Aug 28, 2014; Green Bay, WI, USA; Green Bay Packers general manager Ted Thompson looks on during warmups prior to the game against the Kansas City Chiefs at Lambeau Field. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports
Ted Thompson is best known for his draft and develop philosophy … a way of working that has had its successes, especially on the offensive side of the ball.
The Packers GM, who was himself a linebacker in the NFL during his playing days, however, doesn’t seem to be able to draft any player worth their salt on that side of the line.
To make a point, we’ve gone back five years – the amount of time most coaches and GMs are given to produce a Super Bowl champion – and taken a look at the defensive players drafted by Thompson.
When one considers the 2012 draft of defensive players by Ted Thompson, one could probably say this was the most successful of recent picks by the Packers GM.
Nick Perry, a linebacker out of Southern California, was picked at #28 overall by the Packers.
His story was promising – giving the Packers a player who could line up opposite Clay Matthews and give the team a balanced defensive rushing attack.
That lasted all of a few games before Perry was injured and lost for his rookie season.
Over the course of the past five seasons in Green Bay, Perry has been nothing less than pedestrian. Sure, he’s flashed from time to time, but it wasn’t until Thompson re-signed him to a single-season contract last offseason that Perry began to produce. His 11 sacks – a career high – also led the team in 2016.
While the jury is still out on him, it’s pretty clear that Thompson will do his best to bring him back on a longer-term deal.
Jerel Worthy was drafted 51st overall in the second round – a defensive end out of Michigan State. Worthy was a bust. He never seemed to work hard and didn’t fit well in the Packers system.
Nov 28, 2016; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Green Bay Packers defensive end Mike Daniels (76) reacts after his sack on Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz (not pictured) during the second quarter at Lincoln Financial Field. Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports
However, the second pick of that second round was spent on Casey Hayward, a cornerback who emerged his rookie season as a ball-hawking, intense player.
That’s before soft tissue injuries began to affect his game. He fell out of grace with the Packers defensive coaches, his production fell and the Packers, unfortunately, let him walk. He went to San Diego on a very inexpensive $5 million per year deal and led the league in interceptions.
Mike Daniels, one of Ted Thompson’s best defensive picks of the past five years, has emerged as a leader and productive interior lineman who many thought was too short to play in the NFL. His non-stop motor and ability to stop the run and rush the passer have been exceptional.
The final defensive player selected in 2012 was Terrell Manning, a linebacker out of North Carolina State. He did nothing for the team.
Green Bay Packers defensive end Datone Jones (95) against the Detroit Lions at Ford Field. Mandatory Credit: Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports
Packers 2013 defensive picks
In all, the Packers selected five defensive players out of the 11 selections they had that year.
Leading the way was Datone Jones, a defensive end out of UCLA who is a free agent this offseason. His play overall has been uneven as the Packers have toyed with him being a down lineman before turning him into an edge rusher this past season.
Whether Thompson spends money in free agency on Jones is yet to be decided. My guess at this point is that Green Bay lets him test the free agent market.
Micah Hyde, one of the Packers most underrated and versatile defensive backs drafted over the past five seasons, has been a diamond in the rough. He is a good football player with smarts and instincts that make up for his lack of overall speed. Like Daniels, he is one of the best defensive picks by Thompson over the course of the past several years.
Josh Boyd, a defensive end out of Mississippi State, stuck with the team for a while, but his value decreased as he found it difficult to make it to the field.
Nate Palmer, a linebacker out of Illinois State, took the route of Boyd and never helped the team much.
Sam Barrington, had he stayed healthy, could have been in the league of Daniels and Hyde. After one strong season, Barrington was injured and could never regain what he had as a younger player. The Packers cut him in training camp after his attempt to come back.
Nov 28, 2016; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Green Bay Packers safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix (21) celebrates after intercepting a pass in the third quarter against the Philadelphia Eagles during a NFL football game at Lincoln Financial Field. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
Packers 2014 defensive picks
This could have been Ted Thompson’s worst defensive draft ever.
Though he hit a home run with the first round selection of Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, Thompson reached in the third round for Khyri Thornton, a defensive end out of Southern Mississippi, reached again for Carl Bradford, a linebacker out of Arizona State and then really stepped over the line when he drafted Demetri Goodson, a cornerback out of Baylor.
Clinton-Dix has been a steady performer and showed improvement during his first two seasons. If he stays healthy, he could be a player who sticks around for a decade.
However, the other picks that draft are just plain awful. Thornton was lazy and never had a chance of cracking the 53-man roster. Though Bradford showed some pop in preseason games, he seems to have been nothing better than a practice squad body.
As for Goodson, he was a basketball player with limited experience on the football field. Though he has played some off the bench, his place on the field was only out of desperation as the Packers have continued with injury issues over the past couple of seasons.
Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Mohamed Sanu (12) straight arms Green Bay Packers cornerback Damarious Randall (23) after a catch during the fourth quarter at the Georgia Dome. The Falcons defeated the Packers 33-32. Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports
Though both players had promising and productive rookie seasons, they hit the wall in 2016 after the pressure for them to perform at an even high level increased when CB Sam Shield went down with a concussion and never returned.
Randall was continuously beat by wide receivers who sometimes made him look silly. Sometimes Randall looked completely lost.
Dec 4, 2016; Green Bay, WI, USA; Green Bay Packers inside linebacker Jake Ryan (47) forces Houston Texans quarterback Brock Osweiler (17) into throwing a passing for a nine yard loss during the fourth quarter at Lambeau Field. Mandatory Credit: Mark Hoffman/Milwaukee Journal Sentinel via USA TODAY Sports
Both Randall and Rollins suffered injuries throughout the season and were probably playing when they shouldn’t have been. But we all know those are excuses. This is the NFL and if you are a first and second round draft pick you are expected to play at that high level.
To date, Rollins and Randall have not.
Thompson also drafted Jake Ryan, a fourth round pick out of Michigan.
Ryan has showed promise, but like Randall and Rollins, he has struggled in various areas of the linebackers’ game.
Christian Ringo, a defensive lineman out of Louisiana-Lafayette, has been a project who has shown some promise in preseason, but hasn’t made any waves in the regular season. The jury is still out on this guy who might turn promise into production, if given a chance.