The NFL Draft and the NFC North

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Packers QB Aaron Rodgers is the NFC North's, and probably the NFL's, best draft choice since 2005.Introduction

Introduction
As Packers fans, we hear a lot about building through the draft and developing young players. I thought it would be interesting to examine each team in the NFC North to get a better idea of how drafted players impact current rosters.

So as baseball season gets underway, I decided to celebrate by writing over 2,000 words about the NFL draft.

I came up with a baseball theme (sort of) to accomplish this task. I break down each team’s drafts from 2005-11 by putting draftees in the below categories. I chose 2005-11 because it encompasses Ted Thompson’s time as Packers general manager. Here are the categories and an explanation of each:

Current Starters
This one should be obvious. Which players drafted from 2005-11 are current-day starters with the team that drafted them?

Home Runs
Players who have turned into pro-bowl caliber players or superstars.

Strikeouts
Players drafted in the first or second round that never did much of anything. I limited this category to absolute busts. For example, Justin Harrell was a wasted pick. He’s a strikeout. A.J. Hawk, while failing to meet expectations, remains a starter, wasn’t a complete bust, and shouldn’t be considered a strikeout. In baseball terms, Hawk is probably a walk. Walks are useful and better than striking out, but nothing to get too excited about.

Value Picks
Players taken in rounds five through seven that exceeded the typical expectations for a player drafted that low. I was fairly liberal with this category. If a guy played regularly as a starter or reserve, I counted him as a value pick. For example, I consider Packers LB Brad Jones a value pick. No, he’s nothing special, but he’s played in 35 games over three seasons, starting 13 times. That’s decent value for a seventh-round pick in my opinion.

I realize that third- and fourth-round selections are left in no-man’s land with my system. They’re neither strikeouts nor value picks. The third and fourth round is a gray area for me. It’s not high enough to label someone a bust if they’re bad, but not low enough to call it a value pick if they’re good. I left the third and fourth rounders out in no-man’s land and just counted them in my totals for batting average (see below).

Batting Average
Just like a baseball player’s batting average is determined by dividing the number of hits by at-bats, I determined each team’s draft batting average by dividing the number of good draft picks by the total number of picks. Deciding which draft picks are “good” is a completely subjective process, so I used my best judgment. I also was fairly liberal and usually gave the benefit of the doubt if I was on the fence about a pick, so some may think my averages are a little high. Basically, if a reasonable case could be made that the player was decent and/or met the expectation level for where he was selected, I considered it a good pick.

For example, I counted James Jones as a good pick because even though he’s never done anything special, he’s a solid receiver and decent value for a third-rounder. I did not count A.J. Hawk as a good pick. Even though Hawk is a starter, he hasn’t met expectations for a No. 5 overall selection.

Finally, it’s still too early to judge the 2011 draft class, but I tried. To mitigate this somewhat, I included two overall batting averages, one for 2005-10 and one for 2005-11.

Green Bay Packers

Current Starters (16)

KR Randall Cobb, T Bryan Bulaga, S Morgan Burnett, T Marshall Newhouse, DT B.J.  Raji, LB Clay Matthews, G T.J. Lang, WR Jordy Nelson, TE Jermichael Finley, G Josh Sitton, LB Desmond Bishop, K Mason Crosby, LB A.J. Hawk, WR Greg Jennings, QB Aaron Rodgers, S Nick Collins.

