Randall Cobb. Davon House. Nick Perry. Casey Hayward. Mike Daniels. That’s it, folks. That’s the full list of players left on the Green Bay Packers roster from the 2011 and 2012 drafts. Of the 18 players that Ted Thompson selected (players you would hope are just sliding in to the prime of their careers) five remain. A stud on offense (Cobb) a stud on defense (Daniels) 2 backup corners and a middling rotational pass rushers. Yeesh. If someone is looking for the drop off from the World Championship team in 2010 and the 15-1 squad in 2011 to the 11-5 and 8-7-1 squads of the past two seasons, look no further than that issue right there.
You can certainly make excuses for these classes, there’s no question about that. I’m not convinced that Derek Sherrod wasn’t going to be a useful left tackle in the NFL before he shattered his leg. If he and Bryan Bulaga would have ended up being the tackle tandem for a decade like Clifton and Tauscher we would think of the 2011 draft differently. After winning the Super Bowl you pick last in every round. The team that picks last in every round should have the worst set of players at the end of the draft, no? In the 2012 draft Thompson didn’t stick to his board, he loaded up on defense.
I don’t really care how it happened, but the draft master Ted Thompson screwed up, and he screwed up for two consecutive drafts. When you don’t sign free agents and you draft poorly your team is not going to succeed. I am not a Ted Thompson critic. I am not the guy who watches all of the other teams sign the free agents and calls for his head. That said, If I’m going to be objective a team with an elite quarterback only gets so many bites at the Super Bowl apple, and I have to think these two drafts cost the Packers pretty greatly in that area.
So what has changed? How are the Packers now 10-3 and 7 point favorites over their next opponent on the road? Why are they sitting atop the almighty “Power Rankings”? Teddy Mr. April Thompson got his ass in gear and started drafting football players again. The Packers 2013 and 2014 draft class are contributing in a big way. Some of the draftees are providing the depth that their predecessors could not, but more importantly it’s possible that some studs were found. Great teams have great players on them.
Eddie Lacy, Corey Linsley, Davante Adams and HaHa Clinton-Dix all appear to have the tools to be truly elite players in the NFL. Lacy and Linsley are elite at their positions right now. Micah Hyde, David Bakhtiari, Datone Jones, Richard Rodgers, Josh Boyd and even Sam Barrington have shown an ability to play starters’ snaps and have acquitted themselves quite nicely. Strictly speaking about players that have proven themselves able to contribute to a winner, that’s 10 hits in two drafts.
Those numbers don’t even count JC Tretter, Jared Abbrederis and Jeff Janis, three players I’m very excited about. Those numbers don’t count Johnathan Franklin, who I’m convinced would have been an electric part of this offense and a fan favorite had he not suffered a career ending neck injury. Those numbers don’t count 2013 7th round pick Charles Johnson, who is currently the best wide receiver on the Minnesota Vikings.
The Packers might have whiffed on Nate Palmer and Kevin Dorsey, but I don’t think we know that yet. They might have missed on Khyri Thornton, Carl Bradford and Demetri Goodson but we certainly don’t know that. These player might never amount to anything and they might be useful pieces. It seems unlikely that any of them are superstars in waiting at this point.
Green Bay selected 20 players in the past 2 drafts. I’m not counting Franklin in any of these numbers because it’s not fair and also it makes me very sad. Let’s call my 10 “hits” a given and give Ted credit for half of the Tretter/Abby/Janis/Johnson group. Let’s even say that none of the next group pans out. That’s a pretty worst-case scenario. Even in that worst-case scenario Thompson hit on 63% of his picks. That’s an unbelievable number.
If you want to go back and figure out how the 2014 Green Bay Packers turned it around all you need to do is go back and look at the last two drafts. Look back and appreciate that the coaching staff and the front office had the ability to swallow their pride and move on from what happened in 2011 and 2012. They’ve moved on from players they had high investments in. They’ve drafted replacements for those players who failed. Most importantly they started taking the best available players with each pick, and now the team is elite again.