Dougherty: Trader Ted Thompson strikes in Round 1
GREEN BAY - Here’s what we can say about what Ted Thompson thought of his draft board when the Green Bay Packers’ No. 29 pick came up:
With cornerback Kevin King and outside linebacker T.J. Watt on the board at positions of immediate need, along with inside linebacker Reuben Foster and running back Dalvin Cook still on the board in mild surprises, Thompson saw more value in trading down than taking anyone.
Perhaps the Packers general manager didn’t have any first-round grades left on his board. Maybe there were enough players he rated similarly — perhaps the four just mentioned — that he felt fine trading down four spots because he would end up with one of them at pick No. 33, the first pick of Friday night’s second round, and picked up the first pick of the fourth round (No. 108) for the trouble..
I’d have thought that with King and Watt on the board, Thompson would have taken one of them. He has acute needs at both positions. But Thompson appears to have been itching to trade down for an extra pick, perhaps because of the unusual depth in this draft, especially at cornerback and outside rusher, his two greatest needs in my mind.
“We wanted to add a little meat to shoring up the roster,” Thompson said in his news conference after the trade.
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The GM also made clear he’s open for business for another possible trade back. With all day Friday to talk to teams, and plenty of time for teams to study their boards, another deal for another extra pick seems like a real possibility.
“The board is still strong,” Thompson said at one point. A little later, “Oh yeah, we’re taking calls.”
The trade down cost him a shot at two of the four aforementioned players: Watt, who went to the Pittsburgh Steelers at No. 30, and Foster, who went to San Francisco at No. 31. Those gasps you heard when the Packers’ trade was announced and then when the Steelers picked Watt were about half the state of Wisconsin lamenting that their local hero won't be playing for their NFL team.
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And now this draft will be measured in large part by what kind of career Watt has with the Steelers. If Watt ends up being a good player, Thompson will be vilified unless he hits big at No. 33, or wherever he ends up picking. Pittsburgh plays a similar 3-4 scheme as the Packers, so the comparison will be easy to make.
“Great player,” Thompson said of Watt. “If he wasn’t a Wisconsin guy I wouldn’t say anything else because I don't talk about players on other teams. But good for him.”
But Thompson had to do what he had to do. He has to let his board dictate his moves, and he can’t pick a guy in the first round just because he’s from Wisconsin. Thompson and his scouts went over numerous scenarios this week, so you have to think they gamed out this one, if not formally, then in Thompson’s mind as he mulled what might happen Thursday night.
“We didn’t have to give up a whole lot to get a couple breaks,” Thompson said .
With King still on the board, you have to think he’s the prime prospect for Thompson’s pick Friday night. Another possibility at cornerback could be Colorado’s Chidobe Awuzie.
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At outside linebacker, Houston’s Tyus Bowser remains, as does Kansas State’s Jordan Willis.
You do wonder, though, if Thompson will see enough value in Cook to take the running back with pick No. 33.
It also wouldn’t at all surprise if Thompson trades back again. He sounded like a guy eager to do another deal. It's worth mentioning that another Wisconsin player remains on the board as a possible late second-round or third-round outside rusher, Vince Biegel. So that’s something to keep an eye on.
Pick No. 108 that he acquired is the first pick of the fourth round, so among the possibilities is that Thompson could package that with his own fourth-rounder (No. 134) and move into the third round. That would give him two second-rounders and two third-rounders.
Forced to make a guess, I’d say he’ll either pick King or trade back again. King has exceptional size (6-3), but his movement skills test like a much smaller cornerback: his 4.43-second 40 is above average for a cornerback, and his vertical (39½ inches), three cone (6.56 seconds) and short shuttle (3.89 seconds) were all in the top 86th percentile or better of all cornerbacks, according to scouting combine data compiled by MockDraftable.
But Thompson sounds like he’s in a trading mood, so maybe Trader Ted will strike again.