Revisiting and Regrading the Packers’ 2011 Draft

Photo credit: Packers Insiders

NFL draft experts often say it’s not fair to grade a particular draft class on draft day. It’s better to reassess the picks three years into their careers.

Much has already been written about the perceived failures of the Green Bay Packers’ general Manager Ted Thompson and his maligned 2011 draft class. With the former 2011 first-round pick, tackle Derek Sherrod, being released this week, more gasoline has been added to the already burning inferno.

Now, we are three years removed from the Packers’ 2011 draft class and can make a fair assessment. Was it as bad as everyone said? Is there any redemption to be found? Let’s take a look.

Collective Thoughts

Coming fresh off winning Super Bowl XLV, the Packers seem stocked at almost every position. They were drafting in the last slot, which is a rewarding double-edged sword. If you’re drafting in the 32nd spot, it usually means you just won a title and are set at all key positions. But, it also means your chances of landing a perennial Pro Bowl player are lowered and immediately improving the starting lineup is very low.

Since the Packers were defending champions, they approached the 2011 draft as one to build immediate depth and to develop players that could compete for starting jobs in a few years. The Packers were one of the youngest rosters during 2010 and were poised to only become stronger after the 2011 draft. The future looked bright and the starting lineups could have been setup to be reloaded in a few short years.

However, this mostly never happened.

1. Derek Sherrod (T)

Sherrod was drafted to be the left tackle of the future, essentially being hand-picked to take the torch from the aging rock Chad Cliffton. On draft day, he was instantly being heralded as the “protect the franchise” pick by Packers fans since he would eventually be trusted to block Aaron Rodgers’ blindside. However, other more objective pundits claimed he was not of starting caliber and had a day 3 grade. Essentially, he may have been a reach, but a good training camp could have shown why he was chosen so highly.

But, his career got off to a very bad start. He was immediately bounced along the offensive line during his first training camp, being tried out at both tackle positions and as a guard as well. He may have had the physical talent to play at those positions, but doing that to a young rookie can’t be very good in terms of confidence and consistency. That game of musical chairs can severely stunt development. He looked completely lost during training camp and it became quickly obvious that he wasn’t as polished as a first-round pick should have been. Consequently, the Packers were trying to fit a square peg through a round hole. His first season never seemed to gain much traction.

Then, he suffered a devastating injury against the Kansas City Chiefs when he shattered his leg. That injury was not only a career-changer, it may also have been a life-changer. Non-athletes suffering that injury may have lingering problems for years and may never walk the same again, let alone perform athletic skills. Subsequently, Sherrod never got to showcase his talents and further develop himself. It’s often said the most important development time for young players is between their first and second seasons. This was completely lost for Sherrod because he was rehabbing his injury for over two years. Unfortunately, we’ll never know just how good Sherrod could have been because the injury changed everything. Time ran out for him and he made virtually no contribution to the Packers. It’s not fair to say this is a wasted pick, because injuries happen, but the Packers have nothing to show for their first-round selection.

Grade: Incomplete. We’ll never know what he could have been due to the injury, but I’m leaning towards total failure. The Packers reached for him and he was never able to develop, although it’s not his fault he was so devastatingly injured.

2. Randall Cobb (WR)

Cobb instantly excited the fan base with his selection. He was picked to be a wide receiver of the future and compete for playing time with the Packers’ already loaded corps of Greg Jennings, Jordy Nelson, and James Jones. Cobb made an immediate impact as a punt and kick returner, and he re-energized a lethargic special times squad.

Cobb has quickly developed into a trusted slot receiver, and he currently leads the 2014 Packers in receiving touchdowns. He’s in a contract year, and those always seem to bring out the best in players, so it’s no surprise he’s having an exceptional season.

At this point, Cobb is the only bright spot from the 2011 draft class. He’s a starter who is bordering on elite-level talent. It seems like he is on the cusp of exploding into stardom.

Grade: A. He’s a very valuable starter and legitimate weapon. As the lone bright spot from the 2011 draft, the Packers must re-sign him to hold onto any contributions gleaned from that that draft. If he is allowed to leave, the 2011 draft would truly be a disaster.

