Thompson bluffing or for real on Petty visit?
It's NFL draft season, so the efforts of teams to learn and misinform are in full swing.
That was my first thought on the report today from PackerReport.com that the Packers are bringing in Baylor quarterback Bryce Petty for one of their 30 draft-prospect visits.
The move is highly unusual for general manager Ted Thompson, who uses his visits overwhelmingly on later-round and possible undrafted free agents, often as medical checkups for players who didn't attend the NFL scouting combine.
Petty, though, is one of the better quarterback prospects in this draft and appears likely to be selected anywhere from the second to the fourth rounds.
So what is Thompson up to?
Aaron Rodgers at 31-years old is far too young for Thompson to be looking for a successor. But Rodgers has had some injuries – a broken foot as the backup in 2006, a pulled hamstring as a backup in '07, a concussion that cost him 1 ½ games in 2010, and the broken collarbone that sidelined him 7 ¾ games in '13.
So you could plausibly argue that Thompson feels compelled to upgrade backup quarterback in case Rodgers has to miss a big chunk of a season again in the next few years. Maybe Thompson and coach Mike McCarthy want extended time with Petty to get a better feel for whether he's their kind of guy if he's available in the third or fourth round.
You can't dismiss the possibility. But it's just as plausible that they like him and would take him if he unexpectedly were available in, say, the fifth round. But just as much, they're letting everyone know that if another team wants Petty, it better take him in the second or third round. And if he's taken then, it pushes other players down the board at positions of greater need for the Packers.
My take is it's more likely the latter than the former.
It just doesn't make much sense for the Packers to pick a quarterback in the first four rounds, considering their many immediate and near-future needs: inside linebacker, where they have an open starting job; cornerback, where they lost Tramon Williams and Davon House in free agency; outside linebacker, where Julius Peppers, Nick Perry and Mike Neal all could be in their last year with the team; defensive line, where Letroy Guion and B.J. Raji are on one-year deals; and tight end, where there is playing time for the taking.
I know the arguments for doing more at backup quarterback. Rodgers' injury history means the Packers need a guy who can keep them in the playoff hunt while he's out. And after three years, they maybe can recoup a higher-round draft pick in a trade, as Ron Wolf did with Mark Brunell, Matt Hasselbeck and Aaron Brooks.
Well, Matt Flynn kept them in the playoff race in '13, and he was a seventh-rounder. And drafting a quarterback in the first three or four rounds doesn't mean he'll have any trade value three years later. The Packers saw that with Brian Brohm, who busted as a second rounder in 2008. And New England spent a third-round pick on Ryan Mallett in 2011, but received only a seventh-rounder when it dealt him last year. That's not much bang for the buck.
So is it really worth it for Thompson to spend a pick in the first four rounds to backup Rodgers, when he could have Scott Tolzien and a later-round rookie battle for the job instead? No.
Drafting is hard enough as it is. The Packers can't spare those good picks on a player who may or may not help win games if Rodgers isn't on the field. They need them for players who might help win a championship when Rodgers is on the field.