Around the NFC North: Rating Recent Draft Classes

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Packers GM Ted Thompson
Packers GM Ted Thompson

At this point of the season, it’s safe to say most readers of this site probably know where every team in the NFC North stands and why they’re in the position that they’re in. So instead of updating everyone with information they probably already know, we’ll take a different approach by examining recent NFC North draft classes.

I went back and listed every team’s draft choices from 2008-11 and broke down each team by examining their picks in the following categories:

Current starters: How many players drafted since 2008 are currently starting? I was fairly liberal in labeling players as “starters.” For example, Jordy Nelson does not “start” for the Packers (until Jennings got hurt, anyway), but for all intents and purposes, he’s a starter.

Home runs: These players are absolute studs, already pro bowlers or force other teams to game-plan specifically for them.

Future stars?: These players are already good, but haven’t reached their ceiling. A pro bowl or more could realisticially be in their future.

Late-round discoveries: Players drafted in rounds 4-7 that contribute and play much better than a typical player drafted in rounds 4-7.

Early-round flops: Players drafted in the first two rounds that did next to nothing.

*Note: I realize I left third-round picks out of both the late-round and early-round categories. Third rounders are sort of no-man’s land for me. I don’t feel comfortable labeling third rounders as either a discovery or a flop.

Green Bay Packers

2008

2. Jordy Nelson, WR
2. Brian Brohm, QB
2. Pat Lee, CB
3. Jermichael Finley, TE
4. Jeremy Thompson, TE
4. Josh Sitton, G
5. Breno Giacomini, T
7. Matt Flynn, QB
7. Brett Swain, WR

2009

1. B.J. Raji, NT
2. Clay Matthews, LB
4. T.J. Lang, T
5. Quinn Johnson, RB
5. Jamon Meredit, T
6. Jarius Wynn, DE
6. Brandon Underwood, DB
7. Brad Jones, LB

2010

1. Bryan Bulaga, T
2. Mike Neal, DE
3. Morgan Burnett, SS
5. Andrew Quarless, TE
5. Marshall Newhouse, T
6. James Starks, RB
7. C.J. Wilson, TE

2011

1. Derek Sherrod, T
2. Randall Cobb, WR
3. Alex Green, RB
4. Davon House, CB
5. D.J. Williams, TE
6. Caleb Sclauderaff, G
6. D.J. Smith, LB
6. Ricky Elmore, LB
7. Ryan Taylor, TE
7. Lawrence Guy, DT

Current starters (11)
Nelson, Finley, Sitton, Raji, Matthews, Lang, Bulaga, Burnett, Newhouse, Starks, Smith.

Home runs (4)
Finley, Sitton, Raji, Matthews.

Future stars? (3)
Nelson, Bulaga, Cobb (honorable mention to Sam Shields, who was undrafted).

Late-round discoveries (6)
Lang, Sitton, Wynn, Starks, Smith, Newhouse (another honorable mention for Shields).

Early-round flops (2)
Brohm, Lee.

Outlook (Bright)
Some GMs hit a lof ot home runs, but struggle to fill in the gaps with good depth players. Some GMs hit few home runs, but manage to excel at finding depth players. Packers GM Ted Thompson does both. He’s like the Albert Pujols of the NFL draft: He hits a lot of home runs and when the ball doesn’t go over the fence, it usually falls in somewhere for a hit. It’s a little concerning that two of Thompson’s top three picks in 2011 are out with serious  knee/leg injuries, but otherwise the Packers draft choices have put the franchise in position to contend for the foreseeable future.

Minnesota Vikings

2008

2. Tyrell Johnson, S
5. John David Booty, QB
5. Letroy Guion, DT
6. John Sullivan, C
6. Jaymar Johnson, WR

2009

1. Percy Harvin, WR
2. Phil Loadholt, T
3. Asher Allen, DB
5. Jasper Brinkley, LB
7. Jamarca Sanford, S

2010

2. Chris Cook, CB
2. Toby Gerhard, RB
4. Everson Griffen, DE
5. Chris DeGeare, G
6. Joe Webb, QB
7. Mickey Shuler, TE
7. Ryan D’Imperio, RB

2011

1. Christian Ponder, QB
2. Kyle Rudolph, TE
4. Christian Ballard, DT
5. Brandon Burton, CB
6. DeMarcus Love, T
6. Mistral Raymond, DB
6. Brandon Fusco, C
6. Ross Homan, LB
7. D’Aundre Reed, DE
7. Stephen Burton, WR

Current starters (6)
Sullivan, Harvin, Loadholt, Allen, Sanford, Ponder.

Home runs (2)
Sullivan, Harvin.

Future stars? (2)
Ponder, Rudolph.

Late-round discoveries (3)
Sullivan, Webb, Griffen.

Early-round flops (0)

Outlook (Depressing)
Nobody knows for sure who has final say on personnel decisions for the Vikings, and that’s probably a good thing. If the Vikings attributed all draft and personnel decisions to one person, that person’s house would be egged by depressed fans in Helga horns every Monday morning. When the Vikings aren’t trading away high-round picks, they’re not doing a very good job of wisely using the draft picks they have. Now Minnesota is in the running for the top overall pick in 2012 and Andrew Luck. What will they do if they get it? Trade it away? Draft Luck and trade Ponder? Pass up Luck and pick someone else? Forget to submit their pick in time and forfeit the choice? Anything is possible with the Vikings.

