2015 Packers draft preview: Grading the 2010 class
Within minutes of the Green Bay Packers making their first selection at No. 30 overall in the upcoming NFL Draft, discussion will immediately begin about how Ted Thompson and his staff did with their top pick.
Was it the best player on the board? Did it fill a major roster need? Last year, the answers were a resounding "yes" after the Packers drafted safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix with the 21st pick.
Once the three-day extravaganza concludes, instant-reaction grades have become increasingly standard practice across the NFL world. And while that provides a good breakdown of each team’s selections, it’s all based on projection.
It can take between three to five years to really know how good or bad a draft class was. With that in mind, this year’s 14-part series leading up to the 2015 draft begins by taking a look back to 2010. With five years having passed, it’s quite obvious by now just how well Thompson’s seven picks from that class have turned out.
Round 1, No. 23 overall:
Bryan Bulaga — Bulaga never became a starting left tackle with the Packers, but he was the starting right tackle by the fifth game of his career. Injuries have sidelined Bulaga for 28 regular-season games over his five years in the NFL, including missing all of 2013 with a torn ACL. He just turned 26 years old in March and is coming off his best-ever season. ProFootballFocus rated Bulaga as the league’s fourth-best right tackle in 2014. If major injuries are a thing of the past for Bulaga, this could be the prime of his career. Thompson is betting on that happening by re-signing Bulaga this offseason to a five-year, $33.75 million contract. Bulaga has yet to be named to the Pro Bowl.
Grade 5 years later: B-plus
Round 2, No. 56 overall:
Mike Neal — Neal is a good example of why some players require patience before determining their value in the NFL. One year and two years into Neal’s career, it would have been easy to classify Neal a failure as a second-round draft pick. He only played in nine games total between 2010 and 2011 due to injuries. Since then, however, Neal has recorded 14 sacks and has only missed five games. Adding outside linebacker to his defensive responsibilities has turned out to be a good idea by Green Bay’s coaching staff. Neal isn’t a true starter and can’t be considered among the Packers’ 11-best defensive players, but he’s become a solid rotation player. If Neal was drafted a couple rounds later, it’d be viewed as a stronger selection.
Grade 5 years later: C
Round 3, No. 71 overall:
Morgan Burnett — Burnett has been a full-time starter from the day he stepped on the field in Green Bay. He only played four games as a rookie before tearing his ACL, but he’s missed just four games due to injury since then. Burnett has become a quality safety when allowed to play near the line of scrimmage, and his weaknesses in deep pass coverage have either been hidden or exposed depending on who’s with him in the secondary. Clinton-Dix has allowed — and will likely continue to allow — Burnett to play to his strengths. Burnett’s 2013 season was a disappointment, especially considering it came right after signing a four-year, $24.75 million extension. But he responded well once paired with Clinton-Dix and had arguably the best season of his career in 2014. Burnett has also become a leader on the Packers’ defense and was voted a playoff captain last season by his teammates.
Grade 5 years later: B-plus
Round 5, No. 154 overall:
Andrew Quarless — Quarless had a solid start to his NFL career and had become a fairly well-rounded tight end by 2011. Then a gruesome knee injury suffered late in his second season delayed all progress. Quarless also missed the entire 2012 season while recovering. In the two years since, Quarless has proven to be the type of tight end that will give Green Bay around 30 catches for 310 yards and a couple touchdowns. He’s been slightly below average in blocking situations since his major injury. Quarless will turn 27 during the 2015 season, which is the last year on his current contract. Even with the injury, Quarless has been a good value in the fifth round.
Grade 5 years later: B-minus
Round 5, No. 169 overall:
Marshall Newhouse — On one hand, the Packers got 31 starts out of Newhouse. Given his low salary as a fifth-round pick on a rookie contract, Green Bay didn’t need to spend a lot to fill one of its offensive line spots. On the other hand, Newhouse was mostly terrible in his time as a starter. He was the worst offensive tackle in the NFL during the 2011 season, according to the ratings at ProFootballFocus. Newhouse improved in 2012, but it was still obvious that the Packers needed an upgrade. Newhouse is now with the New York Giants after spending a year with the Cincinnati Bengals.
Grade 5 years later: D
Round 6, No. 193 overall:
James Starks — As sixth-round picks go, Starks has been a very good value. He started all four playoff games as a rookie on Green Bay’s road to the Super Bowl and performed well. Injuries became a problem for Starks, and he was never able to claim the starting running back job on a full-time basis at any point. Starks is now settled into a perfect role as Eddie Lacy’s backup. He’s already 29 years old and is entering the final year of his contract, but Starks has proven to be a good late-round find by Thompson.
Grade 5 years later: B
Round 7, No. 230 overall:
C.J. Wilson — Wilson started 11 games for the Packers between 2010 and 2013. He served as a big body along Green Bay’s defensive line, but Thompson didn’t see him in the team’s long-term plans. Wilson is now with the Oakland Raiders.
Grade 5 years later: C-minus
Overall 2010 draft grade: B
Thompson didn’t land a star, but he came away with two long-term starters (Bulaga and Burnett) and three long-term rotational pieces (Neal, Quarless and Starks). It’s very possible that the best football is still ahead for Bulaga, Neal and Burnett. Plus, finding contributors in the fifth and sixth round has helped keep the Packers’ depth in check at tight end and running back. It wasn’t the draft that landed Green Bay someone like Aaron Rodgers or Clay Matthews, but it was a solid class of players.
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