Live By the Draft, Die By the Draft – Pigskin Paul
Since I appear to be the Grandpa of the Draftnik football writers I find at times a need to explain some of my witticisms and quotes. There is an old saying “live by the sword, die by the sword’. That really should be self-explanatory. Today I want to relate that saying to TED THOMPSON and his successful reign as the Leader of the PACK.
As anyone who follows the PACKERS and/or the NFL Draft knows THOMPSON, also know affectionately around the League as WHITEY, subscribes to the theory that you build your franchise through the Draft Process and then hang on to your good players. Once upon a time, say 2006, WHITEY also supplemented his roster by signing a couple of significant VFA by the names of WOODSON & PICKETT. Those 2 players helped solidify the Green Bay roster and contributed significantly to their 2010 season SUPER BOWL run. For some unknown reason THOMPSON has been reluctant to take the plunge and fish in those waters again. WOODSON is gone, and PICKETT is a roster question mark from this point on, in his mid-thirties.
The main point of this diatribe is to point out that even though I agree with THOMPSON in principle I feel like injuries exposed how little experienced depth the PACKERS roster currently has. Many will defend the organizational philosophy by pointing out that the 2013 team was decimated by injuries. The PACK were indeed near the head of the injury bug epidemic list, no matter what criteria you use. Officially, the team lost 70 games by starters to injury. The key players involved were AARON RODGERS (7 games), RANDALL COBB (10), JERMICHAEL FINLEY (10) & BRYAN BULAGA (16). CLAY MATTHEWS also missed games twice because of his wrist woes. There were also multiple games lost by non-starters as well. But as the injuries mounted it became clear that the depth on the team was lacking and too many players plugged into the breach were not of sufficient NFL caliber and/or experience to hold down the fort over the short or long term.
As I tried to track down the base root of these issues I always came back to looking at how little the team has to show for the NFL Draft process of 2011. Coincidentally, that is the Draft immediately following the LOMBARDI Trophy returning to Titletown, USA. Remember please, that when I talk about the Draft process I am not limiting the discussion to Draft Picks. You need to also look at the Undrafted Rookie Free Agents (URFA) from a given year as well. It seems to be a well kept secret the average NFL team that lives primarily through the Draft process, and keeping their own, must also consistently find URFA to help build their roster in addition to the 7-8 Draftees each year.
In looking at that 2011 Draft year the PACKERS of today look to have relatively little to show for their efforts. And that lack of volume/quality has created some roster holes at a time when 3 year vets should be a significant part of their roster. Right now is a particularly questionable time to look at an NFL roster because the next two-plus months will see a significant amount of personnel shuffling as teams struggle to free up $ under the Salary Cap and prepare for the DRAFT in early May. But a roster is always a work in progress and I want to cover this topic now, well in advance of the 2014 DRAFT.
Let’s take a quick snapshot look at the 2011 Draft process vis-a-vis the current roster:
ROUND 1 DEREK SHERROD/OT SHERROD was a talented developmental project who should be starting by now. A horrific broken leg and rehab complications have made him a non-factor for a team rebuilding its OL. He’s about to be an ex-Packer if he can’t get on the field in earnest when Training Camp opens.
ROUND 2 RANDALL COBB/WR//RS He’s one of their top offensive weapons, and has been reasonably healthy for his size until 2013.
ROUND 3 ALEX GREEN/RB He was a surprise pick in the Top 100, and did not pan out. He was waived last Fall.
ROUND 4 DAVON HOUSE/CB Has shown some athleticism, but has been benched by nagging nicks & bruises and shown a lack of want-to as a tackler. Could also be on the roster bubble unless the team loses both SHIELDS & WILLIAMS in Free Agency.
ROUND 5 D.J. WILLIAMS/TE/H-B He was a hybrid player, who could catch but do little else coming out of college. As a pro who dropped way too many balls and was cut in 2013.
ROUND 6 CALEB SCHLAUDERAFF/G/C He was decent in Training Camp as a Rookie, but was dispatched to the JETS for a late future Draft Pick by what appeared to be excellent OL depth in 2011.
ROUND 6 D.J. SMITH/ILB The college tackling machine impressed early, but after a 2012 knee injury was sent packing last year. He was a catcher, more than a striker.
ROUND 6 RICKY ELMORE/DE He was too small to play DE and too slow-footed to stand up at LB. Many of us scratched our heads at his selection that draft. He was gone quickly.
ROUND 7 RYAN TAYLOR/TE He’s a Special Teams ace and can contribute in a pinch from scrimmage. For a 7th Rounder an OK pick.
ROUND 7 LAWRENCE GUY/DE A long DL who was too slow footed to pay outside and too long inside.
So what we have is a Draft Class of 10 guys, with only 4 still on the roster and only COBB as a starter. That’s a disturbingly low number only 3 years after the Draft. If SHERROD can’t win a starting job in 2013 this is pretty much going to a bust of a Draft year and the kind of bad experience that really cuts into your roster over the long haul.
But it gets even uglier when we look at the 2011 group of URFA that were harvested. As of last week the PACKERS roster of 79 total players listed 37 total URFA. That’s above the NFL average but not out of whack for a team that builds through the Draft process. But what is ugly, is the fact that only 5 are from 2011, and only 2 (JENNINGS & LATTIMORE) were originally signed by the PACK.
So in essence on the current roster of 79 only 9 players were acquired from the Draft Class of 2011. The standard line is that it takes 3-4 years to look back and evaluate a Draft Class. In this case the frosting is pretty much on the cake (with SHEROD the big ?) and it neither tastes nor looks very good overall. Every team has a bad year and this was it for the PACKERS. The real worry is that the 2011Draft process leaves the team with very little wiggle room for mistakes in this process for the foreseeable future.
He who lives by the Draft, can die by the Draft. WHITEY, it may be time for another plunge into VFA like in 2006, in order to bolster the roster, while AARON RODGERS is in his prime. And as always this next Draft is going to be critical to making legit Super Bowl runs in the coming years.
Editor’s Note: Our friend Pigskin Paul, born and raised in Wisconsin, has a long history of “DraftNikism” and studying the ways of Packers’ GMs. You can read more from Paul at his website, Pigskin Paul’s Place.