Being Ted Thompson - Defensive Lineman, Edge and Linebacker Tendencies

Another installment of the "Being Ted Thompson" series examines his tendencies when drafting Defensive Lineman, Edge and Linebackers.

We have now hit on every position for the Green Bay Packers other than the front seven. I wanted to write up these players all together, because of A) the small sample size we have of Ted Thompson drafting since Dom Capers' defensive scheme impacted his pool of talent and B) because some of these players are a bit ambiguous.

 

We're going to go through these players in these steps:

1.                  defensive linemen (ends and tackles)

2.                  edge defenders (outside linebackers)

3.                  linebackers (inside linebackers)

 

First are the defensive linemen. These are the players who fit that mold under the Thompson/Capers duo, the longest general manager/defensive coordinator pairing in the NFL:

•                     2009 first-round pick B.J. Raji

•                     2013 first-round pick Datone Jones (bounced to outside linebacker also)

•                     2016 first-round pick Kenny Clark

•                     2010 second-round pick Mike Neal (bounced to outside linebacker also)

•                     2012 second-round pick Jerel Worthy

•                     2014 third-round pick Khyri Thornton

•                     2012 fourth-round pick Mike Daniels

•                     2016 fourth-round pick Dean Lowry

•                     2013 fifth-round pick Josh Boyd

•                     2009 sixth-round pick Jarius Wynn

•                     2015 sixth-round pick Christian Ringo

•                     2010 seventh-round pick C.J. Wilson

•                     2011 seventh-round pick Lawrence Guy

 

Before we talk about the trends, you need to remember what Capers' scheme is based off of. The goal of it is penetration forcing turnovers, meaning the defensive linemen who are best suited in the scheme, despite it being listed as a 3-4 defenses, are quick linemen, not run-stopping linemen. For example, Green Bay's nose tackles don't really two-gap like your traditional nose guard in a 3-4 defense. Mike Daniels isn't a five-technique end, either; He's a lot closer to your traditional under tackle/three-technique in your run of the mill 4-3 defense. For the most part, too, Green Bay is in nickel (2-4) defense, meaning that a “base end” is a rotational player more than a starter for the Packers. On long and late downs, Green Bay also throws out more fronts, with several standing pass-rushers, than any other team in the league.

Think about it this way: If you're a top end player for the Packers on the defensive interior, you're making your money generating pressure to force passes to your “ball skills” defensive backs or making tackles for a loss in the ground game.

This is the second thing I'll say about line of scrimmage defenders: They have more variety in their bodies than any other unit on the football field. You can have a 240-pound rusher (Clay Matthews) or a 337-pound nose tackle (B.J. Raji) on the line of scrimmage of a defense at the same time. Because of that, it's hard to come up with blank times that will fit every player. What you can do, though, is adjust for density (weight in pounds/height in feet.)

We're going to use Waldo's “Speed 40” and “Agility” numbers (essentially density-adjusted 40-yard dashes and density-adjusted three-cone times) as our decoder rings here. This is probably the trickiest position to follow for that reason, but when even the Packers' first-round defensive linemen have a range of about a 50-pound difference alone, the idea of trying to find one prototype is thrown out the window. You need to find linemen who can rush from the nose (Raji/Kenny Clark), as a base end (Datone Jones/Mike Neal/Dean Lowry) or as three-techniques (Jerel Worthy/Mike Daniels.)

Of the Packers' defensive line draft picks in the first four rounds under Capers (Raji, Jones, Clark, Neal, Worthy, Khyri Thornton, Daniels and Lowry), only one of them (Thornton) fell below the 0.07 number in the “Agility” category and “-0.29” in the Speed 40 category. Clark didn't have a registered three-cone time and Daniels doesn't have registered numbers on NFL Draft Scout, but there are numbers floating around the internet from his combine that would lead you to believe that he blows those numbers out of the water.

This draft class, out of 31 interior defensive linemen on NFL Draft Scout, only five of them were able to hit those marks. Four others have yet to have their profiles updated for their pro days, but this goes to tell you how truly bad this interior defensive line class is, and why Green Bay is so lucky to have landed Clark and Lowry last year when they did.

 

 

After the fourth round, the Packers pretty much take chances on anyone. The truth of the matter is this: At the line of scrimmage there is little doubt as to who is and isn't dominant. For the most part, the best players in the league at those positions are highly-athletic, early selections. Line of scrimmage defenders are quarterbacks in terms of draft position relative to talent. If you want to find a project star, you have to draft him top-40.

