What Does the Packers Draft and Development Philosophy Mean to You?

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Desmond Bishop is one player the Packers have drafted and developed.
Desmond Bishop is one player the Packers have drafted and developed.

An interesting discussion about the Packers draft and develop philosophy broke out in the comments section of this post the other day.

The basic question that came out of the discussion was this: What does draft and develop mean to you?

Draft and develop might mean different things to different people. The various meanings appear to include:

  • Having players on the roster who can immediately and adequately fill in when a starter is injured.
  • When an upper-echelon player leaves the team (for whatever reason), there’s another player on the roster than can immediately play at a similar level of the departed star.
  • Accumulating as much young talent as possible.

There is no right answer to the question, but if I had to select one of the above, I’d select the third option. However, that answer is a little broad. There isn’t a team in the league that doesn’t want to accumulate as much young talent as possible. That franchise goal isn’t unique to the Packers.

Perhaps I need to add a fourth option: Accumulating as much young talent as possible and having the patience to stick with that philosophy and actually make it work.

Draft and develop has paid off for the Packers because they didn’t ditch it at the first sign of trouble. It’s also worked because the front office appears to be on the same page as the coaching staff, which is a lot more rare than we think. (It’s also worked because the Packers have Aaron Rodgers.)

I picked a hybrid fourth option, but the first three options have merit. There are real examples of the first three options being used on the Packers.

  • See Desmond Bishop in 2010 or James Jones in 2012 for an example of players adequately filling in when a starter is injured.
  • See Rodgers taking over for Brett Favre when a star player leaves the team (for whatever reason).
  • See Ted Thompson accumulating picks late in the draft and signing undrafted free agents who often turn into useful players.

If you want to extend the draft and develop philosophy discussion further, we can talk about how once the drafted talent is developed, you have to open up the checkbook to keep it. Clay Matthews just got extended. Aaron Rodgers will soon. Those two players will likely eat up about a fourth of the Packers salary cap.

How do the Packers remain contenders when two guys take up a fourth of the salary cap? By drafting and developing, of course.

The better you are at drafting and developing, the more you have to improve at drafting and developing.

Now that’s a deep thought…

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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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  • Dobber

    “How do the Packers remain contenders when two guys take up a fourth of the salary cap? By drafting and developing, of course.”

    …and by not overvaluing your own free agents? Although I would argue that prior to this year, they’d overpaid a couple guys in a time when they had that luxury. They don’t, anymore.

    • Savage57

      I posted this around draft time last year and it got a chuckle or two, so I thought I’d trot it out again. Seems germaine to the subject.

      ++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

      I think I want TT to help me pick my next wife.

      He can help me stay disciplined in my approach, overcome the early temptation and avoid the really expensive ones that don’t pan out – they put out really well for a couple of years and then once they get that big contract, they turn into absolute humps and you wonder what it was that you saw in them in the first place that made you chase them.

      I think his draft and develop approach will be spot on for this pursuit – you find hidden talent everyone else overlooked, they’re happy just to get a chance to be there and you get the opportunity to coach ‘em up!

      • Dobber

        THat teachability (on their part, not yours) is always a plus!

  • John

    Because of the new CBA rules limiting off season contact, a strict draft and develop philosophy is doomed to failure. Veteran free agents signed for 1-2 years at around 2mm a year are a must. The pack will struggle in the future under TT. Especially working under the handicap of huge salaries.

    • Dobber

      The Vets are only a must if you can’t find guys who can play on your own. This is a young player’s league, now, and it’s all about coaching and teaching.

      Teams that can’t coach and teach young players (or that can’t find young players that are coachable and teachable) are going to struggle with modern capanomics because you’re always paying more for guys with a short shelf-life.

      I’d rather take my chances with “young and cheap” than with “older and not worth the money to his former team (or other teams)”.

  • Razer

    I think that the business of modern sport dictates that you get good at the draft and develop approach. The young guys cost less and usually break less (once they smarten up).

    I will add that if you are going to run a team like the Packers do then you need to get:
    1. the best scouting staff
    2. the best coaching staff

    If you can only spend so much on the players, make sure that you get the best players and train them the best.

    • PatMc

      I will add a 3rd item: administration. The finance guy (Ball) is awesome in knowing and managing the salary cap for TT. Murphy is a good CEO as well.

      I never have heard anyone complain about customer service either.

      • Turophile

        The cap is the keystone to draft and develop, its what drives it. Without it, you can bring in vet FA’s, even expensive ones, as long as your franchise can afford it.

