Over the next few days, we at Acme Packing Company are going to try an exercise in re-drafting several of the Green Bay Packers’ NFL Drafts over Ted Thompson’s tenure with the vast benefit of hindsight.
We will consider a few key data points when making these redraft selections, including primarily the Packers’ roster construction, needs at the time of the draft, and the career numbers and success that players have put up since their draft day. In addition, we will look at the picks that the Packers had heading into draft day, rather than the spots that they may have ended up picking after all was said and done.
The rule with the redraft picks, however, is that we will only make selections that fall between the pick in question and the Packers’ next pick. So for example, if the Packers picked 23rd overall and 56th overall, only players chosen between 23 and 55 will be eligible when we re-evaluate the 23rd selection. (The one exception being the final pick of the draft, during which we will also consider players who went undrafted.)
Let’s get to it, starting with the Packers’ draft in 2010, which set the table for their run to Super Bowl XLV.
Round 1 - Pick 23
Actual pick: OT Bryan Bulaga
Redraft pick: Bulaga
The Packers were lucky to see Bulaga fall all the way down to 23, as he was widely projected as a top-15 player in the 2010 class. With two aging tackles in Chad Clifton and Mark Tauscher, the need was apparent, and Bulaga ended up having to step in for Tauscher on the right side after just six games, starting all the way through the Packers’ Super Bowl run.
Round 2 - Pick 56
Actual pick: DE Mike Neal
Redraft pick: WR Golden Tate (2.60, SEA)
While the Packers got a few decent years out of Neal as a rotational pass-rusher, he never blossomed into the 5-technique end that they hoped he would, eventually losing weight and playing the hybrid OLB/DE elephant position. He ended up totaling 19 sacks over six seasons with the Packers, but played just two games as a rookie.
I know even suggesting the selection of Golden Tate is blasphemy, but he has been by far the most successful of the picks between this choice and the Packers’ next pick in round three (originally pick #86, but it turned out to be #71). Plus, this would have made him “catching a touchdown” at CenturyLink Field in 2012 a lot more palatable. Tate could have done some great things out of the slot with Aaron Rodgers throwing him the football.
Round 3 - Pick 86
Actual pick: Traded to acquire pick 3.71: S Morgan Burnett
Redraft pick: ILB Navorro Bowman (3.91, SF)
The Packers originally held the 86th pick, but traded it and their fourth-rounder (#122) to the Eagles to move up and select Burnett. This one pains me a bit, as I like Burnett and think that he is a very important part of the Packers’ defense. He has cover and run support ability and fits well for Dom Capers, who does like to use his safeties interchangeably at times.
In Bowman, the Packers could have had their stalwart inside linebacker of the next half-decade. Sure, the team had Nick Barnett and A.J. Hawk as starters and Desmond Bishop ready for a breakout year following Barnett’s season-ending injury. But Bowman was a four-time first-team All-Pro, and earned those honors on both sides of a gruesome knee injury that cost him his entire 2014 season. Imagine the Packers’ defense playing in the NFC Championship Game with Bowman manning the middle instead of either Hawk or Brad Jones, then try not to cry.
Round 4 - Pick 125
Actual pick: traded to acquire pick 3.71 (Burnett)
Redraft pick: S Kam Chancellor (5.133, SEA)
Good lord. Getting Bowman and Chancellor with the picks forfeited in the Burnett trade would have just been stupid. Again, Burnett is a very nice player, but imagine a defense with Chancellor at strong safety, Bowman roaming the middle, and Nick Collins playing center field. That’s a terrifying trio up the middle of the field for quarterbacks, running backs, and receivers alike.
Round 5 - Pick 154
Actual pick: TE Andrew Quarless
Redraft pick: S Reshad Jones (5.163, MIA)
Although we replaced the void caused by not drafting Burnett with Chancellor, Jones could have provided depth behind Collins and would have been a natural replacement for him when he suffered his 2011 neck injury. Furthermore, the Jones/Chancellor tandem would have prevented all the suffering that Packers fans felt when being subjected to M.D. Jennings and Jerron McMillian. Jones has been a constant starter for the Dolphins since his second year, and earned Pro Bowl honors in 2015 thanks to a season with 5 picks (two returned for scores) and over 100 solo tackles.
Quarless was an acceptable player for a 5th-round pick and did start down the stretch as a rookie, but he’s hardly irreplaceable.
Round 5 - Pick 169 (comp)
Actual pick: OL Marshall Newhouse
Redraft pick: Newhouse
Newhouse was much-maligned in Green Bay when he had to step in for Chad Clifton at left tackle, but he was put in a tough spot. Still, he was not as bad as Packers fans probably remember, and he helped provide depth at a badly-needed time.
The one player worthy of consideration for his play on the field is nixed on my hindsight draft board for off-the-field legal issues that exposed his character: Greg Hardy. His 40 career sacks cannot erase the domestic violence incident that resulted in a guilty verdict in a bench trial before the case was vacated by North Carolina courts. We’ll stick with Newhouse here.
Round 6 - Pick 193
Actual pick: RB James Starks
Redraft pick: WR Antonio Brown (6.195, PIT)
Starks played an important role in Green Bay in the early part of his career; he could have been a much earlier draft pick if not for injuries during his senior season, but he got healthy just in time to help the Packers make their Super Bowl run.
However, two picks later, the Steelers landed one of the great finds on day 3 of the draft over the last decade in Brown, who is essentially in a two-man debate with Julio Jones for the best wide receiver in football at the present time. Imagine a Packers receiving corps in 2011 with Greg Jennings, Jordy Nelson, Donald Driver, James Jones, Golden Tate, and Antonio Brown, with Jermichael Finley roaming the middle at tight end. That team set records anyway even without Tate and Brown, and adding them to the mix would have been obscene.
Round 7 - Pick 230
Actual pick: DE C.J. Wilson
Redraft pick: RB LeGarrette Blount
Wilson provided some depth on the defensive line and started a handful of games for the Packers in his four years before moving on to Oakland.
I’m cheating a bit with this one, since this was the Packers’ final pick of the draft - Blount ended up going undrafted and signing with Tennessee, but he could have provided the spark that we’re missing in the running game after passing up Starks. Blount didn’t end up sticking in Tennessee, ending up in Tampa Bay and rushing for 5 yards per carry and just over 1,000 yards as a rookie.