Home Runs (9)
QB Aaron Rodgers (1st, 2005), S Nick Collins (2nd, 2005), WR Greg Jennings (2nd, 2006), LB Desmond Bishop (6th, 2007), WR Jordy Nelson (2nd, 2008), TE Jermichael Finley (3rd, 2008), G Josh Sitton (4th, 2008), DT B.J. Raji (1st, 2009), LB Clay Matthews (1st, 2009)

Strikeouts(5)
Terrance Murphy (2nd, 2005), DE Justin Harrell (1st, 2007), QB Brian Brohm (2nd, 2008), CB Patrick Lee (2nd, 2008), DE Mike Neal (2nd, 2010)

Value Picks (11)
DT Johnny Jolly (6th, 2006), LB Desmond Bishop (6th, 2007), K Mason Crosby (6th, 2007), QB Matt Flynn (7th, 2008), DE Jarius Wynn (6th, 2009), LB Brad Jones (7th, 2009), TE Andrew Quarless (5th, 2010), T Marshall Newhouse (5th, 2010), RB James Starks (6th, 2010), DE C.J. Wilson (7th, 2010), LB D.J. Smith (6th, 2011)

Batting Average

Overall: .463 (31-for-67)

1st Round: .571 (4-for-7)

1st and 2nd Round: .529 (9-for-17)

3rd through 7th Round: .440 (22-for-50)

Overall 2005-2010: .456 (26-for-57)

Minnesota Vikings

Current Starters (10)
LB Chad Greenway, RB Adrian Peterson, DE Brian Robinson, DT Letroy Guion, C John Sullivan, WR Percy Harvin, T Phil Loadholt, CB Asher Allen, QB Christian Ponder, TE Kyle Rudolph.

Home Runs (3)
LB Chad Greenway (1st, 2006), RB Adrian Peterson (1st, 2007), WR Percy Harvin (1st, 2009).

Strikeouts (6)
WR Troy Williamson (1st, 2005), DE Erasmus James (1st, 2005), OL Marcus Johnson (2nd, 2005), QB Tavaris Jackson (2nd, 2006), CB Cedric Griffin (2nd, 2006), DB Tyrell Johnson (2nd, 2008).

Value Picks (7)
C.J. Mosley (6th, 2005), QB Tyler Thigpen (7th, 2007), C John Sullivan (6th, 2008), DT Letroy Guion (5th, 2008), S Jamarca Sanford (7th, 2009), LB Jasper Brinkley (5th, 2009), QB/WR Joe Webb (6th, 2010).

Batting Average

Overall:  .440 (22-for-50)

1st Round: .667 (4-for-6)

1st and 2nd Round: .533 (8-for-15)

3rd through 7th Round: .382 (13-for-34)

Overall 2005-2010: .425 (17-for-40)

Detroit Lions

Current Starters (12)
S Daniel Bullocks (2nd, 2006), WR Calvin Johnson (1st, 2007), DE Cliff Avril (3rd, 2008), RB Kevin Smith (3rd, 2008), T Gosder Cherilus (1st, 2008), LB DeAndre Levy (3rd, 2009), DB Louis Delmas (2nd, 2009), TE Brandon Pettigrew (1st, 2009), QB Matthew Stafford (1st, 2009), DB Amari Spievey (3rd, 2010), DT Ndomukong Suh (1st, 2010), WR Titus Young (2nd, 2011).

Home Runs (5)
WR Calvin Johnson (1st, 2007), DE Cliff Avril (3rd, 2008), TE Brandon Pettigrew (1st, 2009), QB Matthew Stafford (1st, 2009), DT Nkomukong Suh (1st, 2010).

Strikeouts (8)
WR Mike Williams (1st, 2005), DT Shaun Cody (2nd, 2005), DB Daniel Bullocks (2nd, 2006), QB Drew Stanton (2nd, 2007), Ikaika Alma-Francis (2nd, 2007), DB Gerald Alexander (2nd, 2007), LB Jordon Dizon (2nd, 2008), RB Jahvid Best (1st, 2010).

Value Picks (2)
T Jonathan Scott (5th, 2006), FB Jerome Felton (5th, 2008).

