge drop off and actually provides some better upside. He's solid in run support and can hold his own in pass coverage as well. He will have his work cut out for him in the NFC North where there are plenty of talented wide receivers.

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DE Jackson Jeffcoat, Texas (Round 2)

Jeffcoat
Brendan Maloney - USA Today Sports

With a very good build, Jeffcoat could fit well into the Packers' 3-4 scheme. He's slim and athletic, which fits well with the fast pace that the Packers want to play with on defense. Chipping off of the side of either B.J. Raji or Johnny Jolly could help him get a free run at the quarterback on occasion and if he can develop a solid ability to stop the run, then he's a first-round talent.

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OLB Telvin Smith, Florida State (Round 2)

FSU
Kim Klement - USA Today Sports

Adding Smith as an outside linebacker could give the Packers an extremely quick defense that would be hard to stop when they decide to blitz. Clay Matthews plays with a high motor on one of the outside linebackers and adding Smith, who is an intense competitor and has a championship pedigree, would only baffle opposing offensive lines even more.

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TE C.J. Fiedorowicz, Iowa (Round 3)

Iowa
Jesse Johnson - USA Today Sports

With the possible departure of Jermichael Finley, the Packers will likely have to fill a need at tight end. Look no further than the gigantic Fiedorowicz. Coming from "Tight End University" at Iowa, it's a good bet that he will be a solid NFL contributor if not an eventual Pro Bowler. His size and athleticism would instantly make him a go-to target in the red zone for Rodgers.

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OT JaWuan James, Tennessee (Round 4)

James
John Sommers II - Getty Images

Too often, Rodgers has been seen scrambling for his life outside of the pocket. That comes down to injuries and inconsistent play up front. It speaks to how good Rodgers is under pressure, but one could only wonder what he could do if he was given proper time to sit in the pocket and pick apart defenses. Taking a shot on a guy like James in the fourth round would add offensive line depth and give him a chance to compete for a starting job in camp. With a big body and excellent frame, he may be the insurance policy that both Rodgers and the Packers need going forward.