Like most teams, the Green Bay Packers ostentatiously draft by the philosophy of picking the best player available. Whether this is an actual fundamental tenant of solid drafting or merely a self-fulfilling prophecy, since whoever they pick is certainly going to be called “the best player available” or “top player on our board,” is debatable.
The past three drafts would appear to be driven more by need than by “best player available,” at least in the first couple rounds. There is nothing coincidental about the fact that with the retirements of Packer stalwart tackles, Mark Tauscher and Chad Clifton, the Packers drafted Bryan Bulaga and Derek Sherrod in the first round of consecutive drafts. It is also not merely serendipity that the Packers drafted Nick Perry in the first round last year or that they spent virtually that entire draft on the defense after it gave up an NFL record in passing yards the prior season.
So, with another draft now only three weeks away, Packer Nation has its seasonal debate on which position is the Packers’ greatest area of need. My answer is — all and none.
Sure, the Packers could use an athletic and physical presence at safety who can not only make plays on the ball in coverage, but can be a sure tackler as the last line of defense. The Packers could use an offensive lineman on the left side of the line who is actually capable of run blocking. The Packers could use a running back that would enable them to run the ball for once on 3rd and 2. And the Packers could use speed on defense — anywhere.
No doubt that is all true. However, more than that, more than the need at any single position, what the Packers need is another impact player, regardless of position.
When the Packers faced the 49ers in the playoffs three months ago, they faced a team loaded with first-round picks at skill positions. The Packers themselves had their last three first-round picks sitting on IR. While Nick Perry missed games last season, first-round picks Harrison Smith and Matt Kalil helped the Vikings make the playoffs.
Ted Thompson must reverse this trend. As good as he has been at picking players in later rounds, the Packers can’t continue to see their first-round picks flounder and expect to remain an elite team in the NFL. Yes, injuries have been perhaps the biggest factor in this recent trend, but there is a plaque outside the ladies’ restroom for the losers sunk by injuries. Teddy himself didn’t give Mike Sherman a pass for going 4-12 when the Packers had to pull Samkon Gado out of the local Subway to tote the rock because everyone else got injured.
The Packers need their first-round pick to stay off IR and contribute.
This glaring need outweighs the need at any one position. So, if a linebacker is the best player on the board when it is the Packers’ turn, they need to pick him. If a running back is the best player available, they need to pick HIM. Even if a wide receiver or a cornerback are the best players available — same difference. In fact, if a quarterback was the best player available, which is doubtful, the Packers still better pick him.
The Packers do not have a Pro Bowl appearance by anyone picked in the last three years. That has to change, or the success of the past few years will turn into the success built by Ron Wolf — one championship followed by decline.
If Thompson wants to avoid repeating history, he needs to draft another impact player. Now.