3. Alex Green (RB)

The 2010 Super Bowl run showed that running back James Starks had the talent to be a legitimate every down back. However, there was no depth behind him. Enter Alex Green. He was drafted for his explosive play, receiving abilities, and pass protection abilities that he showcased at Hawaii.

However, a serious knee injury destroyed his explosive abilities and he was never the same player afterwards. He was waived by the Packers in 2013, and again by the Jets in 2014, and he is currently out of football.

Grade: D. Injuries ruined his career, but that’s not unexpected for running backs because they take weekly beatings. He never contributed much when he was healthy, and couldn’t significantly contribute on the field after his career-altering injury.

4. Davon House (CB)

During their championship run, the Packers showed they had a good starting cornerback trio in Tramon Williams, Sam Shields, and Charles Woodson. Williams had his best season as a professional and Shields showcased a lot of talent as a rookie. However, Woodson was getting long in the teeth, so Ted Thompson looked to build depth and prepare for the future with House.

Houses’s career has been a series of ups and downs, involving injuries and inconsistent play. A serious shoulder injury early in his career stunted his development. He never became Woodson’s replacement, but now more than ever, he is being counted upon to potentially be Williams’ replacement due to his age and an expiring contract.

Grade: C. Inconsistent play has defined his career. He has showed talent to be a starter, but he has to show more and further develop.

5. D.J. Williams (TE)

As a highly touted collegiate tight end, he was supposed to bring explosiveness to the position and potentially compete with Jermichael Finley who was coming off a serious injury and “chemistry problems” with the quarterback.

However, he never amounted to much on the field and is currently out of football. He couldn’t make the roster for the lowly Jacksonville Jaguars or injury-depleted New England Patriots.

Grade: F. Never made any contributions.

6. Caleb Schlauderaff (G)

We hardly knew thee. He was traded to the New York Jets at the conclusion of his first training camp. The pick the Packers received in the trade was used in the trade that allowed them to select linebacker Terrell Manning, who also didn’t make any contributions for the Packers.

Grade: Incomplete. Picks this low are nothing more than mandatory tryouts. They are such crap shoots.

6. D.J. Smith (LB)

As an undersized linebacker, he showed some flashes as talent when thrust into the lineup as injury replacements. A devastating knee injury in 2012 ended his days in Green Bay and he’s currently a role player for the Carolina Panthers.

Grade: D. He was drafted as a role player, and filled in at times, but he wasn’t able to continue as a roll player in Green Bay, which says a lot considering the current state of affairs with the linebacking corps in Green Bay.

6. Ricky Elmore (LB)

Who? Exactly.

Grade: Incomplete. Picks this low are nothing more than mandatory tryouts. They are such crap shoots.

7. Ryan Taylor (TE)

He was never a receiving threat, but he did make many special teams contributions for three seasons. He was a liability on the field due his temper and boneheaded thought process, but making a team as a seventh-round selection is impressive, let alone sticking around for three years.

Grade: C. Good value pick and special teams contributor.

7. Lawrence Guy (DE)

He has managed to stick around the league up to this point, but he never did anything for the Packers. He currently plays for the Baltimore Ravens. His days in Green Bay were numbered after spending his first season on injured reserve.

Grade: F. The fact he’s still in the league represents a potential failure on the Packers’ part. They had something there in him, but let him get away.

Final Thoughts: Overall Grade is a Sliding Scale

The 2011 draft brought ten new bodies to the Packers. As of 2014, only two of them remain in Randall Cobb and Davon House. All drafts are crap shoots, but a 20% keeper rate is pretty poor no matter how you look at it.

Injuries took their toll in this draft class, effectively ending or sidetracking the careers of Sherrod, Green, House, D.J. Smith, and Guy. No one can predict injuries, but the frequency of those injuries is alarming and concerning.

This is a contract year for both Randall Cobb and Davon House, so it’s yet to be seen if they return for the 2015 season.

