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Thompson Finally Wins Me Over

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Thompson Finally Wins Me Over

I don't think I'll ever win the award for being Ted Thompson's biggest acolyte, especially from Day One.  I've been critical, even into the Super Bowl era; while acknowledging his finer points along the way, too.  There's always been something that has prevented me from fully mounting the Thompson Bandwagon, though...just a continued, residual doubt hanging around from some of his earliest decisions that I immaturely refused to completely put to bed.

Last night, however, sealed it for me.  I'm on Thompson Train full-board.  Sorry for being so late to the party.

You're first reaction, however, might be that I am only seeing the light because crazy ol' Ted is wildly trading up in the draft, a complete 180 degrees from when I used to cry foul in the mid-2000's when he kept passing up players I liked to trade back.  But that isn't it.

Stepping back and taking the big picture in focus, managing the draft isn't a lottery or a contest, and I think (like many others) we got caught up in the gamesmanship of making our own mock drafts and picking our favorites on who we thought the Packers should pick up.  As time has moved on, I've stopped following the pre-draft furor as intently as I have in the past, and have enjoyed just sitting back and watching it unfold.

Does anyone really care anymore who the Packers would have gotten with those three picks traded away to get Clay Matthews?  Seriously?  In the end, we don't obsess on where a guy was picked* three years after the fact:  we're just as happy with a late-round Josh Sitton as we are with a first-round Bryan Bulaga.   This team has been built through the draft and street free agency, not through the high-priced world of unrestricted free agency.  The latest SI article praising the Giants conservative, plan-for-tomorrow business formula could have just as easily been written about the Packers.

No, what impressed me about Thompson last night wasn't just the simple fact he traded up to get guys he wanted, but the realization that he now valued quality over quantity.  There was no way twelve draft picks would have made the roster, and he essentially traded every possible mid-rounder he could have to get two higher picks in the second round.  With two more project picks today in the fourth, the Packers will likely come away with five players that will have a legitimate chance to make this roster, at positions of need.

Six years ago, as Thompson was clearing salary cap space and players he deemed expendable from the old regime, he went the other direction, valuing quantity over quality.  I remember folks really touting  the great picks of Daryn Colledge, Jason Spitz, and Tony Moll, literally plugging them into three starting spots along the offensive line right away.  One by one, they dropped out of the lineup, and eventually, the roster when they weren't considered valuable enough to keep around once their contracts expired.   But at the time, Thompson was in the business of filling gaping holes in his roster, and threw enough players at them, hoping they would stick.

In some cases, like wide receiver and tight end, he filled them admirably.  At other positions, like the offensive line and linebacker, he needed to reinvest in those positions with high draft picks later after the quantity didn't stick.

Many of us thought these were the Thompson Rules:  always trade back.  Always bring in more players than you need.  And you must admit, the rhetoric at the time did little to discourage us from believing that Thompson truly believed that  mediocre talent burned in the crucible of competition would create Pro Bowl players.

But the truth is that Thompson drafts for need; not the need of the positional players, but the need of his roster.  With the offensive side of the ball only needing depth and "heir apparent" players with time to be developed, the Packers traded up to fill holes on their suddenly-vulnerable defense, bringing in impact players with not only a chance to develop into stars, but an opportunity to learn on the job in their first season.  As players like Charles Woodson and Ryan Pickett look into the twilight of their careers, Casey Heyward and Jarel Worthy were brought in as not only their heir apparents, but contributors right away.

Heyward also fills the void of Nick Collins, with rumors swirling that either he or Woodson would move into the free safety position.  DC Dom Capers implied it might well be Woodson.  Thompson emphatically indicated it would be Heyward.  Speculation immediately broke out in Packer Nation about how Capers will modify his defensive schemery to accommodate his new horses.

Obviously, there's going to be some reality checks along the way.  Very few draft picks are plunked into starting positions in their rookie year and become instant solid starters.   But the die is cast, and no matter how much Thompson wants to say that the players on his board just happened to show up where he wanted, and these were not need-based picks, he may have done as much to fill holes in one draft as he did in 2009, when he nabbed BJ Raji and Matthews in the first round.

Not to be forgotten in all this, of course, is the selection of USC's Nick Perry, who (with the subsequent selection of Worthy) appears to be a shoo-in at the other OLB spot opposite Matthews, which has had more turnover of employees than the third shift at Arby's.

He didn't trade up to please the fan base (though many screamed joy each time he did).  He did it because he could afford to, and because he needed  to invest in quality players that have a higher chance of blossoming sooner.  And he had the ammunition with which to do it, without costing him dearly in the long run.

Ted Thompson is perhaps as good as any scout-turned-GM in the league, but now that we fully understand his approach, it makes his history as a drafter (and eschewer of free agency) make that much more sense.  No, he's not crazy, nor is he ultra-conservative.

He's just a plain old good businessman, the highest testament of which is that a result-now fan base have completely bought in to the lack of high-risk, expensive signings that usually get everyone excited, and now celebrate what we might have once classified as tentative or safe.

And while I've been along for the ride for several years now, I truly get it today.  I'm on board.

---------------------

* Except AJ Hawk.

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Fan friendly comments only: off Comments (24) This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.

Jeremy's picture

Great article!

Cole's picture

Laughed pretty hard at the last line.

Bearmeat's picture

Just saw that. ROFLOL!

Don Hutson's picture

I think that we need a third game rule on gratuitous AJ Hawk comments. Before throwin the guy under the wheels, lets see how he performs vs. the 49ers and Bears.

Irish Cheesehead's picture

I agree. Time to end the childish comments about our starting ILB.

Bearmeat's picture

Agreed 100% CD. In 09 and this year, TT has shown his ability to operate in any manner: Trade back to get depth, stay put to get the BPA, or trade up to top off the roster. He's unpredictable, which is one of his best qualities.

