Packers 2011 NFL Draft – What was Ted Thompson Thinking?

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With the 2011 NFL Draft in the books, Green Bay Packers fans everywhere are left to speculate on why Ted Thompson chose the players he did. In this article, I will try to delve into the mind of our ‘awkward genius” and present a coherent rational for each pick.

* Derek Sherrod – Offensive Tackle – Round 1, Pick 32 – Replacement for Chad Clifton: The Packers hope that they have their bookends for quarterback Aaron Rodgers’ prime years.  This pick reminds me a lot of Bryan Bulaga, another offensive tackle that was widely respected but not as highly touted as some of the other offensive linemen in the draft and probably fell roughly 10 spots before the being selected by the Packers.  Thompson was thinking value last year with Bryan Bulaga and that applies to Derek Sherrod as well.

At the moment, the Packers claim that they haven’t worked out where Bulaga and Sherrod will be playing, but I think it largely lies with Mark Tauscher.  If Tauscher decides to come back for another year (and beats out Bulaga as the starter), then the Packers will have the option of choosing who goes where.  If on the other hand Tauscher retires, gets cut or becomes the backup, then Bulaga becomes the logical choice for right tackle since he already has experience there and Sherrod gets to learn the ropes behind Clifton and become the future left tackle.

In my opinion this isn’t a snub on Bulaga, nowadays both bookends are equally important, especially with a pass first offense like the Packers; defenses will take advantage of the weakest offensive linemen, not just the blindside tackle.

* Randall Cobb – Wide Receiver – Round 1, Pick 64 – Replacement for James Jones/Donald Driver: The Packers hope to add another wide receiver to their stable to replace James Jones (who is likely to leave for greener pastures) and continue to add depth behind Donald Driver, who just turned 36.  Thompson knows that the Packers are a passing team and keeping multiple receivers on the field gives the Packers the best shot at winning.

While Cobb was seen as a slot receiver, I wouldn’t be surprised if Cobb spends plenty of time outside the numbers. The Packers are rather unconventional in the sense that they don’t really have designated roles for their wide receivers, with every receiver playing every position. For example, Greg Jennings was often most effective coming from the slot, perhaps due to the fact that #1 receivers rarely line up there and often have linebackers or safeties covering them.

Cobb also brings versatility as a returner and is an immediate upgrade over the “top secret” emergency quarterback (which is assumed to be either Greg Jennings or Jordy Nelson), which also likely means that the Packers will continue to keep only two quarterbacks on their roster with a third on the practice squad.

* Alex Green – Running Back – Round 3, Pick 96 – Replacement for Brandon Jackson: Incidentally, Alex Green seems to have characteristics of both types of running backs that the Packers like; Green has the size and the one cut/fall forward running style of a Ryan Grant or a James Starks but also has the soft hands and the purported pass blocking potential of a Brandon Jackson.  Even if Brandon Jackson is resigned, Thompson was probably thinking of grooming his eventual successor anyways.

With Jackson as a free agent and a lackluster performance as the feature back once Grant went down, Green is the logical replacement.  Green actually might become a better pass blocker than Jackson simply due to the fact that he’s 20 pounds heavier and 4 inches taller.

Finally, the fact that Green played mostly in a spread offense might actually be an advantage for Green; if he does become the 3rd down back, usually 3rd downs for the Packers means going into a spread look.

* Davon House – Cornerback – Round 4, Pick 131 – Replacement for Brandon Underwood/Pat Lee: Its pretty obvious what Thompson thinks about this pick; obviously both Lee and Underwood have been disappointments at cornerback; Lee seems to have a propensity to get hurt and while not much was expected from Underwood as a 6th round draft pick, his recent scandal of soliciting a pair of prostitutes added to lackluster play probably means he’s the first one on the team to get cut.

House has no character issues unlike Underwood and no history of injury unlike Lee.  Add to that the fact that the NFL is trending toward a more spread offense, and having multiple cornerbacks that can come off the bench and play becomes vitally important (ask the Falcons in the NFC divisional round after they lost nickel cornerback Brian Williams).

