It is hard to argue with Ted Thompson. One look at what he has done since becoming the General Manager for the Green Bay Packers back in 2005 and it’s easy to see why Thompson is generally considered one of the best GMs in all of football.
Where Thompson really excels is at the NFL draft. He’s like a plastic surgeon quietly working on his patient (the Packers) until his finished product is something better than anyone could have imagined. Rarely does he trade way up for a big name prospect, and almost always he works by selecting the best player available for the team, regardless of position.
We saw it with their first pick in the 2010 draft when Thompson disregarded his biggest need (outside linebacker) and drafted Derek Sherrod, an offensive tackle who took a slide on draft day. At first it seemed like a terrible pick, but after Sherrod was called upon during the regular season to fill in for injured players, the pick proved Thompson’s genius again.
Basically, to argue with Thompson regarding his methods concerning the draft literally makes you clinically insane. Unfortunately, for the 2012 draft, Thompson can’t select the best player available. His usually genius ways won’t work this year.
Never before in Thompson’s reign as GM of Green Bay has there been such a glaring need to fill. You could debate that the Packers need an outside linebacker just as much as the Indianapolis Colts or Washington Redskins need a quarterback. The lack of production at outside linebacker opposite Clay Matthews was the reason that Green Bay saw such a dramatic drop in their defensive performance from 2010 to 2011.
For this reason, Thompson and the Packers don’t have the luxury of sitting back and taking the best player available. The way I see it, they really only have two options.
Option #1: Trade Way Up
I’m not talking about moving up three-to-five picks to draft a player like Courtney Upshaw. I’m talking about a Matthews-esque move to bring in an ultra-talented pass rusher.
Two names that instantly come to mind are DE/DT Fletcher Cox of Mississippi State and OLB Melvin Ingram of South Carolina. While Cox wouldn’t fill the biggest need at outside linebacker, defensive line is Green Bays second weakest position and Cox has the upside to become a complete game-changer.
A player like Ingram would be the ideal choice to trade away a ton of draft picks for. He’s extremely athletic with an already mature bevy of pass-rushing moves. He’d instantly improve the defense, most likely in a similar way that Matthews did back after the 2009 draft.
Option #2: Keep Trading Down
If Thompson doesn’t absolutely, positively love either Cox or Ingram, there is no reason for him to give up a bunch of draft picks to draft them. Should that be the case, the best thing for Thompson to do is continue to trade back until the best pass-rusher is available, and draft him.
With numerous teams likely to desire to get back into the first round, the Packers could continue moving back, racking up draft picks and wait until the perfect player falls into their lap. Players who could be available in the early second round would be players like Whitney Mercilus, Andre Branch, Nick Perry or personal favorite, Shea McClellin.
Any of these players would be a great fit for Green Bay. Instead of reaching for a prospect, by trading back they could still get their player and gain valuable draft picks later in the draft.
Considering Thompson’s knack for finding impact players in the later rounds, those extra picks could prove to make quite a difference on the 2012 roster.
As far as I’m concerned, these are the only two options for Ted Thompson’s 2012 first-round pick. This year, for the first time in Thompson’s career, and probably the last time, he can’t draft the best player available to him.
As crazy as that may sound, it’s the absolute truth.Follow @MatthewJStein