        With the cap in place you need a lot of cheap players (mostly on their first contracts) to afford big bucks to a few difference makers on their big 2nd or 3rd contracts.

        So you could argue that draft and develop is simply a good mechanism to keep your cap situation in a good place, year after year.

        • PatMc

          Yes! But only if you have discipline. Teams talk about it but some (Jets, Oakland, Dallas) end up in a bad place (cap wise) and suffer the purge.

          I believe one of the real strength’s besides having Ball the cap wizard, is having a great scouting organization that is deep (both HS, College and Pro) and very experienced. New young talent enters the pool of players (around the year), cheaply – and Ball manages the cap (or provides expertise) so that TT can make very informed decisions. TT isn’t a great drafter (IMHO) as he is more of a great accumulator of young football talent at various positions via draft and UDFA’s. The roster shows he has about a 50 /50 split.

  • SchenySchen

    I agree with Razer. What makes D&D work is the acknowledgement and committment by the coaches to expect improvement from their players from year to year. I often hear on Viqueen radio, that so and so will be better because they are no longer a rookie. Players, however, get better because they are coached to be better. It doesn’t happen by itself just because they are a year older. A bad player doesn’t get better because he’s older, he only gets better if he is coached up. I think that is what makes it work. The coaches have to be exceptionally dedicated to helping the players and the players have to be committed to helping themselves. Take McMillan for instance; he has spent virtually the entire offseason in GB. He clearly wants to start and has bought into his development. I think MM has as well which is why I still think the Packers won’t take a safety early in the draft. Big men early and often. GoPack!

  • mark

    I think that NFL and NFLPA should come up with a salary cap by position. While Mathews and Rodgers are great players,it’s not right for two players to take up 1/4 of the team’s overall salary. Rodgers talks about he misses some players and called Woodson the best DB ever. If he wasn’t getting so much money perhaps they would have found a way to keep Woodson.

    • Tarynfor12

      If the money that Rodgers will receive aided in any manner in keeping Woodson OFF the team,then it makes the money spent on Rodgers that much more agreeable to me.

      We would have gotten nearly nothing to nothing at all in keeping Woodson and that my friend is smart spending.

      Woodson staying = Driver last year 2.0

    • Oppy

      Totally agree w/ Taryn on this one.

      Even if Rodgers ws resigned for two million a year, I don’t think Woodson showed enough as a safety to warrant keeping him on the field as opposed to developing a young safety.

    • Barutan Seijin

      From the owners perspective, the current system works just great because it drives a wedge between stars and the warm bodies. I would expect there would be about zero owner interest in a position by position cap.

  • Thomas Hobbes

    I would say it’s two fold 1) having the ability to find and train talent 2) having the ability to secure that talent at competitive prices.

  • Oppy

    Draft and develop

    1) Acquire as much young talent as possible.

    2) Develop that young talent to the best of their ability during their 2-4 year rookie contract. Call this the “audition” contract.

    3) Those that respond to coaching and show steady improvement and production- you lock them up for another three to five years without letting them sniff FA before their rookie contract expires

    4) that second contract should be the most productive per Contract dollar of their entire careers. Run with it. At the end of this contract, these players will be somewhere in the neighborhood of 27-30 years old. Some will want stability and to stay put for their families, and may take a fair, team friendly contract.. Many will want to test Free Agency knowing it may be their last chance to strike it rich before their careers end..

    5) Those guys who want to test FA? You let them, and if another team wants to break the bank, you allow them to walk, because that other team will be paying top dollar for past performance, but they will more than likely actually be paying to slowly watch that player’s skills and production diminish with time.

    6) Good news, at this point, their should be a whole new crop of players coming into their second contracts and ready to perform at their peak.

    This is why I always say that “Draft and Develop” is also “Catch and Release”. You reel them in from the draft, develop them, identify a select number of core players you build your team around, and pay them as the cornerstones they are (Rodgers, Matthews). Some guys are going to want more than the team has valued them to be worth, you have to be willing to release them (Jennings), and have firm enough conviction in your farm system to let your younger players step up.

    This is also how the Patriots do business, even if they dabble a good amount in Free Agency as well. They are constantly letting productive players walk if they want more than the Pats have decided they are worth.. and some unknown guys always step up and fill the void.

    There should always be a small number of bonafide stars, a handful of core, well paid players, and a bunch of delevoping talent that are young and hungry that you sift through from year to year, guys able to step in and do what is asked of them, and from this pool you hope to identify tomorrow’s core players and stars. The rest get turned over after their contracts and replaced by the next crop.

