For the first time since the NFL Scouting Combine in early March, Green Bay Packers general manager Ted Thompson spoke to the media on Wednesday to address the state of the team’s roster.
The start of free agency came during the interim, and the Packers now have a few new faces on the team. Among them are tight ends Martellus Bennett and Lance Kendricks, cornerback Davon House, and defensive tackle Ricky Jean-Francois. In addition, the Packers re-signed a handful of players, led by edge rusher Nick Perry, while they saw several key players depart for more lucrative contract offers elsewhere.
However, Thompson’s press conference focused almost exclusively on the 2017 NFL Draft, and he began the presser by thanking every member of the Packers organization: “What needs to be known by every one out there in Packerland is that it takes an extraordinary amount of people to put (the Draft) together,” Thompson said, “I’m very lucky to have this group of people and I don’t say it enough.”
Ted then launched into one of is quirky anecdotes about a recent visit he made to a restaurant in Green Bay:
I was in a restaurant last week and a sweet lady, she said completely excited “you look so much better in person than you do on television!” and I didn’t know how to take that. What’s the play-off there? We spend a lot of time in the dark, it doesn’t make us weird. We’re looking forward to the draft.
Thompson also took a moment to acknowledge A.J. Hawk, who announced his retirement on Tuesday, and brought up Hawk’s contributions to the team: “I just wanted to pitch in my thank yous to him,” Thompson said. “He was one of our first guys and he turned out pretty good ... He’s everything you’d hope for as a person and a player and we appreciate everything he did for us.”
Ted then took questions about anything and everything draft-related, and a partial transcript of the presser is below.
What happens during the last week leading up to the draft:
A lot of it is walking the same steps over and over. Checking this, checking that. All of a sudden I’ll get an idea about a particular player and we’ll run to the film room and (sometimes) he turns out to be the same player we watched months ago. There’s great value to me to have the certainty and surety of having done our work. With the staff that the Packers have given to me to help run the draft, there’s a lot of confidence in terms of our evaluations.
On the ability to trade compensatory picks starting this year:
It’s no different than trading regular picks. I guess the whole point is this time last year you could use the picks but you couldn’t move. In that regard, it’s helpful. Yeah, it’s better to have that option than to not have it.
Is there stress involved in waiting to pick until late in the first round?
I don’t know. It falls that way sometimes. We don’t try to waste a whole lot of time, there’s not a whole lot I can do. Where are we picking? 29? Is that right? You’re picking 29, once you get to that day you get to the draft itself, there’s somebody picking at 2. You can’t get too cracked up about it.
How much of an impact do medical re-checks have on evaluation?
Any sort of medical exam, whether it come from the Combine or whether it come from us, whatever, that’s an integral part of the process. It’s not the whole answer, it’s a part of the answer, and that’s the way we take it.
Does coming from a football family play a big role in the evaluation process? (Mentioned Clay Matthews as an example)
I think that happens from time to time during the process. Maybe two weeks ago, a week from tomorrow, whatever. It might be able to make you feel better but at the end of the day, we try to see “is Clay Matthews a good football player and can he make our team better and will he help our football team” ... It’s a contributory part of the equation.
Describing the Packers’ approach to undrafted free agency:
We spend a lot of time on it and we make no bones about it. We’re active in the preparation part of it and we’re active in trying to execute it once the draft is over ... you can look at our roster and see that there are players from that and they’re still here.
It’s chaotic. It’s every man for himself. But it’s part of the process, we’re used to it. We’ve got a really good staff of scouts and personnel people upstairs and they’re not only good evaluators but they’re good at other aspects of this game.
We very much push the notion that if you come here, you’ll have historically speaking a pretty good chance of making a team, making a practice squad, or something where you can ply your trade.
Do you put a premium on players who come from higher-profile schools?
Maybe. Quite frankly, this draft is so excruciatingly painful that if you want to make yourself feel better you tell yourself that story. “It’s better to pick this guy because he went to a big school and it’ll work out better.” But sometimes you’ll pick a guy from a smaller school and tell yourself he’s better than a guy from a big school.
Whatever makes me feel good at the time, that’s the stance we normally take.
Someone who’s played extensively at a school like that, has been under the lights in pressure situations, doing the offseason training, doing all the things that professional football players do. There’s a comfort level in saying “he’s used to some of this stuff”. If you take a guy from a smaller school, there might be a twinge in saying “is he ready, will he be ready for the NFL?” The guys who are legitimate draft candidates have agents that help get themselves ready ... I don’t think it’s quite as big a jump as it used to be, like when there were 17 rounds and I didn’t get drafted. I had to just throw that in there.
How do the Packers include off-the-field issues in their evaluations of prospects?
We all do quite a bit of that. It’s important, we care very much about the quality of the people and we think the better the person, the better the football player, we try to look at it like that. I’m not suggesting we’re perfect, but we look into that sort of thing and we try to be careful.
What is one thing that NFL fans worry too much about during the draft?
Probably the draft itself. Just kidding, watch it, watch it. It’s a long time, and I think TV’s done a great job of making it exciting and a lot of people watch it. I’m all for it. If you’re still watching it on Saturday, you’re probably watching ... I can’t say that. I started down the wrong path. It’s a good time, let’s just leave it at that.
On the most frustrating portion of the draft:
(During the draft) there are people that will start to spread rumors. Somebody was in a car wreck the night before, you’re chasing down rumors and things. None of which is usually true.