Recipe for a World Champion
Written by Mike Davidsen Wednesday, 13 April 2011 08:34
We all know that Ted Thompson has a fancy for drafting wide outs - but are there any other positions that he's tended to target more than others? Additionally, you may be surprised to see which positions Thompson typically sacrifices on draft day. I note three trends that Thompson has developed in six years as the Packers' general manager.
2 Cups Passing Game, Pinch of Running Game
Most NFL fans would be appalled at only five draft picks used on offensive backfield prospects over the course of six drafts. That's the number used by Thompson, with only one coming earlier than the fifth round (Brandon Jackson). Shouldn't a cold-weather team invest more in explosive ball carriers to help foster a strong ground game? Maybe not.
If the Packers hadn't stumbled upon Ryan Grant in 2007, I'd bet that Thompson would have curbed his best player available strategy in the past three drafts to land a back more capable of carrying the load than Brandon Jackson. Instead, Grant established himself as the starter and Thompson got to spend more draft picks on his beloved receivers.
In six drafts Thompson has spent a whopping 11 picks on wide receivers and tight ends, almost half of them coming in the third round or earlier. That type of investment has produced stars like Greg Jennings and Jermichael Finley, and with additions of Jordy Nelson and James Jones, has formed one of the best receivings corps. in the league. Such a fleet made things a hair easier for Aaron Rodgers when he took over as starter.
High Quality Beef
Thompson has spent 21 draft picks on big men, with limited success on both sides of the ball. Perhaps the limited success with offensive linemen can be attributed to only three of his 12 O-line picks coming in the third round or earlier. Josh Sitton and T.J. Lang are Thompson's only late-round claims to fame in this positional group.
It's difficult to evaluate Thompson's nine defensive line picks as those selected prior to 2009 were drafted to play in a 4-3 system. Ted hit it big with B.J. Raji and Johnny Jolly (until his recent legal troubles ended his stint in Green Bay) and may have found something in Mike Neal. Jolly is really the extent to Thompson's late round success, with Jarius Wynn and Mike Montgomery hardly amounting to anything.
Packers fans have to give Thompson credit for his five picks on linemen in the first or second rounds. Still, most of his linemen picks have come in the late rounds and have been used on "projects" like Breno Giacomini and Jamon Meredith. I would like to see Thompson spend more day two picks on offensive linemen in particular.
Even Quality Ingredients Reach Their Due Date
Since becoming the Packers' GM, Thompson's cornerback picks have been few and far between. This is partially due to the successes of non-drafted corners Charles Woodson, Al Harris and Tramon Williams. Two second round picks and two third round picks in six drafts is not how you build a top secondary - but a heavier investment clearly wasn't necessary.
Thompson's strategy in regards to cornerback needs may need to change on draft day, however, as Harris has aged his way out of Green Bay and Woodson is next in line. The Packers may have found something in undrafted free agent and former Miami Hurricane Sam Shields. Whether Shields is looked at as a potential starter or not, expect Thompson to break trend in the coming drafts due to a major lack of depth behind Williams and Shields.
Like cornerback, the Packers have acquired most of their depth at safety outside of the draft. With the jury still out on Morgan Burnett, Thompson has only yielded one standout safety in Nick Collins. Atari Bigby and Charlie Peprah have served as suitable stopgaps over the course of Thompson's tenure, but would have trouble getting the job done without Collins' presence.