GREEN BAY - Around 10:15 p.m. Thursday, the Green Bay Packers were on the verge of being placed “on the clock,” next in line to make a selection in the 2017 NFL draft, and sitting before them was an embarrassment of need-based riches — an inside linebacker, a running back, a cornerback and more.
It was, quite possibly, as good a crop as the Packers could have hoped for with the 29th overall selection.
But based on the depth of talent in this year’s draft, as well as an in-house draft board that held up well, general manager Ted Thompson decided to trade out of the first round in order to acquire additional picks. The Packers now own the first selection in both the second (No. 33) and fourth rounds (No. 108).
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And when he spoke to the media late Thursday evening, Thompson hinted that their activity on the trade market might not be done.
“We’re taking calls,” Thompson said when asked about pick No. 33, gleaned from the Cleveland Browns.
“We felt like today went pretty good,” he continued. “Some things feel what we felt like was advantageous to us, especially for the next couple of days and we didn’t actually have to give up a whole lot to get a couple of breaks. That’s kind of where we are. Like I said we feel good about where we are, but we didn’t draft anybody, so we’ll see about that tomorrow.”
Before the draft began, it stood to reason that an early run on quarterbacks would be beneficial for the Packers, who have enjoyed three decades of franchise players at the position as other organizations starve. The earlier the first quarterback came off the board, the earlier the rest of the quarterbacks would too.
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In that regard, the fireworks began almost immediately. The Chicago Bears, who entered the evening picking third, executed a trade to move up one spot and select Mitchell Trubisky from North Carolina.
Chicago’s move set in motion a pattern of quarterback-hungry teams throwing off assets in exchange for higher picks in Thursday’s first round. The Kansas City Chiefs jumped from the 27th pick to the 10th in order to select Patrick Mahomes of Texas Tech. The Houston Texans jumped up to draft Deshaun Watson of Clemson.
With three quarterbacks and three receivers taken in the first 12 picks — both surprises based on most mock drafts — a number of quality defensive players and one quality guard slid closer to the Packers at No. 29. It appeared Thompson would have his choice of plug-and-play assets at the tail end of the first round, and at multiple positions.
“You could tell tonight that the board was pretty strong there at the end,” Thompson said. “And we felt good about where we are, and we were fortunate to have a team or two that was interested in doing something with us. You’ve got to have a dancer to dance.”
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The dancer wound up being the Browns, who gave the Packers two additional draft picks in order to take tight end David Njoku from Miami. Thompson admitted the Browns were something of a strategic partner in order to obtain the very first pick of the second round — a commodity that is valuable whether the Packers decide to use it for themselves or not.
“I think it’s very good strategy-wise,” Thompson said. “ … There’s a couple of different ways of looking at it in terms of being helpful to us. It could be that we highlight a player that we know we can get and they can’t take him away from us, so we sit there and pick him. It could be that a team sees an opportunity to maybe trade up and get a player they didn’t think they could get and maybe it’s again a trade that works well for us.”