As it stands during the 2014 season, the overall grade for the 2011 draft must be an F. Only two players from the draft remain, with only one being a bona fide starter, and that has had devastating effects on depth and the quality of other starters currently on the roster.

However, the draft grade is on a sliding scale. If the Packers lose both Cobb and House to free agency, then the draft grade remains an F. They’ll have absolutely nothing to show for the draft four years out, and that’s absolutely unacceptable. Draft classes like that can ruin a roster and end general managers’ jobs.

If the Packers are able to re-sign Cobb, his value alone is enough to salvage some of the draft, especially if he continues to develop into a play making slot receiver. If he is re-signed, I’ll bump the draft grade to a D.

If the Packers re-sign House, it means he has developed into a starting quality cornerback and the likely successor to Tramon Williams. If that’s the case, that does improve the draft grade to a D as well. Finding starting caliber cornerbacks is difficult. House has been shaky as a starter, but he could develop into one with more playing time.

If both Cobb and House return, the draft grade will become a C. They’ll have two starters at skill positions, and that is a satisfactory result. And that’a all it is, satisfactory.


Jay Hodgson is an independent sports blogger writing for and

Follow Jay on twitter at @jys_h.


34 thoughts on “Revisiting and Regrading the Packers’ 2011 Draft

  1. If the grade is accurate, then what does that say about how well the Packers have cobbled together a roster that enables them to keep on winning?

    Or is AR that big of a band-aid?

    1. The offense is a huge band-aid. The Packers of late remind me of the late 1980s and early 1990s Buffalo Bills. Super potent offense and a sieve defense. Things look great during the regular season, but they can’t get over the hump in the playoffs.

  2. Jay – thanks for the excellent review of the 2011 draft. I appreciate your approach of utilizing a sliding scale since this is a contract year for both Cobb and House. Is the sliding scale also based on the fact that the Packers started with the #32 pick? In other words if the Packers drafted 10th or 15th or 23rd would the grading be worse or more severe? My point is that, if the draft is a crap shoot, which it is, then aren’t the odds stacked even further against you when you have the 32nd or other late picks, basically 26 or higher. I am not trying to defend TT or the 2011 Packers picks because the Packers did a poor job here no matter how you look at it, but I wonder if we can compare other drafts by SB winners to see how their results compare. As I look at the first 4 rounds, I see a reach for Sherrod(which I also thought at the time) but the thinking was correct to get an LT to protect Rodgers. 2nd round Cobb which was a good pick at the time and now a great result. 3rd round Green, again good thinking, bad result due to injuries, 4th round House, good pick and a good result to date, based on how the Packers have utilized him so far. After the first 4 rounds the mandatory tryouts really begin for the most part. To me the question is, if Sherrod and Green do not get hurt are they still on the team and still contributing? Green, porbably not with the emergence of Lacy and even DuJuan Harris. Sherrod, we’ll never know, but even if he hung on as a healthy backup he probably would have been better than Newhouse all those years. Go Pack Go! Thanks, Since ’61

    1. Good question, and it’s a difficult answer. Historically speaking, the 2011 draft was a poor class for many teams. A lot of the prospects are currently out of football. After about the 16th pick, the list of players who made impacts goes down drastically. However, there were some gems after 32, including Demarco Murray, Kyle Rudolph, Torrey Smith, and Justin Houston.

      This link shows you the players selected that year, and it quickly becomes a dismal list:

      1. Look Draft Class 2001 for Carolina Panthers. There is only 1 player that is still on the 2011 class on Panthers roster, Cam Newton… And there is more teams with similar results from that class!

    2. If TT really wanted Wilkerson and he dropped to the 30th or 31st pick, it is criminal that the idiot didn’t give up a 4th rd pick to jump 2 or 3 spots ion the draft to nab him. Once Wilkerson was gone, Sherrod made sense. What happened to him (other than Mike the Moron trying to train him to play G) was just bad luck. I don’t blame TT for Sherrod’s injury, I blame him for not trading up at modest cost to get his man! The latter is what a real GM would do.

  3. It would be really interesting to compare how Super Bowl Champions drafted in their successive year. Does that really play a factor? Or is the draft order negligible?

    1. Sounds like you’ve got a story idea. Might want to run with that one. My guess is that it matters less than we might think, but it would be interesting to see a little data.

  4. Regarding Sherrod: “It’s not fair to say this is a wasted pick, because injuries happen, but the Packers have nothing to show for their first-round selection.”

    Injuries or not, FAIR does not enter into the equation. When a team gets nothing of value out of a 1st round pick, that is called a WASTED PICK. Let’s be honest please.

    1. The GM can’t control if someone’s leg explodes. But, I said the pick was bordering on a complete failure.

    2. Kurt, I won’t argue with the fact that the Packers got nothing from Sherrod. So in that sense, sure, it is a “wasted pick.” No argument.

      But “fair” certainly MUST enter the equation when you are judging the work of NFL talent evaluators. WHY did the pick bomb out? If a player is selected and it turns out that he just can’t play, then it is fair to fault the GM. On the other hand, if the player is selected, looks great, and then is struck and killed by a meteor during his first national anthem, then fairness demands that you do not fault the GM for something that was essentially an act of God.

  5. I said this in a previous post, but it’s applicable here as well. I don’t think we can say Sherrod was a “reach.” Obviously, he didn’t work out and the Packers got nothing for the pick. And as you said, Jay, it’s impossible to know how much of that was because of injury. But here is a list of 2011 mock drafts, just before draft day. All of these guys – and they’re big names in the draft business – were predicting that Sherrod would go HIGHER than the Packers.

    Kiper (ESPN) #29
    McShay (ESPN) #29
    Nolan Nawrocki (PFW) #26
    Rob Rang (CBS) #29
    Chad Reuter (CBS) #29
    Pete Schrager (Fox) #29
    Evan Silva (Rotoworld) #22
    uncredited (Sporting News) #19
    Rick Gosselin (Dallas Morning news) #30
    Ourlads Scouting #23
    Jim Corbett (USA Today) #29
    Sean Leahy (USA Today) #29
    Steve Wyche ( #29
    Bucky Brooks ( #29
    Wes Bunting (NFP) #26

    I’ve always felt that we need to develop more comprehensive terminology for evaluating draft picks. Some people seem to operate only in terms of “steal, good pick, bad pick and bust.” But sometimes you just get lucky and sometimes you just get screwed. Sometimes you get nothing for your pick and it isn’t really your fault.

    A classic example would be Terrence Murphy, whom TT selected in the second round of 2005. Three games into his rookie season he’s motionless on the turf, and is later diagnosed with spinal stenosis. Who knows? Given TT success rate in drafting WRs, he could have been a flat-out stud. But we’ll never know. I certainly wouldn’t think it fair to call him a bust, as if he were somehow the same as Ryan Leaf. It’s kind of the same way with Sherrod. Is it bad drafting? Bad luck? Maybe some of both…

    1. Disagree. Sherrod didn’t see the field in 2011 because he wasn’t good enough. If you look at the 2011 cohort of high draft pick tackles, most had started more games by the end of their first year than Sherrod did his whole career. The difference was that they could beat out the competition and Sherrod could not. He never had it.

    1. Only to prove that the draft is really a crap shoot and the further down your team starts the bigger the challenge becomes. Thanks, Since ’61

      1. If you want to say the draft’s a crap shoot, then TT shouldn’t get credit for Rodgers or Cobb or any other pick.

        Only one 2nd round 2011 OL pick was as big a disappointment as Sherrod. (Ijalana) If you look at the the third round, pretty much all were better, too. Doesn’t mean that they were good, just better than Sherrod. I think it’s more a case of bad judgement than bad luck.

      2. Far cry between uncertainty and a “crap-shoot”. Otherwise why even have a GM? Good GMs like Bill Walsh, Ozzie Newsome, etc. are much more sucessful than the bottom half of GMs. I would argule that Hawk is to ILB as TT is to GMs.

