5

December

A Shopping Lesson for Ted Thompson

Ted Thompson Shopping Lesson

Not all that glitters is Green & Gold in Green Bay

As I’m working on my holiday shopping list and for whatever reason, I started to wonder how Green Bay Packers general manager Ted Thompson does his holiday shopping.  As fans of the Packers, we know how Thompson shops for players.  He is your regular coupon hound.  Always looking for the best bargain and rarely ever paying retail.

It’s smart to look for the best value for the least amount of expenditure.  With that, I can’t argue.  Anytime you can receive more than you pay, it’s a good thing and just makes good sense from a business perspective.

I can’t fault Thompson for wanting to be responsible that way in his role as GM.  After all, we can look at some teams who are often in salary cap hell and are unable to make many of the transactions they would like because they mortgage the future on a previously bad choice.  The Oakland Raiders, Jacksonville Jaguars and San Diego Chargers come to mind most readily, although there are others.

In taking a look at how this season has unfolded and in light of the injury to Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers, one of the topics that has become popular is the depth behind the Packers starters.  As I have said before, there is always going to be drop-off from a starter to a backup.  That’s why backups aren’t starters.

It’s easy to simply say that this team doesn’t have enough good players and pile on what has already been a horrible showing by a team that previously was expected to contend for another Super Bowl.  Since Rodgers went down in early November, the Packers are winless and have fallen below .500.  With just four games left, the team’s chances of winning the NFC North are waning and if you ask some, they’ll tell you that that ship sailed long ago.

But let’s examine how this roster was formulated a bit.  As many of you know, I’m not a big charts, graphs and stats guy.  I try as much as I can, but I try to stay away from an overly analytical argument and speak more to the general happenings of the team.

28

April

Tracking the Packers 2013 Undrafted Free Agent Signings (UDFA)

Ted Thompson on the Prowl

Must… Find… Hidden… Gems…

The 2013 NFL draft is in the books but this is when Green Bay Packers GM Ted Thompson’s dirty work is just beginning.  Thompson has forged a reputation for being a huge proponent of using undrafted free agency to find some hidden gems.  Some examples of those past finds are Tramon Williams, Sam Shields, M.D. Jennings, Don Barclay and Dezman Moses, to name a few.

Here is the complete list of the Packers’ 2012 UDFA (undrafted free agent) signings, complete with height, weight and 40 yard dash times. We will be continually updating the list with additional player information or adding new signings, so check back in throughout the day.

Matt Brown, QB, Illinois State – 6’3″ 223lbs, 4.87 40yd dash time -

Took over as the starter in his freshman season, compiling a 93.1 NFL passer rating across the next four years. Completed 928 of 1,456 passes (63.7%) for 10,596 yards, 78 touchdowns, and 36 interceptions. At his Pro Day, also had a 41.5 inch vertical, had a 10’10 broad jump.

Ben Ericksen, S, Illinois State – 6’1″ 194lbs, 4.51 40yd dash time -

Played all four years at Illinois State, starting out as a wide receiver before converting to a safety in his second year. Was also used as a kick returner each year. In his senior year, had seven interceptions. At his Pro Day, scored 16 bench reps, 36.5″ vertical, 10’02″ broad jump, 4.22s shuttle, and 6.85s 3-cone.

Patrick Lewis, G, Texas A&M – 6’1″ 311lbs, 5.30 40yd dash time -

Started 52 games in college and earned three All-Big 12 selections. Visited the Packers prior to the draft. At his Pro day, scored 25 bench reps, 29″ vertical, 8’0″ broad jump, 4.93s shuttle, and 8.01s 3-cone.

Andy Mulumba, OLB, Eastern Michigan – 6’3″ 260lbs, 4.82 40yd dash time -

A hybrid pass rusher with experience in both two and three point stance, Mulumba doesn’t have great burst or speed, but he shows good awareness vs. the run with some upside. – Dane Brugler, NFLDraftScout.com

Angelo Pease, RB, Kansas State – 5’10″ 211lbs, 4.50 40yd dash time -

Saw action in 10 games in 2011, including a start against Texas A&M… Rushed for 144 yards and two touchdowns… Rushed five times for 33 yards and his first career touchdown against No. 15 Baylor… Set career highs in both rushes (8) and yards (61) at Kansas.  Pease did a little of everything during his collegiate career, playing quarterback in wildcat situations, running back and even a little wide receiver.  He’s listed as a running back, but theoretically could play any of those positions.

