How did GM Ted Thompson do?
The Packers had four main needs to fill:
- Tight End
- Offensive Guard
He didn't draft in that order, it wasn't important that he did, but he addressed all these needs by the end of the 4th round. We can't evaluate the draft on whether he took the right or wrong guy, we don't know who will be a bust, and all I'm looking at is whether the player fills a need or was a reach.
The big detour, and an unexpected move, was Kansas State WR Jordy Nelson with the Packers first pick. You can watch Nelson blow by Tampa Bay's 1st round pick CB Aqib Talib on a long TD bomb here. Talib does not get a good jab on Nelson at the line, Nelson gets a step on Talib in single coverage along the sidelines, and after the catch Nelson accelerates away from him.
Nelson will be challenging for the number four WR spot which seems like a poor use of your top pick. But he should contribute on special teams too, which is still an area the team can improve. GM Thompson has drafted a wide receiver in three of his four drafts with the Packers, so in that regard this is no surprise. Most commentators focused on the age of the Packers starting cornerbacks, but WR Donald Driver is about the same age as Harris and Woodson, and finding his eventually replacement is important too. Although wide receiver was not on my top 4 needs, replacing WR Koren Robinson's uninspired production was a need.
First Need: Quarterback. QB Brian Brohm was a pick that had to be made because there was no one behind QB Aaron Rodgers. He's a big talent, who should be ready sooner than later since he had started for so many seasons in college. I would have preferred the Packers signed free agent QB Quinn Gray, but he signed with Houston and apparently the team would rather have rookie QB Matt Flynn. There is a concern that there won't be enough snaps in camp for all three young QBs, but going with three young QBs is probably better than having a washed up veteran at any point.
Second Need: Cornerback. Auburn's CB Pat Lee is big and tall (for a cornerback) with speed and he can play press coverage. He's not a finished product, but he played at a big time SEC program and the film on him is probably a good indication of his skills as he played against many schools that had future NFL wide receivers. He wasn't a big name that was mentioned a lot before the draft, but this was a deep draft at cornerback and he is certainly a talented player.
Third Need: Tight End. This was the one area that I didn't expect GM Thompson to address, but he surprised me and took Texas TE Jermichael Finley. He's a major talent who was a highly regarded recruit out of high school. He had some big games in college, but he's coming out early and apparently spoke out that he needed the damn ball! He will need to be humbled, but hopefully the veterans will be able to help him out with that. Another problem with him, for some teams, is that he's undersized, but that isn't a problem with the Packers. The tight end plays more like a full back than an offensive lineman for Mike McCarthy, so he should fit right in.
Fourth Need: Offensive Guard. The Packers need to figure how who will start at left guard and right guard in 2008, but they have a lot of candidates already. GM Thompson felt he didn't need a top talent, but needed guys to add to the competition. Central Florida's Josh Sitton played various positions in college, and did his part to open the lanes for the nation's leading rusher Kevin Smith. Louisville's Breno Giacomini started out as a tight end, and only began playing on the line recently, so that tells you he's a good athlete. Both guys are the type of lineman that GM Thompson has drafted recently; smaller school guys who played well in college but don't have dominant skills. I'm not sure this is the best way to go since recent picks like Allen Barbre, Daryn Colledge, and Jason Spitz haven't been huge successes.
Wild Card. Wake Forest DE Jeremy Thompson. GM Thompson did something he never did before; he traded up in the draft to take a player. He moved to the top of the 4th round to select Jeremy Thompson. He was a combine star, but never showed much in college due in large part to a 2005 ACL injury that cost him the 2006 season. It usually takes a player a full season to recover from an ACL, so he might have not been back to full speed until recently. He's a proven run stopper, and his speed suggests he should become a quality edge pass rusher. This wasn't a major need, but with the trade of DT Corey Williams, the Packers needed to add somebody on the defensive line. Thanks to the flexibility of DE/DT Cullen Jenkins, that player can be a end or a tackle.
In the end, GM Ted Thompson added players at the areas that needed help, and with the exception of WR Jordy Nelson, he didn't reach on any player. He could have traded down again (maybe) and taken Nelson later, but that's really a small sin. It's better to take the player you want, but you had better be right. This is not a letter grade, but they did what they had to do and filled the needs they had. At this point, this draft was a success.