Is the draft success of Green Bay Packers general manager Ted Thompson overrated?

Green Bay Packers general manager Ted Thompson has long held the reputation as an astute judge of football talent who has been successful in the NFL Draft.
But has Thompson’s reputation been overblown? Every general manager has hits and misses. But it appears that Thompson has had more misses than he gets credit for, while getting over credited for drafting Aaron Rodgers when the future star quarterback tumbled downward through most of the first round.
Here’s a quick look at each of Thompson’s draft classes since 2005.

The top two picks were definite hits. Drafting Rodgers was a no-brainer when he dropped to the 24th pick of the first round. Nick Collins was taken in the second round and he was one of the best safeties in the NFL until a neck injury ended his career. The only other serviceable player taken by the Pack that year was fourth round linebacker Brady Poppinga. The other eight picks in this class were a complete washout.

A.J. Hawk and Greg Jennings were the two main picks in this draft. Hawk is a lightning rod among Packers fans, who wonder if his lack of range and big plays have justified his large contract. Jennings was a standout receiver before leaving in free agency. Lineman Daryn Colledge and Jason Spitz had good starts in Green Bay before moving on via free agency. Third round linebacker Abdul Hodge and fourth round receiver Cory Rodgers were horrid picks, while getting Johnny Jolly in the sixth round was a steal.

This was the first draft that really damaged Thompson’s reputation. Trading up to get an always injured Justin Harrell in the first round was a huge blunder. Second round running back Brandon Jackson was never better than a decent third-down back. Getting receiver James Jones in the third round, and kicker Mason Crosby and linebacker Desmond Bishop in the sixth round were the only saving graces of this draft class.

This was a complete homer or strikeout class. Trading down and getting Jordy Nelson in the second round was sweet, but Brian Brohm and Patrick Lee quickly stunk up that second round. Jermichael Finley, Josh Sitton and Matt Flynn were successful products of that draft, but Jeremy Thompson, Breno Giacamino (now a starter in Seattle) and Brett Swain never earned a shot.

This class early on looked like it would be one of the Packers’ greatest, but the luster has quickly come off this group. B.J. Raji once looked like a premier defensive tackle, but his play this year was weak. Clay Matthews started out as a flashy pass rusher. But his inability to defend the run and his propensity for injuries have tarnished his reputation. Lineman T.J. Lang and linebacker Brad Jones are the only other contributors from this class.

Packer fans have grown weary of waiting for this draft class to emerge. Injuries have left us wondering if Bryan Bulaga will ever be worthy of a first round pick. Mike Neal has teased us with his ability, but never produced. Morgan Burnett was anointed as the next savior at safety, but we’re still waiting for that to pan out. Andrew Quarless and James Starks are becoming serviceable offensive options, but both could leave as free agents.

Picking Randall Cobb in the second round bails out this otherwise awful draft class. Tackle Derek Sherrod, the first round pick, may never pan out after all his injuries. Alex Green and D.J. Williams were supposed to pump new life into the offense, but they quickly showed they couldn’t cut it in the NFL.

This class is quickly becoming a lost cause. Of the eight picks, the bottom four are already gone. Second round pick Jerel Worthy is another of the washout linemen who can never stay healthy and first rounder Nick Perry has to start showing something soon. If Casey Heyward can bounce back from his injury and Mike Daniels continues his progress at defensive tackle, they may be the best contributors we get from this draft.

Eddie Lacy, Eddie Lacy, Eddie Lacy. Do you remember that he wasn’t the Packers’ first pick? That honor would go to defensive lineman Datone Jones, who could barely make it into the rotation on a defensive line crying for help. Lacy was an outstanding choice, but also an obvious choice, much like the selection of Rodgers in 2005. Packer fans are hoping David Bakhtiari is the second coming of Mark Tauscher, a mid-round tackle who becomes a fixture. Micah Hyde and Josh Boyd also showed glimpses of being players who could contribute to the defense over the long haul.

So what can we surmise from this review? Thompson is an expert at drafting players for the offensive skill positions, with Rodgers, Cobb, Nelson, James Jones and Lacy as top-line contributors drafted on his watch.
Conversely, Thompson has shown no clue for drafting linemen on offense or defense. His record on linebackers and defensive backs isn’t much stronger.
Packer fans who think they’ve seen enough Ted Thompson drafts could be justified. Considering the team’s main needs in the 2014 draft will again be based around offensive linemen and defensive players, there is little reason to have faith that Thompson will find help for the team’s needs.