Fourth-Round Picks Provide Options on OL

Bakhtiari (David Snook - USA Today Sports)

Colorado's David Bakhtiari started two seasons at left tackle after playing right tackle as a freshman. Cornell's J.C. Tretter started two seasons at left tackle after starting his career at tight end. Where they wind up remains to be seen but line coach James Campen likes the possibilities.

The Green Bay Packers skipped out on the offensive lineman parade during the first round of the NFL Draft, when nine came off the board. But come the fourth round, they found not one but two big bodies to throw into the mix on a line with room for improvement.

With the 109th overall pick, the Packers added University of Colorado tackle David Bakhtiari. Just 13 picks later, they tapped the Ivy League for Cornell tackle J.C. Tretter. Both have the size, athleticism and versatility the Packers crave. Where exactly they fit in remains to be seen, but Green Bay offensive line coach James Campen was enthusiastic about his newest additions.

"They both possess that ability to play through a whistle, up to a whistle, within the rules," Campen said. "But they do finish. They stay engaged with their feet going with their blocking. They do a very good with their fundamentals, including proper base, width, those types of things, and they're both active-hands players. They're going to punch you all the way through the block. They both do a very good job with that."

Last season, Bakhtiari was asked to prepare a scouting report on San Francisco 49ers left tackle Joe Staley. It was the NFL player Bakhtiari's position coach thought he most resembled. Bakhtiari agreed.

The Packers can only hope they're right.

Staley's made the Pro Bowl the last two seasons and delivered a gritty performance against Packers linebacker Clay Matthews in the Niners' NFC divisional playoff. And while Staley was a highly touted first-round pick out of Central Michigan , Bakhtiari was a projected second- to third-round pick who dropped to the Packers.

Bakhtiari started 33 of his 34 games in Boulder, with 22 at left tackle and 11 on the right. He said he got some spot duty at guard, as well. At the Scouting Combine, he ran the fifth-fastest 40-yard dash among offensive tackles with a time of 5.02 and was the sixth-strongest with 28 reps of 225 pounds on the bench press.

Count Staley among those who thought the 6-foot-4, 299-pound Bakhtiari should've gone earlier. He tweeted on Friday that Bakhtiari would be a steal in the second round.

Now Bakhtiari, who notched 255 knockdowns and 27-touchdown-resulting blocks for the Buffs, will get his chance to test his skills against Matthews in practice. He trained with him in preparation for the draft. Bakhtiari's older brother, Eric, was a linebacker in the NFL for five seasons, having just recently been released by the 49ers.

"Clay is good friends with my older brother and I was training with him for about two-and-a-half weeks before he got his new deal done and went back to Green Bay," said Bakhtiari, who also counts Aaron Rodgers' younger brother, Jordan, among his good friends. "So, I had a chance to meet him and hang out with him, and he's a great guy. He's fun, a competitor, and his work ethic is unparalleled. It's awesome to be working out with that kind of guy. I'm just excited now to compete against him and learn what he does because, shoot, if I can learn from him and block him, I feel like I can pretty much block anyone, so that's something I'm really excited to jump in and start working with."

Going from a 1-11 Buffalos team to a Super Bowl contender was another reason to get excited.

"It's going to be awesome, just to know the mere fact that our team has a great chance of going to the Super Bowl," Bakhtiari said. "Consecutive years, they've been contenders. Such an amazing feeling, but I've been through an organization that had its struggling times, so I know how to face adversity and, of course, there's going to be adversity no matter what team you're going to be on. I'm definitely prepared with that but I'm also excited to have the wins keep coming in our direction."

While Bakhtiari saw himself drop to Green Bay , the 6-foot-3, 307-pound Tretter went earlier than expected. Projected as a sixth-round pick by some, Tretter is a two-time Ivy League selection and just the eighth Big Red offensive lineman ever drafted. Starting all 20 games at left tackle during his final two seasons, he allowed just one quarterback sack on 853 pass plays while registering 214 knockdowns and 23 touchdown-resulting blocks.

At the Combine, Tretter posted nearly identical numbers to Bakhtiari's in the 40 and bench press with 5.03 and 29 reps. A former 230-pound high school quarterback, he began his collegiate career as a 250-pound tight end before bulking up to 307 pounds for his final two seasons to play tackle.

"They brought it up moving early in my career right when I first got there and I really wanted to give tight end a try," Tretter said. "Then after two years, I kind of saw the offense, the potential we had, we just had to give our quarterback a little more time to go through his progressions. When they came back with that same offer of moving to offensive line, I jumped on it. I think having played tight end actually helps. You understand coverages; you can kind of read the defense. Definitely having quick feet, being an athlete always helps on the offensive line. So, I think it definitely helped the process; you just have to try to pick up the position as quick as possible. I'm still picking it up but I've come pretty far in the past 20 months since I officially moved."

An industrial labor relations major with a 3.4 GPA, he had thoughts of obtaining a pre-law degree to become a sports agent, or possibly pursuing coaching or scouting. With the latter in mind, he offered up the following evaluation of himself:

"I think the off-the-field stuff is great: good kid, smart player, understands defenses, understands blitzes and stunts. Obviously, the lower level of competition, some people worry about that. I think I've got all the tools to make the next step and I think that showed at the Combine. When you're as fast and as strong as everybody else, I don't see much reason why you wouldn't be able to compete with everybody else. I'm extremely confident in my own abilities to be a great player at the next level."

How soon Bakhtiari or Tretter can contribute is anyone's guess, along with if Green Bay will keep them on the outside, or tap into that versatility to play guard. Tackle could offer the more immediate opportunity for both.

Bryan Bulaga will return to the starting lineup after suffering a hip socket fracture last season. Whether he returns to his familiar right tackle spot or gets flipped to the left side won't be known until summer; Campen declined to answer that question on Saturday. Wherever he ends up, the other tackle spot will be a competition between incumbent left tackle Marshall Newhouse, Don Barclay (who took over for Bulaga), former first-round pick Derek Sherrod, practice squader Andrew Datko, recently acquired Kevin Hughes, and now Bakhtiari and Tretter.

"I think every year going forward, you try to create competition and we have competition already set from the practice squad kids and the players that we currently have," Campen said. "Let's be honest, you've got two fourth-round picks back-to-back, certainly the competition barometer went up a heck of a lot. So that's a good thing to have. And the men that are already in that room understand that, and they understood that before this draft certainly. Our competition just got better."


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W. Keith Roerdink has covered the Packers since 1992. E-mail him at karoer@msn.com.