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Justis' 2018 Green Bay Packers Draft Board and Athleticism Thresholds

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Justis' 2018 Green Bay Packers Draft Board and Athleticism Thresholds

Under Ted Thompson, the Green Bay Packers had very particular athletic thresholds that they valued at almost every position. After studying Thompson’s recent drafts, we can pinpoint which prospects would have been more or less likely to be drafted by the Thompson Packers. [By the draft, we mean the first four rounds. Nothing after the fourth round matters. After pick #133 this year, go hang out with your family. They miss you.]

Now, I know what you’re thinking: Why the hell should I care what Ted Thompson would have done if Brian Gutekunst is the team’s general manager now?

I have two answers:

  1. The Thompson-style of drafting, with an emphasis on developmental athletes, did not happen by accident. He is a product of former Packers general manager Ron Wolf, who might be best known as Al Davis’ right-hand man with the Raiders. Because athleticism is valued in this Davis-Wolf-Thompson tree, it would be pretty surprising if Gutekunst, who became a scout under the Wolf administration and stayed in Green Bay through the entire Thompson administration, went against his wiring.
  2. Green Bay has added three major free agents this offseason: cornerback Tramon Williams (who returns to the team), tight end Jimmy Graham and defensive lineman Muhammad Wilkerson. All three of them passed through the athleticism thresholds, at least as prospects, for players that Thompson disproportionately targets in the draft. From this perspective, Gutekunst is closer to Thompson 2.0, a Thompson who acknowledges free agency, rather than a full-blown paradigm shift.

So, let’s get right into it. With these athletic filters, I believe it’s easier to map out who the Packers are more likely to target at running back, wide receiver, tight end, the offensive line, the defensive line, edge defender, and cornerback. The positions that I don’t believe Thompson had a type for during his run were quarterback (not very athleticism-dependent), off-ball linebacker (they almost never used top-four round picks at the position) and safety (where lesser and/or smaller athletes in the secondary typically play….beggars can’t be choosers to some extent.)

At the end of this article, I present my 2018 Packers Draft Board. But first, here is a breakdown of what I believe are the important historical numbers to use in determining their board:

 

Running Backs

●     4.55-second 40-yard dash

●     7.00-second three-cone

Running back, along with cornerback, is one of two positions with multiple outliers. Prior to last season, only Eddie Lacy, who was projected to go a full round before where the Packers drafted him, stood out like a sore thumb. While Jamaal Williams now joins him on that list, Brandon Jackson, Alex Green, Johnathan Franklin (RIP), James Starks, Aaron Jones and the traded-for Knile Davis all came from a specific mold.

 

Wide Receivers

●     Height 5117 (an eighth-inch short of 6’0” in human talk)

●     Weight 191 pounds

●     4.56-second 40-yard dash

●     7.08-second three-cone

The wide receiver mold for the Green Bay Packers is one of the most consistent under Thompson. For a decade, he was drafting the same athlete over and over again. He didn’t value top end height-weight-speed, but the Packers did filter out the low end. The one exception was Randall Cobb (height), who was projected to go about a round higher than when the Packers selected him.

 

Tight Ends

●     4.69-second 40-yard dash

Down to the Packers’ three tight end signings over the last three offseasons, they’ve been pretty consistent in valuing straight-line speed at the position. Only Richard Rodgers, who was as bad as a forced pick as I can recall in the Thompson era, breaks that mold. Before the 2014 draft, there was not one mock draft where Rodgers was a top-100 pick

After five tight ends came off the board in the first 65 picks of that draft, the tight end-needy Packers called their shot on Rodgers, seemingly after the well had dried up. Crockett Gillmore, another tight end, was picked one selection later. Another tight end didn’t have his name called for the next 56 picks. They needed a body and they didn’t get much more than that in return.

 

Offensive Linemen

●     1.80-second 10-yard split

●     7.70-second three-cone

●     4.75-second short shuttle

The offensive line, like wide receiver, has very strong tendencies. Down to late-round picks, the Packers continue to pull from a hyper-specific mold. It’s worth noting that every player on the list, other than Corey Linsley (college center), was also a college blindside tackle. Josh Sitton, at least for a stint at UCF, was a right tackle for a left-handed quarterback. Athletic, positionally-ambiguous former college tackles were one of the successes of Thompson’s run.

