The NFL Draft and the NFC North
As Packers fans, we hear a lot about building through the draft and developing young players. I thought it would be interesting to examine each team in the NFC North to get a better idea of how drafted players impact current rosters.
So as baseball season gets underway, I decided to celebrate by writing over 2,000 words about the NFL draft.
I came up with a baseball theme (sort of) to accomplish this task. I break down each team’s drafts from 2005-11 by putting draftees in the below categories. I chose 2005-11 because it encompasses Ted Thompson’s time as Packers general manager. Here are the categories and an explanation of each:
This one should be obvious. Which players drafted from 2005-11 are current-day starters with the team that drafted them?
Players who have turned into pro-bowl caliber players or superstars.
Players drafted in the first or second round that never did much of anything. I limited this category to absolute busts. For example, Justin Harrell was a wasted pick. He’s a strikeout. A.J. Hawk, while failing to meet expectations, remains a starter, wasn’t a complete bust, and shouldn’t be considered a strikeout. In baseball terms, Hawk is probably a walk. Walks are useful and better than striking out, but nothing to get too excited about.
Players taken in rounds five through seven that exceeded the typical expectations for a player drafted that low. I was fairly liberal with this category. If a guy played regularly as a starter or reserve, I counted him as a value pick. For example, I consider Packers LB Brad Jones a value pick. No, he’s nothing special, but he’s played in 35 games over three seasons, starting 13 times. That’s decent value for a seventh-round pick in my opinion.
I realize that third- and fourth-round selections are left in no-man’s land with my system. They’re neither strikeouts nor value picks. The third and fourth round is a gray area for me. It’s not high enough to label someone a bust if they’re bad, but not low enough to call it a value pick if they’re good. I left the third and fourth rounders out in no-man’s land and just counted them in my totals for batting average (see below).
Just like a baseball player’s batting average is determined by dividing the number of hits by at-bats, I determined each team’s draft batting average by dividing the number of good draft picks by the total number of picks. Deciding which draft picks are “good” is a completely subjective process, so I used my best judgment. I also was fairly liberal and usually gave the benefit of the doubt if I was on the fence about a pick, so some may think my averages are a little high. Basically, if a reasonable case could be made that the player was decent and/or met the expectation level for where he was selected, I considered it a good pick.
For example, I counted James Jones as a good pick because even though he’s never done anything special, he’s a solid receiver and decent value for a third-rounder. I did not count A.J. Hawk as a good pick. Even though Hawk is a starter, he hasn’t met expectations for a No. 5 overall selection.
Finally, it’s still too early to judge the 2011 draft class, but I tried. To mitigate this somewhat, I included two overall batting averages, one for 2005-10 and one for 2005-11.
Green Bay Packers
Current Starters (16)
KR Randall Cobb, T Bryan Bulaga, S Morgan Burnett, T Marshall Newhouse, DT B.J. Raji, LB Clay Matthews, G T.J. Lang, WR Jordy Nelson, TE Jermichael Finley, G Josh Sitton, LB Desmond Bishop, K Mason Crosby, LB A.J. Hawk, WR Greg Jennings, QB Aaron Rodgers, S Nick Collins.
Home Runs (9)
QB Aaron Rodgers (1st, 2005), S Nick Collins (2nd, 2005), WR Greg Jennings (2nd, 2006), LB Desmond Bishop (6th, 2007), WR Jordy Nelson (2nd, 2008), TE Jermichael Finley (3rd, 2008), G Josh Sitton (4th, 2008), DT B.J. Raji (1st, 2009), LB Clay Matthews (1st, 2009)
Terrance Murphy (2nd, 2005), DE Justin Harrell (1st, 2007), QB Brian Brohm (2nd, 2008), CB Patrick Lee (2nd, 2008), DE Mike Neal (2nd, 2010)
Value Picks (11)
DT Johnny Jolly (6th, 2006), LB Desmond Bishop (6th, 2007), K Mason Crosby (6th, 2007), QB Matt Flynn (7th, 2008), DE Jarius Wynn (6th, 2009), LB Brad Jones (7th, 2009), TE Andrew Quarless (5th, 2010), T Marshall Newhouse (5th, 2010), RB James Starks (6th, 2010), DE C.J. Wilson (7th, 2010), LB D.J. Smith (6th, 2011)
Overall: .463 (31-for-67)
1st Round: .571 (4-for-7)
1st and 2nd Round: .529 (9-for-17)
3rd through 7th Round: .440 (22-for-50)
Overall 2005-2010: .456 (26-for-57)
Current Starters (10)
LB Chad Greenway, RB Adrian Peterson, DE Brian Robinson, DT Letroy Guion, C John Sullivan, WR Percy Harvin, T Phil Loadholt, CB Asher Allen, QB Christian Ponder, TE Kyle Rudolph.