Batting Average

Overall:  .412 (21-for-51)

1st Round: .556 (5-for-9)

1st and 2nd Round: .438 (7-for-16)

3rd Through 7th Round: .400 (14-for-35)

Overall (2005-2010): .413 (19-for-46)

Chicago Bears

Current Starters (10)
WR/PR Devin Hester (2nd, 2006), TE Kellen Davis (5th, 2008), Craig Steltz (4th, 2008), RB Matt Forte (2nd, 2008), T Chris Williams (1st, 2008), G Lance Louis (7th, 2009), WR Johnny Knox (5th, 2009), DE Henry Melton (4th, 2009), Major Wright (3rd, 2011), T Gabe Carimi (1st, 2011).

Home Runs (5)
DE Mark Anderson (5th, 2006), WR/PR Devin Hester (2nd, 2006), TE Greg Olsen (1st, 2007), RB Matt Forte (2nd, 2008), DE Henry Melton (4th, 2009).

Strikeouts (3)
RB Cedric Benson (1st, 2005), WR Mark Bradley (2nd, 2005), DE Dan Bazuin (2nd, 2007).

Value Picks (9)
DB Chris Harris (6th, 2005), DE Mark Anderson (5th, 2006), DB Corey Graham (5th, 2007), Kevin Payne (5th, 2007), DB Trumaine McBride (7th, 2007), CB Zackary Bowman (5th, 2008), TE Kellen Davis (5th, 2008), WR Johnny Knox (5th, 2009), G Lance Louis (7th, 2009).

Batting Average

Overall: .472 (25-for-53)

1st Round: .500 (2-for-4)

1st and 2nd Round: .600 (6-for-10)

3rd Through 7th Round: .442 (19-for-43)

Overall (2005-2010): .458 (22-for-48)

Packers Notes

  • The Packers have 32 players on their active roster that were drafted by the team from 2005-11. This figure does not include undrafted free agents.
  • The Packers had 67 total draft choices, 14 more than the Bears who had the second-highest total. Think about that for a minute. The Packers had 14 more opportunities than the Bears to add a contributing player to their roster at a decent price. The Packers had 18 more picks than the Vikings and 17 more than the Lions.
  • Many of those picks were supplemental picks or late-round choices that had little chance of making the team. These guys automatically get tossed in the bad pick category, which explains why the Bears have a higher batting average than the Packers. When you’re making as many picks as the Packers, you’re inevitably going to end up releasing more of them or striking out, which hurts your batting average.
  • Three of the Packers nine home runs came in the third round or later. The other three teams in the division have a total of three home runs that were picked in the third round or later.
  • The Packers have 12 picks in the 2012 draft. If they keep all of them, they will have made 79 picks from 2005-12, an average of 11.3 picks per season.
  • Am I a homer for counting Finley and Raji as home runs?
  • How different would Packers’ history be if they drafted any of the following available players instead of taking Justin Harrell 16th overall in 2007: DB Leon Hall, DB Aaron Ross, WR Dwayne Bowe, LB Jon Beason, T Joe Staley, G Ben Grubbs, or TE Greg Olsen?

Vikings Notes

  • The Vikingss have 22 players on their active roster that were drafted by the team from 2005-11. This figure does not include undrafted free agents.
  • Value picks are tough to judge on a bad team. Did the low-round players get playing time because they’re actually somewhat good, or because the team is so bad that they ended up playing by default?
  • 2012 is a big year for Ponder, Robinson and Sullivan. If these players play their way into the home run category, the Vikings’ rebuilding process could be accelerated.
  • The Vikings have the lowest batting average in rounds three through seven and it’s not even close. Their 13 good picks in these rounds trails the second-to-last place Lions by six.
  • How different would Vikings’ history be if they didn’t draft Troy Williamson seventh overall in 2005, and drafted any of the following available players instead: CB Antrel Rolle, CB Carlos Rogers, DE DeMarcus Ware, LB Shawne Merriman, T Jammal Brown or LB Derek Johnson?
  • The Vikings drafted DE Erasmus James 18th overall in that same draft. How different would Vikings’ history be if they took any of these players instead: QB Aaron Rodgers, QB Jason Campbell, WR Roddy White, TE Heath Miller or G Logan Mankins?

