Friday, April 11, 2008

Thompson: Five Draft-Day Gleanings

I don't claim to be a "draft expert". I don't even claim to be a draft nut. The Internet and blogospheres are loaded with people who have some reasonable credentials to talk about what they think might happen, and even more who don't have any credentials whatsoever besides reading what everyone else says.

So, I am not going to publish the Tundra Vision Mock Draft, or TV Mock Draft 2.0, TV Mock Draft 3.0, or TV Mock Draft Vista. The fact that the Packers don't pick until #30 makes such a prediction rather comical, since GM Ted Thompson does very little to show his hand as to who he wants. Many of us thought he was taking Vernon Davis over AJ Hawk two years ago, and the Justin Harrell pick last year caught almost everyone by surprise.

But, as we approach Ted Thompson's fourth draft, I think there are some things that we can glean from his past efforts that will help us predict what he will do with pick #30. Don't ask me for a position or a player, and frankly, I think anyone who predicts that correctly deserves a beer for having such great luck.

Ted Thompson Gleaning #1: Ted doesn't pay attention to pre-draft hype. In other words, don't look for the biggest names to necessarily be highest on his board. We've seen Thompson pass up sexy names many times, in order to take a more anonymous guy that he likes. In 2006, many of us were hoping for Chad Jackson, considered by most to be a late first-rounder, to fall to us with the 36th pick. Imagine our shock when the Patriots ended up with that pick in trade and took Jackson, while Thompson traded back to take the much less heralded Greg Jennings. Jackson played at high-profile Florida, while Jennings hailed from Western Michigan.

Incidentally, this ends up being one of Thompson's biggest draft coups. Jennings is on the cusp of being a top WR with a breakout season in 2007, while Jackson has caught only 13 passes and spent far more of his career on the injury list than on the field.

The year before, many sexy names hung around in the second round, many hyped by the draftniks and Packer fans (Justin Tuck, Channing Crowder, and Andrew Walter). However, with all those players still on the board, Thompson shocked us by taking two smaller school players in safety Nick Collins and wide receiver Terrance Murphy. How successful that move was is certainly up for debate: Collins is a serviceable starter and Murphy is out of the NFL.

However, the gleaning sticks: just because a name gets a lot of attention from the draftniks and Mel Kiper, Jr., don't count on him being on Thompson's list. In fact, you might even start to think that Thompson likes to avoid the "phat" players who come in with more hype than talent.

Ted Thompson Gleaning #2: Ted doesn't trade up. Now, there's always a first time, but I wouldn't count on it. Thompson views his draft picks as investments for the future, not hole-fillers for the upcoming year. There's no team that has compiled more draft picks over the last three years than the Green Bay Packers. In fact, Thompson has drafted more players in his first three drafts than Ron Wolf did in his first three drafts...and Wolf had 12 rounds in each one!

I do think there's a bit of a fan backlash against trading up from the Mike Sherman days, who used the trade-up fairly often, but had some disastrous results (BJ Sander being the usual Exhibit A). However, this doesn't mean that the trade-up is a bad idea. A trade-up does trade known quantity (a higher number of lesser picks) for the risk of better quality. I've often cited that in 2004, I would have loved to have seen the Packers trade all of their Day 1 picks for the #6 overall pick, and taken DeAngelo Hall. When you look at who they ended up with those untraded picks (Ahmad Carroll, Joey Thomas, BJ Sander, and Donnell Washington), it sure seems like the trade-up was the much better option.

But, that's where your talent evaluation comes in, and Thompson trusts his evaluation so well that he thinks that he will end up with enough talent without having to sacrifice the quantity he has grown to love. This year, picking at #30, he might be tempted to trade up into the third talent tier of players, which usually has its line in the mid-20's.

But, I wouldn't count on it.

Ted Thompson Gleaning #3: Ted keeps his first rounder. For all the legends of Thompson's fur trading on draft day, there's one round he hasn't traded down out of yet, and that is the first. I'm sure he's been tempted, and likely gotten many offers, but I think he tends to look at that first rounder as the one "sure-fire" quality pick he adds to the roster. His first rounders (Rodgers, Hawk, and Harrell) are all expected to start or contribute this season.

At #30, I think it would take a logjam of, say, wide receivers as the BPA that would make Thompson think he might skip down a few spots and into the early second round. But, I wouldn't count on it. I think if any of his players is available at #30, even if it seems like a small reach, he takes him.

