Three Studs Who Got Away from Packers on Draft Days

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Kevin King

Kevin King (20) recovers a fumble by San Francisco 49ers running back Kyle Juszczyk (44) in the second quarter at Lambeau Field. Adam Wesley/Green Bay Press Gazette via USA TODAY NETWORK

 

It’s easy to go back after a year or two and find someone available at the time a team drafts someone else – and that someone has since turned into an NFL star. That’s Monday morning quarterbacking. What I’ve tried to do here is look at a player who was passed over though he answered the Packers needs, and who in two out of the examples was clearly the more obvious choice.

Instead of making the smart and obvious choice, however, the Packers took a risk by going with a less heralded or accomplished college player – and that hasn’t turned out very well.

Joe Schobert vs. Kyler Fackrell

In 2016, as now, the Packers had a need for a pass-rushing linebacker. With the 88th overall pick in Round 3, the Packers elected to go with a relatively unknown linebacker out of Utah State. Kyler Fackrell has become a useful player in his third year – but the team passed over a safer, no-brainer choice in opting for Fackrell.

Ten picks after Fackrell was chosen, the Cleveland Browns selected linebacker Joe Schobert.

The Packers could hardly have failed to know all about Schobert. He was born in Waukesha, and went to the University of Wisconsin.

Schobert was a first-team All-American, and also a first team All-Big Ten. He received the Jimmy Demetral Team MVP award at the team’s season-ending honors banquet. He was named a semifinalist for the Bednarik (college’s best defensive player) and Lombardi (best college football player, any position, based on performance, leadership, character, and resiliency) Awards. To top it off, during the senior bowl, Schobert recovered a fumble and returned it 73 yards.

By comparison, Fackrell played for the Utah State Aggies. Wikipedia lists his honors as being named to several all-conference teams (Mountain West) and named a fourth-team All-American by someone named Phil Steele. Fackrell is also two years older than Schobert. Who you gonna choose?

Schobert was used sparingly by the Cleveland Browns as a rookie, but then he broke out in his second season. He wound up tied for first in the NFL in tackles (144) in 2017. After just his second year, Schobert was selected to play in the Pro Bowl.

Schobert was nearly as good in his second year, though he missed three games due to injuries. In his last two pro seasons, he’s accumulated 255 tackles, and he’s shown his versatility with 10 passes defended.

Though not used primarily as a pass rusher, he’s also managed six sacks, and 12 QB hits. He’s also forced five fumbles and recovered two, and he’s had two interceptions. He’s a difference maker.

In contrast, Fackrell, in his three years, does have 15.5 sacks, but he only has 88 tackles, one fumble caused or recovered, one interception, and one pass defended.

With all respect to Fackrell, the obvious choice when the Packers were put on the clock in the third round of the 2016 draft – the sure-thing pick – was Joes Schobert.

T. J. Watt vs. Kevin King

In 2017, the Packers decided to get cute. They traded back their 29th pick to get the 33rd pick (first Round 2 pick), and in so doing they also received a fourth-round pick, who ended up being Vince Biegel. That 33rd pick was CB Kevin King – who has so far been riddled with injuries.

Had Ted Thompson not traded down, who was available at #29? None other than Mr. Everything, linebacker T.J. Watt – he of the same gene pool as J.J. Watt.

In his final year of 2016, Watt was named first-team All-Big Ten, and second-team All-American (by AP) and first team by Sports Illustrated. In addition, since Watt entered the draft instead of playing for Wisconsin as a senior, he was bound to improve considerably as a professional.

Like Joe Schobert, T.J. played high school ball in Wisconsin (Pewaukee), and then at Wisconsin-Madison – how could the Packers have overlooked him?

With the thirtieth pick, the grateful Pittsburgh Steelers scooped Watt up.

