Tag Archives: Packers draft success

Packers Need to Hit On This Draft

It’s the end of April and you know what that means!?! No, it doesn’t mean more snow, though Mother Nature has a menacing way of telling Punxsutawney Phil to pound sand. It’s the three-day event in which Ted Thompson makes his money. Because TT refuses to dabble in free agency, the Packers must hope to improve through this upcoming draft. And improve the Packers must.

The Packers sieve-like defense created a new phenomenon: Kaepernicking.

The Packers sieve-like defense created a new phenomenon: Kaepernicking.

A 26-6 regular season record with back-to-back NFC North titles is a run most teams would thoroughly enjoy (I know my compadre in ‘Sota would enjoy some sustained success after being trapped in Loserville, U.S.A. for the past several years.) But after winning the Super Bowl in 2010 with a team full of players entering their prime, expectations have been high for this Packers team. And back-to-back ugly losses in the playoffs to the G-Men and 49ers has left a sour taste in most fans mouths.

What the two playoffs losses have revealed is a Packers team that will be a perennial playoff team so long as Rodgers is playing, but is a team that still needs to improve – in many areas – to be a true contender. Now, this may be a tedious distinction because clearly the Packers are contenders with Rodgers. But, as built, the only way the Packers can win in the playoffs right now is if Rodgers reverts to supernatural Rodgers (playing the Vikings with Joe Webb at QB helps too). As good as Rodgers’ is, this is asking a lot.

In order to become a true contender, the Packers need to get tougher, nastier. Last year, TT devoted his draft to improving the defense, with an emphasis on getting “fast-twitched” and “quick” players. But in doing so, guys up-front like Worthy and Daniels were miscast in the 3-4 and had little impact. The result is the Packers’ front-seven on defense lacks toughness and grit.

With that in mind, I fully expect the Packers to draft players designed to bring that toughness and nastiness to the defense. Here is my list of positions of need:

1. DE/DT – With Worthy essentially lost for this upcoming season, the Packers enter 2013 with only Mike Neal boasting any type of pass-rushing acumen out of the DE position. Yup, Mike Neal. The Packers desperately need a difference maker out of the DE position. Similarly, B.J. Raji has continued to perplex fans and coaches with his flashes of dominance surrounded by spells of invisibility. And with a looming contract, the Packers need to have a backup plan to not only spell Raji to reduce his workload, but also in case Raji bolts in free agency.

2. MLB – I don’t hold out too much hope that TT will devote a high selection on MLB after signing Brad Jones to that ridiculous contract and still retaining Mr. T-Rex, A.J. Hawk. But, the Packers need to improve its MLB play. It cannot afford to have two more seasons like Hawk just had – i.e. no forced turnovers, tackles several yards down the field, and poor coverage. Some hope Terrell Manning can become the man (poor pun intended). But, I’d love a selection like Ogletree if he is available in round 1 – a sideline-to-sideline difference maker.

3. Safety – Morgan Burnett has proven to be a reliable and ever-improving safety. But, the Packers have yet to replace Collins – which is no easy task. M.D. Jennings and McMillian played just alright when given their opportunities last season. Neither showed enough to justify not selecting a safety in this draft – even if it is a high selection.

4. Wide Receiver / Tight End – TT has always done a good job of restocking the cupboards for Rodgers. With Jennings’ departure, Driver’s departure, and JMike’s uncertain future, it’s all but a guarantee the Packers will select a WR or TE on day two. Thankfully, TT has a terrific track record in selecting a WR or TE in rounds 2 and 3: Jennings, Jordy, Cobb, Jones, and JMike.

5. Offensive Line – There is no debating that the Packers need stronger play out of the LT than what Newhouse gave them last season. But, after spending first-round picks on tackles in 2010 and 2011 in Bulaga and Sherrod, I will be surprised if TT spends another top pick on OT. Plus, with Barclay’s solid production down the stretch, the Packers have 4 OT’s that give them some flexibility if they are willing to move Bulaga to LT. And as for the inside, Lang and Sitton are signed to long-term contracts, meaning they have solidified their positions. And EDS was recently signed, giving him the lead for the starting center gig. I expect the Packers to add some reinforcements in the mid- to late-rounds.

As for the first round, it is hard to pin-down exactly where the Packers will go. My guess is the Packers address the defensive line with the first pick. I am drawn to the potential of Margus Hunt (DE from SMU). At 6’8″, he has a unique blend of size and speed. He was a workout warrior at the combine, but its debatable whether that translates to the field. But, the potential is intriguing enough to warrant his selection at the end of round 1. Otherwise, there is a bevy of DT’s that will be considered: Sylvester Williams (UNC), John Jenkins (Georgia), and Jonathan Hankins (OSU).

