Packers' draft prep in final stages

Ryan Wood
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Green Bay Packers general manager Ted Thompson talks on the phone inside the war room during the NFL Draft at Lambeau Field in Green Bay on Thursday, May 8, 2014. Evan Siegle/Press-Gazette Media

With the NFL draft next week, the Green Bay Packers are going through the final stages of their preparation.

"The finishing of it," general manager Ted Thompson said Wednesday morning.

The Packers' personnel department has been working 'round the clock for almost one year. In the past week, coaches have joined their meetings to offer opinions on prospects. Most of the "grind stuff" is behind them, Thompson said.

Together, coaches and scouts are finalizing their draft board, going back through the board "again and again," making sure every detail is checked and rechecked by the time they're on the clock April 30 with the No. 30 pick in the first round.

When that time comes, Thompson made it clear who will be making the decision.

"Everybody has their say," Thompson said, "(but) it's not a democracy. We don't vote. Ultimately, I make the call."

Thompson is notoriously coy when discussing the draft, ever vigilant to never tip his hand on a prospect. Wednesday was no different. Thompson offered no hints on who the Packers may be targeting in the first round, or with any of their subsequent picks.

But he was clear on what his philosophy will be when gauging immediate roster needs against long-term value as he makes final draft decisions.

"You factor everything in," Thompson said, "but (immediate need) doesn't carry as much weight as it might with other organizations because they go about weighting those things differently than we do. There's a certain amount of weighting in terms of need, but I am adamant that that's not the way to draft.

"The way to draft is to take the best player. You don't know what you're going to need. You think you need something, but this isn't play time or anything like that. This is real life. People get banged up, injuries happen. Life happens. What you think you're strong at, you're not necessarily strong at."

It's an approach worth keeping in mind next week, when the Packers are on the clock in the first round.

Inside linebacker is likely the only position where the Packers could draft an immediate starter, but it's not the team's only need. The Packers also lack depth at cornerback and a long-term solution at nose tackle, two important defensive positions.

Their obvious need at inside linebacker doesn't necessarily make the Packers' first-round pick an obvious choice. There are multiple directions Thompson could go.

"If you take good, solid players that you know can contribute — albeit at a position that's maybe a little bit heavier — as long as you're taking good, solid players you're getting some value there," Thompson said. "If you reach and take something that's not quite as good, then you may not be getting the same value. … That's what we do."

Thompson said he doesn't care much about which round — or which pick — he adds value to the roster. He, like any general manager, forms his opinions and follows his draft board.

He also hopes he's right more often than not.

"You learn your way around and what to expect and what not to expect but the beauty of this particular business is the uncertainty," Thompson said. "Because there's always that gasp when a name is called and they go, 'He picked who?' And you hope that you don't do that, so that other teams go, "Who'd Thompson pick?' You don't want that kind of criticism. But, yeah, that's what we do."

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