Ted Thompson Downplays College Performance When Drafting
Last week, when I posted an article about some of the Green Bay Packers’ worst draft picks in the Ted Thompson era, I spotted something. Many of the team’s draft picks that miserably failed in the NFL weren’t great on the college level either. This is a follow-up on that thought.
I previously selected five players as Thompson’s worst picks: Justin Harrell, Jerel Worthy, Brian Brohm, Pat Lee, and Khyri Thornton. Of the five, only Worthy was highly honored for his college play: consensus All-American and first-team All-Big Ten. The best the other four managed was second-team all-conference: two from the SEC, one from the Big East (which no longer has football) and one from Conference USA.
These were all high-round picks: a first-rounder, three seconds and one third. I would think the Packers could do better than just one of the five being above a second-team all-conference honoree.
In Division 1 (FBS) there are 10 conferences and in Division 1AA/FCS there are 13 more. Just considering the 10 FBS conferences, if each conference is honored with about 25 first-team all-conference players, that’s 250 players. Double the number for 2nd-team all-conference players: 500. In other words, there are still plenty such players available well into the later rounds of the NFL draft.
I’ve glanced at Thompson’s bad picks. What about the good picks? The five Packers’ draftees I rated as the smartest picks (I excluded first-round picks, as these players are expected to excel) in the Ted Thompson reign (2005-16) were: Nick Collins, Josh Sitton, Jordy Nelson, Greg Jennings and Mike Daniels. They were drafted overall at numbers 61, 136, 36, 62 and 132, respectively.
These were very smart and successful picks, but even so, how many All-Americans were there? How many conference first teamers and of them, how many from the five top conferences? How many multiple-year second-teamers?
The answer is one: Jordy Nelson (Kansas State), consensus All-American in 2007. Sitton (Central Florida) made first-team in 2007 in a lesser conference (Conference USA). Jennings was Offensive Player of the Year in 2005 in the MAC conference – that’s the Mid-American Conference, which includes Akron, Ball State, Bowling Green, Kent State, Toledo and Jennings’ own Western Michigan. Collins, who went to Bethune-Cookman, and Daniels (Iowa) received no such collegiate awards.
What kind of bias does Ted Thompson have against standout college players?
Comparisons with Division Rivals
Here’s another perspective. It so happens I also did a study earlier in the month of the best rookies, from 2012-16, on the four NFC North teams. I had already calculated that the Bears had seven players make an all-rookie team in those years, the Vikings had six, the Lions had five and the Packers had three. Building on that info, I’ve gone back and calculated whether there was a pattern among those players as to their collegiate honors. In other words, which draftees had the most acclaimed collegiate careers. I counted these honors: All-American status; all-conference status (first-team or multiple second-teams) and a handful of special awards, such as the Butkus Award (top college linebacker), Conference Lineman of the Year, etc. The results are below.
Green Bay Packers (2)
Ha Ha Clinton-Dix – Consensus All-American (2013); 1st-team All-SEC (2013)
Eddie Lacy – 1st-team All-SEC (2012)
(Thank God for Alabama!)
Chicago Bears (6)
Jordan Howard – 1st-team All-Conference USA (2014)
Kevin White – 1st-team All-Big 12 (2014), 2nd-team AP All-American (2014)
Kyle Fuller – 2nd-team All-American (2013)
Pat O’Donnell – 2nd-team All-American (2013), 1st-team All-ACC, (2013)
Shea McClellin – 1st-team All-Western Athletic Conference (2010), 1st-team All-Mountain West Conference (2011)
Alshon Jeffery – 1st-team All-American (2010); 1st-team All-SEC (2010)
Minnesota Vikings (5)
Eric Kendricks – 2nd-team All-American (2014), Butkus Award (2014)
Teddy Bridgewater – Big East Offensive Player of the Year (2012)
Anthony Barr – Consensus All-American (2013), 1st-team All-Pac-12 (2012, 2013)
Cordarrelle Patterson – 1st-team All-SEC (2012)
Matt Kalil – 1st-team All-American (2011), 1st-team All-Pac-12 (2011)
Detroit Lions (4)
Taylor Decker – Consensus All-American; 1st-team All-Big Ten, Big Ten Offensive Lineman of the Year (all 2015)
Laken Tomlinson – Consensus All-American (2014), Anthony J. McKevlin Award (top male athlete in the ACC, 2015)
Larry Warford – 2nd-team All-SEC (2010, 2011, 2012)
Sam Martin – 1st team AP All-America (2012)
It’s a small sampling, but clearly our divisional opponents are drafting athletes who have excelled during college in a way the Packers’ draftees haven’t – and they tend to immediately go right out in their rookie NFL seasons and become standouts.
To hell with draft and develop. I’m for drafting players who have proven themselves in college and who are already developed and ready to perform well at the pro level.
Oh, and did you notice that two of the three Packers’ players who went out and excelled right away in the NFL happen to include the two who were 1st-team All-SEC? Who was the third player? Casey Hayward (2nd-team All-SEC in 2011), who as soon as he got himself free of the Packers, earned a spot on the Pro Bowl and was named second-team All-Pro in the season just concluded!
Here’s a Thought
What if the Packers were to do away with Ted Thompson’s job? And while we’re at it, let’s dismiss all those who scout college players – the team’s web site lists 16 of them under “Player Personnel.” Instead, when the Packers’ selection comes up, they pick the best available first-team All-American who’s left. When they are gone, pick the best second-team All-American. When they are gone, the best first-team all-conference player from the SEC, Pac-12, Big Ten, ACC or Big 12, then the first-teamers from the remaining conferences. Only when they are exhausted, settle for second-team all-conference players – again starting with the five most talent-laden conferences. That should get us into the fifth or even the sixth round.
In addition to all the savings (think of the travel expenses alone) from letting the GM and scouting personnel go, the Packers will have the benefit, for free, of the opinions of those who know these collegians the best: the coaches or the sportscasters who vote on these honors – the ones who’ve been intensively covering these college players, game in and game out, for three or four years.
Really, how could this method do any worse than the results that have been achieved by Green Bay over the last several years?