How’s Watt done? In 2017 he was named to the All-Rookie team by the football writers’ organization. In 2018 he was selected to the Pro Bowl. He’s started all but one game as a professional. He’s had 120 tackles, 22 tackles for loss, 34 QB hits, 10 passes defended, six forced fumbles, and TWENTY sacks. He’s a one-man WQB harassment squad!

What do you look for on draft day? Playmakers, according to PF. And that fits Watt to a T.

Anyone could have told you that T.J. was going to be a major NFL star. I don’t recall hordes of writers making such a prediction for Kevin King – with or without the injury history.

Samson Ebukam vs. Vince Biegel

When Vince was selected by the Packers as the first Round 4 choice in 2017, it was neither a shock nor an obvious choice. In five years at the U of Wisconsin, Biegel’s highest accolade was being named second team All-Big Ten. Many thought Biegel might excel as an edge rusher.

What skeptics questioned most at the time about the choice was that Vince was already nursing an injury when Ted Thompson drafted him. He had what’s called a Jones fracture, which caused him to miss two games in his senior year at Wisconsin. Shortly into Packers’ training camp, the same injury necessitated surgery. Biegel did not have a smooth recovery, to the point the Packers eventually placed him on the physically unable to perform list. They took a draft-day risk and lost.

He wasn’t activated by the Packers in 2017 until November, played little, and was waived by the team just prior to the 2018 season. He was picked up by the Saints, and briefly was placed on their active roster, but only recorded four tackles with them in 2018.

When Biegel did get to play for Green Bay in late 2017, I’ve seldom seen a player more overmatched by opposing linemen. For his career to date, Biegel has 14 tackles, no QB hits, and no sacks.

Sixteen spots down the fourth-round list, the Rams selected linebacker Samson Ebukam, out of Eastern Washington. As would be expected, Ebukam was mainly a backup in his rookie year, though he still managed to have 20 tackles (two for a loss), five QB hits, two sacks, and three forced fumbles – and he started two games.

In 2018, Samson started all but two games for the Lions. He improved to having 40 tackles (six for losses), six QB hits, three sacks, and a pick-six interception.

In his three post-season games, he had two tackles, then three tackles plus a forced fumble, and finally four tackles in the Super Bowl.

I’m not saying that Ebukam was the obvious choice for a team wanting an edge rusher in Round 4 of the 2017 draft, but if you value speed, Ebukam ran the dash in 4.45 seconds versus Vince’s 4.67 – that’s an enormous difference right there – and as they say speed cannot be taught.

While the future is bright for Ebukam, Biegel’s utter lack of production in two years probably means his pro career is over – without registering a single sack.

About The Author

The old trial attorney never lost a case – he misplaced a few, but those files were found eventually. His arguments are water-tight, his logic unassailable, and his verdicts non-appealable. Resistance is futile.

25 Comments on "Three Studs Who Got Away from Packers on Draft Days"

  1. Stiggy

    Yeah… king would be good… if he didnt have a totalled shoulder… which the packers knew about… and ignored… which is why he cascaded down draft boards… while passing on a consensus top player on the board at the time at the behest of Ted’s corpse.

    What a folly of a pick when the right pick literally the easiest thing to do.

    Why did king fall? Durability issues. You dont piss away your first round pick on defensive players with busted shoulders.

    You would be better off drafting a db coming off an acl surgery.

    On a side note… avoid polite like the plague.

  2. Deepsky

    You can do this all day long with anything after the first round, find some guy who is a stud that everyone else passed on. Why didn’t the Packers take Josh Norman? Why didn’t the Packers take Richard Sherman?

    David Bakhtiari is a good example of a guy who every team passed on but the Packers took. In fact in the 2013 draft, there were only 4 players in the entire draft who became Pro Bowlers after the 3rd round and the Packers drafted two of them.

    Josh Sitton everyone passed on in 2008. After the 3rd round, there were only 5 total players that made the Pro Bowl and the Packers drafted one of them.

