The 7th in a series of articles ranking Ted Thompson’s draft picks by round.
Round 1, where it all begins. The lights, the green room, the buzz, the promise that every team’s fan base believes will net them superstars to lead them to the Super Bowl. You want studs in the first round. Franchise-changers. Hall of Famers. This is the cream of the crop, where the blue chips live. The sky is the limit for these guys. At the very least, you need a long-term starter. Anything less and you’ve thrown away your lottery ticket. The sad things is, most lottery tickets get thrown away. First rounders flame out all the time. Blue chippers get paid and don’t try as hard after making a name in college and then sitting out their bowl games. That and it’s just plain hard to tell how these players will transition from playing against kids just out of high school to grown #ss men who are the greatest athletes the world has ever seen. Here’s Ted’s record against that backdrop.
12. Justin Harrell – What do I need to say? He was a lazy tub who cashed his check and bounced out of the league. He always seemed like a guy who didn’t want to give the effort. I could say something like “Oh, they thought they were getting Lynch and panicked,” but I won’t because that’s stupid. Best case scenario to try to explain this away is that there was a lot of guys in a similar grouping of rankings so Ted went with the only big defensive lineman, since good defensive linemen are hard to find. But even that excuse should make Ted look pretty bad. There were 9 Pro Bowlers in the first round that were drafted after him. As terrible as a pick as this was, it’s indicative of pretty much every other GM in history, too. First round busts happen. This was one of them.
11. Derek Sherrod – The other turd that always gets mentioned along with Harrell when people want to rip on Ted’s drafting ability. The guy was a top LT prospect who slid in the draft. He didn’t make an immediate impact, but was developing at a pace greater than glacial before a brutal injury started his downward spiral out of the league. It’s hard to tell if he would have grown into a viable starting LT (or even RG for that matter) or just became another of the many first round busts that the NFL pumps out annually. Doesn’t matter, this rates as one of Ted’s worst first round picks. He didn’t show promise and then he got hurt.
10. Kenny Clark – Started slow in his rookie year, but was drafted very young. He has a huge amount of potential and just started to show it in the playoffs, standing out in the Cowboys game. Hopefully he builds on that and moves up the list. Youth, size, and athleticism are great traits to do just that. I’m optimistic.
9. Datone Jones – It’s really hard to rate this as a pick because he was brought in to defend the read-option when the Packers had trouble defending the read-option. Then the read-option stopped being a thing and he was kind of miscast. It’s unfortunate the Packers couldn’t get more out of him, but that’s the nature of a league that evolves quicker than the Falcons can blow a 25 point lead. Still, I think he’s a talented gyuy who should improve productivity in a 4-3. I expect him to become one of the better Viking pickups of former Packers.
8. Damarious Randall – A tale of two seasons. He came out and balled as a rookie, then looked much worse as a sophomore, trying to fill Sam Shields’s CB1 shoes while he dealt with injuries of his own. He’s still trying to learn the system and the position. Neither task is easy, but he clearly has the physical skills. Ted made a bold move, as he is want to do, by using his first round pick to draft a player who played safety with the plan to move him to corner. It might work out, this year will send him one direction or the other on this list.
7. AJ Hawk – This is a somewhat terrible pick in hindsight. Ok, maybe it was just regular bad, but only in hindsight. It seemed like the safest pick at the time and it netted a really solid player. The problem was that he was drafted #5 overall instead of round #5. You want a hall of famer at #5 overall and they didn’t get that. They didn’t get Haloti Ngata or Tamba Hali, they got consistent, solid, above-average AJ Hawk. Hawk is the all-time leading tackler in the storied franchise, which goes to show why stats are largely worthless. However, he was healthy and consistent and doesn’t deserve over 90% of the grief he gets from fans.
6. Nick Perry – Nick came out of the same school as Clay Matthews, but was taller, heavier, faster, and stronger. He was also, early on, more injury prone. In his rookie year, he did this to Andrew Luck just to make sure we all knew what he was capable of, even though he was hurt a lot. I was surprised he stayed healthy last year, but becuase that hit was always in my mind, I was not surprised at how he racked up sacks. What goes unnoticed, though, is that he isn’t really a pass rusher. Sure he was a mean bull rush with his size and power, but his forte is really setting the edge in the run game. The bull rush is just a bonus to his real value as the perfect bookend to CM3’s style.
5. BJ Raji – This is one of the few times in history where the Packers took the guy I wanted. It worked out pretty well. This is a guy who, like Hawk, took grief from the fans, but I think it’s far less warranted here. Raji held the point like a man, that’s what a top NT does. He also collapsed run lanes and ate double teams like Eddie Lacy eats China Food. He got a lot of push up front and made big plays, like a pick 6 against the Bears to go to the Super Bowl when Rodgers had a concussion. His splash plays may have tailed off later in his career, but I chalk that up to teams scheming away from him, which is easy to do. However, he still got push and was a force. It’s too bad he retired early, I loved what he was doing next to Mike Daniels, that could have really been something. I was actually holding out hope that he would make a surprise return for the playoffs last year. Maybe this year.
