GREEN BAY - By the time Green Bay Packers general manager Ted Thompson and his most trusted associates gather inside the war room next Thursday, the front office already will have made a decision about which player it hopes to take in the first round of the NFL draft.
The Packers, who own the 29th selection, will watch and wait for several hours before their green and gold logo is officially on the clock late in the evening. But that doesn’t mean Thompson enters the night without a plan, even as countless pieces around them swirl in a form of live, televised theater.
“Decisions like that are not made during the draft normally,” Thompson said at his annual pre-draft news conference Wednesday. “There's been a couple in my lifetime where it went 'boom!' something changed, and all of the sudden I had to make a decision, 'boom,' we do that. Most of the time, it's you sit there, you kind of know who you want to take and everything falls the way it's supposed to fall, and you wind up taking (him). It doesn't necessarily mean that your thought process was correct, but it just means that you never waver. You're going to try to take this particular player and hope for the best.”
The Packers typically enter the first round with a single name in mind at the start of the night, according to Thompson. Their chosen player is a product of exhaustive evaluations that have gone on for months, coupled with similar analysis of the teams choosing ahead of them in the first round.
In other words, the player they hope to draft must be a realistic option instead of a lottery pipe dream. Even for the Packers, mock drafts present a legitimate challenge.
“We try to, but we're so personal with it and so locked into it individually that we make it up,” Thompson said at this time last year. “If there's somebody that we really like, you're going to go, 'Oh yeah, we can get him there.' So we fool ourselves. We try to stay away from that.
“It gets to be a little more mathematically difficult to predict. But you have groups of players and you try to say, 'OK, this guy and this guy are pretty close. They play different positions but they're pretty close.' Maybe we'll put them as a couple that might be there and that sort of thing.”
The result is a simplified decision-making process in the early rounds. Even in the most challenging of years — when the Packers are presented with multiple items on their wish list all at once — Thompson said the choice is still fairly narrow in scope.
“Sometimes there could be three,” Thompson said. “Normally it’s not too many more than that. And then you have to make a decision, sure.”
But if all goes according to plan, the decision will be made for them.