Despite the NFL’s desire to prolong our misery for as long as possible, the 2014 NFL Draft is now just three weeks away. With that being said, it is time for Total Packers to lead you up to and take you through the rest of the way.
Let us start with the obvious. Exactly three weeks from today, Ted Thompson will look to end an unfortunate run in the first round that since 2009 has been rich with trips to IR and empty of trips to the Pro Bowl or the more meaningful All-Pro designation. The 2009 draft, of course, is the last time that Thompson drafted a player whose contributions have been equal to the round, though Clay Matthews hasn’t exactly been the picture of health either.
Saying recent first round draft picks for the Packers have been injury-prone is about equal to saying Marshall Newhouse is prone to giving up sacks. Last year’s No. 1, Datone Jones, at least broke the string of trips to IR, but an ankle sprain in the first preseason game slowed Jones down all season and perhaps prevented him from making the kind of impact that was expected from him. Props to Nick Perry for gutting it out with a broken foot last season after an injured wrist landed him on IR the year before. Meanwhile, Derek Sherrod and Bryan Bulaga have been bystanders the majority of the last two seasons.
Of course, one could easily contend that none of these guys are comparable to Clay Matthews whether they are injured or not. If that is true, then Thompson’s quest for another first-round playmaker goes on.
The obvious need going into this year’s draft is at the safety position. However, as recently discussed on this site, the Packers might have a decent safety option already on their roster with Micah Hyde. That possibility perhaps precludes the need to take a safety at No. 21 rather than later in the draft. In other words, Ted Thompson is likely freed up to do what he likes to do anyway, which is take the best player available regardless of need.
With past drafts as a study, this means that Thompson is more likely to draft either for the front seven or the offensive line. In nine previous drafts, Thompson has spent five first round picks on the front seven, two on the offensive line, one on Aaron Rodgers and once traded out of the round. This follows the philosophy that “big guys” are more important and tougher to find than “small guys.”
Fortunately for the Packers, Thompson is without much doubt the best second round drafter in the NFL. His second round picks include Nick Collins, Greg Jennings, Jordy Nelson, Randall Cobb, Casey Hayward and Eddie Lacy. Considering this, it might behoove Thompson to draft a safety in the second round, where he has had much better success drafting “small guys.” However, this year’s draft is not expected to be deep at the safety position. We can only hope that another Nick Collins is out there floating under the radar.
One could also contend that the first round is a heavily overrated gauge of a GM’s draft success, regardless. A perusal of Seattle’s top-ranked defense shows that there is only one first round contributor there — safety Earl Thomas. Otherwise, the defense was built in rounds two to seven. Richard Sherman was a fifth-round pick, as was ginormous safety Kam Chancellor. The capable linebacker group features a second rounder, a fourth rounder, and Super Bowl MVP Malcolm Smith, who was drafted in the seventh round.
In other words, a top-notch unit CAN be made out of mid-to-late round picks. But let’s NOT get too stuck on that, Ted.