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The Five Biggest Draft Busts in the Ted Thompson Era

You're only as good as you draft — at least in Packers general manager Ted Thompson's mind. 

Thompson has been highly publicized to stick to his "draft and develop" philosophy, and for the most part, there have been no complaints with the talent and eventual starters that Thompson has produced under this year in and year out mechanism. Jordy Nelson, Greg Jennings, Clay Matthews, B.J. Raji and T.J. Lang highlight the early years of Thompson drafting stars in Green Bay. More recently, David Bakhtiari, Eddie Lacy, Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, Mike Daniels and Randall Cobb — all of which have made some kind of impact with the Packers since 2012. 

However, there has also been quite a few duds under Thompson's reign. 

There's a risk with selecting a player in the higher rounds, presumably between the first and the third. Either the player makes an immediate impact, pans out over the coming years or suffers a serious injury that requires further maintenance and debilitates what could've been a promising career. Or, well, they're just not good at all, which is always a possibility and has been a possibility.

Straying from the optimistic side of things and remaining more pessimistic above all else, let's look into the five biggest draft busts in the Thompson era, which began when he assumed general manager duties in 2005.

 

5. CB Patrick Lee - 2nd round, 60th overall

After a promising end to his college career at Auburn, Lee was drafted to Green Bay in hopes of playing third fiddle behind starting corners at the time Al Harris and Charles Woodson. Instead, he fell behind Tramon Williams and Will Blackmon in the preseason and capped off his rookie year on injured reserve due to a knee injury that may have attributed to his rapid descent. He was the third of three second-round picks for the Packers, capping off an early portion of the draft where they selected Nelson and quarterback Brian Brohm at 36th and 56th overall respectively. Needless to say, the Packers whiffed on two of their three early-round selections. 

Lee started one game for the Packers in 2010 thanks to a depleted secondary unit but went on to play in 32 total during his career in Green Bay. The Packers chose not to re-sign the former Associated Press All-SEC recognized corner, and he went on to finish his career swapping between the Lions and Raiders in 2012. His career as a Packer netted him 19 total tackles and a single defended pass.

 

4. DT Jerel Worthy - 2nd round, 51st overall

Worthy was at one point recognized as the top defensive tackle in the nation and touted as a late-first round to second round pick — but that's not where the Packers selected him. They didn't necessarily reach for Worthy more than halfway into the second round, but given the hype behind Worthy's career in the NFL and how heavily sought-after of a prospect he was, that's good enough to make Worthy the fourth-biggest draft bust in the Thompson era.

"Quick get-off," "Speed to shoot the gap," "Ability to collapse the pocket," and "Can take over games and dominate for stretches," were some of the notes on Worthy coming out of Michigan State. He did none of those things in Green Bay. In two seasons with the Packers, he started four games, and while he accumulated 2.5 sacks and a forced fumble in his rookie season, the Packers saw him as disposable. He was traded to the Patriots in August of 2014 for a conditional late round draft choice, only to be waived by the team 18 days later.

 

3. DT Khyri Thornton - 3rd round, 85th overall

Thornton showcased his abilities in the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl before the NFL Combine, where Thompson began taking notice of Thornton's strength and athletic abilities. At 6'3", 304 pounds with 28 repetitions in the bench press, it was hard not to notice. Thornton was initially projected in the fifth or sixth round, but Thompson drafted him in the third, making him the fifth defensive lineman drafted by the Packers in three years.

Thornton never saw the field for a regular-season game with the Packers. Instead, Thornton made camp on injured reserve and was eventually released a year later. 

Thornton's former defensive line coach at Southern Mississippi, Derrick LeBlanc, had high praise for Thornton, despite the high expectations with being drafted earlier than expected. "They're getting a guy that's going to work his tail off," he said. "Once he bought in, he was a different football player. He runs all over the place. He's a 310-pound man who can run, and that's one of the things that got him picked by Green Bay."

 

2. OT Derek Sherrod - 1st round, 32nd overall

Sherrod is one of those players whose career was severely handicapped by injury. The Packers made Sherrod their first draft choice almost three months after winning the Super Bowl, and he alongside fellow tackle Bryan Bulaga were expected to do great things. Instead, Sherrod saw action in just five games in his rookie season of 2011 and unfortunately broke his leg in a week 15 game in Kansas City. As a result, he wasn't seen for almost a whole two years due to his recovery process.

In 2013, he began the season on the physically unable to perform (PUP) list but was eventually added to the active roster in November. 363 days later, the Packers parted ways with the former first-round selection and released him. Ironically, he was signed to the Chiefs two months later. His career in Green Bay ended with a lone start during the 2014 campaign, tacking on another asterisk to Thompson's list of early round duds.

