Category Archives: 2013 NFL Draft

25

June

What is fair value for Eddie Lacy?

Eddie Lacy Pro Bowl

How much would you pay this guy?

Packers fans have been quipping that the running back is the most fungible position in the NFL; I’ve said it, my colleagues here on the blog have said it and tons of you have said it in your comments (yes we do read your comments).  In truth, it’s an easy thing for Packers fans to say simply because the Packers aren’t the type of team that revolves around running the ball; with Mike McCarthy at the helm, Aaron Rodgers behind center and Ted Thompson on top of the front office, the Packer’s have been a pass-first, pass-second, run as an afterthought type of franchise.

On the flip side, ask any Minnesota Vikings fans what they think about the running game and I’m sure you’ll get a completely different response.  Outside of a miraculous 2009 season, there hasn’t been much for Vikings fans to hang their hat on; sure the defense has been occasionally good but their football identity is running the ball with Adrian Peterson.  However Peterson is a once in a generation type of player and the simple fact is that running backs are not very valuable in the NFL; they’re production has plateaued lower than their receiving counterparts, the massive toll playing the position takes on their body and future production and the shift from the workhorse back to the running back by committee approach means you don’t need to find a running back that can do it all.  As a result, less and less running backs are being drafted, especially in the first round.

Packer’s fans might just have to start rethinking about the value of the running back position as the Packers might have a real star on their roster with Eddie Lacy in green and gold.  While Lacy was a godsend for the Packers last year and was essentially the offense while Aaron Rodgers recovered from his broken clavicle, Lacy was paid a mere $405,000 for perhaps the best season a running back has had since Ahman Green in his heyday. Keep in mind this is after winning rookie of the year honors; when Charles Woodson won defensive player of the year honors in 2010, the Packers responded by giving him a huge increase in pay even though he still had plenty of years left on his contract.

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11

June

Offensive Linemen Musical Chairs, 2014 Edition: who stays, who goes?

Outside of special teams, nothing is more confusing, more obfuscated or more esoteric than offensive line play; We all know that Joe Thomas is supposed to be one of the best offensive linemen in the NFL right now, but do you or I really know that?  I’ve never watched a game specifically focused on Thomas (which would of course require me to watch a Browns game…..so no thanks), and I suspect that even Browns fans probably haven’t really paid all that much attention to him.  The only real reason I know of Joe Thomas at all is 1) he went to Wisconsin and 2) I’ve been told he’s one of the best offensive linemen in the NFL today.  At least with other positions, there are splash plays or statistics we can fall back on whether it be sacks, yards after the catch, Dwight Freeney’s spin move, the back shoulder catch etc.  But for offensive linemen, none of that really exists; the “pancake” has never really gotten off the ground as a established metric of offensive linemen success nor does a great block ever make the Sportscenter highlight reel.  Add on top of that there are actually 5 positions on the offensive line, and we get a confusing mess of contradictory statements; offensive linemen must all work together, but each have different jobs.  Tackles are tackles and guards are guards, except some are left tackles but not right tackles and some are right guards but not left guards.  Center is a unique position, unless it isn’t and you put a guard in there.  There is a distinct difference between “interior” linemen and “bookend” offensive linemen, unless of course you kick your tackle to play guard.

In all of that, the Packers are faced with a conundrum; there are 5 positions and traditionally 2 backup positions, making 7 offensive linemen total.  What I’ve done is made a mental excercise of some combinations of offensive linemen that are likely to happen when the Packers roster is reduced to 53.  A couple rules: I’d highly doubt the Packers carry any more since offensive linemen aren’t all that useful on special teams meaning they’d almost always be on the inactive list.  Of course the Packers have had more than 7 offensive linemen in the middle of the season due to injuries and what not, but its obviously not their first choice.  Also there needs to be a backup for both tackle and guard; supposedly there is a significance between the two but Ted Thompson probably disagrees since the vast majority of offensive linemen that have been on the Packer’s roster were college left tackles.

10

June

Cory’s Corner: Eddie Lacy is one of three elite Packers

Eddie Lacy is an elite Packer. Not Clay Matthews.

Eddie Lacy is an elite Packer. Not Clay Matthews.

I think we all know who the best and most important player on the Packers roster is.

The question is who else is up there? According to Pro Football Focus, Aaron Rodgers, Josh Sitton and Clay Matthews were placed into the elite category.

Rodgers? Obviously. We all saw how much he meant to this team when he missed seven games last year.

Sitton? Yes. The season opener at San Francisco was his worst game of the year with his whiffs on numerous run blocks. But after that, he turned into a rock and I will go so far as to say that with the patchwork of four quarterbacks that started for the Packers this past year, it was Sitton that got the Packers in the playoffs for the fifth straight year.