While the trio of Charles Woodson/Tramon Williams/Sam Shields is probably one of the best, should one of the players get hurt (or two in the case of the Super Bowl) or Charles Woodson gets moved to safety, more depth was needed.

* DJ Williams – Tight End – Round 5, Pick 141 – Replacement for Andrew Quarless: To be honest, I’m not entirely sure what Thompson was thinking with this pick.  DJ Williams doesn’t really fit into what the packers typically look for in the tight end position; he’s about the same weight as the rest of the tight ends, but a good 3-4” shorter at 6’2” than the rest of the tight ends.  On the plus side, his height probably means he has an advantage in terms of blocking leverage and the fact that the Packers love to motion tight ends pre-snap is probably a big reason why they drafted Williams.

I see this pick as mainly due to the fact that while the Packers will try their hardest to get Jermichael Finley under contract for the long term, he does seem to get hurt quite often and Andrew Quarless has issues catching the ball.  Enter Williams, who never missed a game due to injury in his college career and was considered to have the best hands of any receiver the draft.

My personal feeling is that Andrew Quarless isn’t on the hot seat based on the fact that he simply hasn’t had enough playing time to warrant being replaced (see Finley’s rookie season), but the Packers probably felt that depth behind Finley was important to address since Donald Lee is probably not on the team next year and Tom Crabtree is considered more as a blocking tight end/special teams player.

* Caleb Schlauderaff – Offensive Guard – Round 6, Pick 179 – Replacement for Jason Spitz: Jason Spitz fell out of favor dramatically last year, from being a contender to start at left guard during the preseason to getting benched during the Patriots game for TJ Lang after Daryn Colledge got hurt.

With the selection of Derek Sherrod in the 1st round, TJ Lang likely has no chance to compete at tackle, so the most logical solution is that he moves over to left guard, taking over for Daryn Colledge, who is a free agent and probably unhappy with his tender (like last year).  Spitz also probably won’t be back so adding another interior offensive linemen makes sense.  Thompson was probably thinking of adding depth at the line and maybe getting another run blocker, Schlauderaff is a decorated in this regard much like Josh Sitton and hopefully he will have time to add bulk and improve his pass blocking to become a solid backup.

* DJ Smith – Inside Linebacker – Round 6, Pick 186 – Replacement for Nick Barnett/Brandon Chillar: Thompson’s only thinking about the money on this one.  Smith played weakside linebacker in college, but based on his unusually small size and his reputation as a tackler, I’m making the assumption that he was drafted as a reserve inside linebacker and a special teams player.

Essentially this is a financial move; the Packers have 4 starting caliber inside linebackers making serious money; AJ Hawk and Desmond Bishop both received big contracts this offseason, Brandon Chillar received one last offseason and Nick Barnett is halfway through his contract that he signed in 2007.  With Hawk and Bishop as the designated starters, it wouldn’t be surprising to see the Packers try to do something with Barnett and Chillar, whether that be restructured contracts, trades or in the worse case scenario cuts.  Smith was probably drafted much in the same mindset as Desmond Bishop was, as a core special teams player and a developmental prospect.

* Ricky Elmore – Outside Linebacker – Round 6, Pick 197 – Replacement for Brady Poppinga: While Brad Jones, Frank Zombo and Erik Walden have all made significant contributions across from Clay Matthews, Brady Poppinga was sort of lost in the mix; while a starter in the 4-3 defense, he never really managed to compete in the 3-4 and the fact that he will be 32 during training camp probably means it will be hard for Poppinga to make the team again.

The Packers could decide to keep 5 outside linebackers on their roster, for one outside linebackers make good special teams players and second since its such a premium position in the 3-4 defense, having capable backups are important (see the Giants defensive end position) and Thompson just added another outside linebacker to develop.  Worse case scenario is that Elmore has a really good shot at making it onto the practice squad where he can develop.