4. Ha Ha Clinton-Dix – This was the perfect marriage of need and talent in the draft. The Packers needed a safety and the top safety, rated to go just a little higher, fell to them. Then he went on to steadily improve and become a Pro Bowler. This is a great pick, possibly the easiest pick of Ted’s tenure, and it worked out very well. It’s really hard to break the tie between him and the next guy on the list.
3. Bryan Bulaga – A really good pick that doesn’t get the due it probably deserves because of fate. BB was brought in to be Chad Clifton’s successor at left tackle. He jumped in at right tackle when Mark Tauscher was injured and filled in with a great rookie year, culminating in becoming the youngest player ever to start a Super Bowl. Then, after Clifton retired and the Packers came to their senses after the Marshall Newhouse experiment, Bulaga was ready to take over as left tackle in 2013 and get all the press and recognition that comes with playing the most difficult position on the offensive line. Of course, he snapped his ACL like an idiot, which opened the door for David Bakhtiari and his wonderful hair to grab hold of that spot and never let go. Bulaga, even with his short arms, was ready to become a very good left tackle (but probably would not have been as dominant as Bak has become). It worked out ok for the Packers, though, because they have LT talent playing RT and he is one of the best RTs in the game.
2. Clay Matthews – I love how he turns it on when Kevin Greene tells him it’s time. When healthy, he’s a premium rusher, a total freak of nature, and a generational talent. It’s really sad that he’s not always healthy. He flies all around all crazy like a freight train with stickum… wait, that one’s taken. The point is, he has all the great buzzwords like “suddenness” and “burst” and “lean.” He actually turns the corner at a 45 degree angle. It’s like nothing I’ve ever seen. He has a wicked double baton, a spin move to rival Eddie Lacy, and the motor of a 9 year-old on Peeps overload Easter morning. He hits hard, contorts his body into positions it shouldn’t be able to get in to, and plays with great anger and furious wrath. When he’s fully healthy, he’s a Lawrence Taylor like presence, striking pure, honest fear into QBs and OTs alike. The Packers moved up 15 spots to get him, at the cost of a couple third round picks (one of which was acquired from the Favre trade) – that’s called a steal. At the time, however, it was outright ballsy. Ted nailed it, though. Winning.
1. Aaron Rodgers – Well who did you expect would be down here? I didn’t spend a week on this series to tell you that the best player in the game wasn’t Ted’s best pick. Some people want to argue that this guy “fell into Ted’s lap.” Bullsh!t. Everyone passed on him because he was another Tedford quarterback that held the ball at his earhole. Other people want to say that Ted “had to” make the pick. Bullsht!t. Old Man Winter played 6 more years in the NFL – that’s like a career! No one thought the ironman couldn’t hold up any more. One of the reasons that the Packers had to move on from Favre when they did was because Rodgers’s rookie deal was coming up – that’s right, his whole contract come and gone with Favre still playing. Ted didn’t “have to” make this pick. Everyone was screaming for him to take someone at a need position and this was the fartherst thing they had from a need position. This was his first draft pick ever and the pressure was on. Twenty-three other teams passed on him, twenty-three teams would change their mind if they re-drafted today. Ted Thompson is the one who wouldn’t have to change his mind. Ted Thompson is the one who put his sack on the table and said “I’m taking him.” Don’t tell me about how he fell and he was a gift – twenty-three GMs didn’t feel like giving Ted a welcome-to-the-GM office-warming gift – they were all unable to see what Ted saw. If Ted made this pick with Favre still in his prime and Rodgers flamed out, he would have looked like the biggest idiot ever and he would have been fired. Instead, the pick worked out better than anyone (probably including Ted) ever imagined, and no one wants to give him any credit for it. Nuts to that, I’ll throw credit all over this joint! Credit! Credit! Credit. This was a phenomenal pick. A++.
Even without that number one guy, Ted has done pretty well. Picking in the first round should be easy, but it’s not. It’s hard and the pressure is enormous. Sure, there’s a couple losers, but outside of a couple injured big guys, he’s gotten something decent out of all his first rounders and a whole lot more out of a few of them. Plenty of Pro Bowlers in his list.
If Ted hits his average with the rest of his first rounders, we’ll be doing ok.
Other parts in this series
Ranking Ted’s Seventh Round Picks
Ranking Ted’s Sixth Round Picks
Ranking Ted’s Fifth Round Picks
Ranking Ted’s Fourth Round Picks
Ranking Ted’s Third Round Picks
Ranking Ted’s Second Round Picks