Why The Packers Don’t Have A Better Pass Rush

Ted never gets us pass rushers! Boo hoo! Our pass rush needs to be upgraded! Waaaa!

Ok, enough crying about this, let’s settle this chapter of Fire Ted right now.

In a 3-4 defense, which we run, pass rush comes from Outside Linebackers. Outside Linebacker is a premium position. If you win a bunch of games every year and dont pick at the top, it can be really hard to get OLBs or converted DEs to play the edge rusher role.

Below, I go draft by draft to see how many Pro Bowl edge rushers were available when the Packers made their first choice for every year of Ted Thompson’s tenure.

I did not include Inside Linebackers like Paul Posluszny or Chad Greenway. Posluszny averaged less than 1.5 sacks per year for his career, Greenway had 1.8 sacks per year. For comparison, AJ Hawk averaged more than 2 per year – these guys were not going to be pass rushers. I also didn’t include guys like Zak DeOssie, who was drafted as an OLB, but went to the Pro Bowl as a long snapper. I did, however, include guys like Tamba Hali, who came out as defensive ends, but were converted to OLB in the pros. I wanted to see what Pro Bowl 3-4 pass rushers Ted passed up on.

Here are the numbers, year by year:

2016 – 0 – no OLB (or converted DE) drafted after the Packers picked went to the Pro Bowl

2015 – 0

2014 – 0  – are you seeing why we don’t have any young pass rushing studs right now?

2013 – 0 – A case could be made for Jamie Collins, who was not designated as an OLB or ILB on the Pro Bowl roster; he was just called a LB since he did not participate. Since he had his career high 5.5 sacks that year, it’s hard to say this was the pass rusher you all wanted

2012 – 3? – In the second round, the Seahawks took Bobby Wagner, the Titans took Zach Brown, and the Bucs took Lavante David. All of them have been listed at OLB at some point in their careers, but none ever had more than 7 sacks in a year and David has the most career sacks of the bunch with 18. With the one pick we had before these guys were chosen, we took Nick Perry, who had 11 sacks last year (thats over 50% more than the best year between the other three) and more career sacks than any of them, despite injuries limiting him to fewer games than any of them. It’s hard to call that a miss.

2011 – 1 – The Chiefs took Justin Houston in the 3rd round. We did get Pro Bowl receiver Randall Cobb 5 picks ahead of him, but he wasn’t a pass rusher.

2010 – 0

2009 – 1 – CM3 was available, but we were the team who took him. Connor Barwin was drafted after CM3 but before the Packers next pick. Brian Orakpo was available with our pick at 9, but we went with Pro Bowl Nose Tackle and Super Bowl run lynch pin BJ Raji. I guess you could call that a miss?

2008 – 0

2007 – 1 – Anthony Spencer went late in the first, after the Packers pick. He went to the Pro Bowl once, in the only season he ever had with more than 6 sacks and it was as an injury replacement for… wait for it… Clay Matthews.

2006 – 1 – Tamba Hali was a DE who converted to LB and went to the Pro Bowl. Elvis Dumervil played OLB and 4-3 DE with equal effectiveness so it was hard to call him truly a 3-4 edge rusher. They were both available when the Packers picked first.

2005 – 0 – There were no Pro Bowl pass rushers available when Ted’s first pick came up, so he had to settle for Aaron Rodgers.


There, that’s it! In almost all of Ted’s 12 drafts before this year, he didn’t even get a chance to pick a future Pro Bowl pass rusher. When he did get a chance, he took guys like Clay Matthews and Nick Perry – and if you don’t like those guys… tough, that’s as good as it gets when you keep winning every year and don’t get to pick in the top 10!

Losing 10-14 games and picking in the top 5 or 10 is the only way to get guys like OLB rushers Von Miller, Aldon Smith, Khalil Mack, or even converted DEs like Jadeveon Clowney and Vic Beasley (and look at how many rings those guys have combined for – hint: it’s the same number that Clay Matthews has combined for). Those guys go to the Pro Bowl every year and they aren’t even an option for Ted!

Whine about the pass rush all you want, go ahead, shout to the clouds about about how Ted hasn’t drafted more pass rushers, but know this: it’s because there weren’t any for him to take!


Update: After this article, we posted another comparing quarterbacks to pass rushers – the results were surprising.

4 thoughts on “Why The Packers Don’t Have A Better Pass Rush”

  1. Many thanks for this analysis. It confirms what I have long suspected–that the superior pass-rushers are easily identified and long gone by the time GB gets to draft, usually later than 24th and almost always later than 20th.

    Thompson might have had a shot this year with Watt (TBD), but seems to have calculated that a probable backup pass rusher (at least for this year) was worth less than a possible starting CB and an additional draft choice.

    1. Exactly. In the thousands of players that Ted has had an opportunity to draft in a dozen years, only a small handful ended up as Pro Bowl pass rushers. Getting an injury-prone Clay Matthews at 26 overall is the equivalent of winning the lottery while getting struck by lightning. Adding an 11-sack player in Nick Perry at 28 overall is also a very rare feat.

      1. If Biegel has a couple of 8-10 sack years and, say 40+ career sacks you’d almost have to cite it as an example of drafting wizardry.

        1. Finding 10 sack guys that late doesn’t happen often – it would be another in a long line of amazing 4th round picks by Ted Thompson.

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