As much as he struggles with interpersonal skills, he's darn good at his job. And as we remember Tom Braatz and Mike Sherman and Forest Gregg, (to name a few) we should be very thankful for his ability to do his job well.

Norman's picture

"...OLB spot opposite Matthews, which has had more turnover of employees than the third shift at Arby's."

Great line!

Oppy's picture

There's a late-night Arby's where CD lives??! Get me directions.

hobot's picture

So the Super Bowl championship didn't win you over???

BLACK HAWK's picture

I was ON BOARD when McCarthy said "The train has left the station". IN TED WE TRUST!

ppabich's picture

The need vs BPA draft strategy shouldn't matter. I 100% believe that Thompson always takes the BPA, but need is a factor. When he makes his draft board there are two large groups he listens to. First are the scouts who put a grade on a player purely based on how good and projectable the player is. The second group is the coaches who understand their team, what players fit in the scheme and are moldable to what they want to do.

Need and fit are intertwined. It's not revolutionary news but at the end of the day coaches look at players grades and look at how they fit in the team, if there are already plenty of quality players at a given position, well there is no fit for the player. That in essence sets the draft board with need.

So when it comes down to it, good GMs like TT take the BPA. But in their preparation for the draft need created their draft board. To me there is no such thing as drafting for need or drafting for the BPA it's all the same thing.

Oppy's picture

Fans in general make the BPA philosophy overly simplified, and overly complex, all at the same time.

jeremy's picture

TT has stated several times that when there are several players ranked similarly they will take the one who fills a need. I think to TT and MM BPA means the guy who can contribute the most to the Packers.

Oppy's picture

"To me there is no such thing as drafting for need or drafting for the BPA it’s all the same thing.".

Drafting for need can put you in trouble long term.

Example:

A team has the 20th pick in the draft.

The team has a hole to fill at the CB position.

Drafting for need, they take the best CB still available when they are on the clock with the #20 selection in the draft.

One team already took the #1 CB off the boards with the 11th overall selection.

The problem is, the #2 CB available in the draft isn't in the same league, talent-wise, as the #1. Worse still, he's really not even worth a first round pick. He's the #41 overall rated player on most teams' boards.

So, because you "needed" a CB, your team just passed up 21 better overall players, a good number of them who are on a whole other level than that #2 CB- and now you're paying that CB first round, 20th pick money, when he's really 2nd round, 41st pick talent.

This is why drafting for need can be slow death for a franchise.

A BPA team, with the same pick and the same "need" in the same circumstances, would take the best player available at #20... Assuming there is a player who grades out as a middle 1st round talent still on the board. If not, the team would entertain trading back.. How far depends on the talent on the board and where they believe they can get value. They might even be able to trade back a few spots, pick a player worthy of that draft slot (who is still better than the #2 CB), and maybe even end up with a pick that can still land that #2 CB closer to where he should be drafted....

ppabich's picture

I was referring to good GMs and smart front offices. Bad GMs will go to straight need. Good GMs will combine need and BPA together.

Oppy's picture

"In the end, we don't obsess on where a guy was picked* three years after the fact: we're just as happy with a late-round Josh Sitton as we are with a first-round Bryan Bulaga."

This is exactly why I always say that once the contracts are signed, it never again matters where a player was drafted.

For that matter, I don't care how much a player is getting paid, if he was drafted top ten, or a street free agent, etc, etc.. In the big picture, it's all about having a winning ROSTER, and it just has to fit under the salary cap. No more, no less.

KennyPayne's picture

I agree that TT deserves high praise for switching gears and trading up for quality over quantity.

FITZCORE1252's EVO's picture

Well put C.D.

GBP 4 LIFE

Oppy's picture

off topic:

Cowboys apparently got my late-round guy as a UFA, DE (OLB) Adrian Hamilton, Prairie View A&M

Poop.

lars's picture

Well even Thompson has his blind spot and, unfortunately for us, it's the wildly expensive mediocre indulgence AJ Hawk.

No way twelve draftees makes this roster, so Thompson did the smart thing---accumulate picks to move UP instead of what the late to the party, Bill Belichick did (until this year), which is to constantly trade down and out (to the next season) and then end up cutting most of the drafted players.

Chip Soup's picture

Agreed on AJ. His conservative style of play helps keep him uninjured and "available", which seems to be a valued attribute in GB. But it really limits his explosive plays and absolutely drives me nuts. I'm hoping he is a "cap casualty" sooner rather than later, but one of these ILB prospects is going to have to step up like Bishop did a couple of years ago to make it happen. Can the newly drafted rookie do it?

Oppy's picture

Yeah, what the heck does Bill Belichick know about building a roster, anyways?

Mikeh's picture

My guess is TT did what the article writer wanted this draft so he's a good GM. Previous drafts he didn't so he was a bad GM. Guess that if he trades down next year and passes on players the article writer wanted he's a bad GM again.

TT has created teams that in the last 2 seasons have won the superbowl and then finished 15-1. That proves he is a good GM.

We don't know any more about how good a GM TT is than we did last week. This draft means nothing until the players play some games.

toolkien's picture

I guess I have to agree. If three Super Bowl caliber teams in a row, a Super Bowl win, and a 15-1 season rounding off 19 straight victories doesn't get your behind on board, but a draft wherein not a play has been run by any of the picks suddenly does, there's not enough "hay on the bandwagon" as far as I am concerned.

We are at the tipping point of whether this particular Packer Era will displace the mid-90's Packers as second best of the last 70 years (of course to the Lombardi Era) and it was a few trade-ups that finally got full props for the GM.

In the famous words of Ace Ventura, "AAALLLLLRIIGHTYY THEN..."

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