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.
And that takes us to 2009, arguably the toughest year to call. B.J. Raji has taken a lot of heat by myself and others for his acting uninterested in a contract year last season. But the biggest reason why Raji would be labeled a whiff is because he had to miss his entire junior year at Boston College because of academic issues. Combine that with his uninspiring play the last two years and he’s not worth a No. 9 overall pick. The other guy in this draft, Clay Matthews, certainly was worth the 26th overall selection and certainly worth trading a second rounder and a pair of third rounders. The outside linebacker has lived up to the billing by being selected to the Pro Bowl in four of five seasons.
Although I don’t see any whiffs in the 2010 draft, I am seeing one question mark. Bryan Bulaga has started 33 of 37 games in his four-year career and the first rounder has done it by playing musical chairs on the offensive line. Mike Neal burst onto the scene last year by becoming the most versatile defender last year. The second rounder will continue to get better after tying for third on the team in sacks. The question mark is safety Morgan Burnett. The Packers gave the third rounder $8.25 in guaranteed money this past summer despite consistently getting exposed in pass coverage.
The next year was another whiff year. Derek Sherrod, who has had trouble staying out of the trainer’s room and the disabled list, was recently informed that the Packers are washing their hands of him and will not pick up his option for next year. There aren’t too many teams willing to give up on a first rounder, but the Packers didn’t have much choice. Sherrod was followed by second rounder Randall Cobb and Thompson really hit a home run here. Cobb is the other pass catcher alongside Nelson that will be hauling in passes from Rodgers for years to come. Cobb is the multidimensional threat teams love and Rodgers has said that Cobb has the ability to catch 100 passes a year. The final whiff of 2011 is Alex Green. The third rounder looked great coming out of Hawaii, but after tearing his ACL, he became a bit player and is now looking to just see the field for the Jets.
The 2012 draft was nothing special for Thompson. First rounder Nick Perry proved that his motor is limitless but his lack of speed, especially on the edge, has been a concern. Compare that to second round defensive tackle Jerel Worthy and the Packers had to watch helplessly as he played hard in a very limited nature. Casey Hayward is just waiting to break out. The second round corner has started eight games in two seasons and could be getting a bigger role soon.
And finally, we make it to 2013. First rounder Datone Jones showed how tenacious he could be with 3½ sacks last year. The defensive end will only get better with Julius Peppers on the team. And second rounder Eddie Lacy finished the season with the No. 7 single season team rushing mark and Rookie of the Year honors.
That’s 10 Thompson whiffs as he enters his 10th grueling draft weekend. That comes out to just one a weekend. That sounds pretty good in a sport that despite all the scouting and future innovations, still cannot get it right consistently.——————
Cory Jennerjohn is from Wisconsin and has been in sports media for over 10 years. To contact Cory e-mail him at jeobs -at- yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter: Cory Jennerjohn