Green Bay Packers general manager Ted Thompson says that it’s not a democracy in the draft room when it comes time to make a pick. He, like every other NFL team, has an army of scouts and personnel men who spend their entire year trying to dig up the next gem that is going to help the Packers win another Lombardi trophy. Tireless hours on the road looking at players, watching tape, grading, note taking, interviewing. And Ted does a lot of those things on his own as well!
It’s no secret that there are those who agree with and love Thompson’s style and also those who tire of his lack of activity with proven veterans in free agency or lack of interest in trading up to make a splash and land a bigger name in the draft. As I’ve said many times before, the Packers find themselves in the playoffs more often than not and teams can’t win a championship without first making the postseason.
Before I go any further, I want to give a huge shout out to my team here at ALLGBP.com. They put in a lot of time and good work this past weekend in covering the team’s draft picks and analyzing the Packers draft. We have been fortunate enough to see our page visits grow each year and this year was the biggest jump in numbers yet. Kudos to Al and my team as well as all of you for supporting the good work!
So here we are, another draft in the books and several undrafted free agents added as well. Eight players were taken in rounds one through six and as is usually the case, there were a few head scratchers from Thompson. Last year, he took two players in the third round that were not well known and that did not have third-round grades on most other teams’ boards (Khyri Thornton and Richard Rodgers). In 2012, Thompson took a chance on a small-school safety in Jerron McMillian in the fourth round, hoping to find some gold as he did when he took Nick Collins in 2005.
2015 started off with an interesting selection, as the Packers stayed put at pick 30 and selected defensive back Damarious Randall of Arizona State. Thompson cited a good value for Randall at that spot and he’s expected to line up at cornerback in training camp. Randall saw his stock rising prior to the draft and had a first-round grade according to a few analysts. Randall’s tape looks good as far as his ball skills, but he is raw and is known for missing more tackles than most coaches want to see. He certainly wasn’t mocked to the Packers by any of the draftniks and they just spent a first-round pick last year on a safety, so I’d venture to say that had we been doing a draft pool, very few if any would have won. If Randall turns out to be a solid contributor, it could prove to be one of the steals of the draft. But was it Ted’s boldest move?
In round two, another interesting choice in that of cornerback Quentin Rollins of Miami. Not “The U”. Miami of Ohio. Rollins is another player that isn’t as well known but the Packers saw something in him that they liked enough to use an early pick. Considering that Thompson has had a good history of success in round two, there is reason for optimism among Packers fans about the Rollins pick. It gave the Packers another cornerback to help replace the departed Tramon Williams and Davon House and an early enough pick to expect that Rollins should play on defense this season. So was this the boldest move of the draft?
The Rollins pick may have been the one most on the radar until the fifth round came along. I wrote about Trader Ted and how he wasn’t likely to go another draft without making some sort of trade. With needs seeming to be at defensive back and linebacker, conventional wisdom said that Thompson needed to add some bodies to this year’s stock pile. The only way to do that is to trade back. The Packers were sitting with the 166th pick when they made a move and traded with the New England Patriots (historically a common trade partner) all the way up to 147. At that point, they had already picked up two defensive backs and linebacker Jake Ryan of Michigan so what was Ted up to? Surely it was more defensive help, thought many of us as the news was slowly trickling in that the Packers had made the move.
When the pick was announced, it did not disappoint in terms of a reaction from other teams, analysts, media and fans. Quarterback Brett Hundley of UCLA. Hundley was thought to be one of the top quarterbacks in the draft and was projected as high as round two by some. Clearly the value that I talked about earlier was there in the fifth round. But this is a player who may be only a few years away from being ready to play in the NFL. Aaron Rodgers has more than a few years left, as it stands. So why?
Many already know the answer to this. The early speculation was that the Packers might deal Hundley now and picked him to help them in a trade scenario for an impact player. Others thought the Packers would use the four-year deal that rookies sign to develop Hundley and assess his value at that time. The latter seems most likely and we need only look at Rodgers as a prime example of what head coach Mike McCarthy and his staff can do with a talented signal caller. Rodgers came in 10 years ago as a first-round pick and sat for three seasons behind future Hall of Famer Brett Favre. Rodgers is well on his way to Canton as well. To say the same about Hundley would be very premature, but he was saying a lot of the right things when he spoke with the Wisconsin media on Saturday.
When asked if he was disappointed about being chosen by the Packers where he isn’t likely to play much for the foreseeable future, Hundley spoke highly of the Packers organization and Rodgers. He said Rodgers, along with Seattle’s Russell Wilson, were the top two quarterbacks he watched the most film of after this past season at UCLA. Hundley knows he has some upside and when asked what he offers that no other quarterback in this draft offered, he said his ability to study and learn. In a young quarterback, that is probably one of the toughest aspects of the game to learn to do. Many of them come in and rely on their athletic ability and talent to do all of their bidding. The attitude of preparing and learning is what got Rodgers to where he is now and is also a big reason why the Packers kept backup Scott Tolzien, another known book worm.
The Hundley pick was the boldest move by the Packers in this draft, by far. That may turn out not to be the case down the road, but now and at face value, the Packers made a big move early enough at a position that is not a need area right now. The future is never certain and we look back just two seasons to an early November game at Lambeau Field when the Packers lost Rodgers for half of the season. The next time, it could be a knee or, God forbid, a neck injury and the future suddenly changes forever. The Packers chose to be prepared one way or another.
In Hundley, they get a very athletically gifted player who is also smart and seems of high character. That would have been tough to type just a few months ago for this Sun Devil alum, but he’s a Packer now. They say you have to wait three years to grade a draft but all we have right now is. . right now. And I’d give this pick at least a B+. B as in bold.
Jason Perone is an independent sports blogger writing about the Packers on AllGreenBayPackers.comFollow Jason Perone: