Ted Thompson attacked last week’s draft with an aggressiveness and abandon seldom seen from the Green Bay Packers general manager.
After trading up just three times in the previous seven years, Thompson traded up three times in a span of less than 24 hours on Friday and Saturday.
It was a shocking display from a man that normally guards draft picks in the same way parents protect their children.
Thompson gave away seven draft choices — a second, third, fourth, fifth, sixth and two sevenths — for the right to select Michigan State defensive end Jerel Worthy in the second round, Vanderbilt cornerback Casey Hayward in the second round and North Carolina State linebacker Terrell Manning in the fifth round.
Even Thompson seemed a little dazed after his trading frenzy.
“It’s horrible,” he said. “I felt about as ashamed … I’m not my father’s son anymore, because my father’s very frugal. It’s pathetic.”
Thompson was only joking and said that in this situation, unloading so many picks was appropriate. Although he wouldn’t admit it, Thompson was attempting to fill some gaping holes on defense.
“I felt like we had a good, solid team,” said Thompson, “and I felt like where we knew that we felt like we were getting quality we should try to do it. So we made three trades up.”
But there is risk involved in trading up, something Thompson’s predecessor, Mike Sherman, learned the hard way during his three drafts as Packers general manager.
Sherman traded up a total of five times during the 2003 and 2004 drafts and the results were disastrous. He gave away 10 draft picks — two thirds, three fourths, two fifths, two sixths and a seventh — for five forgettable players: Kenny Peterson, James Lee, Hunter Hillenmeyer, Donnell Washington and B.J. Sander.
It was galling enough that Sherman drafted a punter — Sander — in the third round, but he threw away fourth- and fifth-round draft picks to get him. Sander, Peterson, Lee and Washington were unmitigated busts in Green Bay, while Hillenmeyer was cut as a rookie before catching on as a starting linebacker with the Chicago Bears.
This is not to suggest Thompson, who built a Super Bowl champion largely through the draft, would misjudge college talent as badly as Sherman.
The only successful trade-up for Sherman came in 2002 when he landed receiver Javon Walker in the first round.
Thompson batted .667 in three previous trades-ups. He hit the jackpot with Clay Matthews in 2009 and found a starting safety with Morgan Burnett in 2010, but swung and missed on defensive lineman Jeremy Thompson in 2008.
There can be great reward for a general manager that moves up and grabs someone he really wants. But if that player doesn’t pan out, the result is two wasted draft picks instead of one.
Or in the case of Manning, who cost the Packers a sixth-rounder and two sevenths, there is the potential for three wasted draft picks.
Some view late-round picks as throwaway players anyway, but the Packers have amassed an impressive array of sixth- and seventh-rounders over the years, including Donald Driver, Mark Tauscher, Scott Wells, Desmond Bishop, Mason Crosby, Matt Flynn and James Starks.
Theoretically, the more draft picks a team has the greater the chances for success. With few exceptions Thompson stuck like glue to that tried and true philosophy over the years, until last weekend.
He expressed no regret about entering the draft with 12 picks and winding up with only eight.
“We honestly felt like the value warranted doing it,” Thompson said of trading up three times. “The board just fell a certain way where we had people just rated better than other people. It doesn’t mean we’re right, but that’s the way we had it.”
Right or wrong, Thompson was willing to take the risk. The Packers defense was desperate for help, and Thompson felt compelled to do something about it, even if it meant straying outside his comfort zone.
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