Lions Notes

  • The Lions have 16 players on their active roster that were drafted by the team from 2005-11. This figure does not include undrafted free agents.
  • When the Lions hit a home run, they knock the cover off the ball. Stafford, Johnson and Suh are big-time home runs.
  • Fairley and Young could become home runs if they manage to stay out of prison.
  • I triple-checked for value picks, and I still only come up with two. Am I missing somebody? I was even being generous with the two I gave them. This team needs to learn how to add some depth later in the draft.
  • If you take Best off the list, the Lions haven’t struck out on a first or second rounder since 2008. I went back-and-forth about counting Best as a strikeout and decided to put him on the list.
  • If you want to turn back the clock a bit further, the Lions struck out on five of six first-round choices from 2000-05.
  • Take all those players the Vikings could’ve drafted in 2005 instead of Williamson and James and move them over to the Lions column as well. Any of those players would’ve been better than WR Mike Williams, whom the Lions took 10th overall that year.
  • How different would Lions’ history be if they didn’t draft T Gosder Cherilus 17 overall in 2008, and drafted any of the following available players instead: QB Joe Flacco, RB Rashard Mendenhall or RB Chris Johnson? Cherilus isn’t terrible, but I’d take any of those other three instead.

Bears Notes

  • The Bears have 18 players on their active roster that were drafted by the team from 2005-11. This figure does not include undrafted free agents.
  • Congratulations to the Bears for winning the NFC draft batting title. But like I pointed out in the Packers notes, the Bears win comes with an *asterisk since the Packers had so many more picks, including many more late rounders.
  • In rounds three through seven, the Bears have had 43 picks. The Packers have had 50.
  • The Bears four first-round picks are the lowest in the division. Minnesota has had the second fewest with six. The Lions have the most with nine.
  • See the Vikings section for a list of players the Bears passed over in order to select RB Cedric Benson fourth overall in 2005.
  • The Bears didn’t fare much better in the second round in 2005. They chose WR Mark Bradley over guys like Nick Collins, WR Vincent Jackson, RB Frank Gore and CB Corey Webster. Hindsight is fun, isn’t it?
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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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  • David

    Jennings was a 2nd round pick

    • Adam Czech

      Fixed. Thanks.

  • Bearmeat

    Neal can’t be called a bust yet. Disappointment yes, bust no…

    1 more chance, and then the bust label.

    And AJ Hawk sucks. He is a bust.

    • Adam Czech

      Yeah, it’s tough because it’s only been two years. The suspension made me put him thie strikeout category. Tough call.

  • Pete Kliman

    Very interesting,great job Adam! Staley would be a very nice addition instead of Harrel. LETS GO METS

    • Adam Czech

      It was good to see Johan pitching well again yesterday.

  • Frank Gott

    When you look at the number of 1st round picks you also need to look at where in the 1st or any round that each team picked. One would assume that if you consistently picked in the top 10 picks vs the bottom 10,that your players would be better. Not so, ask Detroit.

    • Adam Czech

      Yup. These numbers can be broken down and analyzed in many different ways.

  • FireMMNow

    I love stuff like this. Great job. There are all kinds of little issues in something like this. I would say that the packers have definitely drafted better over the last 6 years than the bears, but it is pretty close.

    As Frank pointed out, draft position should play a large roll, as well as the overall quality of the team. As a team like the Packers becomes better and deeper in talent, starting positions are hard to come by. It will be much easier to draft a rookie that can start for the Lions or Vikings than it will be to draft a starter for the packers. It will be basically impossible for an offensive player drafted this year to start for the Packers. While anyone with a pulse could probably start at WR for the vikings and the same goes for their secondary.

    But good stuff Adam. Great job.

    • Adam Czech

      You’re right about all of the little issues. I finally had to say enough is enough and just published the damn thing. You could really take this in all sorts of different directions.