17

July

Thomas Hobbes’ 10 Rules To Predicting A 53-Man NFL Roster

With training camp approaching, fans most cherished prognosticating event, second only to mock drafts is predicting the final 53-man roster.  Our own Adam Czech and Chad Toporski have each done their own analysis of the 53-man rosters and I’m sure the entire AllGreenBayPackers staff will be making predictions further down the road, but instead of doing one this early myself, I’ve decided to write so general rules that I think you should follow when making your own 53-man rosters

Rule 1 – Drafted players almost always make the team: Over his 8 year tenure as the Packers GM, Ted Thompson has only cut 8 drafted rookies by the end of training camp (technically DE Lawrence Guy was also cut last year, but ended up on the IR list, so the Packers still hold his rights and he is part of this year’s training camp so I don’t consider him a true cut). That’s roughly 1 draftee cut per year, so with the Packers taking 8 players in this year’s draft, expect to keep at least 6 or 7 of them on roster.  Also keep that in mind that when trying to add Diondre Biorel, Tori Gurley or Dezman Moses to the roster, drafted players almost always get preferential treatment unless an undrafted rookie has played lights out.

Rule 2 – Focus on special teams: It’s pretty easy to put down Aaron Rodgers, Clay Matthews, Charles Woodson, Greg Jennings and Jermichael Finley on the roster, but the further down you go on the depth chart the murkier it becomes.  Consider what backups and 3rd string guys are really on the team for: to develop and in the mean time play on special teams.  Players who can play on special teams and play well have a significantly higher chance to stick on the roster than players who can’t play special teams.  In the last 2 years three undrafted rookie free agent linebackers (Frank Zombo, Jamari Lattimore and Vic So’oto) made the team, at least initially due to their special teams ability.  Also one of the big reasons why 2011 1st round pick Derek Sherrod spent most of the season on the inactive list (before getting sent to IR) was because Marshall Newhouse won the backup tackle spot and tackles are pretty terrible at special teams (not his fault, what makes him good as a tackle makes him bad as a special teamer).

26

June

Speed and the Newest Packers: Perception vs. Reality

Packers rookies speed

How do the new Packers compare speed-wise to other rookies?

Even though most of my time for the past month has been spent doing team draft grades, I have indeed been watching roster activity and the rumor mill. I want to touch on a couple of aspects of the Packers’ current roster and it’s composition.

But before I head in that specific direction I want to debunk one of the myths I heard during and just after the Packers 2012 draft. I heard talk on national TV and read several articles in print that a big goal for the team this off-season was upgrading team speed. My observation two months after the draft would be that rumors to that affect were greatly exaggerated. Either that or they absolutely had one of the League’s slowest collection of players coming out of the 2011 season, during which they went 15-1. Yes they lost to the Giants in their first Playoff game, but I think that has more to do with their D having problems (like many do these days) containing ELI, and the fact the Packers’ O suddenly decided to become a turnover and mistake machine.

I will grant you that some of their rookie additions could increase team speed incrementally if they pan out, but based on the simple numbers coming out of the combine, Green Bay is still going to look a tad slow indoors on fast tracks. Let’s just look at the numbers of players who are now Packers who ran a 40-yard dash at the combine and how they fared.

NICK PERRY, Pick 28, ran a 4.64/40 which was the second fastest of any DE in Indy. But as an OLB, which he is currently listed at, he would have been tied for 4th fastest. That’s good and I will grant you, a significant upgrade.

JEREL WORTHY, Pick 51timed at 4.79, which placed him tied for 10th out of 22 as a DT. IF he’s a 3-4 DE then you don’t want to know how far the list he was as a DE.

CASEY HAYWARD/CB, Pick 62 was timed with a 4.57/40, which made him the 17th fastest CB out of 32 to run at the COMBINE.

JERRON McMILLIAN/S, Pick 133 recorded a 4.56/40 in indy which made him the 5th fastest S out of 20. That’s a real plus.

23

April

Meat and Potatoes of the NFL Draft: Middle Round Prospects to Keep an Eye On

NFL Draft Logo Image

2012 NFL Draft

In last week’s Bridesmaids piece we went over how the cream of the draft is talked about way too much and we peeked just a bit into the crust of the matter with the late rounder’s and UDFA’s.

Today, lets look at the meat and potatoes of the draft, those 3rd though 6th rounder’s.  This is where teams are built; you just have to look at Packer players like Sitton, Lang, Jones, Bishop, Starks and more to see what these players do for a team.

Some of these prospects come out and play right away and even start. But most take a little time to become full time starters.  These players show how good a coaching staff really is.  The best coaching staffs see what these players can do and put them in a position to make plays, all the while teaching them the finer points of the team’s systems and techniques. When a player has to earn his playing time and/or fight to keep it, you get the best out of them.

In this area of the draft system, compatibility and the value from that has more to do with where a player is picked in these rounds then anything else.  One GM’s trash is another GM’s treasure.

