Today, general manager Ted Thompson gave his annual pre-draft presser and as I have before, I chose a few highlights with some of my own commentary. For a complete recap of Thompson’s comments today, you can visit the Packers team website.
Many thanks to Mike Vandermause of the Green Bay Press-Gazette who always comes through on Twitter with a nice, clean recap of the press conferences held by the Green Bay Packers.
On the draft being two weeks later than usual: “Draft is 2 weeks later so a lot of our stuff started 2 weeks later. Had a little extra time…last 3, 4, 5 days just sitting around with not much to do. All analysis is done.”
Did Ted just share some actual insight?! This one is interesting to hear from a guy who has been described as the hardest-working draft man in the NFL. Perhaps a smoke screen so other teams are unprepared for Thompson to absolutely pick pocket this draft? We’ll see.
On Julius Peppers: “People who say we don’t use free agency are wrong. Almost every offseason we try to do something. Peppers signing happened fast, very quietly, thing put to bed and done, everybody back home before anybody knew about it. Refreshing. 34 is not so old. There’s no evidence of any decline in his play, in our opinion. He still has same athletic traits coming out.”
So he does read our web site and comments! Many have long said that Thompson has an aversion to free agency. Overall, he’s not a big player so that opinion has at least one leg. The Peppers signing, whether you like it or not, was a big move by the Packers and a statement that they want to do something different to get better on defense. Obviously until Peppers is on the field, we won’t know what he can bring to the team and some may think last season was enough evidence that he’s is on the decline. That said, it wouldn’t be the first time a defensive player in his mid-thirties had a resurgence in his play and the Packers are hoping for just that.
On draft strategy: “We feel like draft is a long term investment, we don’t get too carried away what our perceived needs are at the moment. We try to stick to best player available.” “When you’re picking in 20s you kind of let it come to you.”
Ted is just sharing secrets left and right, isn’t he? Most every GM will tell you they look for the best player available at that spot. What else are they going to say? ‘We need a safety pretty darn bad so we’re hoping that this or that guy is still there and we have our fingers crossed!’ The most forthcoming GM wouldn’t share that so we all expected this answer from Ted. Still and at least in the first round, the Packers should take the best player on their board and hope that it syncs up with one of their bigger needs.
On injury histories with draft prospects: “We’ve had some bad luck on injuries. We haven’t stretched what our beliefs are in terms of bottom line on medical side for draft picks.”
Bad luck is one way to put it. Sometimes I wonder if there is a voodoo doctor on some remote island with a doll that has TT stamped on it. The Packers have enough of a challenge keeping guys healthy who didn’t have an injury history in college. After the Justin Harrell debacle and enduring through Mike Neal and James Starks, the Packers definitely need to do every bit of due diligence when it comes to a player’s ability to suit up on game day. Enough said.
On four starting centers in four years: “That’s the way it works out sometimes.”
Correction: that’s the way it works out when you approach the position the way he has over the last few seasons. I have shared my thoughts on the center position before and it led to quite the discussion here. While they don’t need to draft or find a true center, I would personally like to see more of a position-specific plan of attack when it comes to who their long-term solution is. I don’t care how many college guards or tackles are now NFL centers. The better question is what did scouts see in those players that the Packers may be missing? Aaron Rodgers would love it if just one offseason his starting center doesn’t need to wear a name tag the first few days of camp.
On the safety position: “You need good safety play to be a good defense, but you did 10 years ago, 20 years ago also. It’s good to have that.” “Look for athletic traits, good character in safety. Last year we had too many bumps and bruises.”
There’s the Ted we all know and love! While he’s never admitted as much out loud, Thompson knows the team’s plan at safety didn’t pan out last year. They were hoping that Jerron McMillian would take a giant leap forward and justify his fourth round selection in 2012 and that didn’t happen. As a result, they ran with M.D. Jennings aside Morgan Burnett, who had a disappointing season of his own. The result was one of the worst statistical seasons by the safety position in Packers history. No doubt, the Packers will draft at least one safety and likely before day three. Ted knows he needs a starting caliber guy and that he can’t afford to ignore the depth at safety in this draft for too long.
On evaluating their work immediately after the draft: “During draft weekend itself, at end of it, if we’ve been able to sign some good college free agents, you can rest at night, done OK.”
I know some of you are thinking that Ted cares more about the undrafted free agents than the draft picks himself with this statement. What I take away from it is that he sees the draft process as incomplete until the last of the college free agents is signed and he has his stable of players ready when organized team activities start. It also shows that the Packers front office does question themselves and if they did everything the best way possible. It’s impossible to get it right every time, but at least we know that they are asking themselves the question.
On Ron Wolf and his own philosophy as a leader: “Wolf was marvelous at projecting leadership. You have to understand GM chair. I am leader. Have to project confidence, understanding.”
Ted makes the final decision on all draft picks and he has said so a number of times before. There surely are likely to be disagreements at times over who is chosen, but Thompson has to assert himself as the man responsible for who is brought in and while he’s far from perfect, at least he understands that. Some say Thompson has a massive ego and doesn’t care if he misses on a draft pick because he has Rodgers to cover up all of his blemishes. While I don’t know Ted personally, I find that foolish. Anyone who takes pride in their job surely has to feel the regret and disappointment when a decision doesn’t work out how they wanted it to.
Seven more days. . .
Jason Perone is an independent sports blogger writing about the Packers on AllGreenBayPackers.comFollow Jason Perone: