Ted Vs Gutey: Draft Strategy Showdown

Ted Thompson and Brian Gutekunst approach the NFL Draft in completely different ways... so which way is better?

Ted Thompson and Brian Gutekunst had very different approaches to the draft.

Now, I don't have insights into what these guys are actually thinking.

I don't hang out with them on the weekend, we don't chat on the phone after games.

But I have studied them, I've watched their every move and I think it's clear how they each approached their craft.

They're very different.

 

BRIAN'S APPROACH

It's still early in Brian Gutekunst's career as a GM, but his early results are pretty consistent. He moves up early in the draft and get impact players. After that, his mid to late round picks are... of debatable value (so far).

I believe Brian Gutekunst does a lot of homework on the top prospects and looks for the big impact difference-makers at the top of the draft. He is confident in his early picks and makes sure he gets his guy.

Fans were surprised when the Packers picked Rashan Gary, but Gutey said that they'd settled on him as the pick months prior to the draft.

In his other three 1st round picks (Alexander, Savage, and Love), Gutekunst traded up to make his selection.

In all three instances, I think he patiently watched the board unfold, then, when there was only one player remaining from his top tier, he made the decision to move up and get them (read more on What Drafting The Best Player Available Really Means here).

This is the defining characteristic of Gutey's draft philisophy.

Rather than waiting to see who will fall, he spends mid round draft capital to move up and get a better player at the top of the draft. He believes in having more stars to get a better player and believes that since it's easier to scout the top players, it's worth spending more resources to get something closer to a sure bet.

 

TED'S APPROACH

Ted was a regional scout at heart. He took a lot of grief from fans for looking into so many small school Day 3 guys.

No one laughed when they became All Pros, though.

Ted felt the draft was a crapshoot and no matter how hard you studied, you were still going to have some major misses. Still, he tried to outstudy his peers. He tried to win in the middle rounds. He felt like if he could find All Pros in the rounds when other teams were getting practice squad guys and backups, that his team would be better.

In the early rounds, he didn't go for the shiny objects. He would rather trade down and get more picks in later rounds so he would have more chances to find those hidden gems.

Throughout his career, he was fond of saying that you could get more hits when you took more swings.

As a result, he didn't make flashy picks in the 1st. When Rodgers dropped, he made the tough decision to take him, knowing both the grief he would get and the fact that it was the right move. He traded down, right out of the 1st round more than once, and when he stayed put, he usually took linemen - the most practical picks a team can make early on.

Then, in the late rounds, he went to work, finding guys like Aaron Jones, David Bakhtiari, and Josh Sitton on Day 3.

It wasn't exciting on draft day, but Ted's strategy was that it wasn't about short-term excitement, it was about long term value and getting as many chances to find a good player as possible.

 

FINAL

Gutekunst values getting a brighter star at the top of the draft to have a bigger impact on the team. He values using mid-round picks to move up and get more star power from fewer players. 

Thompson valued getting better players in the middle of the draft and improving his team by doing better in the middle rounds than his peers. He valued moving down to get extra picks and having more chances to find a contrinbutor.

So which is better?

Well, Thompson found a great quarterback, kept his team consistently competitive, and won a Super Bowl.

Gutekunst selected a quarterback we hope will be great, kept his team consistently competitive, and hasn't won a Super Bowl yet (granted, he's only had a few years to try and is still primed for at least another run or two).

Personally, I favor the Thompson approach. The draft is a crapshoot and you want to find as many guys as possible that can help make your team better.

That doesn't make it "right," though. Football is a complex sport and there's multiple ways to win.

Either approach can be successful - time will tell which works out better.

Hit the comments below to let me know which method you prefer.

 

 

Bruce Irons has played, coached, and studied football for decades. Best-selling author of books such as A Fan's Guide To Understanding The NFL Draft, A Fan's Guide To Understanding The NFL Salary Cap, and A Fan's Guide To NFL Free Agency Hits And Misses, Bruce contributes to CheeseHeadTV and PackersForTheWin.com.

Follow Bruce Irons on Twitter at @BruceIronsNFL.

 

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2 points

Comments (35)

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stockholder's picture

April 27, 2021 at 07:26 pm

I liked TT "Draft" approach too. You pointed out the difference right away. The Gary pick. When Gute makes up his mind. Its like talking to the wind. So I wonder if he really listens to his scouts. And only uses his scouting services for his choices. TT knew what he wanted. It was just a matter of BPA for it. If some of his picks didn't get in-juried. There would be No comparison.

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HankScorpio's picture

April 27, 2021 at 07:52 pm

" If some of his picks didn't get in-juried. There would be No comparison."

Two names screamed to mind. Nick Collins and Terrance Murphy. We know Collins was a great player that was depirved of a few prime years. Murphy wowed 'em in his one and only TC before his neck injury. He might have been nothing more than a TC wonder but I would have liked to find out.

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stockholder's picture

April 27, 2021 at 09:09 pm

Casey Hayward, Johnathan Franklin. Jerel Worthy, maybe harrel. Desmond Bishop and Sherod.. Just a footnote here. Harrel hurt his back. And kept it hidden. I don't want the packers to draft T. Jenkins now because he did hurt his back and opted out. The other was Worthy. His Knee was bad and he kept playing on it. Until he couldn't come back. So I am passing on Wilson dt.

3 points
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HankScorpio's picture

April 27, 2021 at 08:50 pm

Day 3 success is what separates the good from the great, IMO. TT's first real day 3 star was Sitton, drafted in TT's 4th go 'round. He followed that up with Lang in R4 the net year. Eventually those two would form one fo the top OG tandems in the game for a short while. Gute has yet to find that caliber of day 3 gem. It doesn't help his case that he tends to give away shots at those guys instead of accummulating more of them.

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splitpea1's picture

April 27, 2021 at 08:40 pm

Even further down, he found Marshall Newhouse, who ended up having a 10-year career, and Lawrence Guy in the seventh round, currently a Patriots team captain.

Just to state the obvious, Ted did just about the best you could do as far as drafting during the first half of his tenure.

I forgot: Crosby was drafted in the sixth round and he's been with us for 14 years.

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HankScorpio's picture

April 27, 2021 at 10:13 pm

Given what we know now, Crosby rates as a good pick even with my rather severe personal bias against drafting punters or kickers. It took him multiple years to shake some inconsistency but those issues are long gone.

I wonder if JK Scott is on that same career arc.

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jannes bjornson's picture

April 28, 2021 at 08:15 am

But he did not retain Guy.

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BruceIrons's picture

April 28, 2021 at 10:05 am

Lawrence Guy is one of the most underrated Ted draft picks ever. He didn't stick with the Packers, but went on to have a long career are a starter. Ted saw that value when no one else did, even if he didn't stick in our system.

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Coldworld's picture

April 28, 2021 at 11:42 am

An outlier. Typically Ted’s weakness was hanging on too long. Guy was the one who needed longer.

Newhouse was a sub-starter level player after he left as well as while with us. It’s hard to give too much credit for that except that he was good enough to remain in rosters without being missed when he left.

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jannes bjornson's picture

April 28, 2021 at 04:24 pm

He was poached off the PS. He was a better player than the stiffs on the 53.

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joejetson's picture

April 27, 2021 at 08:41 pm

The "more chances" approach makes more sense to me. Giving up 2nd or 3rd to move up a couple spots is taking a big chance. Even if you get your guy, injuries or other problems can ruin the whole plan. It's like putting all your eggs in one basket. Plus, good players are still on the board in Round 2 and 3, with the picks you gave up to move up just a few spots in the 1st. Do your homework and make sure you get a good player at 29.

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Starrbrite's picture

April 27, 2021 at 11:59 pm

Injuries can ruin the game plan for any of these scenarios.

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Thegreatreynoldo's picture

April 28, 2021 at 12:13 am

Not untrue, but it is simple math: two picks instead of one higher pick spreads the injury risk between two players rather than one pick.

I have posted links to studies that persuasively indicate trading back is the better bet. The only limitation is that the value of the difference maker, and those players often are found in the top 24 picks or so, depending on the draft.

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Coldworld's picture

April 28, 2021 at 09:15 am

During the TT era we used to complain that he wouldn’t jump and let good players go just in front of us. Gute seems to have felt the same way. Are we really unhappy that he grabbed Savage and Gary? I’m not.

I prefer more picks if you have a largely stable starting corps ( in the broader sense of major snap sources). Gute didn’t have that after the roster decline of the end if TT’s era. We needed to find players and restock. I don’t think he’s done a bad job of that.

Collins was a player who took 3 plus years to click. Rather like Adams, he was seen as a miss by the majority of us, until he wasn’t. Gute really hasn’t had long enough to allow similar development. Hard to compare.

One thing I do like is Gute’s much more active use of other avenues, such as other team PS squads and how he sticks ours. In essence, he is getting extra 3rd day picks by that means. One could argue that that is smarter than multiple late round punts.

We also need to be cognizant that Murphy hired LaFleur to change the team. There is little doubt that part of what Gute has been doing is to reshape the O to fit. One can also argue early he had to give Pettine tools and, now, Barry. TT didn’t really have that issue after the initial period clean up after Sherman and moving g to a 3-4. I’d say less surrounding variables.

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murf7777's picture

April 28, 2021 at 06:22 am

When did the Packers give up a 2nd or 3rd to move up with Gute?

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HankScorpio's picture

April 28, 2021 at 07:13 am

2018. They gave up 1st, 3rd and 6th to move up for Jaire Alexander with a 7th thrown in (Kendell Donnerson). The first was 27 overall, previously obtained in a trade down from 14 overall, along with 2018 fifth (traded to move up for Burks) and 2019 1st (traded to move up for Savage)

They have not yet surrendered a 2nd under Gute to move up. But give him time. He's shown an alarming lack of patience already.

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Z-Smith's picture

April 29, 2021 at 04:11 pm

Are you seriously complaining about trading up to take the best corner in the league? How is getting the best player at a premium position a lack of patience?

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Z-Smith's picture

April 29, 2021 at 04:13 pm

Not to mention the fact that he already traded down and picked up an additional 1st.

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nostradanus's picture

April 27, 2021 at 08:49 pm

Very good comparison and spot on.

I like Gutey’s approach so far, he’s hit on his tier 1 guys so far (Love excluded for now)

But I also respect Ted’s steady approach

Both have their merits

Can’t wait for Thursday

Go get your guy Gutey!!

Go Pack!!

10 points
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89Chewy's picture

April 27, 2021 at 09:12 pm

I like Gutey a bit more because if there is a difference maker, you go get him! However, he likes to use too much capital to move up. I know that is a contradiction in terms, but there comes a risk with spending to much all the time. However, i think of Ron Wolf's drafts, more importantly, his first round picks...none of them signed a second contract and what if he uses an extra 4th rounder to move ahead of Baltimore in 1996, we have Ray Lewis or if TT wouldn't be such a hard head for picks we could have taken TJ Watt or given KC a 3rd for Tony Gonzalez. Yeah, i wish Gutey would keep more of the middle round guys but he see's a talent and goes and gets it. That is what's needed in today's NFL!

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PhantomII's picture

April 27, 2021 at 09:48 pm

Gute was handed a pretty big mess. He let some contracts expire from past packer greats and plowed the money back in the defense. I wish he would have traded up last year for Jefferson instead of Love or taken Claypool. I think we can get best Safety this year but not CB. DL Barmore may be there also. Possibly LB-S Koramoah. 2-3 good WR's also in the first. There are a lot of good 2nd RD talent for 15-20 picks also. It will be interesting how Gute goes about it while we have gone back to back and need a few more pieces and to play more solid to get it done. I like Gutes approach much better so far but TT did bring in Wood who was a phenom talent. I think if the DL hole get's fixed right and another good safety we would be in pretty good shape. Bak is suppose to be far ahead of schedule in rehabbing the injury.

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jannes bjornson's picture

April 28, 2021 at 08:26 am

He had to trade with Philly or above them. There goes the 2,3 and 4 picks. Everyone assumed Philly would select Jefferson, including Doug Pederson.

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Coldworld's picture

April 28, 2021 at 09:20 am

If I were an Eagles fan, I really would have had something to get steamed about last year and moving forward.

Pederson will be back and, possibly, give the Eagles fans years of regret beyond that. Way to turn victory into long term defeat ownership. Fortunately, I hear the fans there have learnt how to express themselves ...

1 points
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jannes bjornson's picture

April 28, 2021 at 04:26 pm

So true.

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PhantomII's picture

April 28, 2021 at 09:30 pm

Last years 1 and 2021 2 maybe slight adjustment of picks in RD 4. Anyway It may have been enough for a Trophy which makes it worth it especially if we can't afford Adams this next season.

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Starrbrite's picture

April 28, 2021 at 12:09 am

Ron Wolf said, “if you really like a particular player, go get’em!” My opinion is the same — go get’em! That goes for free agency too.

7 points
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Coldworld's picture

April 28, 2021 at 09:24 am

If you don’t trust yourself and your team, you shouldn’t be a GM. Winning is the right coaches (not Gute’s call as it was Wolfe and TTs) and then finding players that give your team an edge at a sustainable price. For the most part, that’s finding gems in the draft while not signing expensive busts in FA.

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NickPerry's picture

April 28, 2021 at 05:59 am

Gute has taken a lot of crap on different ackers sites especially after the 2020 draft. BUT Gute has done a pretty damn good job IMO of rebuilding/retooling a team on the fly after two 3rd place finishes in 2017 & 2018. Packers fans ARE spoiled, myself included as I was going ape shit finishing 3rd those years with 12 as our QB.

Thompson was AMAZING his first several years as Packers GM. Sure he could have done more in FA but all in all he REBUILT a 4-12 team in 2005 and was in the NFCCG in 2 years in 2007. Reggie While will always be regarded as the BEST FA signing in NFL history. Reggie made it cool to play in Green Bay. BUT Charles Woodson was a great signing as well. Thompson signed a guy who didn't want to be here and a guy no one else wanted BUT the results were pretty amazing when it was all said and done. Ted SHOULD get more credit for that signing.

Ted's health was a huge factor in his effectiveness as GM at the end of his career. 2015 through 2017 weren't his greatest drafts with 2015 being one of the worse drafts in team history, BUT his drafts from 2005 through 2014 were some of the best. Yes Ted found gems in later rounds, but lets give Gute a little more time. Gutes 2019 draft was prety damn good and IMO has some players who could still develop into better players to make it great. I still like the AJ Dillon pick and when he's running through and over Bears and Vikings defenders for the next few years, who the hell cares WHEN he was taken?

Ted really was great, Gute needs more time. Lets give it to him. IMO opinion though so far so good.

8 points
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Coldworld's picture

April 28, 2021 at 09:27 am

Well said.

I also think it’s pretty clear that TT should not be judged by the last years. The culpability for that scenario lies elsewhere. We should not underestimate the hole that was dug in that time either though.

4 points
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BruceIrons's picture

April 28, 2021 at 10:10 am

I think sometimes we, as fans, miss the human side of this business.

Ted's final drafts weren't as good as his earlier ones, but no one knew just how bad his health was at the time. That clearly had an impact. It's sad to hear some of the comments people made given his condition.

3 points
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NickPerry's picture

April 29, 2021 at 05:19 am

I was one of those fans Bruce and was one evil dude when it came to Thompson his last few years in GB. BUT when I found out about the health issues and IIRC a press confrence he had at the end of 2017 I believe it was, I backed off because it was clear he wasn't right.

My anger then pointed towards Murphy. I mean how in the hell didn't Murphy do something when it was obvious his GM and I would imagine friend was not right and his health declining....SMH!!!

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Since'61's picture

April 28, 2021 at 09:27 am

I believe that any GM or almost any executive in any profession needs to have a process that is flexible enough to adjust to evolving/emerging situations. IMO a GM should base their approach on the particular strengths of each draft from year to year. Some drafts it will be wise to move up and others it will be wise to stay put or trade down. Staying with one approach season after season will not work out because there are just too many variables concerning individual players and too many moving parts (in terms of trades and surprise picks) to assume that you will get "your guy" every year and that he will work out.

GMs needs to assess their own team's situation and then how the talent in the upcoming draft can best improve their roster. Sometimes Gute's approach will work and sometimes TT's approach will work. Even a great GM will have failed drafts and busts from their top picks.

TT built a roster that reached the playoffs in 8 consecutive seasons and 9 out of 10 seasons starting with 2007. While only winning one SB that remains a record that most GMs would envy. If TT had a failure it was not adding a one year rental FA or even midseason rental to get the team over the hump and into the SB, especially in those seasons where the Packers endured one of their many injury plagues.

As for Gute the jury is still out on him but he is 28-8 over 2 seasons. So far so good. He needs to fill out the roster with this year's draft without sacrificing his mid-round picks that could be critical to adding the depth that is needed in some of our position groups (DL, OL, RB and ILB). It would be great if he can hit on starting potential at CB and WR. Those are the 2 skill positions that can take us to the next level in 2021. So I am hoping that he selects those 2 positions out of his first 3 picks. Get the play makers early and then fill out the roster with the rest of our remaining picks.

We'll see, it won't be long now. Thanks, Since '61

4 points
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Mumarek400's picture

April 28, 2021 at 10:44 am

Agreed. TTs method seemed to give the pack a strong roster to compete and make the playoffs year after year, but it couldn't get the star power required for regular championship runs. Gute seems to be acknowleging that there is a base there and it is a few positions that can tip the scales to championship runs, and hence 2 NFC championship appearances. Can he get it done in the next two drafts and get a Super Bowl in Rodgers' window before reaching for stars depletes depth? If we have to rebuild, will Gute adapt his strategy to that situation?

Either way, I'm glad I'm currently griping about not going deep enough in the playoffs or winning chapionship games instead of being a Bears fan.

2 points
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jannes bjornson's picture

April 28, 2021 at 04:31 pm

When in doubt I look up at my bulletin board and scan the three or four saying s that guide decision making: "Flex your Head"

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ricky's picture

April 28, 2021 at 11:43 am

What is also important is getting those undrafted players into camp and seeing what they can do. It seems that every year the Packers have at least one UDFA who comes in and makes the team, then becomes a starter in their second or third year. Probably the most underrated part of the acquisition process for building a team.

2 points
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