When you looked at the Green Bay Packers’ 2015 draft class, you probably said, “What’s with all the Pac-12 guys?”
The Packers chose four players from the Pac 12 in their seven picks. That’s 57 percent of the class.
Normally, we’d write that off as an anomaly, but it certainly seemed like a trend. Thanks to our crack research department, we now know that’s exactly what it is.
We sifted through all of general manager Ted Thompson’s glorious drafts and broke them down by conference. What did we find?
Not only do Pac-12 players make up the highest percentage of Thompson draftees, that number has been trending up over the past four drafts.
Here’s the breakdown, with all conference realignment accounted for.
Number of Players Chosen by Conference OVERALL
Percentages are rounded.
- Pac-12: 19 (17%)
- SEC/Big Ten: 14 (13%)
- Big 12: 11 (10%)
- ACC: 10 (9%)
- MWC/WAC: 7 (6%)
- Big East: 5 (5%)
- Mid-American/Conference USA: 4 (4%)
- Southern: 3 (3%)
- Two with 2
- Nine with 1
Number of Players Chosen by Conference LAST FOUR DRAFTS
Percentages are rounded.
- Pac 12: 12 (34%)
- Big Ten: 6 (17%)
- SEC: 3 (6%)
- Four with 2
- Six with 1
You can see the Packers have an increasing affinity for the Pac-12 and Big Ten, but they’re also moving away from drafting SEC players.
That probably wouldn’t be notable if it were any other conference, but the SEC is widely considered to be king among conferences in college football. With Alabama, LSU, Georgia, Texas A&M and so forth, they routinely recruit the top talent in the nation.
They routinely win national titles as well, thanks largely to Alabama.
In theory, the SEC has the most talented players.
You could argue the Packers don’t have the opportunity to pick the most-talented players because they’re always picking late in any round. However, as we’ve seen on occasion, Ted Thompson will trade up if he really likes someone.
Like he did for Clay Matthews (Pac-12, 2009), Casey Hayward (SEC, 2012) and Jason Spriggs (Big Ten, 2016).
Wait a second, Thompson traded up for Hayward, who was an SEC player…
Right. And Hayward also played his college ball at Vanderbilt, known as the Harvard of the south.
This seems like a conscious decision. The Packers haven’t chosen an SEC player in either of the past two drafts.
So you might surmise that’s about intelligence.
Other than Vanderbilt, the SEC isn’t known as a hotbed for academic excellence. Those schools are football factories and the Packers now appear to be looking for more well-rounded players.
The Pac-12, with Stanford, UCLA, USC and Cal, is known for academics. Same with the Big Ten, with Northwestern, Michigan, Illinois and Wisconsin.
There’s one theory.
Intelligence counts more than ever.
You could come up with another one by looking at the SEC players chosen by Thompson.
Here’s the list.
- Ha Ha Clinton-Dix
- Eddie Lacy
- Josh Boyd
- Casey Hayward
- Derek Sherrod
- Randall Cobb
- D.J. Williams
- Quinn Johnson
- Jamon Meredith
- Jarius Wynn
- Pat Lee
- Matt Flynn
- Justin Harrell
- DeShawn Wynn
There’s quite a bit of ugly on that list, including two first-round picks (Harrell and Sherrod) and one second-round pick (Lee) who were undeniable busts.
Yes, there’s quality in Clinton-Dix, Cobb and the in-shape version of Lacy. You could also say Hayward was a quality player, but the Packers just let him walk as a free agent without so much as an offer. So they would obviously disagree.
However you want to chalk it up, the direction is clear.
The Packers love the Pac-12 and they’re no longer high on the SEC.