Nicolas Cage is a weird guy. Strike that. Nicolas Cage isn’t just weird–He is an all time weird mother fornicator (Trying my best to keep it clean–My mother in law reads this.). If there was a weirdo Hall of Fame, he would be a first ballot entry. He starred in a movie about snuff films. He starred in a movie about doing kung fu in space. He stole the Declaration of Independence. He possibly stole a chihuahua. He married Elvis’ only daughter. He went to jail for a DUI and got bailed out by Dog The Freaking Bounty Hunter. And, just last year, he made a movie about being in love with a truffle pig (I am not making any of this up). I didn’t know a single thing about truffle pigs until I saw that movie (yes, I watched it–I am a remarkably unbusy person). Fun fact–Did you know most truffles are discovered between February and April? This is when truffle farmers make 75% of their money. Kinda like NFL draft picks. We are four weeks out from the NFL draft–Time for the Packers GM to earn his pay.
Saying Brian Gutekunst has a draft prospect type is like saying Leonardo di Caprio has a girlfriend type. Even a shallow dive into the four drafts that Gutekunst has lorded over since ascending to the Packers general manager role in 2018 uncovers a pretty uncomplicated prospect portfolio. Young (the Packers have not drafted a player over the age of 23 under Gutekunst), athletic (since 2018, the Packers cumulative draft class has boasted the highest RAS score in the NFL), and a little bougie (only 5 of our 37 drafted players played at a non-Power 5 college program). Gutekunst likes his prospects like the Kardashian’s like their gentlemen callers–Young, athletic, and preferably well-heeled. What is RAS, you ask? Great question! RAS stands for Relative Athletic Score. It was created by an analytics genius named Kent Lee Platte several years ago to better articulate athletic performance amongst prospective NFL talents. And, Brian Gutekunst uses it like Snoop Dogg uses marijuana.
The RAS system itself is extremely complex, but, discerning the information it provides, is not. RAS scores operate on a scale of one to ten, one being completely lacking in any discernible athletic skill (me), to ten, the most athletic player at a given position in the NFL (Myles Garrett). To put that in to context, in the decade this system has been in place, there have only been sixteen players to earn perfect 10’s. Of the 37 players the Packers have drafted since 2018, 32 of them have received a RAS score. The average RAS score for these 32 players has been 7.95. Astounding. What that essentially states is that the Packers last four draft classes, when viewed cumulatively, are collectively as athletic as former New England Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez, who was famous for being wildly athletic and nothing else. Honestly, I can’t think of a single other thing Aaron Hernandez ever did. So, we got that going for us, which is nice.
While having superhuman athletic ability is great if you are on American Ninja Warrior, I am still not as sold that it portends to true NFL success. Jerry Rice, the greatest wide receiver of all time, famously ran a very slow 40 yard dash coming out of college. The Packers own legendary wide receiver Randall Cobb scored a dismal 3.65 RAS score in his draft class in 2011. And, noted car rental company pitch man Tom Brady jiggled his way to a laughably slow 5.28 second 40 yard dash back when he entered the NFL in 1972. Or maybe it just feels like he has been in the league for 50 years. The point is, the NFL is not just dudes running around in their underwear, showing off how strong they are–that is the WWE. The NFL relies upon skill more so than raw athletic ability, and playing experience more than 40 times and bench press reps.
To be fair, I am not criticizing Gutekunst’s reliance on RAS scoring at all. Judging by some of the talent he has brought in over the past half decade, he obviously has a plan, and, for the most part, his plan has worked. Guys like Rashan Gary, Elgton Jenkins, Jaire Alexander, Eric Stokes, and AJ Dillon are perfect examples of the Gutekunst system baring fruit. But, when it doesn’t work, it can get pretty dicey. The Packers 2018 draft, Gutekunst’s first as general manager, is the most athletic draft class Green Bay has ever selected. Eleven of the most athletic guys to ever step foot in 1265 Lombardi. Guess how many of those draftees are still on the team? 1. One out of eleven. That one is Jaire Alexander, the best cornerback in the NFL, but still, for a team as ardently committed to drafting and developing, only retaining one player from a draft class that is only four years in the rearview mirror is not ideal. The 2019 draft class picture is not much prettier. Of the eight players we drafted that year, only four remain, and one of those dudes is perennial practice squad call up Ty Summers. Again, that draft class brought us Batman Supervillian Rashan Gary and offensive line Swiss Army Knife Elgton Jenkins, but, come the summer of 2023, there is a chance that only two players from that draft class will be on the roster. We are certainly getting the “Draft” part right of the “Draft and Develop” mantra.
The thing that has been leaving me in a cold sweat over the last few weeks is my level of trust in the Packers scouting of our current areas of need. If the Packers were bereft of offensive line talent, or had suffered massive defections at running back, I wouldn’t lose a wink of sleep. It’s Green Bay’s continued failure at identifying top shelf wide receiver options that has me tossing and turning lately. Counting tight ends, Green Bay has drafted seven pass catchers over the last four years. And, outside of Marquez Valdes Scantling, these selections have been flaccid at best, and downright bad at worst. This is where Gutekunst’s over-reliance on RAS scores may bite us in the proverbial ass. The receiver position is too nuanced to rely on athletic testing scores alone. Ted Thompson knew this. Under Mr. Thompson, we enjoyed a veritable embarrassment of riches at the receiver position. Gutekunst’s receiving drafts have just been an embarrassment. The fate of the Packers 2022 season may hang on the ability of our front office to see past their own shortsighted views on what has become a position of dire need.
What we need next month is a visionary. A miracle worker. A nose for talent, not just exciting measurables. We need a truffle pig. Someone who can sniff out a gem from amongst a pile of dirt. The best truffles on Earth sell for $3600 a pound. Hell, that’s nothing. We just paid our quarterback $50 million dollars for this upcoming season. He weighs 225 pounds. That works out to $222,222 a pound. And, if we want to capitalize on that investment, we need to surround him with talent that is ready now, not three years down the road. We have all the makings for the perfect salad. Now, we just need the truffle shavings to put it over the top. Though Nic Cage would probably prefer a peach.
Timothy Preece has been a Packers fan since 1991 and currently lives in Utah because he makes bad decisions. You can follow him on twitter at @LegitimateTimP.