* Ryan Taylor – Tight End – Round 7, Pick 218 – Replacement for Korey Hall: Most people see this as a little odd considering that DJ Williams was drafted at tight end already, but this is classic Ted Thompson logic.  What kind of players does Ted Thompson love that no one else does?  The answer: fullbacks.  My prediction is that Taylor wasn’t drafted as a tight end, but rather as a “all purpose” player like Korey Hall and John Kuhn.  Speaking of Hall and Kuhn, both are free agents and it’s unlikely that both will be resigned; Kuhn definitely has the edge on Hall since he became the folk hero/short yardage running back after Ryan Grant went onto IR.

The Packers love blocking tight end/fullback/H-backs/special teams players and Taylor will probably be used in the same fashion.  Taylor used to play linebacker before getting converted to tight end, mostly playing as a blocker and on special teams, which reminds me a lot of Hall, another linebacker conversion.

* Lawrence Guy – Defensive End – Round 7, Pick 233 – Replacement for Jarius Wynn: The Packers were strapped for defensive bodies during the first half of the season with Justin Harrell being lost in the first game, Cullen Jenkins breaking his hand and Ryan Pickett getting hurt at well; the Packers were forced to use Josh Sitton and TJ Lang in goal line packages, where naturally as offensive linemen they were terrible.

With the inclusion of Howard Green and both Pickett and Jenkins getting healthier midway through the season, this wasn’t as huge of an issue, but more depth is required, especially considering that Johnny Jolly’s career is likely over after a second drug possession charge and Cullen Jenkins being a likely free agent departure.  Lawrence Guy is this year’s CJ Wilson, who beat out Jarius Wynn for a spot (who then got it back after Justin Harrell went on IR) but probably could use a year on the practice squad to develop.

 

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Thomas Hobbes is a staff writer for Jersey Al’s AllGreenBayPackers.com.

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  • jeremiah

    Poppinga, harrell, josh bell, jason spitz…

    All guys who will lose their spots to draft picks this year.

    DJ williams was regarded by some as the nations best TE last year. He also has the ability to play the hybrid H type back that the packers like to use. He is a very solid pass catching TE, runs good routes, and shows a knack for getting open. Add to that the fact that he is very much what we all call “packer people” and it’s easy to see why he was such a good value in the 5th round.

    • Thomas Hobbes

      My assumptions is that if he were as tall as Jermicheal Finley or Andrew Quarless, he would have gone a lot higher, perhaps even in the first round. Not that that is saying much since if every player was faster or stronger they would probably be drafted higher.

  • FireMMNow

    just looking at Williams as a TE is wrong. He is an absolute perfect fit for the packers offense. The H-Back is making a comeback and will be the new standard in the NFL. The fullback is dead in the packers offense. Williams will be more than capable as the occasional lead blocker, he can catch the ball out of the FB spot better than probably anyone in the league, and he is a better inline blocker than most people give him credit for in my opinion. Williams is perfect for thompson, he can take the second FB spot and a TE spot. Thompson values flexibility and Williams provides flexibility and mismatches all over the field. Quite possibly the pick that fits into the packers offense better than any of the other picks.

    • http://allgbp.com Jersey Al

      Korey Hall was already going to be gone, but the Williams pick means Quinn Johnson gets cut too. He just hasn’t developed in the ST and pass-catching areas. They will not keep a roster spot just for his blocking when they can have an all-purpose guy like Williams. Also, Taylor is a Spencer Havner clone (converted LB) with the advantage of having already made the switch in college. Plus he has been coached at the H-back position by Butch Davis, who developed Jeremy Shockey and Kellen Winslow Jr. Tatlor and Havner will fight it out for the last roster spot.

  • robbie

    okay so we drafted 2 TE’s this year right? so we have j. finley donald lee andrew Quarless tom crabtree plus the 2 he just drafted 6 TE’s? maybe your right about the other TE being a H back type but your wrong about y he drafted him TT LOVES his TE’s but i have an idea for TT SIGN J FINLEY!!!! keep Quarless he is gonna be better than he was last season. keep Crabtree not a great reciever but great blocker in pass protection and run blocking. my guess is the other 2 TE’s are looked at for depth possible H back type and most defenitly STs TE’s tend to be really good on special teams

    • Chad Toporski

      Donald Lee was cut at the end of the season. It’s Finley, Quarless, Crabtree, Havner, Williams, and Taylor right now.

