After taking B.J. Raji with the ninth overall pick in the 2009 NFL Draft, the Green Bay Packers traded draft picks to move back into the first round and select Clay Matthews with the 26th overall pick. This was perhaps the Packers’ best draft day move in modern franchise history, as many consider picking Aaron Rodgers in 2005 was a no-brainer because of the age and schizophrenic tendencies of their starting quarterback at the time.
Leading the Packers scouting department under Ted Thompson in 2009 were long-time Packer scouts John Schneider, Reggie McKenzie and John Dorsey. These three men, along with Thompson, rebuilt the Packers from the ruins of the Mike Sherman era into one of the youngest and most talented rosters in the NFL. That led to an NFC Championship Game appearance in 2007 and a Super Bowl title in 2010, with two different quarterbacks under center. However, the Packers’ success eventually led to the departure of the trio of scouts that helped rebuild the franchise.
In January of 2010, Schneider was hired to be the general manager of the Seattle Seahawks — a team he has promptly helped turned around, while winning the 2012 NFL Executive of the Year award. Around the same time in 2011, McKenzie bravely left the Packers to take on the general manager role for the endlessly hopeless Oakland Raiders. Then, finishing the turnover, Dorsey was hired to be the general manager of the Kansas City Chiefs just last month.
These three departures means the “next man up” philosophy so soften bandied about when referring to the roster of the Green Bay Packers also applies to the scouting department. Thompson hopes to sustain success while relying on a scouting department with younger faces, namely Ron Wolf’s son, Eliot Wolf; former Houston Oilers running back Alonzo Highsmith; and their director of college scouting, Brian Gutekunst.
The upcoming April draft will be the first time the Packers go into a draft with this particular triumvirate. So, it remains to be seen whether the Packers can maintain their reputation as one of the best drafting teams in the league.
It could be an ominous sign that the Packers have not drafted a player with a Pro Bowl appearance since that 2009 draft, with only Bryan Bulaga, Randall Cobb and Casey Hayward even showing flashes of being that caliber of player. On the other hand, the 2010 draft, which was the first without Schneider, is the best draft the Packers have had in the last decade by every measure other than Pro Bowls. All seven players drafted that year are not only still on the roster, but all seven have started multiple games for the Packers. And of course, that draft class doesn’t even include Sam Shields who was picked up immediately following the draft.
It should also be noted that Schneider, McKenzie and Dorsey were all with the Packers during the Sherman era and that Thompson built the Seahawks into a Super Bowl team before coming to Green Bay.
Both of those facts make the case that the real difference in the Packers scouting department is the man at the top.