Advertisement

You will be redirected to the page you want to view in  seconds.

Mike Vandermause column: Ranking Thompson's best, worst 1st-round picks

Apr. 20, 2014
 
Packers general manager Ted Thompson hit home runs in the first round with the picks of Aaron Rodgers, right, in 2005 and Clay Matthews in 2009.
Packers general manager Ted Thompson hit home runs in the first round with the picks of Aaron Rodgers, right, in 2005 and Clay Matthews in 2009. / File/Press-Gazette Media
Packers general manager Ted Thompson, right, introduces his biggest bust, first-round draft pick Justin Harrell, in May 2007. / File/Press-Gazette Media
Packers general manager Ted Thompson, left, shares a laugh with team President Mark Murphy and coach Mike McCarthy in the draft room last April. / File/Press-Gazette Media

More

Green Bay Packers general manager Ted Thompson looked stunned when fans booed his first-round selection of defensive tackle Justin Harrell in 2007.

As it turned out, Packers fans knew something Thompson apparently didnít.

Harrell became a classic first-round bust, with his career plagued by injuries and ineffectiveness.

That huge whiff on the No. 16 overall pick, along with the Packersí inability to get much production from their last three first-rounders ó Derek Sherrod in 2011, Nick Perry in 2012 and Datone Jones in 2013 ó leaves the impression Thompson hasnít been very successful in Round 1.

In effect, the Packersí last four first-round picks were nowhere to be found during the 2013 season, which takes a toll on a teamís development.

Offensive linemen Bryan Bulaga (2010 first-rounder) and Sherrod essentially missed all of last season with injuries, Jones played sparingly in defensive subpackages and Perry, plagued by physical ailments, made just six starts.

The pressure is on Thompson to land a first-round pick (21st overall) in next monthís draft who will make an immediate impact. Thatís something the Packers havenít enjoyed since 2010, when Bulaga was taken No. 23 overall and stepped in as a rookie starter at right tackle during the teamís Super Bowl championship season.

Despite the recent difficulties, Thompsonís overall track record in the first round is above average.

He landed franchise quarterback Aaron Rodgers and Pro Bowl linebacker Clay Matthews in the first round, and those picks alone elevate Thompsonís first-round drafting status.

Two other first-rounders, B.J. Raji and A.J. Hawk, have been regular if unspectacular starters, and Bulaga has been a first-teamer when healthy. In fairness, itís too soon to write off Perry and Jones, who still are developing.

Thompson also deserves credit for trading out of the first round in 2008 and still drafting quality receiver Jordy Nelson in the second round with the No. 36 overall selection.

There are striking similarities between the first-round track records of Thompson and his mentor, former Packers general manager Ron Wolf.

Both landed franchise quarterbacks, if you count Wolf trading a first-round pick (No. 17 overall) to Atlanta for Brett Favre in 1992.

Both missed on linemen, with Thompsonís selection of Sherrod looking a lot like Wolfís choice of John Michels. And Wolf matched Thompsonís Harrell stinker with the drafting of bust Jamal Reynolds.

Overall, Thompsonís first-rounders grade out better, mainly because Matthews has become the kind of defensive difference-maker Wolf never found in the draft. Also, Wolf gets downgraded for missing badly on Terrell Buckley, who was the No. 5 overall pick in 1992 but played only three seasons in Green Bay.

Thompson also has made the majority of his first-round picks later in the round, when talented players are harder to find.

Seven of Wolfís 12 first-round picks were No. 19 or earlier, while just three of Thompsonís 11 first-rounders were that early, assuming the Packers donít trade up this year.

Hereís a ranking, from best to worst, of Thompsonís first-round picks with the Packers:

1. Aaron Rodgers, QB (No. 24 overall pick in 2005)

Critics of Thompson say he got lucky when Rodgers fell into his lap after so many other teams passed on him. But it took guts to make the selection when Favre was still playing well. It didnít help the Packers in the short term but set the table for their Super Bowl title nearly six years later and continues to keep them in playoff contention every year.

2. Clay Matthews, LB (No. 26 in 2009)

The normally conservative Thompson shocked the NFL world by trading a second-rounder and two third-rounders to New England to move into the first round to grab Matthews, who was perfectly suited for Dom Capersí 3-4 defense. One of the third-rounders the Packers dealt had been acquired in the Favre trade with the New York Jets the year before. It was a bold and spectacular move by Thompson.

3. B.J. Raji, NT (No. 9 in 2009)

Raji has started every game he has played the past four seasons ó 70 in all ó and was a key piece in Capersí defense on the Super Bowl-winning team in 2010. His pick-six against the Chicago Bears in the NFC title game was as big as it gets. Although Rajiís production fell off in 2013, the Packers brought him back for another year and plan to line him up over the center where he is most effective.

4. A.J. Hawk, LB (No. 5 in 2006)

Hawk doesnít make the splash plays expected of such a high first-round pick and to some has been a disappointment. But he is reliable, assignment-sure and always available, playing in 137 of a possible 139 games in eight seasons with 133 starts. He had perhaps his best season in 2013 at age 29.

5. Bryan Bulaga, T (No. 23 in 2010)

He has missed the last year and a half with injuries, including a season-ending torn ACL suffered last August in the Family Night scrimmage. He was slated to be the Packersí starting left tackle before the injury and assuming a full recovery will be a strong contender for the starting right tackle job.

6. Nick Perry, LB (No. 28 in 2012)

Injuries have sidetracked his first two seasons, with 17 games played and 11 starts. But the Packers havenít given up on Perry, who might be suited for the new elephant position that will include lining up as an outside linebacker and defensive lineman.

7. Datone Jones, DE (No. 26 in 2013)

He made only a modest contribution as a rookie, with no starts and limited action in defensive subpackages. He showed flashes early in training camp but was never the same after injuring his ankle in August. He has the potential to move up the list.

8. Derek Sherrod, T (No. 32 in 2011)

Can he overcome the effects of a severely broken leg suffered as a rookie? Even before the injury, he couldnít beat out Marshall Newhouse for a job at tackle, raising questions about his ability to rise above backup status.

9. Justin Harrell, DT (No. 16 in 2007)

This was Thompsonís low point in the draft room. Harrell was injury-prone and inconsistent coming out of Tennessee but Thompson picked him anyway. Lo and behold, Harrell didnít change his ways in the pros. He never recorded a sack and started just two games in his failed NFL career.

ó mvandermause@greenbaypressgazette.com and follow him on Twitter @MikeVandermause.

What's your take on the Packers Family Night change?

Retrieving results.
Watching practice is fine.(Your vote)
15%
576 votes
I'd rather watch a scrimmage.(Your vote)
23%
856 votes
I don't want to pay to watch practice.(Your vote)
27%
1018 votes
It doesn't matter to me.(Your vote)
34%
1272 votes

Catch up on the latest in our pregame show every game day.

Football fans

If you've ever answered "Who has the ball?" with "It's halftime," you might recognize The Airhead. Check out the characters in our cartoon gallery of oddball fans.

Special Reports

ORDER YOURS

Football fans

If you've ever answered "Who has the ball?" with "It's halftime," you might recognize The Airhead. Check out the characters in our cartoon gallery of oddball fans.

Special Reports