Saturday, April 25, 2009

Day One Reflections

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.


rickusn said...

Well I always like your analysis whether I am in total agreement or not.

In this case you didnt for some reason go far enough. Prety wishy-washy effort for you.

Ill chalk it up to TT fatigue I feel the effects myself.

This draft told us a couple things about TT that I have beeen saying all along:

1) He has no philosophy.
2) He always picks on meed despite the consensus view of BPA.
3) He panics and overreacts every single draft even though there is no need.. The Matthews pick is just the latst example.
4) TT continues to put faith that his two aging OT and his two aging CB havent reached the end or will soon. Or worse that he already has their replacements at hand. Wishful thinkng.
5) He made it clear he would be GM until he decides to retire this draft will only enhance that as he gets another 5 years gratis irregardless of W-L record because everyone will say that is how long he gets to prove the 3-4 scheme and Matthews.
6) Nothing TT does is put under a acritcal microscope he continues to get a free pass on every issue.

One last thing I was widely and virulently chastised for bringing up the 3-4 possibility last season. And told that it would NEVER happen.

These switches dont happen overnight. Thje paln was laredy far advanced when I brought up the intriguing possibility.

TT is all BS as are most so called Packer experts most of whom cant tell the differnce between Jenkins and Jennings.

MM is savinh his butt. For how long I dont know. But he wont last as long as TT bet the ranch on that.

PS Three picks to get Matthews is obscene from my perspective unless he can produce immdiate returns which seems highly unlikely.

C.D. Angeli said...

Hey Rick...good to hear from you again!

You know, there is no doubt about TT fatigue. In some of the chat areas I've been in, I'm getting weary of the "All the TT Haters should shut up now" stuff.

Trust me, I'm a TT critic. The draft is only going to fix so much, but for once, he's not taking an injured DT or getting yet another WR in the round that you expect to get instant starters from.

He got two guys he projects to start this year on the defense. Is it overreacting to a bad season, like MM did by firing everyone and changing the defensive scheme? Perhaps.

But they are two guys we needed upgrades at, particularly in a 3-4 scheme. They are also bigger risks, not safe picks like Rodgers and Hawk.

I feel your pain, me. I think the 3-4 is somewhat of a smokescreen, too, but I guess Thompson doesn't...very different from the ZBS switch where he gave MM no players to make it happen.

IPB said...

Several Cheeseheads have reported in about the Clay Matthews pick, all from the USC area, having watched him play in their NFL style system. Matthews "is" the real deal and still growing, if you can believe that. He may be a OLB right now, but if he gains a bit more weight will end up as a DE of a high cailber. But, that remains to be seen.
Not sure I agree with rickusn's premise that TT "picks on need" versus BPA. The Justin Harrell selection is a prime example of BPA over NEED. As are several others. I don't feel this was a fatigue draft. Rather it was a Dual-HC approach that Ted simply had to give credence to. I also think whatever reports the Scouts were bringing (this time) were somehow being tempered by Capers along the way. Maybe Capers has other insiders around the NFL and College that TT/MM never had before. Who knows. All I see is we've probably had the best Ron Wolf like draft ever, in the last DECADE.. since he walked away. Mike Sherman never knew how to pull it off--that's for damn sure! The USC pick was totally on spock logic. The guy comes from good stock, much like the Manning brothers. This faith in the OT's comes from some rather illogical advisement from Larry Beightol's successor. While I do not denegrate Campen's play in the Eighties for the Pack at Center. His temperment as an Offensive Line Coach leaves a lot to be desired and could actually be the cruz of why nothing has jelled since Beightol left. Remember, Beightol coaxed Wahle into playing at Guard. Campen gives us Colledge (spelled Ross Verba). On the CB's issue, we do have Tramon Williams and Pat Lee sitting in the wings and Williams has already proved himself. We did go and get one more CB, as TT will always do, but I think Pat Lee will step up this year. I would like to think Woodson has at least one more prime season in him. MY BIGGEST GRIPE of Sander's Defense was that Woodson literally WAS the fastest man they had on D. This is a coaching issue, which I believe Capers & Co will deal with, as we speak.
From this armchair, a GM is only responsible for bringing players; players who have been scouted to ad-nauseum. IT IS THE COACHING STAFF who is responsible for getting these players up to NFL snuff. Each April, the GM does his job, with advice from the HC and the Scouts. Once completed, it is the HC "who must" get the job done. It isn't the GM who's been calling the prevent football style plays we saw in 2008. And, it isn't the GM who's out there calling the shots on teaching technique. THAT's COACHING.
For me - I've been a HUGE critic of the coaching led by a prevent football mentality. It's not Lombardi-like at all.
If TT messes up in a big way, I'll be the firs tto say so. But, on a very serious note, all you need do is remove the Ron Wolf success of grabbing Reggie White, and suddenly TT/RW debate gains an even keel. In fact, TT slightly edges Wolf in more than one or two areas. Only in the first round of the Draft does he succeed better and with a handful of FA's. On the opposite side, TT is waay better with managing the money and in this day & age of NO CONTRACT, GBP is decidedly better off with TT over RW. TT gets more bang for the buck. Now, we need to get the HC to step up like Holmgren did in the SuperBowl run.
No offense to anyone reading this - but, how many SuperBowls did Brett Favre win, without Reggie White? And, how many times did GBP work to give him yet another chance? I'm just askin'. Will you use the same logic on all GBP issues?