I'm falling for the hype. I want Carradine in the first round!

I’m falling for the hype. I want Carradine in the first round!

My sleeper pick is Matt Elam, the diminutive, yet fearsome Safety out of FL. He is known for being a good tackler that is willing to lay the wood. He’d fill an area of need and, again, bring that nasty temperament so desperately needed. And my dream selection is Tank Carradine. I may be falling for the media-driven hype, but this kid was an absolute beast for FSU and was a likely top-pick had he not hurt his knee in November. Where, exactly, he’d fit in the Packers system is an unknown because he’s around 270 pounds. But, many believe he can bulk up and play DE, or slim down and play OLB. In either event, he’s a tenacious, hard-nosed player that can get after the QB.

Like last year, we will offer instant analysis for the Packers and Vikings selections each night and preview the next day’s rounds. And considering my prediction (kind of) of Casey Hayward last season, it’s readily apparent TT values the insight and analysis I sent him last season before the draft – or at least that’s what I tell myself. Enjoy the draft!

 

 

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The Importance of the Draft

The 2012 NFL Draft is ready to take over our next weekend. Both local squads have either a lot or some holes to fill through the draft. The importance of the draft to next seasons success is vitally important to both squads. By now, we’ve all read the articles proclaiming who the Vikes and Pack should take. But, there’s been little discussion on the past success, or lack thereof, for the squads. This is what we, here at Border Rivals, have decided to analyze in order to offer a fresh take on the upcoming draft.

Dating back to 2005 – the first draft Ted Thompson presided over for the Packers – we’ve catalogued each selection made by the local squads. Each selection was given a rating of 0-6:

  • 0 – A complete bust. The player has contributed nothing or next to nothing in stats.
  • 1 – The player has played in some games and accumulated very little in stats.
  • 2 – A key backup that may occasionally start. This may also be used for a below-average starter.
  • 3 – An average starter – the definition of A.J. Hawk.
  • 4 – An above-average starter. This player starts every game and makes an impact in the game.
  • 5 – A player on verge of making a Pro Bowl. A difference-maker, but not quite to that elite level, yet.
  • 6 – Any player that has been selected to the Pro Bowl.

We then calculated the average rating for the players selected in each round over the years. This allowed us to determine the relative success each team has had in drafting players in each round. Finally, we determined the “hit rate” for the percentage of time each team has hit (any player rated 3 or above) on a player – no matter the round that player was selected.

Our goal in this analysis is to not only determine the average rate of success each team had from 2005 to 2010 (we did not rate players taken in the last draft because it’s too early to make determinations on many players), but then to also determine the success each team has had in each round – after all, each team should draft well in the first few rounds on a routine basis. We had hoped that by creating these objective standards for rating each player, our own subjectivity would be limited. Admittedly, some of the calls –  particularly on whether a player is a 1 or 2, or a 4 or 5 is subjective. Still, our analysis provides unique insight into showing the importance of the draft.

Green Bay Packers –

Since 2005, TT has unwaveringly relied upon the draft to build the Packers roster into the championship team it has become. Agonizing at times, this approach has clearly worked for TT. The roster is riddled with both early and late round selections that have developed into reliable starters.

Over the 58 selections in the 6 drafts between 2005 and 2010, TT has hit on 21 of those selections – good for a 36% clip. 6 of those 21 players have developed into Pro Bowlers, including one MVP and a second-place finish in the Defensive MVP vote: Aaron Rodgers, Clay Matthews, B.J. Raji, Nick Collins, Greg Jennings, and Josh Sitton (although he’s never been selected to a Pro Bowl, Sitton was voted the Offensive Lineman of the Year by the 2010 NFL Alumni – which deserves a 6 rating in our book). 3 players are on the fringe of making the Pro Bowl (a 5 rating) – JerMichael Finley, Jordy Nelson, and Bryan Bulaga. And two became above-average starters – Desmond Bishop and Mason Crosby.

There is no debating the fact that TT’s first selection – Aaron Rodgers – was his best. Frankly, it was also the gutsiest. Remember, the Pack still had a mid-thirties Brett Favre that had given no indication that he was ready to retire (and unretire, retire, unretire, and retire again). To take a QB with the first pick, knowing full-well that doing so would irritate – to say the least – the franchise player is a move only made by a person confident in his abilities. But, this was not the only bold move made by TT in the first round over the years. In 2009, TT moved back into the first round – giving up a number of picks – to acquire Clay Matthews to go with B.J. Raji – the 9th pick in that draft. Add in Bryan Bulaga (while also subtracting the Justin Harrell pick), and TT’s success in the first round is impressive with a 4.5 average rating.