    • Stroh

      Very well said. I would have posted something similar, thanks for doing it for me! :)

      You covered about every point I would have.

      • PatMc

        I could NOT have done such an excellent job. Very well written and informative.

        I would add that every “Draft and Develop” class includes Undrafted Free Agents (UDFA). Since TT has been in charge he has the following players on the roster:

        35 drafted players
        32 FA
        02 waivers

        Going into the draft the team has 69 total players. add 8 draft picks that will be 77. TT will then add another dozen or so undrafted players right after the draft.

        Last may a few FA’s were added:
        Like Richardson the Saftey that played with Hayward at Vandy. Richards was a star QB, RB, WR, CB and S in HS. Depending upon his health he might be a guy who comes out of no where to be a star.

        Another was Barclay who became the starting right tackle by year end. Will he add the mucscle this past winter to improve and challenge (maybe LG)?

        Another was Boykin. I expect to see big time catches from him this year. He will replace jennings and driver – you heard it here first.

        Each draft only allows so many shots at good players. You need to pick wisely but a difference maker is the the organizational scouting talent. After pick 232 there are 100’s of players on the cusp. Will they grow more, taller and be able to add muscle. Where they injured their senior year or a coaching change that hurt them? Do they need to refine their technique? Are they suitable for GB?

        Van Rotten is listed as G/C and was Practice squad last year. He will compete at center as well.

        Gerhart (I think the old vikings FB’s brother) was Practice squad Dec 2012 and signed in Jan 2013 as FA. He will also compete at Center.

        Will TT draft a Center? Maybe maybe not.
        I think he might to add protection for his new investment in Rodgers.

        MM said he will improve left side from center out. TT / Ball and scouting organization constantly are reviewing the talent both in school and out of school.
        They tend to add a player to practice squad every month during the season and even after (before the draft). The addition of Gerhart was like an early late round draft pick. Detroit, Chicago both need a center but didn’t add Gerhart. Is our organization just that much better?

    • majik7out

      thats great until you have a bad draft, then you’re scrambling for talent with undrafted free agents

      • Dobber

        We see the same kinds of things under TT that we saw under Wolf: the bottom 4-6 roster spots are constantly turning over with guys being cut, guys added off the street, guys from the practice squad. It’s a continuous audition process, and since the Packers actually promote a lot of those kinds of players, the better UDFAs will look seriously at GB as an opportunity.

    • Savage57

      Huzzah! Huzzah! Very well done.

      I think that if you look at the Packers WR corps from Driver to whomsoever shall come along this year, it is a good microcosmic case study of all of the tenets you articulated.

  • James

    In Ted Thompson’s press conference addressing the upcoming draft, he gave a little insight on what he means “draft and develop” in his vision. He referred to something Ron Wolf told him earlier in his career…You have a better chance of getting a hit when you have more swings. Now I know it meant more draft pick but the saying goes deeper. Rodgers would undeniably be a home run even though he sat on the bench his first 3 years in the league (developing). Justin Harrell was a swing and a miss even though he went through 3 years of development. Who knows if the sun didn’t get in his eyes and Harrell wasn’t made of glass, how that would have turned out differently.
    A.J. Hawk was a bloop, single, but still on the field. Just a reliable player, maybe slightly better than average.
    All teams go through OTA’s and have rookies show up first to get up to speed in order to practice with the veteran players. That is a small part of their development. After training camp and getting simulated game experience the Organization knows if the player can play with the rest of the Pros or not. The Packers expect each player to get better every year, and observing Ted Thompson for nearly 8 years now, I believe he expects them to peak around 30 or so, years old. Only those rookies able to produce are hits by Ted’s bat.( no .150 batting average leading the Packers in draft and development. )

    You get the point.

    • Stroh

      The peak years of a players career are from 25 or 26, till 30. Once they get to 30 wear and tear, hormonal changes (slight decline in testosterone) and injuries are more prevalent. Its one reason very few 30 year olds get another contract from Thompson. After 30 yrs old are also the players least cost efficient years. Those 30 yr old players cost a lot more in their 3rd contract than they do in their 2nd contract at a time when skills are declining and injury concerns (missed games) are highest.

      • Adam Czech

        Hormonal changes? I think I’ll leave that one alone :)

      • PatMc

        It is interesting that CM3 will be around 30 when his new contract is finished. MMMM did TT get the better deal?

  • Barutan Seijin

    Draft & develop? It means roster churn to keep salaries low enough to have a couple marquee attractions.