I am going to list some players at the positions that Ted Thompson has to draft someone, according to most opinions. The best thing about all this is Ted Thompson has six picks from #90 through #197.  And if his other drafts are any indicator, that could end up being even more picks.

With the signing of Jeff Saturday, this is the area I expect to see the Packers draft a Center.  These Center prospects are ranked in the 100’s overall.

Michael Brewster 6-4 312 lbs. OhioState.  A bigger center with some length. Strong, moves well.  5.25 40, 29 reps at 225#, 4.60 short shuttle and 7.73 3cone drill.

Well coached, played in more of a pro style offense. Just a good football player.

The next player Philip Blake from Baylor is 6-3 311 lbs., 5.25 40 time, 22 reps at 225#, 4.65 short shuttle and 7.86 3 cone drill.

Blake brings a bit of nasty to the position.  Good in pass protection and brings that nasty to the run game.  Started at RT before moving to Center.

15

April

Bridesmaids of the NFL Draft: Late Round or UDFA Prospects to Keep an Eye On

NFL Draft Logo ImageFrom the end of the NFL season and through the draft we see the big name prospects dominating coverage.  Getting those top picks right or wrong impact teams for years.

Everyone wants the next Clay Matthews or the next Aaron Rodgers. Fans want to see that kind of player fall into place.

To be honest, by the time the draft comes around I have had enough of   those players.

You can only guess so many times where those top 20 or so players are going to go and it just gets boring.  So I am going to peek at the bottom of the draft instead.

When you review the rosters top to bottom in the NFL, starters, backups, practice squads there are hundreds of undrafted players. Last year 61 new undrafted players made NFL rosters.

Every year teams sign ten to fifteen UDFA’s in feeding frenzy that takes place the minute the draft ends to try get the best of the rest.

The Packers at this time have twenty seven UDFA’s on their roster, with eight of them starting games last year.

I admit I’m a big fan of the late round pick and UDFA’s.  If you are lucky enough to get to a practice, Packer family night or a pre season game it might be the only time you get to see some these players.

Some you see are not going to make it at all. Others you see how bad they want it. And some you wonder why that player was not drafted.

You don’t know who that next Donald Driver or Tramon Williams is going to be. Ted Thompson has four picks in the 7th round this year. That gives him a leg up on signing the best of the late rounder’s and UDFA’s.

For all the draft prospects I look for there are a few simple rules that I go by.  I like seniors more then prospects coming out early. I like prospects with a minimum of 2 years starting experience and stats that show continued improvement in production. And last do they have the god given physical talents to compete at the NFL level.

Taking into account the defensive performance this last year…

I’ll start with a few prospects for the defensive side of the ball:

9

August

Will Any of the 2011 Undrafted Free Agents Make the Packers 53-Man Roster?

Green Bay Packers 2011 Undrafted Free Agents - UDFAs

It probably goes without saying that the 2011 Green Bay Packers should have a deep, talented roster.

That was likely the case before the last season begun, too, and it was proven time and time again during the course of the season when 15 players went to IR. Because of that talent and depth in the roster, the Packers were able to overcome the injuries and win the Super Bowl.

Heading into this season, the Packers only lost a handful of players from that run. The list of players from 2010 playing elsewhere this year: Cullen Jenkins (Eagles), Nick Barnett (Bills), Brandon Jackson (Browns), Daryn Colledge (Cardinals), Jason Spitz (Jaguars), Korey Hall (Saints) and Brady Poppinga (Rams). Brandon Chillar, Mark Tauscher, Anthony Smith, Atari Bigby, Matt Wilhelm, Justin Harrell and Derrick Martin are currently free agents without a team.

From those names, only Jenkins, Jackson, Colledge, Spitz and Hall were with the team the entire season. All the others were either mid-season pickups or went on IR at some point during the year. The point here is that the Packers found adequate replacements for the rest of the players listed, somewhat nullifying their impact on this year’s roster.

It’s a testament to GM Ted Thompson and his team of scouts, as they have done a terrific job of identifying talent, regardless of which avenue they’ve taken to acquire it.

However, the impressive depth of the Packers 2011 roster could mean that Thompson has to back off a strategy he’s used so well in recent years: keeping an undrafted free agent or two on the 53-man roster.

The lockout robbed many of them of valuable time during summer practices, but it’s also forcing both the UDFA’s and Thompson to make quick evaluations during training camp.

The players have had to learn an entire playbook quickly and still impress coaches with their play on the practice field. As if they were already behind, who do you think lost out the most from Saturday’s rainout at Family Night? These guys. Only the No.1 offense and No. 2 defense got any reps in team action. Typically, the scrimmage is just another critical evaluation period for the bottom of the roster. But that didn’t happen Saturday night, as storms called off the practice just 30 minutes or so in.