 

1. DT Justin Harrell - 1st round, 16th overall

Justin Harrell is the biggest draft bust of the Thompson era, and in case you didn't agree, just ask these guys

No, seriously, that video is hilarious.

Anyways, Harrell lived out a grim career in Green Bay that was plagued by injuries. In his three seasons with the team (missed all of 2009), he started two games and both of which were during his rookie season. 18 tackles is the best statistic Harrell walks away with after participating in 14 games. In his tenure at Tennessee, Harrell was dealing with a torn biceps tendon, however, the early years of Thompson evidently saw him take more risk in the draft based off of this selection. 

Harrell finally saw the field in October. His second season, however, is where the trauma began. Harrell was placed on the PUP list for the start of 2008 and in 2009, he missed all 17 games because of a back injury suffered in training camp — but it doesn't end there. In the 2010 season opener against the Philadelphia Eagles, Harrell was one of two players equipped to the Packers in 2007 to be lost for the season. Running back Ryan Grant suffered a season-ending ankle injury while Harrell tore his ACL, effectively ending his career in Green Bay.

A head-scratcher of a pick that left many fans scrambling, like those guys in the aforementioned video. If it's any consolation, just remember, many draft analysts in 2007 had the Packers taking running back Marshawn Lynch at 16th overall, however, the Buffalo Bills snatched him up at 12th overall. That should ease the vexation.

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Zachary Jacobson is a staff writer/reporter for Cheesehead TV. He's the voice of The Leap on iTunes and can be heard on The Scoop KLGR 1490 AM every Saturday morning. He's also a contributor on the Pack-A-Day Podcast. He can be found on Twitter via @ZachAJacobson or contacted through email at [email protected].

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Comments (47)

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stevehj's picture

February 21, 2017 at 12:27 pm

Geez, what is the point of an article like this? Prove that TT is not infallible? No documentation is necessary for that. All this does is get people riled up and negative about the Packers. Shoot, isn't losing the NFC championship enough? All an article like this does is get the TT haters and lovers at each others throat. What a waste. Regardless of our opinions, TT is the GM and will live with his decisions.

Lets get more articles discussing how the Packers can win it all next year.....

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ZacharyJacobson's picture

February 21, 2017 at 12:30 pm

I cover the Green Bay Packers. With that comes both the good and the bad with every aspect surrounding the team. I praise Thompson for his tendency to turn UDFAs into solid role players, but I can also point out the obvious fact that a good bunch of his draft picks in recent years have, well, failed.

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stevehj's picture

February 21, 2017 at 03:43 pm

Zach, you might cover the Packers, but your stories don't seem to provide much insight. This is another example of a story with information pretty much every Packer fan already knows.

If you want some really intelligent comments and well thought out responses, tell us something we don't know. Give us a perspective we may not have considered. Make us as readers think. That is what I consider to be good journalism. If we are going to give you the benefit of a doubt and read your stories, make it worth our while.

Just my two cents.

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ZacharyJacobson's picture

February 21, 2017 at 04:01 pm

I'm truly sorry you feel that way, Steve.

1. This isn't a story. It's more of a list based on my personal opinions. You and other readers have free range to chime in with your own rankings or with a player who I left out. Something that would require my readers to think and post intelligent comments, which they do, contrary to what you believe.

2. The "question of the day" is a thing in OTAs, preseason and during the regular season as well. Every single day. Every single week.

3. Don't read anything I post if you're giving me the "benefit of the doubt." If you think I don't touch on things that you don't already know, did you know Terrence Murphy is Texas A&M's record holder for highest vertical jump? You can check out my story from yesterday on him. Have a good day, Steve.

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stevehj's picture

February 21, 2017 at 10:02 pm

Zach, the past is gone. Recalling bad or sad memories is depressing. When discussing the past, lets remember the good days. If you can't share that kind of material, tell us something about the present or the future that will make us think and dream and smile.

That is why I follow the Packers. I love the possibility of a great play, a great game, a great season. I want the feeling and joys of those successes to remain in my mind as long as possible. It makes me happy. I imagine most fans feel the same way. I come to this site because I want to read about something new and something good about my favorite team. At the same time, I want to be informed about the latest developments that will lead to the Packers next success. I can read negative or coulda, shoulda, woulda articles everywhere on the web that typically tear down the Packers, but why should I? Can't the best website in Packerland be something we look forward to reading?