 

Defensive linemen

●     Speed 40 (-0.30) [explained here]

●     Agility (0.08) [explained here]

I used density-adjusted athleticism for defensive linemen and edge defenders because I would guess that’s how NFL teams would measure athleticism at these positions. Bodies can vary so much that you have to create a sliding scale on the defensive line of scrimmage, compared to more stationary filters at, say, receiver or cornerback (positions of space.)

As you can see, the only defensive lineman who doesn’t look like the rest on paper was Khyri Thornton, a former third-round pick who only lasted a year on the team. If you’re keeping track at home, the only real “hit” from the “broken mold” group of draft picks is Randall Cobb, who was essentially a sawed-off version of what they were already looking for. The other players who bucked the Packers’ trends didn’t make an impact on the team by the time their rookie contracts ran out.

 

Edge Defenders

●     Speed 40 (-1.21)

●     Agility (-0.65)

Four of the five picks that the Packers have spent on pass-rushers over the last nine seasons are still on the team. That’s as much of a reflection of how few times that they’ve gone to bat for outside linebackers as anything else.

 

Cornerbacks

●     Height 5107 (an eighth-inch short of 5’11” in human talk)

●     4.57-second 40-yard dash

●     6.83-second three-cone

At this point, it’s impossible not to notice the Packers filtering out shorter cornerbacks. While they don’t demand elite long speed (though they do tend to move slower cornerbacks into the slot), they have drafted quality three-cone times almost exclusively. The exceptions are Pat Lee and Quinten Rollins, who were both second-round picks and have started a combined 16 games for Green Bay over their careers.

 

What the 2018 Green Bay Packers Board Could Look Like

Below is a horizontal board (split by position) of players who haven’t failed the Packers’ filters for their positions. The grades assigned came from NFLDraftScout.com, not my own personal thoughts on these players. If we follow the Green Bay filters described above strictly, this is our cheatsheet to the first two days of the draft.

Color Significance:

●     Green: Completely passed athletic filters.

●     Yellow: Partially passed athletic filters.

●     Grey: Not enough information.

Click on the image for a larger version:

With that being said, let’s be Use-Your-Brain All-Stars here. If a player is 0.03 seconds off on a three-cone, I don’t think we have to throw these filters out the window. If that’s the furthest that Gutekunst strays from Thompson’s draft tendencies, we can always adjust these filters by hundredths of a second or next draft cycle. Two cornerbacks, Iowa’s Josh Jackson and Boston College’s Isaac Yiadom, were the players who came to mind when I was crunching these numbers. They were both slightly slower in the three-cone than what Thompson typically targeted, but when a team needs cornerback help as much as the Packers do currently…..I’m not sure it matters.

Happy draft week! Spend time with your kids on Day 3! Remember that the draft is four rounds!

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Fan friendly comments only: off Comments (50) This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.

GBPDAN1's picture

Nice write up. We need to get faster, especially at WR. I hope we can land a deep threat WR (2nd rd?)and another quality O-line player (3rd-4th rd?) that can help right away. If so, our offense is set and will be in the top 5-8.

CB, or any defensive difference maker in rd 1. Then fill in positions in rds 4-7. Make some trade ups. After the draft, pick up some FA to round out the roster.

If the offense can score 30 a game, the D just needs to be top 18 .

GBPDAN1's picture

It's draft week!! Finally, Thursday can't come soon enough. Then Friday and Saturday! I got my brats, steaks and beer . Fire up the BBQ!

John Kirk's picture

I really appreciated the look at the WR profiles. My contention for years has been we draft the same guy over and over and over. We never diversify the portfolio. This shows that.

That's one of the main reasons I was upset with the Davante selection when we could've taken another WR who profiled differently when it was clear we needed SPEED. Drafting another run of the mill 4.56 guy of our typical height and weight was maddening. BTW, Cobb ran 4.46 at the combine. I loved his pick because he was mold breaking.

PatrickGB's picture

This is a great breakdown. I really appreciate the work you did on this. Its one reason why this is my favorite site.
So, the BPA analysis includes the above when deciding who is BPA? My guess is that it does. I wonder how far Gute will stray from this formula if at all?

RobinsonDavis's picture

Same page

4thand1's picture

4 DAYS 3 HOURS 2 MINUTES

NitschkeFan's picture

Great article, looking forward to the draft. I feel like the Pack desperately need to pick a couple of Pro Bowl worthy players for a change. I'd love to see a great WR for #12 to hook up with (and I know we need DB's and edge rushers). It's tough to get real game changers after the first couple of rounds though.

