For Thompson, drafting quality begins with quantity

Apr. 20, 2013
ES_NFL Draft_4.26.12
Packers General Manager Ted Thompson, left, chats with team president Mark Murphy and head coach Mike McCarthy during last year's NFL draft. / File/Press-Gazette Media

TeamPicksTotal Games PlayedGames Played Per PickPro Bowls
Green Bay762,8863815

Draft basics

Packers’ picks
Round 1: 26th overall
Round 2: 55th
Round 3: 88th
Round 4: 122nd
Round 5: 159th
Round 5: 167th (compensatory pick, cannot be traded)
Round 6: 193rd overall
Round 7: 232nd overall

Thursday: Round 1, 7 p.m.
Friday: Rounds 2-3, 5:30 p.m.
Saturday: Rounds 4-7, 11 a.m.

2012 Picks
Round 1
(28th overall): Nick Perry, OLB, Southern California
Round 2 (51st): Jerel Worthy, DE, Michigan State
Round 2 (62nd): Casey Hayward, CB, Vanderbilt
Round 4 (132nd): Mike Daniels, DT, Iowa
Round 4 (133rd): Jerron McMillian, S, Maine
Round 5 (163rd): Terrell Manning, LB, N.C. State
Round 7 (241st): Andrew Datko, T, Florida State
Round 7 (243rd): B.J. Coleman, QB, Tennessee-Chattanooga

Class of 2012
Cornerback Casey Hayward was the head of this class. Though he played mostly a part-time role as the slot cornerback in the nickel and dime packages, he led all rookies with six interceptions, which tied for fifth in the league, and was third in the voting for defensive rookie of the year. The rest of the class provided little else. Perry’s season ended after six games because of knee and wrist injuries, and it remains to be seen whether the converted defensive end can be an effective outside linebacker. Worthy played the third-most snaps among the team’s defensive linemen but recorded just 2½ sacks. He might not be ready for the start of 2013 because of his Week 17 knee blowout. Daniels provided some flashes as an inside rusher in the sub packages. McMillian showed some willingness as a tackler in a part-time role and might challenge for a starting job this year. Manning played only on special teams. Datko and Coleman spent the season on the practice squad.

First rounders
Here are the Packers’ last first-round picks at each position
Linebacker: Nick Perry, No. 28 overall, 2012
Tackle: Derek Sherrod, No. 32, 2011
Defensive tackle: B.J. Raji, No. 9, 2009
Quarterback: Aaron Rodgers, No. 24, 2005
Cornerback: Ahmad Carroll, No. 25, 2004
Receiver: Javon Walker, No. 20, 2002
Defensive end: Jamal Reynolds, No. 10, 2001
Tight end: Bubba Franks, No. 14, 2000
Safety: George Teague, No. 29, 1993
Guard: Aaron Taylor, No. 16, 1994
Running back: Darrell Thompson, No. 19, 1990
Center: Bob Hyland, No. 9, 1967
Fullback: Jim Grabowski, No. 9, 1966

The last time …
… the Packers had the 26th pick in the draft, they traded up to get it in order to select outside linebacker Clay Matthews in 2009. That pick came from the New England Patriots, but the Packers gave up a second-round pick and two third-round choices in order to get back into the first round to take Matthews after selecting nose tackle B.J. Raji at No. 9. They also got a fifth-round pick from the Patriots in that trade, and they used it to select tackle Jamon Meredith, who never played for them.

We’re No. 26
The last 10 players taken with the 26th pick in the draft were:
2012: Houston – Whitney Mercilus, DE, Illinois
2011: Kansas City – Jonathan Baldwin, WR, Pittsburgh
2010: Arizona – Dan Williams, DT, Tennesse
2009: Green Bay – Clay Matthews, LB, Southern California
2008: Houston – Duane Brown, T, Virginia Tech
2007: Dallas – Anthony Spencer, DE, Purdue
2006: Buffalo – John McCargo, DT, North Carolina State
2005: Seattle – Chris Spencer, C, Mississippi
2004: Cincinnati – Chris Perry, RB, Michigan
2003: San Francisco – Kwame Harris, T, Stanford
— Rob Demovsky, and follow him on Twitter @RobDemovsky.