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croatpackfan's picture

February 22, 2017 at 03:20 am

Zach, I have no problems with list you just posted...
What I would like you to do is to bring here the list of the top 5 draft choices made by Ted Thompson... I think that would be much harder job to do. Because there is many picks you have to take in consideration...
After all, I think I can agree with your list of busts... Only it is not fair, by my opinion to proclaim any player as a bust if that player really suffered heavy injury that change his body's abilities (e. g. Sherrod!).
I'm waiting that "positive" list!

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dobber's picture

February 22, 2017 at 09:50 am

I like this idea. I would say that it's hard to give "best pick" status to guys in round 1 or 2, since you expect them to be contributors, but there are exceptions...
My top 5 TT picks...

5. Josh Sitton (4th, 2008) -- one of the first TT OT-->OG conversion projects. Kept improving. Durable and tough.
4. Nick Collins (2nd, 2005) -- one of those "if only he'd stayed healthy" guys. People throw the letters HOF at him which is a little lofty, but who knows?
3. Mike Daniels (4th, 2012) -- keeps getting better. Undersized, quick and tenacious.
2. David Bakhtiari (4th, 2013) -- when you can unearth a franchise LT in round 4, you've done something special. I wasn't a believer in him, but he's proven me wrong. Keeps getting better.
1. Aaron Rodgers (1st, 2005) ... just because it's obvious doesn't make it untrue.

Honorable Mention: Mason Crosby (6th, 2007), Brian Bulaga (1st, 2010), Desmond Bishop (6th, 2007), TJ Lang (4th, 2009)

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NashvilleCheesehead's picture

February 22, 2017 at 06:34 am

I had to like this just because of the video link. Only in Wisconsin....makes me homesick.

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zoellner25's picture

February 21, 2017 at 12:27 pm

Ted sure seems to miss on DTs a lot. Even BJ Raji never played up the level of a top 10 pick. Let's hope Kenny Clark doesn't turn out like any of the above

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Point-Packer's picture

February 21, 2017 at 12:49 pm

Great article, but where's Datone?

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ZacharyJacobson's picture

February 21, 2017 at 12:53 pm

Wouldn't consider him a bust - at least not above the five aforementioned guys. I still think he had a decent 2016.

And, thanks!

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zoellner25's picture

February 21, 2017 at 01:48 pm

Not quite yet he's not. At least he plays.

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Point-Packer's picture

February 21, 2017 at 02:02 pm

True that. In defense of Datone, lots of folks who comment site his "disruptiveness" as the counter to his lack of stats. Just re-watched the three 2016 playoff games with an eye on Datone. He registered a whopping total of three tackles during those three games and of course, zero sacks. After reviewing those games, "disruptive" is not the adjective I would use to describe his play. In fact, I think "invisible" would be far better suited.

That being said, he did recover that on-side kick, so at least GB's 1st round elephant end has good hands..

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Rossonero's picture

February 21, 2017 at 09:22 pm

"invisible" - lol!

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marpag1's picture

February 21, 2017 at 12:56 pm

I'd definitely slip Brohm in here, bumping off Pat Lee. Brohm was drafted higher, and at least Lee played a bit on special teams.

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Handsback's picture

February 21, 2017 at 01:02 pm

No doubt those are some guys that didn't panned out. I would like to know which GM in the NFL that has been in the job for 10 years that didn't have equal number of bust/injuries. I know BB is a HOF coach/GM, but he traded a 2nd or 3rd round choice w/ TT to select a WR and BB took a guy from FL that played some but was considered a semi-bust. TT took his WR and it was Jennings. Also remember TT trading up in the 1st round w/ BB and grabbing CM. So yes TT has made some mistakes and he has done some good. The problem is lately he hasn't drafted any players that have really impacted the game. That is something he has missed on for sure.

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marpag1's picture

February 21, 2017 at 01:10 pm

The "guy from Florida" was Chad Jackson, and he was a complete and total bust. He had 13 catches for the Pats when he was cut after two years, and was out of the league a year after that.

The Packers picked up a third rounder... plus Jennings.

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gary's picture

February 21, 2017 at 01:35 pm

TT is so overrated. If not for Rodgers being great the pack would stay an 8-8 team. TT not using free agency to bring in players at positions of need is keeping this team from the SB.

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Spud Rapids's picture

February 21, 2017 at 02:15 pm

No he's not go look at the Pack's starting offensive line and tell me he is overrated

Bahk - 4th Rd
Taylor - Undrafted
Linsley - 5th Rd
Lang - 4th Rd
Bulaga - 1st Rd

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marpag1's picture

February 21, 2017 at 02:36 pm

You are entirely correct, Gary. If not for TT's smashing successes, he would totally suck.

