The final installment of the series reviewing the Packers’ best and worst draft picks since 2000 is here. Feel free to peruse the previous installments of the Worst (spots 10-6 and spots 5-1) and the Best (spots 10-6). That being said, let’s sit back an appreciate what the top five spots have had to offer.
5. Greg Jennings (2006 Draft Round 2, 53 TD, 425 receptions, 6537 yards, 2 Pro Bowls)
Like any Packers receiver who has had success in the past 20+ years, having hall of fame quarterbacks tossing the rock has been more than helpful. Greg Jennings showed promise almost immediately as a rookie. In his sophomore year, he hauled in 12 TDs, including Favre’s all-time record breaking TD pass (which happened in the end zone on our side at the Metrodome, which I’ll never forget.) When Favre left, Jennings helped ease Rodgers in with 80 catches in 2008.
Jennings didn’t have any one skill that set him apart from the rest; he just put together what he had to offer very efficiently. I almost say he was like a very poor man’s, or potentially homeless man’s Jerry Rice. He wasn’t the best at any one thing, but could do it all and do it well. He certainly had his big catches such as:
2009 Bears Opener
2 TDS in Super Bowl XLV
and of course, the broken leg TD on Madden
4. Nick Collins (2005 2nd Round, 21 INTS, 3 Pro Bowls)
This entry will be subjective, but I have always believed this: Nick Collins was the most underrated Packer in the past 20 years. Had he not suffered the freak neck injury in 2011, I believe we could be talking hall of fame right now. Since that fateful day in September 2011, the Packers defense has always been a liability. Yes, they were getting torched by Cam Newton with Collins on the field that day, but there’s no way the defense would’ve been as big a liability the rest of that year with him out there.
After a modest first three seasons in Green Bay, Collins turned it up another notch or five. It was almost as if the reincarnate of a certain other #36 for the Packers was back. His 17 INT from 2008-2010, along with his legendary pick-six in the Super Bowl, were a treat that Packer fans took for granted at the time. I was damn glad to see him inducted into the Packers Hall of Fame at least. He more than earned his spot in there.
3. Clay Matthews (2009 1st Round, 72.5 sacks, 1st Team All-Pro 2010, 6 Pro Bowls)
His first two years in the NFL seem so long ago. Who can forget how fantastic it was to see some golden-haired Fabio clone come out of nowhere and do nothing but blow up quarterbacks for his first two years? He was jobbed out of defensive player of the year in 2010 (Troy Polamalu won it off pedigree.) Clay Matthews looked to be on the fast track to Canton after his first two years in the league. Unfortunately, that doesn’t appear to be the case anymore. There are a multitude of potential reasons.
1. Injuries. He has had hamstring problems since he left the womb. There’s always something that’s nagging for him. In 2016, he battled through a shoulder injury that didn’t keep him off the field, but certainly affected his quality of play.
2. Was he juicing? Only he truly knows. He comes from a family with a stable of men who have played professional football, so that can possibly quash the juicing argument. However, there have been more than one allegations out there, and those usually don’t appear out of nowhere, right Ryan Braun?
3. Complacency? He doesn’t seem to pass down many endorsement opportunities. Since his big contract signed in 2013, he has not lived up to its value. Sacks aren’t everything, but he certainly has been a liability in the run game. It almost appears like he doesn’t fully commit on some plays. A number of his Pro Bowl appearances were certainly not earned.
I want nothing more than for Old Clay to come back and shut me up. I’m not holding my breath though.
2. Jordy Nelson (2008 2nd Round, 63 TD, 497 receptions, 7366 yards, 1 Pro Bowl)
Contrary to Clay, this guy has been shorted multiple Pro Bowls. In 2016, he had 97 catches and led the league in TD receptions. No Pro Bowl. How many receivers averaging 18.6 YPG with 15 TD catches have you seen miss the Pro Bowl? That was Jordy in 2011. But, it doesn’t matter. Jordy doesn’t care. All he cares about is winning and farming.
Another key note is he was the only guy who showed up in this last NFC championship game, and he played in Kevlar because of broken ribs. If a team was composed of 53 Jordy Nelsons, they’d be undefeated every year and have a tower of Lombardi trophies in the storage closet.
So many “experts” this year talked about how Jordy has lost a step since his ACL injury in 2015. Well, that step decided to make a cameo against the Bears last December with the game-clinching bomb he roped in. He is on the north side of 30, but he’ll put in another great year or two. Excellence is all he knows.
1. Brian Brohm (2008 2nd Round…….)
We don’t need to delve deep into this one. I’m just going to list off a few words that sum it up:
MVP, MVP, Super Bowl MVP, championship belt, Badgers Basketball superfan, humanitarian, probably better than Favre
________________John Piotrowski is a UW-Eau Claire alum, spending most of his life in western WI. He makes the trek east to Lambeau whenever possible. Follow him on twitter at @piosGBP.