    Mike Daniels everyone passed on in 2012. After the 3rd round in 2012, there were only 9 players that made the Pro Bowl in the entire draft, and the Packers drafted one of them.

    Unfortunately, the Packers haven’t drafted a Pro Bowler since 2014 and the T.J Watt vs Kevin King comparison seems like the Packers really messed up that pick.

    • PF4L

      I agree with your first paragraph 100% Deep.

      The woulda, coulda, shoulda hindsight game.

      Personally i wish someone else picked Daniels. not because he isn’t any good, he’s a good football player.
      But he doesn’t make enough plays during the season, then is a ghost in the playoffs. He just doesn’t make a difference. Shouldn’t 10 million dollar players help determine the outcome of a game? No offence Randall or Nick…..or Jimmy and…………

      i think when the Packers drafted King, it was a desperation pick after missing on corners in previous drafts. I doubt they pick a corner in the first round this draft, but it wouldn’t shock me if it did happen in the first or second round again. Some may think that corner position is set, i’m just not one of them.

      But then you have deep need right next door at safety, not to mention all the other needs.

      This team is a hot broken f….ing mess.

      Division title, Super Bowl in the next couple years? LOL…..The Happy Hour that never ends i suppose..

      • Stiggy

        I call it the Julio Jones syndrome. The kevin king pick was a direct response to Julio Jones complete and utter domination of the packers.

        I realize the board is upset we lost ladarius prime time gunter… but you can almost trace the kevin king pick to prime times performances against Julio jones.

        King has all the measurables and in fact I believe he would have been a great pick if he could actually stay on the field more than 2/10 games at a time… but his shoulder issues were known and tj watts pedigree and great health were also known.

        .

    • Cheesemaker

      “Why did king fall? Durability issues. You dont piss away your first round pick on defensive players with busted shoulders.” You would think this kind of thinking would be a cardinal rule of GMs, but not Ted – he was all about out-thinking all the other GMs. Anybody else remember where they were when he drafted Justin Harrell? I do. I was in a church waiting for wedding to start and I remember making an effort not so say “who the f-k is Justin Harrell?!?” out loud when I saw the pick on my Blackberry. I was really hoping for Greg Olson…

      • Stiggy

        Harrell minus an incredible history of injuries would have been a top 5 pick. The reason you didnt know who he was is because his injury issues were so immense that he lost all buzz leading up to the draft.

        With that being said I can see rolling thr dice once and losing for a top 5 caliber pick that late…

        But to do it twice? With watt out there? That’s just plain incompetent.

        The ultimate shame with Harrell is he finally got back on the field… his shoulder was working… then he tore his knee up. I remember the 3 or so times over his packers tenure he actually suited up… he seemed like he could become a game changer. Poor guy.

    • Cheese

      The thing is, Watt vs King was pretty much the first round and skipping over Watt was completely retarded. It makes you wonder how much Gute had to do with that, or if it was just Ted being off in the twilight zone by himself. Not only is Watt vs King a laughable comparison, making it Watt vs King & Biegel just goes to show what a bad of a decision it was. So much for quantity over quality when the players you pick are crap. Which brings up the extra pick Gute got this year. Everyone lauds Gute for wheeling and dealing but it means jack squat if they pick another King, or Biegel, or pick one of the many examples. Datone Jones, Sherrod, conversion projects Nick Perry and Damarius Randall, etc, etc, etc…

        • Howard

          “Just about everyone was on board with Watt,” one source familiar with the Packers’ draft-room discussions said. “The only reservation was some people thought he was a one-year player [in college].”

          If that was the reason to not select Watt why could no one in the draft room, including but not limited to, Gutekunst, E. Wolf, Highsmith, other long term scouts, Murphy, and MM not remind, and make a good case to TT and other doubters (if any) that Clay Matthews was also only a one year starter in college?

          If only a old trial attorney such as Rob was in that draft room defending Watt.