Chicago Bears

2008

1. Chris Williams, T
2. Matt Forte, RB
3. Earl Bennett, WR
3. Marcus Harrison, DT
4. Craig Steltz, DB
5. Zack Bowman, CB
5. Kellen Davis, TE
7. Ervin Baldwin, DE
7. Chester Adams, G
7. Joey LaRocque, LB
7. Kirk Barton, T
7. Marcus Monk, WR

2009

3. Jarron Gilbert, DT
3. Juaquin Iglesias, WR
4. Henry Melton, DE
4. D.J. Moore, DB
5. Johnny Knox, WR
5. Marcus Freeman, OLB
6. Al Afalava, DB
7. Lance Louis, G
7. Derek Kinder, WR

2010

3. Major Wright, DB
4. Corey Wooton, DE
5. Joshua Moore, DB
6. Dan LeFevour, QB
7. J’Marcus Webb, T

2011

1. Gabe Carimi, T
2. Stephen Paea, DT
3. Chris Conte, DB
5. Nathan Enderle, QB
6. J.T. Thomas, LB

Current starters (10)
Conte, Wright, Webb, Melton, Knox, Louis, Williams, Forte, Bennett, Davis.

Home runs (2)
Forte, Melton

Future stars? (3)
Bennett, Carimi, Paea.

Late-round discoveries (4)
Webb, Knox, Louis, Davis.

Early-round flops (0)

Outlook (Not the greatest)
When we think of the Bears and personnel moves, we think of trading for Jay Cutler and signing Julius Peppers. The Bears are never going to confused for a team that builds from within, but they’re not complete failures in the draft, either. The next couple of drafts are critical for Chicago. The Bears need to bolster an aging defense, keep getting downfield targets for Cutler and possibly replace Forte.

Detroit Lions

2008

1. Gosder Cherlius, T
2. Jordon Dizon, OLB
3. Kevin Smith, RB
3. Andre Fluellen, DT
3. Cliff Avril, DE
5. Kenny Moore, WR
5. Jerome Felton, FB
7. Landon Cohen, DE
7. Caleb Campbell, DB

2009

1. Matthew Stafford, QB
1. Brandon Pettigrew, TE
2. Louis Delmas, DB
3. DeAndre Levy, LB
3. Derrick Williams, WR
4. Sammie Lee Hitt, DT
6. Aaron Brown, RB
7. Lydon Murtha, T
7. Zack Follett, LB
7. Dan Gronkowski, TE

2010

1. Ndamukong Suh, DT
1. Jahvid Best, RB
3. Amari Spievey, SS
4. Jason Fox, T
7. Willie Young, DE
7. Tim Toone, WR

2011

1.  Nick Fairley, DT
2. Titus Young, WR
2. Mikel Leshoure, RB
5. Doug Hogue, LB
7. Johnny Culbreath, T

Current starters (9)
Young, Suh, Spievey, Stafford, Pettigrew, Delmas, Levy, Cerilus, Avril.

Home runs (5)
Avril, Stafford, Pettigrew, Suh, Levy.

Future stars? (3)
Spievey, Young, Fairley.

Late-round discoveries (0)

Early-round flops
Dizon, Best.

Outlook (Good)
If the Lions fill in the gaps around their home run players, look out. Aaron Rodgers and Jay Cutler aren’t going anywhere anytime soon, so the Lions should really try to improve their secondary. It’s nice to have such a young and talented defensive line, but the Lions will have to cover if they want to beat Rodgers and the Packers.

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Adam Czech is a freelance reporter and a Packers fan living in the Twin Cities. Follow Adam on Twitter. Read more of Adam\\\'s writing on the Packers here.

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  • Ron LC

    Thanks for the hard work Adam. This will require deep thought to absorb. Merry Christmas.

    • Adam Czech

      Thanks for reading, Ron. Merry Christmas to you as well.

  • Chileman

    Where the Packers do a terrible job is the process of trading away players before they reach free agency in order to get some value for them. Two teams that excell at this are New England and Philadelphia.

    • Oppy

      Packers might get some more interested trade partners when they start moving WR’s and TE’s out of the program. We have an abundance of gifted skill players, and they should generate some interest in the future.

      Also, the Packers have done pretty good to get anything for guys like Schlauderaff (conditional draft pick), Tony Moll (straight up trade for Derrick Martin)- which, IMO, getting a very good Special Teamer for a wholly useless Olineman is a pretty sweet deal- they dealt Quinn Johnson for a undisclosed draft pick – etc and so forth.

      Also, I believe the Packers always consider the compensatory picks they may receive if a player is lost via free agency, and weigh that against what another team is willing to trade for that player.

      NE is definitely ahead of the Packers in terms of trading away personnel, But I don’t think it’s accurate to say the Packers do a terrible job of it.

    • Adam Czech

      Any specific examples, Chileman?

  • Dan

    Flynn might walk after the season

    • David

      Flynn will be lucky to stay with the Packers the way he’s played this year. He gets a half against Detroit next week to prove himself to a team (incl Packers).