Home Runs (3)
LB Chad Greenway (1st, 2006), RB Adrian Peterson (1st, 2007), WR Percy Harvin (1st, 2009).
WR Troy Williamson (1st, 2005), DE Erasmus James (1st, 2005), OL Marcus Johnson (2nd, 2005), QB Tavaris Jackson (2nd, 2006), CB Cedric Griffin (2nd, 2006), DB Tyrell Johnson (2nd, 2008).
Value Picks (7)
C.J. Mosley (6th, 2005), QB Tyler Thigpen (7th, 2007), C John Sullivan (6th, 2008), DT Letroy Guion (5th, 2008), S Jamarca Sanford (7th, 2009), LB Jasper Brinkley (5th, 2009), QB/WR Joe Webb (6th, 2010).
Overall: .440 (22-for-50)
1st Round: .667 (4-for-6)
1st and 2nd Round: .533 (8-for-15)
3rd through 7th Round: .382 (13-for-34)
Overall 2005-2010: .425 (17-for-40)
Current Starters (12)
S Daniel Bullocks (2nd, 2006), WR Calvin Johnson (1st, 2007), DE Cliff Avril (3rd, 2008), RB Kevin Smith (3rd, 2008), T Gosder Cherilus (1st, 2008), LB DeAndre Levy (3rd, 2009), DB Louis Delmas (2nd, 2009), TE Brandon Pettigrew (1st, 2009), QB Matthew Stafford (1st, 2009), DB Amari Spievey (3rd, 2010), DT Ndomukong Suh (1st, 2010), WR Titus Young (2nd, 2011).
Home Runs (5)
WR Calvin Johnson (1st, 2007), DE Cliff Avril (3rd, 2008), TE Brandon Pettigrew (1st, 2009), QB Matthew Stafford (1st, 2009), DT Nkomukong Suh (1st, 2010).
WR Mike Williams (1st, 2005), DT Shaun Cody (2nd, 2005), DB Daniel Bullocks (2nd, 2006), QB Drew Stanton (2nd, 2007), Ikaika Alma-Francis (2nd, 2007), DB Gerald Alexander (2nd, 2007), LB Jordon Dizon (2nd, 2008), RB Jahvid Best (1st, 2010).
Value Picks (2)
T Jonathan Scott (5th, 2006), FB Jerome Felton (5th, 2008).
Overall: .412 (21-for-51)
1st Round: .556 (5-for-9)
1st and 2nd Round: .438 (7-for-16)
3rd Through 7th Round: .400 (14-for-35)
Overall (2005-2010): .413 (19-for-46)
Current Starters (10)
WR/PR Devin Hester (2nd, 2006), TE Kellen Davis (5th, 2008), Craig Steltz (4th, 2008), RB Matt Forte (2nd, 2008), T Chris Williams (1st, 2008), G Lance Louis (7th, 2009), WR Johnny Knox (5th, 2009), DE Henry Melton (4th, 2009), Major Wright (3rd, 2011), T Gabe Carimi (1st, 2011).
Home Runs (5)
DE Mark Anderson (5th, 2006), WR/PR Devin Hester (2nd, 2006), TE Greg Olsen (1st, 2007), RB Matt Forte (2nd, 2008), DE Henry Melton (4th, 2009).
RB Cedric Benson (1st, 2005), WR Mark Bradley (2nd, 2005), DE Dan Bazuin (2nd, 2007).
Value Picks (9)
DB Chris Harris (6th, 2005), DE Mark Anderson (5th, 2006), DB Corey Graham (5th, 2007), Kevin Payne (5th, 2007), DB Trumaine McBride (7th, 2007), CB Zackary Bowman (5th, 2008), TE Kellen Davis (5th, 2008), WR Johnny Knox (5th, 2009), G Lance Louis (7th, 2009).
Overall: .472 (25-for-53)
1st Round: .500 (2-for-4)
1st and 2nd Round: .600 (6-for-10)
3rd Through 7th Round: .442 (19-for-43)
Overall (2005-2010): .458 (22-for-48)
- The Packers have 32 players on their active roster that were drafted by the team from 2005-11. This figure does not include undrafted free agents.