  6. This was a bad year for anyone picking late in the draft. I looked at the drafts for other teams of the same year and the packers dont look that bad. Cobb alone keeps them out of the worst 10 team drafts from that year. I don’t care about the amount of starters teams get, 4 starters on the browns from 1 draft probably doesn’t equal Cobb. Regardless of what they do with House (i think he is gone after this year and williams is resigned for a bargain deal) Cobb gives them a C- or D+ based on how crappy most team’s did. If House is retained at a reasonable deal and plays well, give it a C or C+. Missing out on all the TE’s hurts to look at tho.

  7. Totally sucks for Sherrod, I was really pulling for him this year, thinking he would make a Mike Flanigan like return at best, solid backup swing OT for a few years at worst. The guy sure looked the part, injuries suck

  8. Great article. Regarding whether Sherrod was a reach, he was often described as a prospect that could only play left tackle because despite his size he was a finesse player who lacked a mean streak and had to get stronger. Never was a mauler or road grader. Therefore, the only position for him was LT. Problem was that as a rookie with the lock-out, he wasn’t able to beat out an aging Clifton, and then never really got to play LT. He wasn’t a guy who could play guard or even right tackle. GB probably figured he would have a year or two to get stronger and then could replace Clifton, but he didn’t get that year due to injury. Still, I don’t think he was a reach. I give you credit for finding a quality draft profile listing him as day 3 prospect and thus a giant reach, but there were lots of quality draft mocks that had him as a 1st or high 2nd round pick (just ask Marpag or see my post yesterday). My bet is that for every late 1st/high 2nd round prospect (especially for LTs), one can find one, maybe a few, draft profiles that disagree. As I noted, Mr. Kruse and Mr. Hobbes wrote columns on this very website on April 28 and 29, 2011, that were very high on Sherrod. They didn’t seem to think he was reach. This is kind of strange for me, because I am not a fawning fan of TT; I think TT is an above average GM, not God.

    1. Mike teh Moron putting Sherrod at G in his rookie camp was the beginning of the end for the kid. What TT doesn’t screw up in the first instance, MM does.

    1. Watt went 11 (?), Miller 3, we were at 32…. no way those teams would trade down that far, it just doesn’t happen.

      1. Lol, I didn’t expect someone to respond to my comment five months later. This is a first.

        Even if we gave up the entire 2011 and 2012 draft’s, it would have been worth it to get J.J. Watt. I know that that’s something happens only in retrospect, but when I saw J.J. Watt and Von Miller’s tapes, I honestly could not get over them. They nagged away at my mind for days. I finally caved in and said that I if were a manager, I would do the riskiest/stupidest thing one would do, and trade up for Watt, no matter what the cost.

        We got next to nothing out of those classes except for Mike Daniels and Randall Cobb, both of whom I would trade for Watt in a heartbeat.

  9. Nice article. I agree with your assessment. GMs have to make hay in the 2nd to 4th rounds, though. In the 2nd rd., TT is 9 of 13, 3rd (4 for 7) and 4th rd. (6/15) (Sitton, Lang, Daniels, Bakh, Tretter, House), 5th Rd. (3-6?/15) (Giacomini, Moll, Meredith, Q. Johnson, Newhouse, Quarless, D. J. Williams, Boyd, Hyde, Linsley), 6th rd. (5/12) [Desmond Bishop, James Starks, Mason Crosby, Johnny Jolly and Jarius Wynn], 7th Rd. (4/15) [Ryan Taylor, C.J. Wilson, B. Jones, Flynn w jury out on Janis, Dorsey, Barrington]. In the 1st rd., I have TT 5/10 [(Rodgers), Hawk, Harrell, (CMIII, Raji, Bulaga), Sherrod, Perry, Datone, and (Clinton-Dix)] with the jury out on Perry and Datone Jones.

