By David K.
Since taking the reigns as Packers general manager in 2005, Ted Thompson has preached his philosophy of building a team through the draft, rather than throwing big money at free agents in the off-season.Â Thus far, Thompson has stuck to his guns.Â His only major free agent signing was bringing in Charles Woodson; a move that has provided major dividends for the green and gold.Â In fact this off-season, Thompson has only brought in one new player via free agency; former Rams linebacker Brandon Chillar.Â Needless to say, this strategy makes each draft day crucial for the future of the Packers franchise.Â
Thompson is also notorious for using the â€œbest available playerâ€ strategy rather than using the draft to fill a specific need.Â That technique was exemplified when Aaron Rodgers fell into Green Bayâ€™s lap 24th overall in the 2005 Draft.Â Thompson also has a history of going with quantity rather than quality as he often trades down in the middle rounds to gain more picks for later rounds.
Look Back at the â€™07 Draft
I can still remember the dumbfounded look on my face when I heard Green Bayâ€™s first round selection last year.Â Nobody had even thrown the name of Tennessee DT Justin Harrell as a possibility with the 16th overall pick.Â The oft-injured Harrell proved to be a big-time bust in his rookie season, only playing in seven games and compiling just 16 tackles and zero sacks in limited action.Â Second-round pick RB Brandon Jackson also suffered from nagging injuries all season long as became relegated to back-up duty as Ryan Grant emerged into the Packer go-to guy.
Where Thompson has been most successful on draft day is finding later round steals or plucking lesser known guys in the second and third rounds.Â The past two years, the Pack picked wide receivers from smaller schools; Western Michiganâ€™s Greg Jennings and James Jones from San Jose State.Â Both guys have shown the potential to be big-time receivers in the NFL.Â Thompson also found a pair of steals in the 6th round last season with Korey Hall, who became Green Bayâ€™s starting fullback this past season, and kicker Mason Crobsy, the NFLâ€™s 2007 points leader. Of course it is too early to judge or grade theâ€™07 draft.Â As Thompson stressed in his pre-draft press conference on Monday, â€œThe draft is a long-term investment.â€Â
With the 30th overall selection, the Green Bay Packers selectâ€¦
Outside of that whole Brett Favre retiring thing, it has been a very quiet off-season in Titletown.Â Green Bay did deal defensive lineman Corey Williams to Cleveland for a second-round pick (56th overall) while also releasing long-time tight end Bubba Franks.Â Other than that, the Packers figure to have a make-up on the field similar to what they had one year ago during their miraculous 13-3 season.
With that being said, if there is ever a time to utilize the â€œtake the best player on your boardâ€ strategy; this is it.Â Green Bay has no glaring needs anywhere on their roster except for depth at the quarterback position, but that will likely be addressed through a free agent acquisition or trade for a veteran.Â Sure they could use up-grades at certain positions.Â There isnâ€™t a lot of depth at tight end behind Donald Lee.Â Both tackles, Mark Tauscher and Chad Clifton are getting up there in age, as are starting cornerbacks Al Harris and Woodson.Â The guard play was inconsistent at times last season and Thompson loves having a lot of depth along the defensive line.Â In other words, who knows which direction the Packers will go in the draft?Â We do know Green Bay has three of the top 60 picks and should be able to add some depth to three of their areas of â€œconcernâ€ (I use that term loosely.)Â
This draft class is especially deep at the cornerback position which has many people believing that the Packers may grab whoever falls to the number 30 spot and hope he can play the nickel back position, another spot that was inconsistent for Green Bay last season.Â The most likely candidates who could wind up slipping to the Pack are Virginia Techâ€™s Brandon Flowers, Kansasâ€™ Aqib Talib (not to be confused with hip-hop artist Talib Kweli), or Antoine Cason of Arizona.Â Either guy would give the Packersâ€™ secondary a young talent that should boost the coreâ€™s play in nickel and dime situations.
Another popular question among the media centers on what would happen if Louisville quarterback Brian Brohm happens to slip down to the number 30 spot.Â Thompson said he has not ruled out taking a QB early in the draft, even though the young Rodgers is set to take control of the offense.Â I am of the mind-set that this would be a bad idea.Â Sure, it would be nice insurance in case Rodgers turns out to be a complete flop.Â However, If Rodgers proves to be a reliable NFL quarterback then selecting a signal caller is a complete waste of a high pick.Â Plus, I think Green Bay needs to focus on bringing in a veteran quarterback via trade to back up Rodgers rather than relying on a rookie with no professional experience to serve as the back-up.
If cornerback is the route the Packers go in the first round, I would love to see them draft a tight end with one of their second round picks.Â Lee has proven to be a great weapon in the pass game, but what they will miss from Franks is his ability to serve as a sixth offensive lineman in the run attack.Â A prospect like Texas A&Mâ€™s Martellus Bennett could be a great choice with the 56th or 60th pick.Â USCâ€™s Fred Davis could also be available, but scouts are not very high on his run blocking skill.Â Purdueâ€™s Dustin Keller could be an option if he is available in the first round, but like Davis, Keller is known more for his athleticism.
As for the other second round selection, Iâ€™m open to anything.Â If there is a tackle that could develop while playing behind Tauscher and Clifton, I think Thompson will take a serious look at that possibility.Â Thompson also seems to have a keen ability to draft an unheralded wide receiver around this time of the draft.Â While wide-out certainly is not a pressing need, another play-maker for the inexperienced Rodgers would not be a terrible thing.Â If Green Bay does not take a corner in the first round, I will be very surprised if they also pass on one in the second and third rounds.