Really had a blast working on my package in today's newspaper, the best 30 players under 30 in the NFC North. I'm always amazed at how scouts and coaches view players. They're not solely obsessed about statistics, and they see and value things that casual observers just don't.
Here's a link to the package.
But let's take a closer look at the entire list.
The Packers have 11 - Aaron Rodgers (1st), Greg Jennings (5th), Clay Matthews (8th), Jordy Nelson (10th), B.J. Raji (16th), Tramon Williams (17th), Jermichael Finley (18th), Josh Sitton (20th), Desmond Bishop (23rd), Bryan Bulaga (24th), Mason Crosby (27th),
The Lions have 8 - Calvin Johnson (2nd), Matthew Stafford (5th), Ndamukong Suh (7th), Cliff Avril (11th), Chris Houston (19th), Brandon Pettigrew (21st), Stephen Tulloch (22nd), Louis Delmas (30th)
The Bears have 6 - Jay Cutler (4th), Matt Forte (9th), Devin Hester (13th), Henry Melton (15th), Stephen Paea (26th), Johnny Knox (28th)
And the Vikings have 5 - Adrian Peterson (3rd), Percy Harvin (12th), Chad Greenway (14th), John Sullivan (25th), Brian Robison (29th).
As I mentioned on Twitter, the 31st player would have been T.J. Lang, the offensive lineman from the Packers. He's a fourth-round pick, and scouts and coaches tell me he's been absolutely dominant, of late. That he's got Pro Bowl potential.
This package, though, underscores the importance of building through the draft. The Lions have gotten quickly fast, because they have had several very high draft picks. And, ultimately, those three (Johnson, Stafford and Suh) are cornerstone players for them.
But the Packers are in this position because of their talent evaluation and development. Of the 11 players on my list, four of them (Rodgers, Raji, Matthews and Bulaga) are first-round picks. The others are not.
Greg Jennings and Jordy Nelson are second-round picks. Jermichael Finley is a third-rounder. Josh Sitton is a fourth-rounder. Mason Crosby and Desmond Bishop are 6th rounders.
But no player underscores the Packers scouting skills than cornerback Tramon Williams.
He was undrafted out of Louisiana Tech, and he was first signed by the Houston Texans. At the time, the Texans had one of the worst secondaries in the NFL.
But they let him go, after the preseason, and Williams was unsigned for a while. That means every NFL team had a chance to get him.
But the Packers didn't sign him until Nov. 29. Then, he didn't play in a single game.
In 2007, he played in all 16 games, mostly on special teams, and he made one start. In 2008, he started nine games. In 2009, he started 10 games.
In 2010, he was a full-time starter, and he intercepted six passes and defended 20 others.
The Packers are one of the league's youngest teams. And as they prepare for another championship run, the Vikings and Bears -- since the Lions are still in it -- need to figure out how they're going to close that sizeable gap. It doesn't happen overnight, but both these teams need to have a strong offseason if they're going to keep up.