With a larger and larger frequency each year in the NFL Draft you hear teams talk about taking the “best player available.” Ted Thompson and the Green Bay Packers play a big role in the reason for that.
Under Thompson the Packers have been known for the importance they put on the draft, their methodologies towards the draft, and building the team from within. Thompson and coach McCarthy take a lot of pride in having a roster comprised mostly of players that have only played for the Packers.
A reason for why this is possible, according to many people and Ted Thompson himself, is because Ted likes to take the best players available in the draft at the Packers draft spot, not necessarily the best player at a position of need. When asked about that this year, Ted reiterated that by stating, “The way to draft is to take the best player because you don’t know what you’re going to need.”
I believe that is simply not what Ted does, or if it is, it is way too much of a coincidence for me personally to believe.
Look at the first round picks the Green Bay Packers have taken since 2009.
2009 – B.J. Raji and Clay Matthews:
The Packers had just switched to the 3-4 defense and in the first round they took their supposed future star nose tackle/defensive end and actually traded back into the first round to take their star pass rushing outside linebacker that would fit the scheme perfectly and far better than Aaron Kampman.
2010 – Bryan Bulaga:
The 2009 season saw the starting right tackle for the Green Bay Packers be manned by one of Mark Tauscher’s knees and Allen Barbre. It is safe to say that the Packers saw a need to plug the gaping whole at right tackle with their first selection.
2011 – Derek Sherrod:
Similar to the Bryan Bulaga pick the year before and after a few years of poor pass protection in general, the Packers had a glaring need to replace an old staple at tackle. This time it was at left tackle to replace the retired Chad Clifton. How much of a position of need was this? When the Sherrod experiment failed due to injury, they had to have Clifton come out of retirement because there was no one else there.
2012 – Nick Perry:
In 2011 Erik Walden started every game at LOLB and with the absence of Cullen Jenkins the realization that Clay Matthews was the only pass rusher on the team became all too apparent. The Packers needed to find a solid pass rusher to compliment Clay Matthews at OLB.
Perry would eventually get injured and only started six games and the pass rush was an issue once again.
2013 – Datone Jones:
With Nick Perry’s injury 2012, we saw another disappointing season for the Packers in the pass rush. The Packers decided to take another swing at fixing the pass rush, this time at defensive end to go with a potentially healthy Nick Perry at OLB.
2014 – Ha Ha Clinton-Dix:
The 2013 season was a dismal one for the Packers at safety. Morgan Burnett had five passes defensed, zero fumbles forced, and zero interceptions.
Meanwhile opposite of Burnett was even worse with Jerron McMillian getting the ax mid-season and with M.D. Jennings falsely diagnosing pretty much every play, he was released as well, this time after the season.
This left the cupboard empty at safety opposite Burnett with only Micah Hyde with any hope to play the position and even then it wasn’t a preferred option to have him be the guy and have no one behind him. Thus, Ha Ha to the rescue.
The Packers have made the playoffs every year since 2009 and have been one of the elite teams in the NFL in that time.
Elite teams typically still have one or two areas that they need help in each season and in those six years the Packers took seven players at seven different positions of need from the previous season.
It’s just too much of a coincidence to me that the best players available at the Packers pick each year were also positions of need with all seven picks.
Fast forward to last weekend and the 2015 NFL draft. The Packers finished 2014 as the second worst team in the NFL in kick returns. They also just lost two cornerbacks to free agency.
That left them with one starting corner spot in good shape with Sam Shields and it left a question mark with Casey Hayward, who while great at covering the slot, has questions on whether he can cover the outside on a consistent basis. Behind those two there is absolutely nothing.
What do the Packers do with their first three picks of the 2015 draft? They go after two corners with their first two picks to fill in for the ones they lost (both of whom can probably help at safety if need be too). Then they go after a receiver, a position the Packers have decent depth at but could use one more guy. More importantly, they got a receiver who just happens to be considered one of the best kick returners in the draft.
Again, that’s 3 for 3 in drafting for positions of need. After that in the fourth round they take an inside linebacker who also played outside linebacker in college in Jake Ryan. Again, he plays a position of need with A.J. Hawk’s departure (not just ILB, but ILB with long blonde hair, a strong position of need for the Packers this year).
To me there needs to be a redefining of the term “best player available.” Best player available shouldn’t mean literally taking the best player on the board. It should mean taking the player with the most value to your team, whether that be in a position of need or not. Typically that is going to be taking the best player at a potential position of need, not necessarily the most glaring position of need, but a position of need nonetheless. I believe that is how the Packers draft, whether Ted Thompson wants to admit it or not. He doesn’t draft best player available, he drafts the player with the most value to the Packers.
Just like how the MVP is typically no longer given to the “most valuable player” it is given to the best player, the term BPA, or best player available, needs redefining. The best player available should not be taken to mean the “best player available” it should be taken to mean the best fit (or valuable player to the team) available.——————
Mike Reuter lives in the Twin Cities and is a graduate of the University of St. Thomas. He is a mobile tech enthusiast, a 19 year Gopher Football season ticket holder and a huge Packers fan. Mike is a writer with AllGreenBayPackers.com and you can follow him on twitter at @uofmike.