And if not for all of the Packers' victories, they would lose every time.

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The TKstinator's picture

February 21, 2017 at 05:37 pm

True logic, yo.

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Since'61's picture

February 21, 2017 at 01:42 pm

Four out of five of these players had their careers shortened due to injuries. Whether or not they would have evolved into better players and hence better picks we'll never know. Worthy, regrettably was a bust. Only Harrell was a top 20 pick, the rest are #32 or higher. All this proves how much of a crap shoot the draft really is. A more valid approach would be to compare how other GMs have done with similar level picks. I would argue that because of TTs overall success with his draft picks that Packers have only had 2 or 3 drafts where they have had a top 20 pick. Rather TT is usually starting with the 24th pick or higher. I would be surprised if he didn't have at least a few "busts" given the Packer usual draft position. Now he hasn't had any stud picks in recent seasons but Harrell, Worthy, Lee, and Sherrod are old news by now. Most of us were upset by the pick of Thornton at the time and we'll probably never know why TT picked him in the 3rd round. Thorton was a wasted pick. As I mentioned in a post a few days ago, he's built one of the best if not the best offense in the league but he's been bad with his defensive picks and it has hurt in the playoffs for the past 6 seasons. Nothing to lose by signing one or two FAs to help the defense in 2017. Thanks, Since '61

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RCPackerFan's picture

February 21, 2017 at 01:54 pm

IMO Brian Brohm was the biggest draft bust.

Sherrod and Harrel were injuries that changed their careers. Maybe they wouldn't have been good but injuries very early in their careers changed them.

Brohm couldn't play from day 1. I think he was out of the NFL in 3 years?

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Point-Packer's picture

February 21, 2017 at 02:05 pm

Not only was Brohm a bust, it was a stupid positional draft choice. Why TT used such a high pick on a QB when we already had #12 is beyond me. Hated that pick at the time, liked it less when it came apparently Brohm was not an NFL QB. Head-scratcher.

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rdent's picture

February 21, 2017 at 02:59 pm

Ted was hoping Brohm would develop and be trade bait but he was a bust.

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Bearmeat's picture

February 21, 2017 at 04:05 pm

You don't get trade bait in the 2nd round. You get that in the 4th or later. Plus, the only way that Brohm would even net a 2nd rounder is if he played well in games that mattered - meaning ARod would have been hurt or ineffective.

It was a truly dumb pick on all levels.

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Point-Packer's picture

February 21, 2017 at 04:18 pm

Exactly. Even if Brohm had talent and was actively sought after, the highest you'll be compensates for via trade is likely a second round choice. So you spend two or three years developing a QB for another team and then at best, trade a third round selection for a second round selection? God knows where TT was going on that one.

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marpag1's picture

February 21, 2017 at 04:47 pm

Holy crap, I agree with Point Packer! ;)

I already said above that I consider Brohm as a top five bust. I don't think I would say that he is #1, though, and I don't think I would say that the selection made no sense at all. I think we all remember how Ted got crucified when Rodgers was injured and Thompson didn't have a suitable backup on the roster. Trotting out Seneca Wallace when ARod breaks his collarbone is not an acceptable solution.

That said, Brohm was complete crap, obviously. But Harrell was a bigger bust IMO.

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Point-Packer's picture

February 21, 2017 at 06:35 pm

Brian Brohm is the great uniter. Uniting folks via being a TT mystery draft pick mega bust.

For what its worth, I agree with you re: Harrel.

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dobber's picture

February 22, 2017 at 09:30 am

I'm not sure that Seneca Wallace was, in and of himself, the mistake. The mistake was juggling your QBs behind ARod at the end of camp and during the regular season when there's precious little time and reps for these backup guys to learn the players around them and the system. I'm not saying that if Seneca Wallace or Scott Tolzien had been on the roster in June that they would've been world beaters, but at least they would've had a chance.

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Katsuya89's picture

February 21, 2017 at 02:03 pm

I remember feeling optimistic at the beginning of the 2010 season. Feeling that Justin Harrell will finally stay healthy and prove he was worth that 1st rounder.
I got to work, and the 1st game of the season against the eagle was on TV, and once I saw Nick Barnett helping Harrell of the field, all the optimizum went out the window. I knew his career with GB was over.

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Razer's picture

February 21, 2017 at 02:36 pm

All GM's miss. If Zachary was a true reporter he would investigate the how many and how often to get a perspective on where Ted stands in the league. His hits and his late round or UDFA gems have been our bread and butter this last decade. Maybe Zachary will come out with a 5 best late round picks to give a counter balance to this piece.