      • Thomas Hobbes

        lol, I didn’t even know Lee was cut already, well the writing was on the wall, so that wasn’t a huge surprise. Really, I wouldn’t count Taylor as a TE, just like Korey Hall wasn’t really a FB either. My guess is Crabtree or Havner gets cut in favor of Williams, and Hall doesn’t get resigned in favor of Taylor

        • Devin

          McCarthy described Crabtree as the best run blocker on the team at the beginning of last year, so I doubt he’ll get cut. Havner got cut last year and then was brought back because of injuries so he probably won’t make it back, which is a shame because I liked his versatility.

  • Lucas

    TT doesn’t draft using this logic. He drafts talent. We can fabricate a reason for TT drafting any position. If he drafted a QB the forums would light up with, “Flynn is being traded” talk. Having great talent allows options. Having options is powerful. Yes, Ted drafts with an eye on the future, but drafting to replace a player? Create competition, yes.

    • Thomas Hobbes

      Well I’ll ask you this; why did Thompson draft Aaron Rodgers in 2005? In my mind Rodgers never competed with Favre; Favre was always the starting quarterback until the day he got traded to the Jets. Rodgers was Favre’s replacement.

      • Lucas

        Rodgers was the highest on TT board. If he graded out the same as others, then he was picked with an eye on the future.

  • PackersRS

    Everyone have this notion that TT has a MO that he sticks to. Well, he has a core philosophy, and a long-term plan, but he changes his approach each draft, depending on the current situation of the team.

    He will never reach for a player, he puts character in high regard, but TT doesn’t do the same every time.

    In 05, Rodgers fell to him, so he chose him as a replacement for Favre. He tends to look ahead 2 or so years in the future while chosing replacements.

    But in 09, with the change on the D, he chose for need, taking a NT ahead of a WR (which was reportedly graded higher) and moving up to get an OLB. Neither of them were anyone’s replacements.

    This draft, it was about depth and development.

    Now, every single GM, when drafting a player, knows that there’ll be someone in the roster who’s gonna be affected by it.

    But I disagree that TT was looking to replace someone while making the pick. The board fell that way. But they clearly had a plan of getting a future LT in this draft. They clearly had a plan of finding a dynamic return guy in this draft (MM said as much, that not finding a return, small guy was his fault, and that he was going to create packages to adapt for it).

    • http://allgbp.com Jersey Al

      100% agree on all counts. Hey, that doesn’t happen often…

      • PackersRS

        Well, the main point of what I said was that TT is unpredictable. That’s easy to agree with…

        • Lucas

          There is a lot of game theory (math) that suggests this is why TT is successful. Predictability is a liability in drafting.

  • juan

    The drafting of these two tight ends is the end of Crabtree who is walking penalty and a mediocre tight end. Finley is also not Packer people and will be mal-content this year. Green Bay will probably move right before the trading deadline for a couple of draft picks or a player, if Finleys is healthy if not they will keep and not sign him. The addition of Cobb was brilliat and minimizes Finley.

    • Frank

      Juan, I think you need to get your head out someplace. Crabtree is not a walking penalty, he had only one penalty all season and anybody that can start fall camp as a very long shot to make the team must show alot of heart and determination. Taylor was not even rank as one of the top 20 tight ends in this year draft in any publication so him making the team is very slight. Also now with Finley, Quarless, Williams, they come out of the same mold of tight end, only want to catch passes and do none of the dirty work, well Crabtree does the dirty work and does it very well.

    • Thomas Hobbes

      I highly doubt that Finley will be a malcontent this year, mainly cause this is his contract year. He knows he needs to shut up and produce to get a big contract (whether it be with the Packers or someone else)

  • Taryn

    Again,great stuff from the writers here.

    The only thing that made my eyes pop is the what do we do “IF” Tauscher comes back and “WINS” the starting RT spot.
    If he(Tauscher) can win that spot back,I wouldn’t look at it as a good thing.IMO,it would be akin to “one step forward(Bulaga last year)and two steps backward(Tauscher this year).

    “Never try to backstep into a previous footprint”.