TT has had equal success in the second and third rounds – averaging 2.89 and 2.8 respectively. He’s added Nick Collins, Greg Jennings, Jordy Nelson, and JerMichael Finley in those two rounds. TT’s fourth round number is an inflated 2.1 average because of the Josh Sitton selection. He nabbed the starting left guard, T.J. Lang, also in the 2009 4th round. Interestingly enough, TT’s worst round over the years has been the fifth round, where he averages a meager 1. The only players of note in this round are from the 2010 draft – Andrew Quarles (a 2 rating) and Marshall Newhouse (a 3 – admittedly, this may be a reach, but I’m convinced he’s the starting LT of the future, good enough for a 3 in my book). TT’s seventh round average is 1.33, with his best pick being Matt Flynn.

I skipped the sixth round so I could highlight it. I have always maintained that TT has made his money the most in the late rounds and even undrafted free agent pool. TT’s sixth round average of 2.1 is a testament to this. He has found four starters, two of which are above average – Bishop, Crosby, Johnny Jolly, and James Starks. He’s also added two decent backups in Korey Hall (a pretty solid special-teams player when he played for the Pack) and Jarius Wynn.

As the numbers demonstrate, TT has success through all rounds of the draft. He finds key players, whether they are starters or not, that contribute to the team’s success. It is only because of this draft success that the Packers are poised to become a Super Bowl contender for the next several seasons.

Minnesota Vikings –

In sharp contrast, the Vikes have relied upon free agency to build the team. This strategy brought them one classic-Favre-heartbreak from a Super Bowl berth in 2010. But, this strategy, along with poor results in the draft, help explain why the Vikes have the 3rd overall selection on Thursday night.

Over the 39 selections between 2005 and 2010, the Vikes have hit on only 11 of those selections, good for a 28% clip. 1 of the 11 is a Pro Bowler, AP, and only 1 more is on the verge of a Pro Bowl berth, Percy Harvin. There are only 2 above-average starters: Chad Greenway and Ray Edwards. The remaining seven players are Cedric Griffin, T. Jax, Sidney Rice, Phil Loadholt, Brian Robison, John Sullivan, and Jamarca Sanford.

Both AP and Harvin were the offensive Rookies of the Year, which, frankly, masks the Vikes’ poor track record. Even with those two ROYs, the Vikes average rating in the first round is still only a 3.4. The same year TT selected Rodgers, the Vikes passed on him twice to select Troy Williamson and Erasmus James. Both players earned a 1-rating. (We know Williamson was technically a starter, and thus, maybe a 3; but this is where subjectivity dictates a 1-rating. If you think otherwise, you must be Williamson’s mother.)

Over nine picks in the second round, the Vikes average 2.4, grabbing all 2’s and 3’s in this round. Not one player developed into an above-average starter. No, Sidney Rice’s one-season with Brett Favre does not make him an above-average starter. Worse, the Vikes average 1.7 for the 3 selections in the third round: Dustin Fox, Marcus McCauley, and Asher Allen. Yuck.

A 2.5 average in the fourth-round is respectable. This average is based on two players: Ray Edwards (who is no longer on the team anymore) and Brian Robison, his replacement, who has started only one full season.

From here, it gets ugly for Vikings fans. The Vikes average 0.86, 1, and 0.8 in 5th, 6th, and 7th rounds, respectively. Out of the 18 selections in these three rounds, only two became starters – John Sullivan and Jamarca Sandford – and the rest are either a 1 or 0.

Overall, the Vikes have drafted a bust or near bust in 20 of the 39 selections, a clip of 51%. This number, along with the only 1 Pro Bowler selected in this time frame, helps explain why the Vikes have needed free agency over the years to be competitive.

If there is ever a clearer answer to why the Vikes have the 3rd pick in this draft, while the Pack have the 28th selection and are only one year removed from a Super Bowl victory, that answer is the relative success each team has had in the drafts. Not only have the Packers hit on a higher percentage of their picks, but the Packers have also selected better quality of players, shown by the 6-to-1 ratio in Pro Bowlers selected.

And, here is our work so you can scrutinize yourself: Local Squads. We recognize there will be some debate about our ratings and/or system. Please keep the comments coming so we can fine-tune it as we move forward.