My only problem with these picks is "how they got to happen at their high round selection". I wonder who else was vetting or promoting some of these guys. If Ted was acting alone (which maybe he did early in his career) then the process is flawed. Otherwise, he has some guys who also have trouble recognizing talent. Hopefully, the process has gotten better and big misses are less likely. Although, you gotta wonder about guys like Datone Jones and our two newest cornerbacks. Maybe Ted is more of a gambler than we like to admit.

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4thand1's picture

February 21, 2017 at 04:57 pm

True he has hit on late rounders and some UDFA's but you need some real impact players in rounds 1 and 2. In the last 6 years if just 3 of the top picks really made an impact, this defense wouldn't be a sieve today.

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Razer's picture

February 21, 2017 at 06:43 pm

I agree, his misses on those 1st and 2nd rounders have been a handicap these last years. He really needs to hit it out of the park on picks 1 through 3 where the best athletes reside.

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stockholder's picture

February 21, 2017 at 03:58 pm

Draft Bust under TT. #1 Justin harrel. #2 Derek Sherod. #3 Jerel Worthy #4 Alex Green from Hawaii. #5 Abdul Hodge LB. (Slowest LB I've ever seen.) Thornton was on my list. But he's done well for detroit, until he got hurt. Injuries are just an excuse.

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zoellner25's picture

February 21, 2017 at 04:39 pm

I really hope TT has learned his lesson about not drafting speed. Look at Atlanta's guys flying around, just like Seattle in their prime. Our MLBs have 4th round speed, which is how he got them both in the 4th round.

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jeremyjjbrown's picture

February 21, 2017 at 04:06 pm

For almost 2 seasons Patrick Lee was the best gunner they had. I think it should be mentioned.

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Rossonero's picture

February 21, 2017 at 09:25 pm

I know Ted has his misses like anyone else, but overall, I'd rather have him than some of the incredible boneheads who are running NFL teams right now as I write this.

And hey, it could always be worse. At least Ted didn't draft a punter in the 3rd round like Mike Sherman did!!

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Point-Packer's picture

February 22, 2017 at 12:56 am

Ha, forgot about old one nut.

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Point-Packer's picture

February 22, 2017 at 12:56 am

Every time I read the words "Mike" and "Sherman" I shudder.

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Point-Packer's picture

February 22, 2017 at 12:58 am

Lots of great picks from Sherman over the years..

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Point-Packer's picture

February 22, 2017 at 12:57 am

Mike Sherman...

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marpag1's picture

February 22, 2017 at 03:37 am

Sherman actually TRADED UP for the privilege of drafting BJ Sander in the 3rd round. He gave up a fourth and a fifth to make the move.

Oh yeah.... and Jared Allen was still on the board. Ouch.

I remember Sherman saying, "Ah but Sander is left footed. He puts a funny spin on the ball that makes it hard to catch." LOL.

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lou's picture

February 22, 2017 at 06:57 am

Worst of all, Sherman gave Tim Couch a $750,000 signing bonus ignoring his arm problems. You would think someone taken tht high and a hometown boy I believe taken #1 overall would be of no interest to the Brown's any longer ? Sherman's only immediate starting caliber choices were Nick Barnett and Scott Wells, Harlan had to pull the plug on him. It is nice to go back and look at the misses as it is the ones that shined occasionally, the good GM's keep pulling the trigger after big misses, that was Wolf's MO, Thompson has the same MO and comparatively in the NFL his overall success measures with the best but as we all know he does not use free agency to compensate for misses (or attempt to compensate), that is who he is. Hopefully he does this offseason and it makes a difference on the defense. However, people still have to remember that Reggie White was the only FA who made a huge immediate impact on an NFL team, lets hope a couple FA "B" players are added to the defense like the Pat's do and they click.

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Point-Packer's picture

February 22, 2017 at 03:22 pm

Be fun/depressing to go back and grade Sherman's drafts. In the Favre/Rodgers era the Sherman/Rhodes years were so unbelievably forgettable. To think GB ditched Holmgren cause he wanted GM responsibilities and lit that dumpster fire of a period in Packer history.

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blue eyes's picture

February 22, 2017 at 09:22 am

Wow lay off of Zach guys not every story on here can be filled with kittie cats and puppy dogs. So spread your legs grab that string and pull or get a shovel for the sand. :)

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calabasa's picture

February 23, 2017 at 09:56 pm

What does that mean?

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