GREEN BAY, Wis. – After struggling on defense last year, the Green Bay Packers wanted to get faster and tackle better. Toward that end, GM Ted Thompson kept busy Saturday as he moved to replenish the defense through the NFL draft.

The Packers took Iowa defensive lineman Mike Daniels and Maine safety Jerron McMillian with a pair of compensatory picks at the end of the fourth round, then traded up to take North Carolina State linebacker Terrell Manning in the fifth round. With those moves, the Packers went defense with each of their first six picks.

Last year, the Packers took offensive players with five of their first six selections.

Thompson said neither pattern happened on purpose, joking that some of the Packers’ offensive coaches were giving him funny looks this year.

“I got that last year from the defensive guys,” Thompson said. “Last year, there was no intent to do it that way, this year there was no intent. We try to stick with our ratings and look at value.”

It certainly couldn’t hurt that the Packers walked away with so much help on defense, given that there is so much room for improvement.

Asked about McMillian’s tackling ability, Packers safeties coach Darren Perry made a larger point about the defense.

“He’s an excellent tackler, and you guys know what our tackling looked like last year,” Perry said. “So that’s going to be a point of emphasis.”

Green Bay also needed help at safety after releasing veteran safety Nick Collins amid uncertainty about his ability to return from a significant neck injury. That leaves the Packers looking at options at the position, although Charlie Peprah is the presumptive starter.

The 5-11, 215-pound McMillian had five pass breakups and an interception last season. He had 88 tackles, and 10.5 tackles for losses.

Could McMillian — who said he admired the way Collins played safety — challenge for the job?

“I don’t want to say I can, I don’t want to say I can’t,” McMillian said. “But I’ll work as hard as I can to get that opportunity.”

Perry praised McMillian’s intelligence and versatility, but said any talk about him challenging for a starting spot is premature.

“We have some young guys on our roster that are looking forward to make their own mark,” Perry said. “It certainly won’t be handed to him, but he’ll have every opportunity to come in and compete, and we’ll see where things fall.”

UMaine said McMillian was the highest-drafted player in program history. He was an All-Colonial Athletic Association first-team selection last season.

 

WIDE RECEIVERS and more trades were trendy on the final day of the draft, which ended when Indianapolis selected Northern Illinois quarterback Chandler Harnisch — 252 picks after taking Andrew Luck to open the proceedings.

Hours earlier, Chris Givens was taken by St. Louis to open the fourth round. Givens also can help the Rams in the return game. He had some injury issues at Wake Forest, but had 1,330 yards on 83 receptions in 2011.

“Yesterday was a little frustrating and a little humbling at the same time,” Givens said of not going in the first three rounds. “I really felt like they liked me a lot and I thought they were going to get me, and then they got Brian Quick (to begin Round 2), and then I thought OK, well, they’re not going to get me anymore. Then today I was pleasantly surprised.”

Cleveland, desperate for offensive playmakers, might have added one in Miami Hurricanes receiver Travis Benjamin, and Carolina went for Arkansas wideout Joe Adams, all in the first nine selections Saturday. There were eight wide receivers chosen in the fourth round.

Another three wideouts were chosen in the fifth round, four in the sixth and five in the seventh.