Draft grades and reviews right after the draft are meaningless. While judgements made about the value of picking one player over another based on league-wide demand for the same skill and talent is slightly more relevant, there is still far too much uncertainty and ambiguity to the draft and coaching processes that any immediate draft grade should be taken with several grains of salt.
Nick Perry, Jerel Worthy and Casey Hayward were the first three Packer picks in this year’s draft. While I had read about and watched a little bit of all these players in college, I did not know enough to have a strong opinion on their fit with the Packers or their draft value at the spots they were taken. I watched as the Packers loaded up on three more defensive players on day 3 before picking up a tackle and a backup QB in round 7. I knew even less about these guys.
I let the weekend pass and waited for draft reactions and grades to start making their rounds around the internet. My first source for all Packer news are the fine folks at Cheesehead TV. I listened to their draft expert Brian Carriveau’s takes on all eight Packer picks. Brian works really hard and is very good at his job. He was instrumental in compiling a 100 page draft guide. He scouted over 200 players and attended the scouting combine in person. So I take his opinion very seriously. After listening to over two hours of his post-draft podcasts I came away feeling happy and excited. Brian loved every single defensive player picked unconditionally. He liked them all for their talents, fit and value. Bleacher Report’s Andrew Garda was my next stop. He too raved about most Packer picks and gave the Packers a B for the draft. Andrew follows the Packers very closely and this grade was surely accompanied by a lot of background knowledge and research. Lastly, I went to Mel Kiper Jr’s grades and saw that the Packers came away with one of the highest grades on his grade sheet – Also a B.
So what does all this mean? Three cheers, hosannas and a reloaded defense to push the Packers back to the Super Bowl? I don’t think so.
I, for one am way more skeptical of this draft than all of these experts. Ted Thompson has come a long way in the eyes of the media since the Favre/Rodgers days of 2008. A Superbowl ring, some high-profile successes in the draft and the ability to populate the roster with cheap lower round/undrafted talent (ala Chillar, Zombo, Tramon and Lang) has made the GM bulletproof in the eyes of the media and most fans. While track records and cachet matter and a Ted Thompson or Bill Belichick should be given their due credence and respect, group-think and a lack of skepticism/cynicism can lead to complacency and a lack of oversight from otherwise knowledgeable and passionate fans. Any fan base can figure out something is wrong after it goes wrong. A knowledgeable one tries to be ahead of the curve. Those who give Ted Thompson a blind seal of approval on every decision and recite “In Ted we trust” to any question, solely because of his track record of success are likely to be as wrong as those who blindly vouched for Favre over Rodgers in ’08 or those who questioned the selections of Jordy Nelson and James Jones in the ’08 and ’07 drafts into rosters already full of receivers.
There’s three things about this draft that don’t jive well with me –
a) Did the defense need this many reinforcements? Football Outsiders has done a lot of work on defensive rankings. Their research into numbers for a decade has shown that defensive rankings have much more variance year-to-year than offensive and special teams rankings. A small improvement in third down defense almost entirely attributable to better health or easier schedule could improve a team’s ranking significantly. Is it possible that 2011 was just an off-year for a defense that was a top 10 defense in ’09 and ’10. Regression to the mean/plexiglass principle may have fixed the defense in 2012. A lot of the key pieces (Raji, Clay, Tramon, Hawk) are still pretty young. Did the defense then need almost sole attention in this draft? I am not a big fan of addressing just whatever is the short-term need via the draft? I would have felt better if the Packer brass had tended to some offensive areas as well especially early in the draft.
b) Why were no wide receivers drafted? A record number of wide receivers were drafted this year. By all accounts this was a uniquely talented and deep class of receivers. This would have been a great opportunity for the Packers to sell James Jones, cut Donald Driver and get younger and cheaper production while building depth for seasons beyond 2012 and 2013. Why did the Packers evaluate differently? Is James Jones worth what he is being paid while being the fourth best receiving option on the team? Couldn’t a rookie or two have produced about the same for a lot cheaper?
c) Why didn’t the Packers move down in Round I? 16 teams traded out of their spots in round I to gain extra picks in a deep draft. The Packers did not. Couldn’t they have gotten Nick Perry 4-6 picks later? Ted Thompson’s mastery of the draft manipulation process led to a great number of lower round picks in ’05 and ’06. Where has that gone and why is no one talking about it?
I am really glad that Ted Thompson makes personnel decisions for the team I root for. However, it is not gospel to believe in him at all times. With this draft, I sense that too many members in the media and too many fans are shifting to blind faith about the Packers rather than be skeptical, cynical and curious. In Ted, you can trust but that doesn’t mean – agree with Ted, you always must!
Go Pack, Go!