Rating Thompson's hits with compensatory picks
Second in a four-part NFL draft data series
GREEN BAY – Contrary to what may be popular belief, the Green Bay Packers do not lead the NFL in compensatory draft picks.
In fact, they’re not really close. The Packers rank fifth in the NFL with 17 compensatory draft picks since 2006, the first offseason that general manager Ted Thompson’s decisions affected the league’s compensatory formula.
The Baltimore Ravens, led by general manager Ozzie Newsome, have acquired 30 compensatory draft picks since 2006 — 10 more than any other NFL team.
The allure of compensatory picks is simple. Each year, the NFL draft is based in guesswork even for the best personnel evaluators. It’s hard, if not impossible, to know how a college football player will transition to the NFL. The best way for teams to ensure they find good players is to draft as many as possible, increasing the margin for error.
Gaining extra picks through the compensatory system allows teams to cast a wider net.
But the Ravens’ gap on the field doesn’t mean compensatory picks are more important to Newsome than they are to Thompson. The difference is the Packers’ retention of draft picks beyond their rookie contract.
Since Thompson became GM in 2005, Packers’ draft picks lead the NFL with 1,078 games played after their first four seasons, according to a USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin study. In that time, Ravens draft picks have played 558 games after their first four seasons. Four seasons is the length of a rookie contract under the 2011 collective bargaining agreement.
Newsome acquired more compensatory picks than Thompson because more of his drafted players left for other teams through free agency, while Thompson retained more of his own.
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It helps explain why Thompson is so reluctant to sign unrestricted free agents. With high retention of players Thompson drafted over the years leading to fewer extra picks, he avoids negatively affecting the compensatory formula by signing players who are often overpriced on the open market.
For the first time, general managers will be able to trade compensatory draft picks in this month’s draft. Packers President/CEO Mark Murphy said it adds value to the compensatory formula, with teams able to package picks to move up in the draft.
But Murphy said the compensatory system doesn’t dictate the Packers’ personnel decisions.
“The compensatory draft system is something that you can really help yourself,” Murphy said at last month’s NFL owners meetings. “I think especially now with being able to trade those. But the compensatory draft system doesn’t drive your decisions. It’s looking at each player and whether the money what they’re asking for makes sense.”
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ith so much value placed on compensatory draft picks, it’s worth examining what those 17 extra selections have given the Packers during Thompson’s tenure.
In ranking each player drafted with a compensatory pick since Thompson began acquiring them a decade ago, priority was given to how much production each pick provided the Packers — not their overall production throughout the league.
Here are Thompson's compensatory picks, ranked from best to worst:
1. G Josh Sitton, Central Florida; fourth round, pick 135 (2008)
A three-time second-team All-Pro and the only Packers’ compensatory pick who became a Pro Bowler deserves the top spot on this list. Sitton was selected to the Pro Bowl three times before the Packers released him before the 2016 season. His athleticism and technique in pass protection led to a 37-game streak without allowing a sack, the longest since at least 2007. Not bad for a fourth-round pick.
2. DE Mike Daniels, Iowa; fourth round, pick 132 (2012)
Eventually, Daniels might end up No. 1 on this list. For one, he plays a more significant position than guard. With the flexibility to line up in their favored sub-package defenses or in their base 3-4, Daniels’ strength and athleticism make him the anchor of the Packers’ defensive line. He’s able to disrupt inside as a pass rusher (20 sacks the past four seasons), and he might be better against the run. Daniels doesn’t have a Pro Bowl nod to show for it, but he has been knocking on the door for a couple years.
3. CB Davon House, New Mexico State; fourth round, pick 131 (2011)
A familiar face back in Green Bay this season, House’s size and length have been a good fit in defensive coordinator Dom Capers’ system. His 31 7/8-inch arms help him in press-man coverage, and his 4.50-second, electronic-timed 40 at the combine is good speed for his size (6-foot-1, 200). House is back after an unsuccessful, two-year foray in Jacksonville, where he was released after a new regime took over this offseason.
4. TE Richard Rodgers, Cal; third round, pick 98 (2014)
Rodgers’ lack of speed (4.87-second 40) limits him as a receiver, but durability and reliability puts him in the top five. The highest compensatory pick in Thompson’s tenure, Rodgers has played in every game during his career with 23 starts. He caught 88 passes the past two seasons, though his yardage steeply declined (from 510 in 2015 to 271) with Jared Cook’s emergence last season. Although Thompson signed Martellus Bennett and Lance Kendricks, coach Mike McCarthy made sure to say his team has “three very good tight ends now” on the roster.