When the Green Bay Packers hired Ted Thompson as general manager in 2005, he brought a vision with him cultivated from time spent as a member of Ron Wolf’s front office in the 1990s.

During his eight years serving under Wolf, Thompson witnessed the resurrection of a franchise mired in mediocrity due in part to a strength-in-numbers approach to the NFL draft.

The way Wolf saw things, the draft was no different than the game of baseball with one underlying principle: the more swings you take, the more hits will result.

Mixed with quality selections, the approach led to the franchise’s first NFL championship in 29 years when the Packers won Super Bowl XXXI in January 1997.

Both Wolf and Thompson understood they would fail from time to time, but generally thought that the more selections in the NFL draft, the better served the team would be in the long run.

Under Thompson’s watch, the Packers have placed an almighty value on April, and it’s a practice that’s helped them seize control of the NFC North. In those eight years, each of Green Bay’s division rivals has fired at least one coach and rearranged its front office.

Not the Packers, who have remained staunch advocates of sitting the bench in free agency and relying on the draft to fill their coffers.

Since Thompson came on board, the Packers have made 76 selections. That averages out to two more draft picks each year (9.5) than the next-closest division rival, Chicago (7.5).

Among those 76 picks, the Packers have hit on seven players who have combined for an NFC North-leading 15 Pro Bowl selections.

On the opposite side of the spectrum, only two of the 59 picks Detroit has made since 2005 have represented the Lions in the Pro Bowl — wide receiver Calvin Johnson and defensive lineman Ndamukong Suh, who combine for five selections.

“I think in general philosophy, I’d rather have more (draft picks) than less, but at the end of the day I’d rather have more quality than anything,” Thompson said.

“It’s the risk-reward ratio that you work with at any time during the draft. Do we take this guy here or do we take a chance on him being there a little bit later? Do you take this guy now that’s really talented but maybe a knucklehead? You’re weighing that risk-reward. It’s all a matter of that and you don’t know how it’s going to work.”

Thompson hasn’t been perfect. He whiffed on injury-prone defensive tackle Justin Harrell in 2007, and aside from nabbing future MVP quarterback Aaron Rodgers and three-time Pro Bowl safety Nick Collins in 2005, assembled lukewarm talent during his first draft as Packers general manager.

Of the team’s 11 selections that year, seven failed to play in more than 20 career games. Comparatively, Thompson’s next five draft classes from 2006 to 2010 saw only six of 47 draftees fail to eclipse that mark.

Today, Thompson’s selections have combined to play in a total of 2,886 NFL games, including 2,357 for the Packers. The next closest in the division is the Bears’ 60 selections combining for 1,990 NFL games.

However, nearly a quarter of Chicago’s picks since 2005 haven’t played a down in the NFL. Prorated to the amount of picks they’ve had, each Packers draftee has averaged 38 games in the NFL and 31 in Green Bay, trumping the rest of the division in both categories.

“One thing this organization does well,” said linebacker Clay Matthews, who was one of the Packers’ two first-round picks in 2009. “I know we catch a little heat sometimes that we like to build through the draft and develop our players and we’ve done a great job of that. Our free agents are the ones who were up on their contracts. It’s no different than Aaron, myself or whoever is up next.”

The fruits of the past eight drafts in the NFC North largely tell the tale. Locked into the cellar of the division for the better part of the 21st century, the Lions’ 59 selections have played in 1,782 games with only 1,434 of those coming in Detroit (24.3 games per draftee).

Outside of the Packers, the Vikings have had the most success with seven players combining for 12 Pro Bowl selections against 11 draft picks who never played in Minnesota. Their biggest blunder remains drafting Troy Williamson in the first round in 2005, but otherwise they have fared well enough.

So is NFL success simply boiled down to who accumulates the most picks? Not necessarily. Thompson has shown a willingness to give up picks if the price is right, especially of late.

The key is finding the value in those selections, and for the past eight years, Thompson has been onto something.

In a few days, he’ll continue to shape the direction of the organization for years to come.

“It’s not a democracy,” Thompson said. “At the end of the day, it’s my call and we try to take the best player. I’m not saying that to say I’m such an almighty decision-maker. It’s just that’s my job and my responsibility.” and follow him on Twitter @WesHod.

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