I posted something like this for DB, but for ALL PRO designation for WR in the past 5 years (according to various All Pro teams monitored by https://www.pro-football-reference.com)

18 were 1st round draft picks
6 were 2nd round draft picks
2 were 3rd round draft picks
2 were 4th rounders
0 came from the 5th round
5 (all Antonio brown) were 6th round picks
0 were 7th round picks
2 were undrafted

Can we get an ALL PRO caliber WR after round 2? It's possible but the odds get pretty slim.

John Kirk's picture

My thinking exactly...don't sleep on a WR at 14 or in a small trade down. Everyone is so conditioned that we have to take a WR in Round 2 because that's what Ted did. Brian might want to do it in Round 1. Easier to find a CB in subsequent rounds than it will be for a WR. Love seeing Courtland Sutton in GREEN. That size, that grace... been healthy for 3 years. A big big target who can run faster than Adams and really creates problems with it in his hands after the catch.

Can't believe they'd go EDGE after dumping the money into Matthews and Perry and the investment in Fackrell and Biegel but who knows? Dumping all those resources into CB doesn't give anyone pause about doing it again.

If you bring up the cater to angle... Pettine or Rodgers? Philbin? Will that factor at all?

NitschkeFan's picture

Unfortunately even though they have dumped resources (money, draft picks) into the pass rush and the CB's, they still need to improve. So I can see them using that first pick on CB or Edge, I just wish they didn't need to.

Like you wrote, maybe if they see the value of WR at 16 -18 then they could drop a few spots and pick up a late 3rd rounder in addition. To get the best defensive prospects I feel they will likely need to trade UP. All depends on how the draft goes.

John Kirk's picture

Absolutely. I just think when your second WR option on the outside is Geronimo Allison you better put an urgent priority on fixing that. The chase of Watkins and Allen Robinson is a hint of what they feel they have and need to do at WR. I've read many of the experts talk bad about this WR class as in no real 1st round talents. You will also hear them say Sutton could blossom into one. Knock is limited route tree at SMU. Had he run a few hundredths faster he's the unquestioned #1 WR. Now, I'm reading Sutton shooting up boards and now maybe DJ Moore is the 1st to go. Will be fun to see who it is. I'm really focused on WR and where they go.

Royalty Free GM's picture

With the first pick we will get all pro receiver.

Odds get pretty slim after 19th pick this year to get all pro receiver.
Second round pick on WR would be a wasted pick, rolling a dice. Corners have good depth up to second round this year.

3rd round and later... every team is just rolling a dice.

John Kirk's picture

Would be curious to see SPARQ scores from last year and also previous years, as I believe Brian is a SPARQ score guy.

4thand1's picture

The only thing that scares me about drafting from teams like Alabama is they have so many good players from top to bottom. Players like Ha Ha benefit from a dominant front line and LBers. They are always a total team and almost impossible to beat. Guys in the secondary should stand out, the opposing QB doesn't have time. Pressure is the key CB's can only cover for so long. The Pack needs to bring the heat, I see edge unless ward is there.

Community Guy's picture

i like Anthony Averett for the 3rd round.. he will need a red-shirt year to bulk up and learn the defens; however, after his rookie year, i feel that he has shut down potential.

cheesehead1's picture

Really forward to the draft. Time to get a real impact player on D. Does anyone know the approximate time GB will draft at 14? Thanks in advance.

Dzehren's picture

Around 9PM CST each pick is 10 minutes

Bert's picture

I sure hope Gute has his own formula for evaluating draft prospects.

dobber's picture

I just hope he guesses right.

Bert's picture

LOL!! Yeah. That too.

The TKstinator's picture

Prepare, prepare, prepare, then roll the dice.
Heck, I’ve lived my whole life with that plan.
And it’s worked pretty well so far.

Royalty Free GM's picture

You are taking this too seriously. This is a discussion forum by the fans for the fans. We know you are not professionals.

One thing that is bothering me is that this site seems to have “defensive draft” agenda that you are pushing in every article you write here. I have not seen a single article where you would consider offense heavy draft, not a single one!

