Linebacker is an important position in the Packersí 3-4 defense, which makes it curious why Ted Thompson didnít draft one in 2008 and 2010.
Seemingly in an effort to make up for that shortfall, Thompson has drafted two linebackers in four of the past five years, with mixed results.
He is expected to draft a linebacker this year, perhaps as high as the first round, to upgrade what is perceived as a weakness on the inside.
In nine drafts Thompson has taken a total of 13 linebackers. One is a perennial Pro Bowl player (Clay Matthews), one has started for eight years (A.J. Hawk), and four others attained starting status for varying lengths of time.
In the third of an eight-part series ranking Thompsonís draft picks by position, I assess his crop of linebackers, from best to worst.
1-Clay Matthews, first round, 2009
Thompson used the draft pick he received in the Brett Favre trade (third-rounder) as ammunition to move up into the first round to grab Matthews. It was one of the boldest and best moves Thompson has made. Matthews is everything the Packers hoped for and then some. When healthy, heís as good a pass rusher as there is in the NFL.
2-A.J. Hawk, first round, 2006
Say what you want about Hawk not living up to the status of being the fifth overall selection in the first round, the guy is always available and can be counted on to perform his duties. He has missed two starts in eight years due to injury. In the big picture, Hawk has received more criticism than he deserves. Heís been good, not great, for a long time.
3-Desmond Bishop, sixth round, 2007
He waited patiently for three seasons riding the bench and playing special teams, then burst onto the scene when Nick Barnett got hurt in 2010 and became a solid starter and was a significant contributor on the Packersí Super Bowl-winning team. Unfortunately for Bishop, his starting run was too brief when a torn hamstring in 2012 effectively ended his Packers career.
4-Brad Jones, seventh round, 2009
For a player chosen 218th overall, or 192 spots after Matthews, Jones has done pretty well for himself. He initially played on the outside but made the transition inside where he earned a starting job and lucrative new contract. Some believe the Packers can do better, but until another player proves it, Jones will continue to fly under the radar.
5-Brady Poppinga, fourth round, 2005
He was a primary starter for three of his six seasons in Green Bay on the outside. He was serviceable and the ultimate team player. He lasted two more seasons in the NFL after the Packers let him go following the 2010 season.
6-Nick Perry, first round, 2012
Injuries have slowed his development, but he has still made 15 starts over his first two seasons opposite Matthews with a total of six career sacks. The Packers are still clinging to the hope he elevates his game and moves up this list and lives up to his first-round status.
7-D.J. Smith, sixth round, 2011
He started nine games in his first two seasons before the Packers abruptly gave up on him, in part because of Smithís size (5-11, 239) and a mid-October knee injury that ended his 2012 season. When Bishop was lost for the season during 2012 training camp, Smith became the starter until his injury. He played one game with Houston in 2013.
8-Nate Palmer, sixth round, 2013
He appeared in eight games with two starts and 18 tackles as a rookie in making the transition from college defensive end to pro outside linebacker. He is still a work in progress.
9-Abdul Hodge, third round, 2006
As the 67th overall pick, he was a major disappointment. He played in eight games as a rookie with one start. His claim to fame with the Packers was a 29-yard fumble return for a touchdown. Hodge injured his knee and spent the 2007 season on injured reserve. He was cut at the end of training camp in 2008. He spent three seasons with Cincinnati (2008-2010), appearing in 27 games with no starts.
10-Sam Barrington, seventh round, 2013
The inside linebacker played in seven games as a rookie, exclusively on special teams. He injured his hamstring in Week 9 and landed on injured reserve.
11-Terrell Manning, fifth round, 2012
He played in five games as a rookie but got cut at the end of his second training camp. He was signed by San Diego and wound up on the practice squad last season. Minnesota signed him earlier this month.
12-Ricky Elmore, sixth round, 2011
He never made it out of his first training camp with the Packers after being taken No. 197 overall. He has spent time on the offseason rosters of four other teams but has never made an NFL roster.
13-Kurt Campbell, seventh round, 2005
He was taken No. 245 overall and was one of just two draft picks in Ted Thompsonís first year as GM that didnít make the team. He spent time on the offseason rosters of Oakland and Tennessee but never made an NFL roster.