As far as the outside linebackers go, here are the names you need to know:

1.                  2009 first-round pick Clay Matthews III (bounced to inside linebacker also)

2.                  2012 first-round pick Nick Perry

3.                  2016 third-round pick Kyler Fackrell

4.                  2014 fourth-round pick Carl Bradford (bounced to inside linebacker also)

5.                  2011 sixth-round pick Ricky Elmore

6.                  2013 sixth-round pick Nate Palmer (bounced to inside linebacker also)

 

Outside linebackers are also premium players. Example: Jabaal Sheard is easily a top-four second-round pass-rusher in the last decade of the NFL, and he's hit the open market and lost his starting role twice in the last three years. What does that mean? In a decade of draft, there weren't even four pass-rushers worth being long-term staples of a franchise who were drafted in the second round. This is why Green Bay drafted the project Nick Perry and traded up for Clay Matthews. It's also why they paid Perry and hesitate to let Matthews walk.

In terms of size, Green Bay doesn't have much of a preference. Kyler Fackrell was 6'5”. Carl Bradford was 6'0” and change. Perry was 271 pounds. Matthews was 240 pounds. What they do seem to care about is athleticism relative to size, though, just like on the interior defensive line. Of the Packers' six pass-rusher selections in nine years, a relatively small number, four of the six hit at least -0.65 in the “Agility” category and -1.21 in the “40 Speed” category, with the outliers being Kyler Fackrell, a surprise selection for everyone, and Ricky Elmore, a sixth-round pick.

How rare are those numbers? Of the 44 edge defender prospects on NFL Draft Scout, only 13 of them fit the mold.

 

 

Now come the off the ball linebackers: last and least. In nine years, the Packers have only drafted five inside linebackers, despite it being a two-starter position. Think about this: from 2009 to 2014, Green Bay drafted as many outside linebackers (Matthews, Bradford and Palmer) and moved them to inside linebacker as they drafted actual linebackers (Terrell Manning, D.J. Smith and Sam Barrington.)

The team has still not taken a linebacker in the top-100 picks, despite having 23 attempts to do so since Capers came to down. The idea of a first-round linebacker is dead. The Packers view the position as an unfortunate reality. They want to blitz and play pattern-matching zone, and linebackers are caught up right in the middle where unless they are a Ryan Shazier-type, they aren't really a premier player in the scheme.

Here are the characters you're going to need to know:

•                     2015 fourth-round pick Jake Ryan

•                     2016 fourth-round pick Blake Martinez

•                     2012 fifth-round pick Terrell Manning

•                     2011 sixth-round pick D.J. Smith

•                     2013 seventh-round pick Sam Barrington

 

Of those five players, all of them were 237 pounds or heavier, three (including the only two drafted in the top 160 picks) had a short shuttle of at least 4.26 seconds and four (including the only three drafted in the top 185 picks) had a three-cone of at least 7.18 seconds. They want players who are built more like edge defenders than Will linebackers, but they still want them to move like Will linebackers. And they want them on Day 3.

The market for that is small. How small? Of all the off ball linebackers with draftable grades on NFL Draft Scout, there are only four, with three of them being Day 3 selections, who hit the 237-pound, 4.26-second short shuttle and 7.18-second three-cone numbers. As an alternative to wasting time talking about linebackers that the Packers will in all likelihood won't draft, here's an updated draft board, with only players who hit Green Bay's thresholds.

OFFENSE: (click image for larger version)

 

DEFENSE: (click image for larger version)

 

We'll update this list the week before the draft, just to make sure to get in all of NFL Draft Scout's late risers and players whose pro day numbers have yet to be added.

 

Previous installments of this series:

 
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Comments (23)

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slit's picture

April 09, 2017 at 10:46 pm

Can't get enough of these; best stuff on the site, in my opinion. Whomever came up with this idea, bravo!

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Jmosqueda's picture

April 10, 2017 at 02:19 pm

Thank Jersey Al for reaching out

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vj_ostrowski's picture

April 09, 2017 at 11:05 pm

Tremendous stuff Justis - it's been fun following you for like, what, 7 years now?

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Jmosqueda's picture

April 10, 2017 at 02:18 pm

At least

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vj_ostrowski's picture

April 09, 2017 at 11:06 pm

Bowser is a dark horse pick for 29, if the corners are gone

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stockholder's picture

April 10, 2017 at 12:16 pm

Cunningham is dropping. Would TT take him over Watt?

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dobber's picture

April 10, 2017 at 01:27 pm

Dropping amongst draftniks. We have no idea what he's doing with GMs.

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croatpackfan's picture

April 11, 2017 at 03:21 am

So, first round either CB or Offensive side of the ball?

I think Packers will take Vince Biegel in 5th (comp) and not TJ Watt. They'll choose another EDGE/OLB in the 2nd round!

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PackEyedOptimist's picture

April 10, 2017 at 05:28 am

I would HAPPILY trade out of the first round for a second and a third this year. I've been a draftnik for 40 years, and I really believe this is the deepest top three rounds in those 40 years. It starts to thin about half way through the third round, but it really will still be solid picks in the fourth as well.
I don't think the Packers will target positions nearly as much as people are predicting. With a draft this deep, I really expect them to take the Best Available Player.