    I would like to address your sliding scale. One tool of analysis I use is whether the player got a second contract, regardless of whether it was with GB or some other team (not TT’s fault that Flynn for eg., got a huge contract that couldn’t be matched, and we do get compensatory picks for such players), and whether the 2nd contract is for starter or back-up money. I do make a note of elite and red type players. In TT’s first 6 drafts, I counted 29 drafted players who got 2nd contracts, with 13 getting good starter money. That is 4.67 players/yr getting 2nd contracts, with about 2.5/yr getting good starter’s money. I note 3 elite players (Rodgers, CMIII, and Collins) and 5 reds (Sitton, Nelson, Jennings, Lang & Bishop). Though not drafted, one could include Tramon Williams and Sam Shields as 2 more reds.

    In his 10 drafts, (I have to extrapolate for the 3 most recent drafts what is likely to happen), I count 43 players who got or are on track to get 2nd contracts, or 4.3 players/yr, with 19-22 getting or likely to get starter money, again roughly 2/yr.

    Applying this to 2011, Cobb will get starter’s money and House will get back-up (plus?) money from someone. 2 instead of 4.3, and only one getting starter’s money equals a D-.

    (Rodgers, Collins), Poppinga, (Hawk), College, (Jennings), Spitz, Jolly, James Jones, Barbre, (Bishop, Crosby), [Tramon William UDFA] (Nelson, Sitton, Finley, Giacomini, Flynn, Raji), (CMIII, Lang), Brad Jones, Wynn, Bulaga, Neal, (Burnett), Quarless, Newhouse, Starks, Wilson [Shields UDFA]. 29 drafted players thru 2010 with those getting good starter money in parenthesis). (Cobb), House, (Perry?), Hayward, (Daniels), (Datone?), (Lacy, Bakh), (Tretter?), Hyde, Boyd, (Clinton-Dix), Adams, (Linsley). 43 projected in 10 years.

  10. Thought provoking. But, I don’t share the same conclusions. First off, if Cobb and House sign elsewhere and GB gets good compensatory picks for these signings, they will have something to show for the draft in the form of new players.

    I believe this was probably the worst draft in the Thompson era, but you can’t look at a single draft pick or single draft class in isolation. You need to look at the entire body of work. The 2010 and 2013 draft classes were terrific and although it’s still a bit early to tell, the 2014 class is looking pretty good also.

    The other thing to note is that having a consistent winning team puts you near the bottom of the draft order. GB drafted 32nd in the 2011 draft. They were hoping to get Muhammad Wilkerson (that All Pro DE on the Jets) – he went #30 to the Jets.

    Judge a GM by his body of work, not from a single pick or class. TT has a very impressive draft performance and also does a great job in getting UDFAs.

    1. I remember mock drafts of Wilkerson to the Packers…… Had it happened the 2011 draft would have went down as a steal and I’m guessing our run defense would be better this year.

    2. If it is true that “they were hoping to get Muhammad Wilkerson (that All Pro DE on the Jets) – he went #30 to the Jets.” why didn’t they make a small trade up to land him?! That’s my problem with TT, he doesn’t understand value and uncertainty. Bill Walsh would have made that trade in two seconds. This guy is way too passive.

      1. He may have tried, doesn’t mean the other party will without getting a kings ransom.

    3. If TT wanted Wilkerson so much why didn’t he trade up into the 26-30 area to get him. Why be passive when there is somebody you really like that has fallen to a mega-value point? TT is too sleepy and conservative for my nature.

  11. Bottom-line – As Packer GM, TT has hit on only 2 of 10 R1 picks (defined as having gotten 1st round value from a 1st round pick). That is the worst of any GM in the league by far. Add to that the fact that he didn’t really want AROD and tried to trade the pick. Add to that he selected Mike the Moron as HC over Sean Payton. But hey, he’s ours fro another 5 years and so is MM. My only question is why is TT too embarrassed to tell us how many years he extended MM’s contract. There’s no competitive advantage to be had by our adversaries knowing this. The you guy is a complete joke and ass-clown.

  12. Ricky Elmore was the guy that was book ends with Brooks Reed, and had video of him doing a standing jump out of a pool. He got to preseason play, where every play some 3rd string tackle was shoving him downfield like The Delivery Guy’s fat rear end was out there.

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