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Sunday, April 24, 2005
Ted Thompson - what have we learned? A day 1 summary
by Mark Lawrence
Well, we've gotten to watch TT spend four draft picks, and I think we all have a flavor now for who he is.
Pick 1: Aaron Rogers inexplicably fell 23 spots. Before the draft, the consensus among the JE (Journalistic Elite, those known to be the best informed, best educated, and most intellectually honest in our society) was that Rodgers was the #1 pick more ready to start today, and Smith was the #1 pick with perhaps more talent and upside but requriing more work. Many thought you would have trouble fitting dental floss between these two, value wise. Peter King, whose massive intellect is overshadowed only by his waist, watched an afternoon of tape with Phil Simms, came away convinced that Rodgers is the real deal and Smith is a big leap of faith.
Well, in any case Rodgers was available at pick 24. As were a bunch of defensive players - DTs who were mostly a bit undersized or who had questionable motors, DEs who were tweeners and were stars when compared to colleges 260 pound tackles but were performance risks when measured against the NFL's 320 pound tackles, a few LBs with various issues, and a couple safeties who were not at all clearly 1st round value. It was looking very much like the smart choice was either to take a chance on drafting your future QB for 20 cents on the signing dollar, or trade down 10ish spots. TT took the chance. With this pick he proved that he is more concerned with building a long term winner than with winning our opening game.
Pick 2: With a glaring need at safety, TT looked to the alternatives. To his eyes, one fellow stood out - ball hawk Nick Collins. Nick is from a small black college and was not at all highly scouted by the JE, so was simply not on their radar screens. However, Collins had attracted some attention from scouts with his performance both at the senior bowl and the combine. Collins fits the "new-look" packers: blazing speed (4.37 40, making him outstanding for a safety), good man coverage skills, a solid college record of interceptions showing that he's always close to the ball, poor tackling, and roughly the intelligence of a schnauzer. On the basis of physical talent, there's little question that Nick Collins is an excellent 2nd round pick. The open questions will be, can he learn the defense? Can he get on the field this year? Can he develop over the next two years into a true free safety? If the answers are yes, this will turn out to be one of those diamond in the rough picks that makes the scouting staff / GM look like geniuses. If his wonderlic score of 14 is indicative of his ability to learn, and he never becomes assignment sure, this is going to look like another desperate reach based on two numbers: 40 yard time and career interceptions. Time will tell how this will develop. The JE have already passed judgement - since they had never heard of the guy, and since all information by definition flows through the JE, this was obviously and enormous reach. The real question would be, how did the various NFL scouts view Collins. The Packers Faithful must presume that casual talk among the scouts at the Senior Bowl and combine had lead the Packers staff to conclude that many teams saw Collins as a 2nd round prospect.
Pick 3: Last year injuries decimated our WRs, and since we carried only 4 WRs on the roster, it didn't take much to get to the point where we were starting to work out our WRs mothers. Thompson found a real gem in the late 2nd round - Terrence Murphy. Terrence has the Packers look: blazing speed, below average downfield blocking, 15 on the wonderlic. Nasa need not shiver in their sleep about the new rocket propulsion labs going up in Brown County. Terrence played at Texas A&M in a solid ground based attack offense. It has been claimed by several that had he played in a more pass oriented offense, he would have been taken in the top 20. At least one mock draft prepared by the JE had him going at pick 31 to Philly, who is equally in need of WR prospects.
Terrence is another excellent physical specimin who has all the physical tools to excel in the NFL. Again, the question will be can he learn the WCO playbook well enough to get onto the field. On pure physical analysis, this was strong value.
Pick 4: Faced with a late third round pick and an offer from Carolina to trade two 4s for one 3, Ted traded entirely out of the third round. We must conclude that at this point Thompson's value chart had lots of candidates with few distinguishing properties, and 2 for 1 with a bit of a delay looked like a good deal.
Thompson is clearly picking to build a long term winner, not to be the best possible team this yeas. Thompson clearly has his eye on value, meaning he wants to draft talent at below market prices. This may prove to be a bit of a blind spot in years to come: one does not get a Reggie White type at below market prices, to the contrary one must typically be ready to pay a premium. Thompson clearly thinks that the draft is a crap shoot and that slightly more picks are generally better than slightly higher picks. Finally, it would seem that either Thompson is indifferent to basic intelligence in his players, or that he is easily swayed by coaches' promises that they can train the guy up. I have serious reservations on this last point: I think there are basic intelligence requirements at the various NFL starting positions. People who score below 15 on the wonderlic are big risks at positions requiring a lot of study, like WR, and are moderate risks at positions requiring quick diagnosis like safety. It probably is true that a nose tackle can be less than steller in this area.