If the offensive line wants to get respect in a hurry, it needs to keep Rodgers’ jersey clean. Allowing 47 sacks a year from 2009-2012 is unacceptable. Sitton is a guy that not only turns into a beast on gameday but he can also galvanize the rest of the unit. People listen to him and he needs to lead them if this team is going to get a whisper of success.

Matthews? I just cannot see it. Is he a good player? Yes. But there are too many question marks with him. He’s a four-time Pro Bowler for a reason but the last time he played in at least 15 games was 2011 and he’s never started all 16 yet. Last April he became the highest-paid linebacker in the game and if he keeps ending up on the injured reserve, he will have to start collecting his paychecks with a ski mask.

I truly believe there’s one guy that’s missing from the elite equation. And that person is Eddie Lacy. I realize he has only played one season but his value to the offense is like having a Visa card: Priceless. A legitimate running element is something that nobody has seen in Green Bay since Ahman Green was plowing ahead for tough yards.

Teams will always scheme to stop Rodgers first. Lacy will feast on safeties cheating back, making his path to the second level that much easier. Lacy still racked up over 1,100 yards on the ground and that includes three games of less than 30. People that underestimate Lacy should do so with caution. He may look like Jerome Bettis but he can move better and is even more fearless.

14

May

So You Want To Trade For (Insert Player Here)…

Every draft season, there are a couple of players that Packers fans and media members gravitate towards.  This year for instance, there was a lot of love for Ohio linebacker Ryan Shazier, safety Deone Bucannon and wide receiver Jordan Matthews.  Last year there was a lot of hope that the Packers could land either safety Kenny Vaccaro or Giovanni Bernard (mostly drummed up by our own Marquise Eversoll).  Some fans will always claim that the Packers should have traded up to grab the player of their eye, but in reality, trading up in the early rounds is prohibitively expensive and more importantly, it’s not like Ted Thompson actually knows which teams are going to draft which players; Thompson might have a pretty reasonable and logical guess but I don’t think anyone would have predicted the Eagles drafting Marcus Smith with the 26th pick this year for instance.  This of course snowballs and makes it harder and harder to predict picks as more players come off the board in unexpected ways.

But what if he did?  Let’s play a hypothetical game where we find out that Ted Thompson has acquired a football crystal ball and knows exactly which teams are going to pick which players before it happens.  In this scenario of perfect clarity, Thompson knows exactly how much it would take to nab the player he covets the most, how much would it take for the Packers to get the player you want? Let’s set some ground rules:

  1. For the sake of argument lets limit the game to the first 3 rounds
  2. Let’s assume that Thompson would have to “steal” the selection, meaning he would have to hop in front of the team who ultimately selects the player Thompson wants; for instance Eric Ebron was selected with the 10th overall pick, but Thompson would have to trade to the 9th overall spot in order to draft Ebron.
  3. Let’s also assume that the Packers trading partner would be happy with a relatively fair deal, while they obviously aren’t going to take less that true value, they also aren’t unrealistically asking for 3 first round picks like the Texans purportedly were for the 1st overall pick.
  4. Let’s assume that the higher the draft pick, the more the other team is going to want before accepting the trade; there might be only a couple of players that a certain team wants in the 1st round, but probably many in the 7th, hence the difference in value needed to make a trade in the 1st round will naturally be higher as well.
7

May

A 2013 NFL Draft Retrospective: What Were We Thinking?

David Bakhtiari, OT Colorado

David Bakhtiari, OT Colorado

The NFL draft is thankfully just a day away, and while I could steal Jersey Al’s thunder by posting yet another mock draft, I thought I would instead do the exact opposite and look at the Packer’s 2013 draft class and more specifically what was being said about them around this time last year.  Were the scouting reports any good and how did these players perform when moving to the NFL?  Did they show different skills in the NFL or underperform on a new team?  The following are the scouting reports from CBSSports.com immediately following the 2013 NFL draft for each player that the Packers drafted.  Certain drafted players have been omitted from the list including JC Tretter, Kevin Dorsey, Nate Palmer, Sam Barrington and Charles Johnson mostly because they were either injured for the majority of the season or didn’t really play enough snaps to really say much.

