Starter Pack: High marks for the draft

A roundup of what’s happening on the Green Bay Packers beat.

GREEN BAY, Wis. – It’s always wise to wait as long as possible to judge a draft class. A player can look like a bust as a rookie and turn into to a serviceable player a year or two down the road. Or vice versa.

But ESPN NFL draft analyst Todd McShay found an interesting way to look at the most recent draft classes, and in doing so gave the Packers high marks.

McShay came up with the five 2013 draft classes that have had the biggest impactInsider this season. He writes that he heavily factored a team’s success into the rankings.

“It always bothers me when draft classes are labeled as successful based purely on the number of rookies who are playing, because, in reality, the worse a team is the more opportunities its rookies are going to have to earn playing time,” McShay writes. “The top five … are teams that are in playoff contention thanks in part to significant contributions from their rookie classes – and even among the sub-.500 teams that earned honorable mention status, you’ll see teams that have had rookies emerge as real difference-makers and aren’t just playing because of a lack of existing talent on the team.”

McShay ranked the Packers’ class second, behind only the Detroit Lions.

If you don’t have an Insider subscription, I strongly recommend you sign up. But I’ll give you a sneak peek at what McShay wrote about the Packers:

“The Packers selected only two players in the first three rounds, and their first-round pick hasn’t played up to expectations so far, but they still have two of the top offensive rookie contributors in the NFL this season on a team that was 5-2 prior to Aaron Rodgers’ injury. Only one of Green Bay’s 11 draft choices is no longer with the team.

“RB Eddie Lacy has been very productive so far. The only questions for him down the stretch are whether he can stay healthy and protect the football. OT David Bakhtiari hasn’t been perfect, but it’s pretty clear that he is an upgrade over Marshall Newhouse at left tackle, and he has far exceeded his draft slot. He actually slipped further in the draft than where we’d had him graded; we had him as the eighth-best OT and gave him a third-round grade.

“[Datone] Jones had had limited opportunities to shine behind a talented defensive front, but we still very much believe that he will be an impact starter in the future for Green Bay. CB Micah Hyde is contributing in sub-packages on defense and has made major contributions in the punt return game.”

In case you missed it on ESPN.com:

  • Linebacker Clay Matthews compared playing with a club cast on his right hand last week against Philadelphia to cutting off the whiskers on a cat. He expects to be more impactful on Sunday against the New York Giants with a significantly smaller cast.

  • Cornerback Casey Hayward’s hamstring problems continue, and this time it may cost him the rest of the season. The details, plus the full medical update, can be found in the injury report.

  • A pair of players on the physically unable to perform list – safety Sean Richardson and defensive end Jerel Worthy – returned to practice this week and could still contribute this season.

  • We had the details on Matt Flynn’s contract with the Packers. Let’s just say this: he might not be in their long-term plans.

  • Jermichael Finley believes that by undergoing neck surgery, he will increase his chances to play football again. But his odds may be long to come back to the Packers.

  • And finally, most of the ESPN panel of experts don’t like the Packers’ chances with backup quarterback Scott Tolzien on Sunday against the Giants. Most picked against Green Bay.