- The Packers had 67 total draft choices, 14 more than the Bears who had the second-highest total. Think about that for a minute. The Packers had 14 more opportunities than the Bears to add a contributing player to their roster at a decent price. The Packers had 18 more picks than the Vikings and 17 more than the Lions.
- Many of those picks were supplemental picks or late-round choices that had little chance of making the team. These guys automatically get tossed in the bad pick category, which explains why the Bears have a higher batting average than the Packers. When you’re making as many picks as the Packers, you’re inevitably going to end up releasing more of them or striking out, which hurts your batting average.
- Three of the Packers nine home runs came in the third round or later. The other three teams in the division have a total of three home runs that were picked in the third round or later.
- The Packers have 12 picks in the 2012 draft. If they keep all of them, they will have made 79 picks from 2005-12, an average of 11.3 picks per season.
- Am I a homer for counting Finley and Raji as home runs?
- How different would Packers’ history be if they drafted any of the following available players instead of taking Justin Harrell 16th overall in 2007: DB Leon Hall, DB Aaron Ross, WR Dwayne Bowe, LB Jon Beason, T Joe Staley, G Ben Grubbs, or TE Greg Olsen?
- The Vikingss have 22 players on their active roster that were drafted by the team from 2005-11. This figure does not include undrafted free agents.
- Value picks are tough to judge on a bad team. Did the low-round players get playing time because they’re actually somewhat good, or because the team is so bad that they ended up playing by default?
- 2012 is a big year for Ponder, Robinson and Sullivan. If these players play their way into the home run category, the Vikings’ rebuilding process could be accelerated.
- The Vikings have the lowest batting average in rounds three through seven and it’s not even close. Their 13 good picks in these rounds trails the second-to-last place Lions by six.
- How different would Vikings’ history be if they didn’t draft Troy Williamson seventh overall in 2005, and drafted any of the following available players instead: CB Antrel Rolle, CB Carlos Rogers, DE DeMarcus Ware, LB Shawne Merriman, T Jammal Brown or LB Derek Johnson?
- The Vikings drafted DE Erasmus James 18th overall in that same draft. How different would Vikings’ history be if they took any of these players instead: QB Aaron Rodgers, QB Jason Campbell, WR Roddy White, TE Heath Miller or G Logan Mankins?
- The Lions have 16 players on their active roster that were drafted by the team from 2005-11. This figure does not include undrafted free agents.
- When the Lions hit a home run, they knock the cover off the ball. Stafford, Johnson and Suh are big-time home runs.
- Fairley and Young could become home runs if they manage to stay out of prison.
- I triple-checked for value picks, and I still only come up with two. Am I missing somebody? I was even being generous with the two I gave them. This team needs to learn how to add some depth later in the draft.
- If you take Best off the list, the Lions haven’t struck out on a first or second rounder since 2008. I went back-and-forth about counting Best as a strikeout and decided to put him on the list.
- If you want to turn back the clock a bit further, the Lions struck out on five of six first-round choices from 2000-05.
- Take all those players the Vikings could’ve drafted in 2005 instead of Williamson and James and move them over to the Lions column as well. Any of those players would’ve been better than WR Mike Williams, whom the Lions took 10th overall that year.
- How different would Lions’ history be if they didn’t draft T Gosder Cherilus 17 overall in 2008, and drafted any of the following available players instead: QB Joe Flacco, RB Rashard Mendenhall or RB Chris Johnson? Cherilus isn’t terrible, but I’d take any of those other three instead.
- The Bears have 18 players on their active roster that were drafted by the team from 2005-11. This figure does not include undrafted free agents.
- Congratulations to the Bears for winning the NFC draft batting title. But like I pointed out in the Packers notes, the Bears win comes with an *asterisk since the Packers had so many more picks, including many more late rounders.
- In rounds three through seven, the Bears have had 43 picks. The Packers have had 50.
- The Bears four first-round picks are the lowest in the division. Minnesota has had the second fewest with six. The Lions have the most with nine.
- See the Vikings section for a list of players the Bears passed over in order to select RB Cedric Benson fourth overall in 2005.
- The Bears didn’t fare much better in the second round in 2005. They chose WR Mark Bradley over guys like Nick Collins, WR Vincent Jackson, RB Frank Gore and CB Corey Webster. Hindsight is fun, isn’t it?