It’s hard to believe that this will be Ted Thompson’s 11th NFL Draft in a couple weeks.
The Packers general manager understands that the draft and develop philosophy is the best recipe for sustained success in the NFL. And if you don’t believe me, just take a peek at the money the Redskins and Cowboys have splurged in free agency, with nothing to show for it.
It still amazes me that Thompson still gets an overwhelming amount of hate from fans. Last year, the Packers led the league with 34 original players on the season opening roster. That’s 64 percent, which isn’t bad.
Of course everyone knows that Thompson’s first pick was future Hall of Famer Aaron Rodgers. But if 23 other teams didn’t let Rodgers slip through their fingers, we’d still be talking about how excellent Thompson is at noticing and cultivating talent.
Take Johnny Jolly. He was a sixth round draft choice that started 39 games before his codeine arrest. And even after he came back from his suspension, Jolly was still serviceable by starting eight games in 2013.
Or Mason Crosby. Obviously kickers aren’t taken high, but Thompson saw something in the sixth round pick. Now Crosby is only 17 points away from tying Ryan Longwell as the team’s all-time leading scorer.
Then there’s Josh Sitton. He was picked in the fourth round but has blossomed into arguably the best guard in the league. He earned his second Pro Bowl appearance this past season and has started every regular season he has played in dating back to 2009.
Of course people are always going to point out Terrence Murphy, Brandon Jackson, Brian Brohm, Patrick Lee and Jerel Worthy. But the biggest draft busts of the Thompson era will always be first rounders Justin Harrell and Derek Sherrod.
But to only have seven lemons from the first three rounds is pretty good.
Drafting is not easy whatsoever. First, you have to study and grade all the players either in person or on video. Then, you have to sift through all the minutiae and double talk from a player’s handlers. These guys obviously want to see the best for their guy, but in doing so, they don’t always give all the facts. Next, you have to understand how a player fits into your team and/or city. And finally, you have to be honest with yourself if you can sign a player. Because it doesn’t do the player or the team any good if the player is going to hold out for an extended amount of time.
Thompson’s stress level went up exponentially when he made the correct decision to go with Rodgers after waiting on the waffling Brett Favre. Many fans still criticize him for that, but he made the right call. Rodgers sat for three years. It was hard telling how many years he was willing to ride the pine if Favre came back.
And there are those that would like Thompson to be more active in free agency. Just remember that NFL free agency is a completely different animal than the NBA or MLB version. An NFL free agent is going to be nagged by an assortment of injuries, but will still command a high dollar. Thompson’s philosophy has been that he can bring in young kids at a cheaper rate in an effort to save that cap space for the team’s preeminent players.
It’s not easy, but Thompson’s eyes and instincts are some of the best in the game.
And that’s why “Double T” should be appreciated and not hated.——————
Cory Jennerjohn is from Wisconsin and has been in sports media for over 10 years. To contact Cory e-mail him at jeobs -at- yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter: Cory Jennerjohn