Case in point: Justin Harrell. Now, while this has been debated and the Broncos have been cited as saying they would have taken him shortly after the Packers did, you can't deny that many Packer fans were a bit surprised when he was taken at the point he was in last year's draft. Many in the media and fan base (myself included) felt that Harrell could have been available by trading down into the late teens or early twenties. However, Harrell was on Thompson's list, and I don't think Thompson wants to play much with the first-rounder. So, he took him.

Ted Thompson Gleaning #4: Ted does take risks, just backwards. The impatient among the fan base that keeps waiting for Thompson to hit an offseason home run usually lists his methodical, safe approach as Frustration #1.

But, Thompson does take risks, especially as you fall out of round one. In the 2006 draft, with Ahman Green coming off a serious injury, many of the draft experts expected Thompson to take a running back. As it was told later on, Thompson had his eye on Wisconsin running back Brian Calhoun in the third round. The Packers had their own pick, #67, and the Patriots' pick at #75. Thompson took a risk by taking linebacker Abdul Hodge, a player who would likely be a backup for the foreseeable future, at #67 and hoped that Calhoun would still be there at #75. Alas, Calhoun was snapped up by the Lions at pick #74, and reports were out there that Thompson was a bit disappointed.

Now, Calhoun's injury-riddled NFL career aside, Thompson will look at a player on his list, and if he thinks he might be available 5 or 10 picks down the line, look to trade down or wait on him. This shows restraint, especially in a draft that is more often marked by teams trying to trade up to get coveted players. However, it does also show a passive risk-taking streak in Thompson, too.

It is interesting to note, that despite RB being considered a high need in that draft, Thompson came out of it without a single running back out of twelve picks.

At pick #30 this year, there is going to be a mishmash of talented players who all have flaws. If Thompson thinks that one of those players is going to be available at #56 or #60, or could also be available if he trades down into the 40's, don't be that surprised if he does so. I'd be more inclined to think it would happen with those second-round picks than the first-rounder, but if there is a logjam of wide receivers as the BPA when the Pack comes up to pick at #30, it will be interesting to see what Thompson will do.

Ted Thompson Gleaning #5: Quantity is better than quality, and competition is better than filling spots. Depending on your point of view, this is either Thompson's greatest asset or his Achilles' heel. His penchant for trading down, taking smaller-school and more raw talent, and eschewing of veteran free agency often puts the Packers in a position of fielding a lot of young players without any clear-cut starters. In 2006, Thompson gave new coach Mike McCarthy a slough of rookie and street free agent offensive guards to compete for the starting jobs. Two years later, the OG position still seems to be without de facto starters. In 2007, the Packers entered the season without a single running back with a quality career start in the NFL, and for half a season, not one of them emerged as a back that deserved one, as they continued to fruitlessly shuffle them in and out of the lineup.

So, while many of the Internet Draftniks have the Packers taking a QB here, a TE there, and a CB over here, it is not likely that Thompson will be using this draft to fill any holes for 2008. In other words, don't expect that just because we need a backup QB desperately, that Thompson is going to use the draft to get a particularly well-regarded one. The same goes for a CB to be groomed quickly to fill in for aging Al Harris and Charles Woodson.

While there are chances that Thompson will spend pick number 30 to pick up a perceived need-filler like Rodgers-Cromartie or Talib or Cason, it is just as likely he might pick up a late first-day cornerback along with two second-day corners to compete with each other.

In conclusion, it is almost impossible to predict who the Packers will take at #30. Thompson has shown he's less of a needs-based drafter as he is a Best Player, scratch that, Best Player Available On His List drafter. You are wise to start checking players that may be invisible right now on the Big Boards...players from small schools and that may be coming off of injuries, as those factors which affect most scouts (and draftniks) don't appear to have much effect on Thompson. Chances are he will stay at #30, but if the right deal comes along, don't be surprised to see him trade out of the first round altogether--and don't count on a trade-up at any point.

Coming off of a 13-3 season, the Packers have a surprising number of needs: in fact, the only two squads that appear to NOT be a need are defensive line and wide receiver (and, you know that Thompson will likely take a defensive lineman at some point anyway, probably on Day 2). Because of all those needs (depth needed at RB, QB, TE, LB, and S, heir apparents needed at OT and CB), don't be surprised to see any of those positions come up at #30, even players that some draftniks have as second or third round talent.

Ted Thompson, as a drafter, is certainly unconventional. His success as a drafter is still a mixed bag, depending on who you talk to, but this is for certain: we are getting to know his style, and hopefully, this will be the first year we will expect the unexpected.


rickusn said...

Nice article except you like most Packer fans miss tthe obvious.

TT seems uncoinventional because he becomes obseed with filling a "Need".