  • Ron LC

    Using your standards, Adam, it is remarkable how similar the teams are. So, am I right in assuming that TT is not the draft genius he is perported to be? Or is it the GB coaches tha turn these guys into team players?

    Nice job and we appreciate the effort.

    • Adam Czech

      Well, I guess it depends on your standards for genius. I would say Thompson is very good at drafting, maybe not quite a genius. But I would say he’s damn close to genius when it comes to his philosophy on building a team. The Packers had 67 picks since 2005. That’s an absurdly high number. That’s 67 opportunities to bring in a young guy, teach him to play how you want him to play, see if he develops, get him on the field, then if he works out, try and sign him to a team-friendly extension before he hits the open market.

      Sure, many of those draft picks were low-round longshots, but when you give yourself so many opportunities to find good players, your odds of actually finding a good player increase.

      Also, my batting average “stat” is not meant to be the final judgement on how a team has drafted. It’s just a neat metric that I thought would better help us understand how teams have done drafting the last few years. Who knows what the Bears average would have been if they had 67 picks?

  • CSS

    Maybe I missed this in the article, but why not include Priority Free Agent rookies signed following the draft? Isn’t it a bigger question of what organization, GM and their Scouts actually assesses talent the best? Obviously the Packers (as an example) scouted the likes of Zombo and Sheilds. Both likely had a draftable grade, the chips just didn’t fall right to be drafted in round 6 or 7. They quickly reached out to them following the draft (hence the PFA rating).

    Thoughts on making that part of the analysis? Like I said, they were scouted and acquired, even if it were outside of a 7 round draft.

    Good article post.

    • Adam Czech

      Agreed. I didn’t include rookie free agents becuase I wanted to draw the line somewhere and this post had already grown into a monster. I’ll probably do something to include the rookie free agents, and maybe expand a bit on this post, in the near future.

  • Oppy

    Good stuff..

    On the topic of this year’s draft, I have been wondering if the Packers’ draft is going to take a hit of sorts due to Reggie McKenzie heading up the Raiders.

    McKenzie’s board is going to look extremely similar to the Packers- after all, he was building the Packers’ board all year long, and he was a big part of the assessment and grading of those players, so naturally, his board in Oakland is going to be an extension of the work he’s put in over the last year.

    I understand that OAK doesn’t have a lot of picks this year, but when they are up to bat, it will be far before the Packers’ pick in any given round.

    Safe to say OAK will beat the Packers to the punch on a few players? Or am I just paranoid?

    • CSS

      Different needs, different offensive/defensive philosophies and Oakland has so few picks. It’s possible they have a few prospects that both parties view as ‘underrated’, but I just can’t see it coming into play unless all the stars align just right.

      Hell, TT plays it so tight to the vest you sometimes wonder if his own scouts know how he has the Packers board stacked ;)

      • Adam Czech

        TT is in charge of the Packers front office. Until he leaves, I wouldn’t worry too much about it. I’m sure McKenzie’s advice and the advice of others is/was very helpful, but it’s still TT that does a lot of the work and has final say on everything.

  • Joe

    Comments on Lions:

    Titus Young hasn’t gotten into any trouble, think you are confused with Leshoure. Jail seems a bit much for weed no?

    Value picks:
    2011 — Only 2 picks 5-7. Hogue and Culbreath were both considered projects. Team is high on Hogue.

    2010 — Only 2 7th rounders. Willie Young. Part of deep DE rotation, has looked very good in limited PT. Could be a stud. Other pick was Mr. Irrelevant.

    2009 — Zach Follett was a stud special teams guy before career-ending injury.
    Murtha was a starter for Dolphins, got picked up off of Lions practice squad.
    Dan Gronkowski got traded for Alphonso Smith so they got value for him.

    2006-2008 Millen drafts…not much there. He was terrible and I’d agree with your only 2.