This series has been really interesting; it will be even MORE interesting to see how it compares to the Packers' actual decisions. For instance, the Packers haven't selected a super-fast ILB the past two years, but there was a lot of talk about how TT and Co. hoped Ryan Shazier and Darron Lee would drop to them. If Reddick drops this year, I expect them to take him. Everyone keeps predicting TJ Watt, but I think he'll be gone before the Pack's pick.

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slit's picture

April 10, 2017 at 06:43 am

I'd be happy to trade back as well, but that's assuming nobody falls into their lap in Rd1. There are some nice middle round speedy LBs his year, my favorites of which are Vince Biegel & Duke Riley.

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dobber's picture

April 10, 2017 at 08:44 am

I'd really like to see a tradeback if it doesn't take them out of the top 10-12 picks of round 2. The talent at positions of need is deep enough and (arguably) flat enough that they could make hay with an extra day 2 pick. In essence, they could allow the draft to tell them that the player they covet is the BPA (but I think most GMs do this anyway).

"Everyone keeps predicting TJ Watt, but I think he'll be gone before the Pack's pick."

I think the market has cooled on him a little bit, but we need to remember that we never hear anything from GMs or coaches, only fans, reporters and draftniks. None of them will be in on the actual decisions and any GM or coach that tips his hand too much in that regard might quickly find himself out of a job. All it takes is one GM who really likes him...(a la Richard Rodgers or Khyri Thornton).

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Handsback's picture

April 10, 2017 at 08:22 am

Love your draft articles.

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dobber's picture

April 10, 2017 at 08:39 am

I love it when we use trends and analytics over impressions and speculation!

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Andrew Lloyd Peth's picture

April 10, 2017 at 09:00 am

I see us trading down. But as I've said elsewhere, don't be surprised if our top pick winds up being named, "Mixon."

I'd prefer a passrusher, but Ted wants/needs a steal, so taking a risk on Mixon wouldn't surprise me one bit.

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OrganLeroy's picture

April 10, 2017 at 02:12 pm

Well I won't be surprised because Mixon WILL NOT be our 1st round pick, and you can bank on that!!!

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dobber's picture

April 10, 2017 at 09:26 am

drafttek has a nice interactive draftboard at drafttek.com/NFL-Trade-Value-Chart.asp?RequestTeam=gb
(Sorry, but CHTV won't let me post it as the regular url)

You can plug in any team and it highlights their picks. With that in mind, there aren't many teams with the kind of day 2 draft capital that you'd like to see for the Packers to deal down...especially if you want to stay near the top of round 2. Maybe Cleveland, but they're so flush with picks, why would they move up 4 spots to #29? Course, based on values, the Packers could move all the way down to pick 52 and pick up the first pick in round 3 (65) in return for #29 and come out about even in points.

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stockholder's picture

April 10, 2017 at 11:40 am

I believe that the extra fifth will be used to move up in the second. And I'm thinking TT will try to get a 2nd in the fourth round.

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dobber's picture

April 10, 2017 at 01:40 pm

Neither of those 5th rounders give the Packers more than 3-4 spots in the 2nd if you put any stock in the point values. I think that's the kicker, though: with this being the first year of tradeable comp picks, who knows how that will skew the perceived value of draft picks. If anything, I think it would increase the value of higher picks relative to mid-round picks.

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frank the fork's picture

April 10, 2017 at 11:17 am

On average 50% of draft picks will make it in the NFL. TT better trade back with browns rams or niners as we need picks. Also our defense hasn't worked with DC and his schemes. This is Ted and Dom's last rodeo IMO.
Edge, CB RB TE ILB OlB S G OT DL…I see we Have 10 needs and 7 picks; is my math fuzzy?

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OrganLeroy's picture

April 10, 2017 at 02:15 pm

Yeah your math is pretty fuzzy. We don't need S, DL or OT. The 1st 4 rounds will be Edge, CB, RB, & G. The 1st round could go either Edge or CB but RB or G will most certainly NOT be our 1st round pick.

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dobber's picture

April 10, 2017 at 02:35 pm

We never know what's going to be there, but I would argue that the first four picks will be (in no order): 2 edge players, a CB and an offensive skill guy (WR/RB). I agree: I don't think it's likely to be a RB or G in round 1.

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TheLegendary52's picture

April 26, 2017 at 10:56 am

Is there any chance the updates to the final boards are forthcoming? I absolutely loved this series!

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Bill Atkinson's picture

April 29, 2017 at 05:38 pm

Unless I miscounted, I only found 2 players on this list that the Packers actually drafted out of 10 picks.

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