Ted Thompson didn’t have to do it. Nate Palmer was not going to be drafted. You would be hard pressed to find him breaking the top 400 in anyone’s big board or player rankings.
Yet, when the Packers’ turn came up in the sixth round, they made Palmer the 193rd player drafted. This despite the fact they were holding three seventh round picks, and could have surely taken him with their last pick at # 232. Even better, as the only team that had him in for a tryout, the Packers would have been frontrunners to sign him as an Undrafted Free Agent (UDFA), although I can understand not wanting to risk that.
But why jump the gun and take him in the sixth? This is a question that’s been bugging me for the last month. In a draft where the Packers got fantastic value by not jumping the gun on Eddie Lacy or Johnathan Franklin, why not let Palmer fall to them in the 7th? That’s what Ted does.
Now, I can hear you all out there saying, “Hey Al – that’s speculation, some other team could have taken him.” Of course that’s a possibility, but pretty remote, as neither Palmer or his coach expected him to be drafted at all. He wasn’t even listed as a Free Agent signee on most draft boards, meaning he was expected to be a tryout invite guy. He was shocked when he got the call from Green Bay.
The Packers have had some measure of success in bringing in DE to OLB conversion projects from small schools (Zombo, Lattimore, Moses), but all were free agents. So does drafting Palmer mean they think he is a better prospect than the rest?
By now, you probably know the story of how Packers OLB coach Kevin Greene and Illinois State coach Spence Nowinsky spent a day together exchanging pass-rushing knowledge and watching tape of Clay Matthews (if not, read about it here). As he watched the Packers defense and how they used Matthews, Nowinsky kept thinking to himself how well Palmer would fit in the Packers’ defense. “As I’m watching that, I’m thinking Nate has a great opportunity with the Packers because his skill, his athleticism, his work ethic, he fits in really good,” Nowinsky said.
He must have convinced Greene, because the Packers had him up to Green Bay for a visit, the only NFL team to do so. Palmer impressed the Packers not only with his athletic ability, but with his football intelligence. He was able to get up on the white board and hold his own with the Xs and Os when analyzing Packers’ defensive schemes.
When Palmer met up with Greene, he got a bit of a rah-rah speech from Greene after they watched some tape of Clay Matthews: “‘I can get you there, if you want it. If you want to go there, I got what it takes to get you to that next level. All you have to do is be a hard worker like him. I think that’s the kind of person you are. Let’s go. Let’s go to that next level,” he was told by Greene.
So here’s Kevin Greene talking to some no-name linebacker that’s barely a blip on the radar screen of the NFL draft and he’s telling him I can get you to where Clay Matthews is. Huh?
Perhaps that’s what Greene says to all prospects, but if it’s not, and he really believes it, I guess that explains the Packers surreptitious love affair with Palmer and their unwillingness to wait.
Color me intrigued…——————
Jersey Al Bracco is the founder and editor of AllGreenBayPackers.com, and the co-founder of Packers Talk Radio Network. He can be heard as one of the Co-Hosts on Cheesehead Radio and is the Green Bay Packers Draft Analyst for Drafttek.com.