    • Lucas

      Throwing it out there…
      Is there any possibility Tauscher can brawl it out for a year at LG? I know it takes a different skill set, but his quick feet and intelligence, as well as his ability to drop his anchor…
      I know it’s a long shot…5%?

      • PackersRS

        As you both said, if a 34 year old veteran that has been injuried the last 3 years wins a starting spot, it’s more because others lacked.

        Specially if said guy wins a position that he never played.

        If Tauscher is starting at LG, it means we’re in serious trouble at the OL. And this coming from a Tauscher fan.

      • Oppy

        I have to agree with RS on this one, Tauscher is absolutely NOT a LG. He’s not long enough, he’s not fast enough, and despite your assertion of fast feet, I’d say he doesn’t have the foot speed for it either.

        Tauscher isn’t built or equipped to handle the type of top-tier speed rushers that NFL teams put over LT’s down in and down out.

        He’s a great, reliable RT, but he’d be miscast at LT IMO, regardless of his aging.

        • http://cheeseheadtv.com/lounge John Rehor

          Tauscher is not a LG. Never fleet of foot to begin with and coming off an injury, his best bet (if he chooses to try and play again) is at RT, as a backup to Bulaga.

          My hope: that he sees the writing on the wall and exits the playing field gracefully, taking a position with the team in the Rob Davis mold.

          • Oppy

            Wow, I didn’t realize Lucas was suggesting Tauscher battle for left GUARD vs. Colledge, I thought he was talking about Tauscher battling Sherrod/Bulaga for Left TACKLE.

            Whoops, I’m red in the face.

            But either way, I still don’t think Tauscher at LG makes sense, not when we have younger guys who can develop.

            • Thomas Hobbes

              I dunno, if Clifton went on IR or something and Sherrod had to start, I wouldn’t mind seeing Tauscher as a back-up left tackle; he’s probably better than any free agent you can find on the street mid-season

      • Lucas

        He was a starting RT last year. Yes, the injury clouds his future. But if he’s one of the best 5-now what?

        • PackersRS

          He was a starting RT in 09. In fact, he was our best tackle in 09.

          In 10, the only reason he was starting was for the lack of a decent alternative. Bulaga took a while to be able to play effectively, and Lang was hurt since the beggining, lacking strenght.

      • http://allgbp.com Jersey Al

        Intersting thought, Lucas, but I don’t see a fit. As a guard in the ZBS, you have to be able to get to your zones quickly. Never Tauscher’s strong point.

    • Thomas Hobbes

      I definitely hope that doesn’t happen, but for the sake of completeness I included the possibility.

  • Bearmeat

    Is it just the fact that I’m getting old – or did you use exceptionally small type size???

    • http://allgbp.com Jersey Al

      no different than usual… Were you viewing on a different computer (different resolution?)

      • Bearmeat

        Nope – I think I was just tired… smh at myself commencing momentarily.. ;)

  • Terry

    I think DJ Williams will go down as the best value pick the Packers made in this draft. The guy looks like the real deal to me. Based on his size, speed, agility, hands and the tape, he looks like Dallas Clark to me. He appears to understand how to find the open spot, fits for the tough yards, can cut on a dime and shows good football speed, not just a solid 40 time.

    That’s only half the story, though. To overcome his abusive father and become the well-spoken, focused individual who understands he has to keep improving at the NFL level, tells me this guy gets it and will succeed. Many a talented player has come and gone because they were not grounded or willing to continue their work to be a great pro. It is apparent from his background and his interviews, he has the maturity needed to succeed.

    So the guy’s not a prototypical inline TE. Who cares? Watch the tape. Football player plain and simple. The analysts like to always fit players into a box. He has to be this tall and weigh this much. They all too often overlook aspects like maturity, heart and determination. This guy has it.

    Sherrod may become our future LT and Cobb may add a versatile dimension to the Packers offense and return game, but of any of the Packers picks, I’m most sure that Williams will fulfill his talent. If Finley can stay healthy, this could be a devastating combination that gives the Packers great versatility in one-back sets have two guys that can get the job done blocking or get vertical.