Dougherty: Thompson's top hits, awful misses

Pete Dougherty
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There are a lot of ways to look at Ted Thompson’s long record of drafting for the Green Bay Packers.

The general manager will conduct his 13th draft with the Packers in three weeks. In his 12 previous drafts he has selected 111 players, ranging from the sublime (Aaron Rodgers) to the absurd (Ricky Elmore).

Here's a look at his best and worst picks in each round, first through seventh:

First round

Best pick: Aaron Rodgers (No. 24 overall, 2005).

The second-best first-round pick also is easy: Clay Matthews (No. 26, ’09). Interesting to note, Thompson has been much better in the first round than his mentor, Pro Football Hall of Famer Ron Wolf. Wolf’s best first-rounder was linebacker Wayne Simmons, who was good but not great. His only Pro Bowler was Bubba Franks, whose specialty was the two-yard touchdown catch. In the middle to later rounds, though, Wolf was outstanding. He also used a first-round pick to trade for Brett Favre.

Worst pick: Justin Harrell (No. 16, ‘07)

Thompson went with the big-man theory – there are a limited number of athletic big men on the planet, so when you get the chance, take it. But he bombed here. Harrell was injured (torn biceps) when drafted and basically injured his four years with the team: the biceps and then an ankle as a rookie, then his back lifting weights that offseason, which required two surgeries and cost him the bulk of the next two years. Then he tore his ACL while protecting on a field goal in his final season. He never played in another NFL game. Final tally in four years: 14 games, two starts, 28 tackles.

Second round

Best: Nick Collins (No. 51, ’05)

This is one of Thompson’s wheelhouse rounds. Other excellent picks were Greg Jennings (No. 52, ’06), Jordy Nelson (No. 36, ’08) and Randall Cobb (No. 64, ’11). Collins gets the nod despite a career-ending neck injury at age 28 because he was the biggest difference maker of the group. He was a second-team All-Pro safety from 2008-10, and one of the three key defensive players (along with Charles Woodson and Matthews) for the Super Bowl winning team in 2010. Losing him in Week 2 was a big reason the Packers’ defense collapsed the next season.

Worst: Brian Brohm (No. 56, ’08).

Beats out Jerel Worthy (No. 51, ’12). I remember a scout or two I talked to before the draft saying Brohm might be the most NFL-ready quarterback in the draft. Or not. Thompson drafted him to be Rodgers’ backup and a fallback if Rodgers didn’t pan out, but Brohm looked bad from Day 1. He even had trouble throwing spirals consistently. Seventh-round pick Matt Flynn beat him out for the No. 2 job. Buffalo signed Brohm off the Packers’ practice squad in ’09, but he played in only three games over two seasons and went 0-2 as a starter. Finished his career as a backup in the UFL and CFL.

Third round

Best: Jermichael Finley (No. 91, 2008)

Noses out safety Morgan Burnett (No. 71, 2010), who has had a longer career. Finley had his flaws – he could be immature and disruptive. But he loved football and was good enough that coach Mike McCarthy built his passing game around the tight end going into 2010, only to see Finley’s season end in Week 5 because of a knee injury. Caught 223 passes in 70 games. A neck injury ended his career in 2013.

Worst: Alex Green (No. 96, ‘11).

Came from a spread offense at Hawaii, sustained a torn ACL as a rookie and never panned out. Had ho-hum 2012 (464 yards rushing), and in ’13 was cut in camp. Played 13 games with the New York Jets, but that was his last NFL season. Defensive lineman Khyri Thornton (No. 85, ’14) is a close second. Spent his rookie season on IR (hamstring) and was cut in camp of his second season. Played 19 games with Detroit the last two years.

Fourth round

Best: David Bakhtiari (No. 109, ’13)

Thompson has hit big in this round. Bakhtiari gets the call over Mike Daniels (No. 132, ’12) because left tackle is a premium position, and Bakhtiari has become one of the league’s best. Two other excellent picks were Josh Sitton (No. 135, ’08) and T.J. Lang (No. 109, ’09).

Worst: Marviel Underwood (No. 115, ’05)

Jeremy Thompson (No. 102, ’08) and Johnathan Franklin (No. 125, ‘’13) had career-ending neck injuries early on, but they flashed more NFL talent. Underwood was mainly a special teamer as a rookie, tore his ACL in a preseason game the next year and never made a 53-man roster thereafter.

Fifth round

Best: Corey Linsley (No. 161, ’14).

Micah Hyde (No. 159, ’13) was another solid pick here, but Linsley wins out because he’s been the starting center when healthy since his rookie year. Thompson let JC Tretter walk in free agency this offseason, so Linsley looks like the future too. If Brett Hundley (No. 147, ’15) becomes a winning starting quarterback in the league, he’ll take over.

Worst: Terrell Manning (No. 163, ’12)

Beats out Ingle Martin (No. 148, ’06), who was the No. 3 quarterback as a rookie then never again made a 53-man roster. My favorite story about Manning: He fired his agent after his rookie season for not getting him any endorsements; he’d played in five games (no starts) that year. He had an intestinal issue in his first training camp, lasted one season with the Packers, played in six games over the next two years with multiple teams and now is out of the league.

Sixth round

Best: Mason Crosby (No. 193, ’07)

Johnny Jolly (No. 183, ’06), Desmond Bishop (No. 192, ’07) and James Starks (No. 193, ’10) all had their moments – Bishop and Starks were starters for a Super Bowl win. But Crosby has held his job long enough to become the team’s all-time leading scorer and came back from a disastrous 2012 to be a consistent and clutch performer the last four years.

Worst: Ricky Elmore (No. 197, ’11)

The outside linebacker didn’t even make the Packers’ practice squad his rookie season. Never made a 53-man roster and was out of the league for good in August 2013. Former UCLA receiver Craig Bragg (No. 195, ’05) is a close second. He made the practice squad for part of his rookie year but also never played in an NFL game.

Seventh round

Best: Matt Flynn (No. 209, ’08)

When I asked Mike Martz before that draft for the late-round quarterback he liked best, he said Flynn. Not a bad choice. Flynn was Rodgers’ backup for four years, then received $10 million guaranteed to compete for Seattle’s starting job. He didn’t pan out elsewhere but returned to the Packers after Rodgers’ broke his collarbone in ’12, and he kept them in the playoff hunt until Rodgers’ return by going 2-2-1 in five games (one as a replacement, four as starter). Brad Jones (No. 218 in ’09) and C.J. Wilson (No. 230 in ‘10) played a lot of linebacker and defensive line for the Packers, and Dave Tollefson (No. 253, ’06) and Lawrence Guy (No. 233 in ’11) have had extended careers with other teams. But Flynn helped save a Packers’ season.

Worst: B.J. Coleman (No. 243, ’12)

Had good size and arm strength but was too tightly wired to play quarterback in the NFL. Anyone else remember special teams coach Shawn Slocum’s dejected “It was fourth down” over the practice-field loudspeaker when Coleman threw the ball away in a two-minute drill? Linebacker Kurt Campbell (No. 245, ’05) and tackle Andrew Datko (No. 241 in ’12) also never made a 53-man roster. But hey, it’s the seventh round.

Green Bay Packers GM Ted Thompson speaks to the media about the team's first round pick of Kenny Clark of UCLA at Lambeau Field April 28,  2016.
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