          • Stiggy

            Great example but you dont even need to leave the watt family to find a successful 1 year wonder taking the pros by storm. Iirc jj bashed heads for 1 year in Madison after transferring and immediately went top 10.

    • Thomas E Lind

      Deep, I see all of the examples are pre 2015. Thompson lost his mind sometime shortly after 2014. He wasted our entire 2015 draft. That in itself, decided McCarthy’s and the Packers fate ever since.

      • PF4L

        If we only knew back then the team was going backwards after 2014. I know i was as shocked as anyone. Nobody could have seen that, not even Murphy.

  3. PF4L

    Just…..so people know……..i wasn’t always so cynical and trenched in reality about this team. There was a time (not long ago) where i always had a Big Gulp filled with my favorite green and gold beverage.

    I was even runner up for “Packer Fan of the Year”.

    Lets take a look back……..

    PF4L
    August 1, 2017 at 3:30 pm

    That’s exactly right, i wish people would quit pissing on Ted, and let his genius play out. Yes, we have 3 draft choices missing their 1st training camp because of injury, but the good news is, we have 7 more!!

    Ted’s got this. This draft class will heal up and take us right to the chili dome on Feb. 4th. I have no doubt.

    LET’S DO THIS!!!

    In Ted we Trust.

  4. R.Duke

    This horror story begins in 2014 when his eyes started to blurrrr. Picked Dix but others neglected included Dee Ford, DeMarcus Lawrence, Derek Carr, Lamarcus Joyner, Kyle van Noy…….then hit on Adams in the second.

    • Skinny

      I was on the Dee Ford train that year big time. Saw that suddenness off the line of scrimmage. Man you cant teach that. I dont know how I can see that shit at home watching TV and the Packers scouts dont.

    • MJ

      Clinton-Dix gave us two or three years of good play. Then he started to play to not get injured.
      Same as Lacy, only Lacy derail his career at the buffet. I would call those picks “just OK”,
      which wouldn’t turn out to be the stars of the future.
      Want outright bad picks? Datone Jones, Nick Perry. Perry played his one and only good season in his contract year. Also D. Randall, who played well only during his rookie season.

      • Stiggy

        If randall was appropriately used by the prior green bay regime he would have been a “highly successful” safety as is appears to be trending towards with the browns. Hyde..heyward… randall….. hmm.

  5. Ferris

    I wonder if a San Francisco website like this one is having a similar debate over what could have been if they picked Aaron Rodgers? Could have been a SF Superbowl win. They almost won with Kap.

  6. MJ

    While I agree with some of the above, who say “hindsight is 20-20”, there is a point to be made in analyzing who we could have had in place of the ones we picked. In fact, the Packers had a relatively high retention rate, which means they drafted good players, right? No, it meant they held to their own picks beyond reason. Some were OK players, so Ted could pat himself in the back saying “oh, but look, we have this guy, who is an OK player, that is an OK draft”. If they want to make that argument, better make sure that no other team has better players coming from a later pick! So no hindsight-is-20-20, but no patting themselves in the back for mediocre drafts either.

    I would certainly scrutinize the front office for the first round picks, maybe 2nd rounders, when there is an obvious pick, and they pretend they are geniuses that outsmart everyone by not doing what everyone else expects. TJ Watt had just fallen to us. That was a safe pick! Had he not panned out, there was the “assurance” that at least a lot of people would have been wrong to suggest we picked him. But no, he had to go the King+Biegel route. Even if King plays well in 2019, who doubts TJ Watt will have more impact? That’s when you have to consider who we could have had but chose not to. As I read in a post somewhere, the King pick was the last FU from Ted to the Packer fanbase.

    • PF4L

      That was one of the best post i’ve read in awhile sans Cheese.

      Nice MJ, There is a lot of fruit on that tree to respond to, time allowing. But work gets in the way, plus i have to go see The Lonely Boy so he can hand me my lunch through the window.

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