Rodgers (Farve replacement)

Hawk (LB replacement)

Harrel (DT replacement)

The Harrel pick was the consumeate fill a need/obseession pick.

Its why I was far from surprised.

In fact that guy at who predicted that pick got the idea from ME.

I told him that TT was unhappy with the DTs he inherited and therfore brought in Kendrick ALllen and Ryan Pickett.

Not only brougt them in but annointed them starters before training camp began!!!!!!!!!

Allen of course was a flop.

Therefore it only made sense he draft a DT because he never changed his tune about being unhappy with the existing DTs.

In fact he said all this past season long that he wouldnt resign Williams no matter what but the cynical,unscroupulous, immoral and unethical person he is still placed the "franchise" tag on Williams and took Coreys future out of his own hands and simotaneously conned Cleveland.

Gaining amazingly a second-round pick.

TT has "NEVER" taken the BPA every pick has been based on "NEED".

But he has conned 99.999999999999% of Packer fandom/writers into believing the reverse.

Its become so nauseating I literally puke whem I hear "TT" and "BPA" mentioned in the same sentence.

So where does that leave us this year?

Pick your "obsession":


But I quarantee you that just like last year when he should have went with THE BPA CB Hall he wont pick a CB this year either.

Now dooming the Packers secondary for the next five years if EITHER Harris or Woodson are injured or have a precipitous drop in skills.

Of course having a brand new contract what does he care?

He only has to pull a rabbit out of the hat once during the next four years to get another long term extension.

But still dooming the storied Packer franchise to not one but TWO (an historical record BTW)decades of futility.

You heard it here first.

But be sure unlike that scumbag to give credit where credit is due.

TT is the most predicable/un-poker like person I have yet come across as GM.

But apparently other than I and a couple others has the ROW conned big time.

Unfortuantely Packer fortunes are likely to get far worse than people could possibly imagine unless MM and company continue to pick up the slack from TT.

Ask yourself one question:

If the Packers would have failed last year who would not be with the team:

MM or TT?

Thats right TT would hve thrown MM under the bus so fast it would make your head spin.

Should be an interesting year.

However if the Packers dont make the playoffs(no excuses pleaseeeeeeeeee) TT should be fired forthwith.

But of course that cant economically be done because remember the humongous golden-parachute he presented to Sherman(which set him for life btw) his will be even grander.

The whole reality of the situation is disgusting and depressing.

TT is the poster child for every ill that makes the US less than what it should be.

But will probabalky be overshadowed by the coming NFL Owner/Player financial strife.

Another manufactured, ready-made excuse for TT.

This guy makes RR look like he was coverd with "stickem" rather than "teflon".

And no I dont hate the guy just the fact hes put on a pedestal thats TOTALLY undeserving.

rickusn said...

Sorry for the misspellings.

Along with my own typing errors and less than thorough proof-reading a problematic keyboard failed me.

LosAngelis said...

LOL, no problem on the spelling, Rick. I'm glad I can go back and continually make revisions on my articles, because I usually need to!

As for your obsession theory, I think you present it well. It may go along with my noting that Thompson trades down like a stock broker once he gets out of the first round, but has held steady with that first pick in each draft.

I don't know, though, if he obsesses on a certain position as much as you think. We don't know who he was going to take in 2005 had Rodgers not done a free-fall. Would Jason Campbell been the guy, taken just a pick after Rodgers? The next quarterback wasn't taken until the third round.

As for Hawk, well, I don't care who was picking...I thought Hawk was the best choice, and not even because we needed two bookend linebackers that draft. I think that Hawk may have had the lowest ceiling of those first seven picks, but he by far had the highest basement. When you have that high of a pick, you can't afford to miss, as we learned with Mandarich and Buckley. honest with you, that one still confuddles me. I don't even know if DT was that much of a need. We had already invested in Ryan Pickett and still had Corey Williams, Johnny Jolly, and Colin Cole competing for spots. To me, that's the knock on Thompson, in that he allows lesser talent to compete, and the Harrell pick seemed like a reach at a position that didn't need it as much as, say, running back, fullback, or safety.

But, I will agree with you in spirit, that Ted Thompson's unconventional approach to the draft and free agency is going to define him and how he is regarded. And indeed, a sudden reversal of fortune and a sub.500 record will bring a lot of the perceived genius of Thompson back into question.

Ted Thompson is the last guy I plan to put on a pedestal, and took a bit of heat when I suggested people were already preparing to bronze a statue of him after firing Mike Sherman.

What I have come to the conclusion to, though, is this guy is going to get the chance to build this team, or hang himself with his own rope. Time will tell which it will be.