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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.

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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!

9 Responses to “In Ted, everyone trusts. But should they? Analyzing the 2012 Packer draft”

  1. qotsa1

    A. Yes, the defense needed this many reinforcements. C.J. Wilson, and Jarius Wynn are below average and offer no pass rush, while Mike Neal still has not shown he can stay healthy. Nick Collins release leaves an obvious need at safety. Charles Woodson will not be around much longer, so they need to find an eventual replacement, and with Pat Lee no longer on the team they had an open roster spot at CB.

    B.Why draft another receiver? They have 2 receivers on the practice squad that they think highly of. How could they make room on the roster for another receiver? Trade James Jones? Who would trade for him? He hit the open market last year and did not receiver any substantial offers. Jones’ contract is very cap friendly and he is a proven commodity, so why get rid of him?

    C. Why move down in round 1? There is no guarantee Perry would still be there a few picks later, with Baltimore picking right after them. They had enough draft picks, and did not need to accumulate any more. At some point you have to start accumulating quality of quantity.

    There is no guarantee all these picks will work out, and Thompson has made many mistakes in the past, but I really like what the Packers did in this draft.

    • shyamuw

      @qotsa1 – Thanks for the comment. I think we are pretty close to being on the same page. I just think taking advantage of a really deep WR class for the loss of James Jones and the gain of a 2013 pick would have been a more viable short and long term strategy than hanging on to James who is very good and as you say proven. Time will tell on this.

      CJ Wilson, Morgan Burnett have not gotten adequate playing time to show their wares right. Would you agree?

      Perry probably isn’t around a few picks later but is the value of picking up an extra pick worth the risk? Isn’t that a valid question to ask?

      • qotsa1

        But what makes you think there is a trade market for Jones? He tested free agency and did not get a decent offer so he came back to the Packers. There is NO WAY they could get a 3rd round pick for him.

        I think Burnett will be a definite starter this year, and my guess is they have an open competition for the other starting safety spot. Burnett needs some time to develop. He missed most of his rookie year due to injury and missed the off season last year because of the lock out. I don’t have much hope for Wilson. He is fine against the run, but offers no pass rush. I think he will make the team due to the suspensions of Hargrove and Neal, but could get cut when they come back.

        I don’t think picking up a few extra picks would be worth the risk. To move back a few spots what would they of got? a 4th or 5th rounder at best. The Packers had plenty of draft picks. It was more important to be able to get players they targeted.

    • shyamuw

      @qotsa1 James Jones was a free agent in the worst possible off season. He is a better receiver than the likes of Josh Morgan and Pierre Garcon. He got crappy offers as it came during the brief “offseason” following the lockout.

      It is possible no one wanted him in which case I am wrong. But I find it hard to believe, Cleveland/Miami/Seattle didn’t even enquire.

      As far as trading down, why not accumulate 2013 picks? Right now that seems like the undervalued asset in the NFL with only the Rams, Bengals and Niners having multiple picks in early rounds next year.

      • qotsa1

        I would say Jones is on about the same level as Morgan and Garcon, but trades don’t happen much in the NFL because teams don’t like to part with draft picks. The Packers would probably not get anything more in a trade than they would in a compensatory pick if Jones leaves in free agency after next season.

        The Packers will already have 7 picks in 2013 plus what ever compensatory picks they will get for Wells, Lee, Flynn, and most likely Grant. They probably won’t get a pick for each because of the signings of Hargrove and Saturday, but they will still probably have at least 9 picks next year.

  2. snarkzilla

    a) Did the defense need this many reinforcements?
    Did you see the playoff game?

    b) Why were no wide receivers drafted?
    You have to be kidding, right?

    • shyamuw

      Thanks for the comment and an awesome handle!

      The team finished 15-2 and the defense was top 10 in most statistical categories 2009 and 2010. I hope management is not making decisions off one game.

      I believe this was the offseason to trade James Jones and draft a WR. They didn’t do it. Why is that a bad point?

      • snarkzilla

        There’s an embarrassment of riches at the WR position, so much so that Driver may not get a contract. Gurley wants on the field. So does Borel. I don’t hold as low an opinion of JJ as you; he’d be the #2 on a number of NFL teams. Trading him to create a a small gap so a WR could be drafted doesn’t see smart to me. Plus TT picked up the basketball player WR after the draft.

  3. shyamuw

    @snarkzilla It is not that I hold a low opinion of James Jones. I agree with u that he could be the #2 guy espl. on the Browns, Dolphns or Seahawks. Why then is it not a good idea to trade him when the team does have incredible depth at the position? If all WRs and TES stay healthy, how many balls does Jones catch in 2012? 65? Couldn’t you get a rookie to catch 40 of those, have Cobb make up the difference with his second year in the league and get a 2013 second or 3rd rounder?