Why is that?

vj_ostrowski's picture

Probably because the clear deficiency on this team is defense, and even though Pettine should be an upgrade over Dom with no other additions, it’s pretty clear that our secondary is the weakest spot on our team. It’s also clear that our pass rush is extremely unproven, good at the top but often injured, and will possibly lose Clay in the near future.

Our offense just doesn’t have those clear deficiencies when you consider that Aaron elevates them a lot. Doesn’t mean we don’t need at least one WR, TE, and OL player - just that secondary is so clearly the weakest aspect.

I don’t understand your comment about how “seriously” anyone takes this. Everybody seems to be having a good time. Justis’ column is showing a clear trend with lots of data to support it. It’s not the “end all be all” of Packers drafting, and he says as much within the column. It’s a way to predict what type of player GB may look for - not make any decisions for them or make a specific prediction.

And for anyone poo-pooing the thresholds, what do you want? For them to take LESS athletic players?

And for anyone who says every NFL team would want the more athletic players, the Detroit Lions still took Teez Tabor in the second round, when he tested like absolute dogshit. I’d prefer GB stay entirely away from those players, and the idea of threshold - even if we don’t know exactly what goes through the heads of our front office specifically - helps with that. I’ll bet Teez was completely off our board. It matters.

The TKstinator's picture

It’s a fun site. Wouldn’t keep coming back if it wasn’t.

HankScorpio's picture

"And for anyone poo-pooing the thresholds, what do you want? For them to take LESS athletic players?"

Some of the athleticism "thresholds" cover very pedestrian athletes. 4.69 40 for a TE is sort of getting into lumbering types of runners at the position. And one (of two!) didn't even make that number.

The Packers have not been drafting super athletic WRs. Right now, that dynamic has most of this site screaming for a fast WR to be a deep threat.

I can't even remember when they had an athletic LB group.

Maybe they need to narrow their "thresholds".

Jersey Al's picture

"Probably because the clear deficiency on this team is defense, and even though Pettine should be an upgrade over Dom with no other additions, it’s pretty clear that our secondary is the weakest spot on our team. It’s also clear that our pass rush is extremely unproven, good at the top but often injured, and will possibly lose Clay in the near future."

The perfect answer to an inane question...

John Kirk's picture

The deficiencies on this team are multifold. Pushing a must draft defense agenda is what's inane. Not a single writer, poster, GM, etc. knows how the draft will go. Defense, defense, defense has been the mantra for 6 years running. It doesn't need to be for seven just because the last 6 have and the D is still brutal.

If for some reason no QB's are taken in the Top 13 and we're down to the 4th or 5th corner, should we take the 4th or 5th corner just because we need a corner? What if the 4th or 5th corner is not better than the 1st WR or RB, or, OT? Still, take defense just because we "need it". "Need it" again applies to multiple positions on O and on D. Agendas are usually not good. I think in this case pushing a must draft defense agenda is silly as, again, nobody knows how the board will look at 14. Further, and most importantly, just because draftniks on twitter, here, or anywhere else are ranking players in a certain order doesn't mean a single team in the NFL agrees. How does anyone know that GM's don't think this is an offense heavy draft? Subterfuge is running wild surrounding the draft. Ain't nobody involved going to tell you diddly so you may be forming your opinion off a mirage.

My hope is we go offense in Round 1 mostly because I love Sutton and hope it's him, but also to show that an "internet consensus" doesn't translate to reality.

Jersey Al's picture

the idea of there being any type of "agenda" is inane. It's called writing one's opinion. if the opinions happen to agree, that's just the way it is. If you have a different opinion, that's just fine. This discussion is inane.