5. T/G Marshall Newhouse, TCU; fifth round, pick 169 (2010)
Newhouse struggled in two seasons as a Packers starter, sharing time at left and right tackle before losing his starting job in 2013. After effectively taking a redshirt year as a rookie, Newhouse started 31 games and appeared in 47 over the next three seasons. He has bounced around the NFL since then.
6.T Tony Moll, Nevada; fifth round, pick 165 (2006)
Splitting time between right tackle and right guard, Moll started 18 games and appeared in 39 over three seasons with the Packers. He was traded after the 2008 season to the Baltimore Ravens for defensive tackle Derrick Morgan. Moll played two seasons in Baltimore before finishing his career in San Diego in 2011.
7. ILB Blake Martinez, Stanford; fourth round, pick 131 (2016)
It’s far too early to know what kind of player Martinez will be, but his production as a rookie already puts him in the top 10. Martinez started nine games and appeared in 13 last season, trending in a promising direction before a late-November knee injury stunted his momentum.
8. WR Jared Abbrederis, Wisconsin; fifth round, pick 176 (2014)
Injuries early in Abbrederis’ career proved too much for the former Badgers star to overcome. A torn ACL in training camp wiped out his entire rookie season, and a concussion cost him almost all of his second training camp. Abbrederis appeared in 14 regular-season games, catching 10 passes for 119 yards. His lone start came in a 2015 NFC divisional playoff game at Arizona. His six catches for 69 yards against the Cardinals — real playoff production — gives him a boost on this list. Abbrederis signed a futures contract with the Detroit Lions in January.
9. DE Josh Boyd, Mississippi State; fifth round, pick 167 (2013)
After appearing in 24 games with four starts in his first two seasons, Boyd might have been trending toward a tangible role in the Packers’ defense before a broken ankle ended his career in Green Bay. He has not found a new team since being released in 2015.
10. S Jerron McMillian, Maine; fourth round, pick 133 (2012)
Early in his career, the Packers fancied McMillian a potential starting safety. It never came to fruition, and McMillian was released after appearing in 28 games with two starts in two seasons.
11. DE Dean Lowry, Northwestern; fourth round, pick 137 (2016)
In a limited role, Lowry showed improvement as a rookie, appearing in 15 games. His role should increase this fall.
12. DT Christian Ringo, Louisiana-Lafayette; sixth round, pick 210 (2015)
Ringo spent two seasons on the Packers’ practice squad before finally cracking the 53-man roster last fall. He appeared in seven games during 2016 and has a chance to make the team this season.
13.TE Kennard Backman, UAB; sixth round, pick 213 (2015)
After appearing in seven games during a rookie season that served as a partial redshirt, Backman was released during the 2016 preseason after he injured his right hamstring. Like Abbrederis, Backman signed a futures contract with the Lions.
14. DE Dave Tollefson, Northwest Missouri State; seventh round, pick 253 (2006)
Tollefson made a fine NFL career for himself – just not in Green Bay. After spending his entire rookie season on Packers practice squad, Tollefson played five seasons with the New York Giants, winning two Super Bowls. He finished his career playing one season with the Oakland Raiders in 2012. In six NFL seasons, appeared in 78 games with two starts. He had 10.5 career sacks and 62 tackles.
15. LS Clark Harris, Rutgers; seventh round, pick 243 (2007)
Harris, who is still in the league, spent one week on the Packers’ practice squad. After one season in Houston, Harris has spent the past eight seasons as the Cincinnati Bengals’ long snapper. He has played 120 games in Cincinnati and figures to get a ninth season this fall.
16. QB B.J. Coleman, Tennessee-Chattanooga; seventh round, pick 243 (2012)
The Packers re-signed Coleman after he spent his rookie season on the team’s practice squad. He was released for good on camp’s final cuts and replaced by Seneca Wallace before the 2013 season.
17. T Andrew Datko, Florida State; seventh round, pick 241 (2012)
Datko spent his rookie season on the Packers’ practice squad. He re-signed after the season, but was released near the end of camp in 2013.