Thoughts on Trader Ted and the Packers Draft from Pigskin Paul

Ted Thompson - Packers NFL Draft

I've gone crazy!

Unless you were asleep at the switch, or were abducted by aliens, it was hard for PACKERS fans to not notice that the team’s 2012 DRAFT effort had a very different flavor to it this year. WHITEY flipped positions around 3 times and has a new nickname: TRADER TED. It just so happened that the team needed Defense and almost every time the team Picked the Best Available Athlete on their Board it was a defender. They seemed to get more than their share of players who had a higher Draft value than the spot at which they took them.  But let’s slow down the train a bit and look at items individually for a couple of minutes.

It may seem hard to believe, but this was THOMPSON’s 8th DRAFT as the PACKERS head man. Where does the time go? In the previous 7 Drafts WHITEY traded “up” 3 times. In this DRAFT alone he traded up 3 times under the new personna TRADER TED. Having 12 Picks in his quiver emboldened him, I believe, to move up to secure players they had highly rated, but who he felt would not still be there when their next turn came around. And because the entire organization felt such a strong need to bolster the defensive troops he was trading up to get valued defenders as his top priority. So, even though it may look like the Best Available theory went out the window, I think this effort was just a variation on a theme so to speak. And to all of you PACKERS fans who have been screaming since the Play-Off loss to the GIANTS about needing to fix he Defense… you should be very happy right now.

So 12 Picks turned into 8, which must have caused some serious angst on the part of conservative TED, who normally hoards Picks like diamonds. He even alluded to that during several of his press appearances, saying he wasn’t his “conservative” father’s son anymore. By the way, some of his statements and how they were phrased also made me believe he was quite comfortable with the Draft path he chose to follow this year. He seemed very relaxed and casual in front of the camera this year… at least for the TED THOMPSON we’ve known this past almost decade. For a 15-1 team I see no real issue with 8 drafted Rookies on the roster as opposed to 12. They are in the process of signing a boatload of undrafted Free Agents, which I’ll discuss next week after the first mini-camp is over in Green Bay.



Ted Thompson Vs. The NFL Trade Chart: Who’s More Obfuscated?

“I’m convinced the articles I’ve seen like this are written by guys who have no actually gone through the trade value charts.  The Packers are going to be in a tough spot trying to trade up and will have to really overpay in number of selections to do it.”  

- Jeremy, April 14th, 2012 12:27; in reference to the Packers trading picks to move back up into the 1st.


Challenge accepted!

  1. Would you believe me that overall, Ted Thompson isn’t very good at trading draft picks?
  2. Would you believe that Ted Thompson has been suckered in by other teams that have called and accepted less than he originally had?
  3. Would you believe that the single biggest mistake Ted Thompson has made on draft day was trading up for Clay Matthews III?

You’d think I was full of it, but its all true.

In reality, the trade value chart has become a staple of NFL draft fandom.  Some people swear by it while other people think its stupid to put a number on talent or potential.   But should we trust the chart and perhaps more importantly, does the chart make any sense in the modern era of football?

But first off a brief overview of the trade value chart.  The chart was purportedly invented by Dallas Cowboys head coach Jimmy Johnson (or an assistant under Johnson) in the 1990’s and was supposedly one of the reasons why the Cowboys were such a dominant team during the period.  During the NFL draft (which was a lot less sophisticated back in the 90’s) many teams didn’t actually know if a trade was good value or not; can you say (without looking) if the 38th pick is worth the 45th and 87th pick?  Even if you could work it out in your head, could you do it in the 15 minutes you had on the clock?  What the trade value chart allowed the Cowboys to do was roughly assess the value of a trade and see it was a good deal in a very short period of time.



Playing Devil’s Advocate Part II: The Economics of the Packers Trading Up

Let’s play devil’s advocate one more time and look at why the Packers should trade up in the NFL draft.  This time I will be looking purely at the economics of the draft.  The classic example that Packer fans love in the 2005 NFL draft where Alex Smith was given the biggest rookie contract of all time at that point with $45.9 million deal with $24 million guaranteed while Aaron Rodgers only commanded a $7.7 million deal (less than Smith’s guaranteed contract) with $5.4 million guaranteed.  I’m not going to go in the relative value of Smith vs. Rodgers as players (as countless writers including myself have beaten the topic to death) but the take home message is that the Packers couldn’t lose economically: if Rodgers is the next Bart Starr, then they’ve got him at a discount for the first 5 years, if he’s decent the Packers paid a fair market value for him and if he’s a bust they can cut Rodgers without much penalty.  Smith on the other hand had to succeed; it was the only way to justify his massive contract.

The other important point was that the most effective draft pick is in the middle of the second round, which is where the talent of a player cost the least amount of money compared to the talent available.  Simply in terms of the Packers, if you get a Greg Jennings, Nick Collins or Jordy Nelson, then great since you’ve got a star at a fraction of the cost of the 1st round pick.  On the other hand, if you draft a Brian Brohm or Pat Lee, no big deal, you didn’t have all that much invested in them so they can be cut without ruining your salary cap.  A good comparison is between Mike Neal and Justin Harrell.  General manager Ted Thompson was essentially forced to find some value in Harrell due to his draft status as a 1st round pick and thus kept him on the roster even though he was always hurt.  Neal on the other hand as a 2nd round draft pick wasn’t a very risky investment, and in light of his injury concerns and his drug suspension, news is already out that the Packers could cut Neal rather than hold him on the roster.  If anyone plays Texas hold’em, it’s akin to staying in a game not based on the strength of your hand (which is what you want) but due to the amount of money you’ve already invested.