The TKstinator's picture

Gosh! All this talk of “inane” while all along I thought the word was “inSane”! (Face palm)
Now I REALLY feel dumb!
~~~~

dobber's picture

Inane in the membrane...

Jersey Al's picture
Royalty Free GM's picture

Al - Your agenda is so obvious. Defense defense defense.

Packers have BIG needs in both sides. Gute will definitely consider both sides when making the pick. You writers here are considering only defense. It is so idiotic to think only defensive pick would make this team better. Insanely idiotic!
Picking offensive players might be the solution we have needed for years. The change is what we need.
Our defense already got the biggest boost with a new DC, Pettine.
Philbin with a fresh speed receiver... a Superbowl win.

Jersey Al's picture

And your own agenda is so "offensive."

cpitt's picture

Ridley fits the GB mold to a T. Decently fast, great route runner. Could totally see that being the pick. Id be happy with it. Problem is we have holes on oline, cb, and olb that we just need to take the best player at those four positions in each round.

Lare's picture

Can't say as I agree with using the Ted Thompson methods & thresholds for drafting. While they worked and were effective early in his GM tenure they weren't very successful the last few years.

On top of that, he tended to overdraft players that had injuries or deficiencies in an effort to strike paydirt, which unfortunately didn't work out very often. For whatever reason he also drafted slower players, probably subconsciously in the mold of what he was as a player.

This roster needs a pretty good overhaul to improve depth, speed and talent. I'm hoping Gutekunst uses his own measurables and metrics in draft selection, not what has been used to build the below average roster they currently have.

DD's picture

Packers will trade #14 to draft down into second round. Reason: 7 million dollar salary difference between 1st and 2nd round picks. Russ Ball. Any questions?

4thand1's picture

wrong

Thegreatreynoldo's picture

It is about $2.7M to drop from #14 to say #25 over the course of a 4 year contract. To have the difference be $7M, Gute would have to drop from #14 all the way to #40. That seems highly unlikely. If the team hits on a player at a premium position, the fifth year option should more than offset the difference. Not to mention the surplus value the team derives during those 4 or 5 years, particularly if the player is more NFL ready (typical for higher first round picks) so that good production begins sometime during the player's first season.

Your concern is one reason why I prefer to take players at premium positions in the first round, and why I hesitate slightly to take Nelson at #14. But I think Nelson would be just too good to pass on. For OGs and safeties, the team needs to hit a little bigger to make it worthwhile, that's all.

Jersey Al's picture

facts!

Ustabeayooper's picture

It would bE really simple to use these benchmarks to draft. Unfortunately most successful teams recognize that more games are won and lost because of mental errors. Physical combine results cannot make up for mental deficiencies. How many WR have great speed and bad hands or poor recognition skills. How many DB with all the measurables screw up the coverage schemes ? Football success many times is determined by what is between the ears. AR is a great football player with physical skills but what makes him the one of the best is what is between his ears. All these drafts don't address these issues. Do they ever tell you what the Wonderlic scores of these draftees are? How about what they majored in (other than football)? I often wonder how these players get suspended for "banned substances ". Intelligence seems to be underrated in the drafting process.

RobinsonDavis's picture

Thank you, Justis! Great analysis, concisely delivered. Very much enjoy these every year!

Curious if you have a favorite in the day two picks for CB or WR.

HankScorpio's picture

It is hard to miss their profile of drafting college LTs almost exclusively and avoiding shorter CBS.

But I don't know that I'm buying into all that much of the rest of this. The sample size is too small, there are too many outliers and the supposed "threshold" is usually broad enough that I have to think it catches a healthy % of top prospects.

Not to mention that we have no idea how many guys outside these statistical boundaries were on the Packers draft radar but it just didn't work out.

Maybe this is a thing. Maybe not.

stockholder's picture

Justin love your system. The logic won't happen this year. Gute knows this team is in trouble. Just like every packer fan. Even the best laid plans go astray. The packers will need those players on day 3, just as much as day 1. Why? Because the packers will have Cap problems when they sign A-Rod. I believe the packers will still let players fall to them. They don't give away picks. They will reach before they trade-up. Trade down for value. Take multiple for need. The mocks are up then down on players. The party is just starting.

4thand1's picture

3 DAYS 22 HOURS 50 MINUTES

Hagster's picture

Really interesting article to see how this years crop lines up versus guys we usually target. I’ll be very curious to see how Gute values certain metrics compared to TT.

alinger84's picture

Many thanks for your great work but let's agree that nothing after the fifth round matters.

Handsback's picture

First off....great work! Seems like a real labor of love. Seen potential players I like better than where you have them, but nit picking compared to what you've done.
Will be there with my wife on Thursday hoping for the best!

egbertsouse's picture

As Max McGee used to say when people would throw all these measurables at him when speaking of prospective draft picks, “These numbers are nice but can he play football.”

fthisJack's picture

where are the safeties?

LambeauPlain's picture

No Anthony Miller on the WR list?

TT also coveted another measurable in his WRs...great college production...lots of catches, TDs, and few drops.

And in all his selections, he rarely took character risks...he liked high character, team leaders.

And he liked guys who liked football from good schools in the top conferences.

PackEyedOptimist's picture

Where are the QBs and LBs?

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