Round 1.26: Datone Jones

  • Pros: Well-built athlete with long arms and good strength, throughout. Flashes an explosive initial burst off the snap to penetrate gaps. Uses his hands well at the snap to rip free from blocks, showing a variety of pass rush techniques (swim, rip, club), as well as enough power to simply bull over offensive linemen into the backfield.Keeps his head up and locates the football quickly, showing good awareness and effort in pursuit. Has the upper-body strength to lock-out opponents and seal the edge. Stout enough to slide inside to defensive tackle, especially on obvious pass rush downs. Enjoyed a breakout senior campaign and may be just scratching the surface of his potential.Cons: A classic ‘tweener who until his senior season hadn’t ever lived up to expectations. Lacks the sustained speed and flexibility to turn the corner as a traditional 4-3 defensive end. Lacks the bulk to handle full-time duties as a traditional defensive tackle. Has a tendency to stand up as he comes off the ball, losing out on the leverage battle. Uses his hands well initially but tires quickly and struggles to disengage once his opponent has locked on.
6

May

Cory’s Corner: Ted Thompson averages a draft whiff a year

Packers general manager Ted Thompson selected future Hall of Fame quarterback Aaron Rodgers with his first pick as the Green Bay GM.

Packers general manager Ted Thompson selected future Hall of Fame quarterback Aaron Rodgers with his first pick as the Green Bay GM.

This will be Ted Thompson’s 10th NFL Draft as the Packers general manager. He has been arguably the biggest lightning rod for criticism over the years.

There is inherent value in every round of the draft, but the most consistent value lies in rounds 1-3, which is where I also focus my attention.

Thompson did a masterful job early on. When you land a guy like Aaron Rodgers as your first pick to begin your new job, things are looking pretty good. He added safety Nick Collins and wide receiver Terrence Murphy, who were both forced to leave pro football early after suffering neck injuries.

The next year, Thompson did another excellent job by adding fifth overall pick in linebacker A.J. Hawk, second rounders in guard Daryn Colledge and wide receiver Greg Jennings and third round guard Jason Spitz. The only guy that was a question mark was third round linebacker Abdul Hodge because injuries forced him to only start one game in four NFL seasons.

But after hitting so many home runs in his first two seasons, Thompson was due for some whiffs. And that’s exactly what happened in 2007. Justin Harrell, arguably the worst pick of Thompson’s career, started just two of 14 games in his three-year career. It was a little head scratching that the Packers even used a first round pick on Harrell, who entered the league hurt after tearing his biceps at Tennessee.

Brandon Jackson is another strikeout. The former Nebraska track star/football player was able to play bit roles but is now looking for a job. James Jones gave the Packers a good return on its third-round investment. He proved he could start but was never capable of winning the top receiver job. The final whiff of 2007 is Aaron Rouse. The safety played just three seasons before signing with the now-defunct United Football League.

The following year, there were two more whiffs sandwiched in between a couple of home runs. Obviously, second rounder Jordy Nelson has carved out a pretty nice career as one of Rodgers’ go-to targets. However, second rounder Brian Brohm, after not being able to get comfortable with the speed of the NFL game, is now playing quarterback for the Winnipeg Blue Bombers of the CFL. The other miss was second round cornerback Patrick Lee, who only started one game in his Green Bay career. The other great get that Thompson secured was third rounder Jermichael Finley. Although his mouth got in the way early on, Finley was one of the most athletic tight ends in the game when healthy.

23

April

Packing the Stats: How the Packers Invest

Packing the StatsOne thing that many fans have noticed over the years is that Ted Thompson does not like to draft interior offensive linemen, instead preferring to draft tackles and converting them into the interior once they reach the NFL.  This concept seems to indicate that in the NFL there is a premium placed on some positions while not others; for instance quarterback is naturally considered the premium position of premium positions, traditionally followed by some combination of pass rushers and wide receivers.  However each team is different, for instance while the Packers do not put much stock into interior offensive linemen, the Packers have shown a love for fullback/H-backs which most team’s don’t even keep a roster spot for anymore.  So the question is, what are the positions that Ted Thompson favors or is willing to spend precious draft resources for and does Thompson’s weight of draft investment differ significantly with other teams?

To measure this, I took every draft selection made by Ted Thompson during his tenure with the Green Bay Packers, assigned each player to the position they played for the majority of the time and then assigned them a draft value based on which pick they were selected using the “Jimmy Johnson’s Dallas Cowboys” draft trade chart as a metric.  Some caveats of course is that the Packers did switch from a 4-3 bump and run style defense to a blitzburgh 3-4 defense in 2009, which obviously changes what type of players the Packers select and where players ultimately end up playing (for instance AJ Hawk was supposed to play OLB in the 4-3 and moved to ILB in the 3-4).  Also the trade chart has come under scrutiny as of late (myself included); it’s unlikely to be all that accurate or precise in determining trade value and it’s likely that every team has their own modified chart with different values for each draft pick.  However, since all of this information is kept tightly in war rooms (unless you happen to be ironically the Dallas Cowboys), the original trade chart will be used knowing that the rough values are likely to be similar.

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