The Green Bay Packers saw a draft far different in 2009 than they've ever seen from general manager Ted Thompson. For some, it is an exciting change. For others, it is just as questionable as always.
But, it was different...and got your attention.
Here's what got my attention today:
* I was shocked at the sudden rise of Tyson Jackson, the defensive end taken by the Chiefs at pick #3. This was the guy I was hoping for at #9 for the Packers. Not only did he fill a need, he just came off as a solid player and a solid leader. Unfortunately, so did every other team moving to a 3-4, and the Chiefs defense last year made the Packers look like the Steel Curtain.
I wrote about supply and demand yesterday, trying to make a case it would be okay to take Jackson at #9 because his value would be in such high demand. Apparently, I wasn't the only one who thought so.
* Ted Thompson shocked the world by making a need pick at #9, and I couldn't be happier. BJ Raji may have some warts, but you get the feeling this is a kid who Dom Capers can work with and really get to fill a major void in that defensive line. No, he's not particularly bright, and his work ethic is under some question. But there's no point in picking up more linebackers until the guys in front of them can handle the linemen for them. Great move, great pick.
* I really didn't understand why everyone thought that we needed to take Michael Crabtree. Guys like this drop for a reason. The Raiders even reached to take a different WR before Crabtree. Maybe he'll be the next Jerry Rice, and more power to him if he does. But I think that Thompson had to battle with taking the BPA versus the BPA@PON (Best Player Available at a Position of Need), and went with the latter.
Isn't it amazing how the Atrium crowd receives you when you try to address both Best Player and need? Crabtree was the furthest thing from a need, and I have a feeling he wasn't in enough demand for Thompson to have extorted what he wanted out of another team. The value simply wasn't there, and neither was the need. Good move.
* I was against taking an offensive tackle in the first round. Yes, I know it is a need, but it also really would be a black mark on Thompson's drafts. Thompson has used four years to try and build this offensive line through the draft, and has plenty of guys on the roster via that route. In just the last three drafts, Thompson has taken six offensive linemen (one 2nd rounder, one 3rd rounder, two 4th rounders, and two 5th rounders). And suddenly, when Mark Tauscher is injured, we have to burn a first rounder just to replace him?
The guys on the roster SHOULD be able to do it.
* I had called it nearly an hour before it happened, even used the draft chart to figure that pick 26 equaled the value of the Packers second and third round picks. I figured if Oher or Everette Brown were still available, Thompson should trade up.
Imagine my shock when he actually did it. Thompson NEVER uses my ideas. Ever.
But he did. Oher was off the table, but still made the trade to take a 3-4 OLB. What surprised me, though, was that he took Clay Matthews from USC. He has quite a range of rankings among most charts, but seemed to be a decent value at #26.
What surprised me even more was that Thompson threw in the other third rounder in addition to the 2nd and 3rd. That was a relatively high price to pay.
But, listening to Thompson talk, he is really enamored with Matthews. Don't lose sight of the fact he played with Clay's uncle, Bruce, in Houston during his playing days. He really, really wanted him.
My guess is that the Pats were entertaining several offers for that 26th pick, and Thompson had to pony up to get it. Think of the irony of that: not too long ago, the Packers had an offer on the table to trade for Randy Moss, and it was the Pats who upped the ante to get him from the Raiders.
In reflection, it seems like a high price to pay. But, more importantly, Ted Thompson has done with the 3-4 what he did not do with the implementation of the ZBS...he provided McCarthy with an instant upgrade in talent, giving him two first-round talents to get the transition off the ground. With the ZBS, he gave him a bunch of mid-round picks and hoped that competition would eventually produce some starters. Now, Matthews plays alongside veterans up and down the linebacking corps (Barnett, Hawk, and Kampman), while Raji will likely be bookended by vets Cullen Jenkins and Ryan Pickett.
In other words, those two picks will be able do more than what we've seen from most Thompson picks...they are top-tier talent and will go at it with veteran leadership around them AND behind them.
* The only other shoe that drops for me is that Everette Brown ended up still being available at pick 41. That makes me think two things:
1) The Packers could have gotten a first-round OLB while standing pat and not giving up two third rounders in the process;
2) There was something about Everette Brown that Thompson, and a lot of other NFL teams, did not like. It reminded me of Ernest Shazor, the defensive back many thought the Packers would take a couple years ago, and inexplicably plummetted out of the draft. Face it...these guys know more than we do.
So, I am relatively content with the trade-up for Matthews, despite knowing we could have had Brown or Connor Barwin had we stood pat.
* There's something odd about this draft, like we have a different Ted Thompson running the show. But he actually came out and stated last week that he doesn't feel he's in a situation where he has to rebuild and acquire talent, and that trading back wasn't the "rule" in this situation.
He's also stated that he is content with the talent level on this team, despite our disagreements after a 6-10 season.
This draft seemed to back up his beliefs on both these points. He was able to address needs on defense, bringing in quality over quantity, a far cry from the record number of draft picks he's brought in before this year.
I'm also of the belief that, after not picking again until the 4th round, this is pretty much all the talent we're going to bring in this year that will be able to truly contribute this year as starters. But that's okay. I think Thompson will develop more depth on the OL, at CB, and perhaps even at DE. He might even take a punter.
But, for once, I am going to give a Packer GM a very positive mark for a first day draft. It's the first time I've felt good about doing that in a long time.