But for a long time they seemed like they were, and for a team that is loathe to make moves in free agency, that can only mean that the Packers have aced the draft, right?
Let’s test that theory by putting their 2008 to 2010 draft classes through the Draft Grader. As is always the case every pick gets a grade between +2.0 and -2.0 (in 0.5 increments) that depends upon:
• Where they were drafted
• Their performance
• Their contribution (how many snaps their team got out of them)
• Other factors such as unforeseen injuries and conditions that could not have been accounted for
Let’s take a look at how the Packers drafted.
+2.0: You’ve just found Tom Brady in the 6th round
With Aaron Rodgers on the roster they didn’t need to.
+1.5: Getting much more than you bargained for!
Josh Sitton, G (135th overall pick in 2008): In much the same way it astounds that Carl Nicks lasted as long as he did, so it does with Sitton. Sure he was a college tackle, but come on scouts, you must have seen his talent right? Sitton isn’t quite Marshal Yanda, but he’s the next best thing when you break down the league’s right guards. Earned himself a +68.4 grade over four years.
Clay Matthews, LB (26th overall pick in 2009): From Day 1 Matthews has been an impact player from the left outside linebacker spot, causing right tackles all sorts of problems and becoming one of the league’s star defensive players. Picked up a +68.5 grade over three years, and while his sack numbers were down last year, his total pressure numbers were pretty similar. Consistently good despite having very little help around him rushing the passer.
+1.0: The scouts nailed it!
Jordy Nelson, WR (36th overall pick in 2008): Seems odd to say it, but it did take Nelson some time to find his feet in the NFL. Despite being cast as “the white guy who doesn’t drop passes”, Nelson actually put 15.2% of catchable passes on the ground in his first three years in the league. All that was forgotten in 2011, with a 1,263-yard, 15-touchdown season that saw Rodgers and Matt Flynn have an incredible 150.8 QB rating when throwing at him.
Bryan Bulaga, T (23rd overall pick in 2010): Didn’t have the best of rookie years individually, but bounced back to look like one of the league’s best right tackles in his sophomore season. Went from a -24.1 grade in 2010, to +14.6 in 2011.
James Stark, RB (193rd overall pick in 2010): It’s still early days in Stark’s career, but the former sixth-rounder has shown an ability to make defenders miss and pick up yards after contact. The Packers have got pretty good value in terms of his playmaking ability, but they’ll need to see him build on that while getting more touches of the ball.
+0.5: Never hurts to find a solid contributor
Jermichael Finley, TE (91st overall pick in 2008): At his best, Finley is a mismatch defenses can’t contend with. At his worst, a tight end who blocks like a receiver and drops ball like an offensive linemen. For the most part, Finley has been a playmaker, but he’s not done enough of it to warrant a higher grade.
Matt Flynn, QB (209th overall pick in 2008): He didn’t see the field all that much but when he did was able to do enough to earn a likely starting spot in Seattle. Worked out very well for Green Bay who should net a higher compensatory pick than the seventh-rounder Flynn cost them.
T.J. Lang, G (109th overall pick in 2009): Finally found a home for himself at a left guard vacated by Daryn Colledge, Lang actually managed to upgrade the position with a fine year. Much like Josh Sitton does a better job in pass protection and could do with being more aggressive in the run game, but a fine first season at the position.
Morgan Burnett, S (71st overall pick in 2010): After his rookie year was cut short by injury, Burnett solidified his spot as a starter in 2011 with a decent season. Proving himself a capable safety, Burnett played more than any other Packers defender and had the kind of season that leaves you comfortable with him starting. What you’d hope for out of a third round pick.
C.J. Wilson, DE (230th overall pick in 2010): Generates next to nothing as a pass rusher, but in 711 snaps over two years has managed to hold his ground and make some plays in the run game. Not bad from a seventh-rounder.
0.0: It could have been worse
Breno Giacomini, T (150th overall pick in 2008): Was given plenty of opportunities to win a starting job but never earned the trust of the coaches and was thus unable to get on the field. Has since gone on to have some success in Seattle.
Brett Swain, WR (217th overall pick in 2008): The Packers’ fifth receiver for some time got on the field for 109 snaps and made four special teams tackles. Not all that noteworthy.
B.J. Raji, DT (9th overall pick in 2009): After not making much of an impression as a rookie, Raji made a name for himself with some big plays that earned him plenty of the spotlight as the Packers went on to win the Super Bowl. Then 2011 came along and Raji turned into a player who looked tired, spending too many plays just leaning on linemen. This was reflected in Raji turning 493 pass rushes into just 20 combined sacks, hits, and hurries. The Packers would be wise to limit his snaps to try and get him back on track.
Quinn Johnson, FB (145th overall pick in 2009): You can never have enough fullbacks’ right? Johnson did a decent job as one of the Packers three lead blockers, earning a +3.2 grade in 419 snaps before he became surplus to requirements.
Jairus Wynn, DE (182nd overall pick in 2009): With a -13.0 grade in 719 snaps it’s fair to say that maybe Wynn hasn’t quite worked out for the Packers. Still, you can’t win them all in the sixth round and this is far from a defeat.
Brandon Underwood, CB (187th overall pick in 2009): Didn’t contribute on defense, but did have some impact on special teams despite some off-field problems.
Brad Jones, LB (218th overall pick in 2009): Has played a fair amount, but was unable to offer much pass rush opposite Clay Matthews. Sometimes seventh-rounders play like seventh-rounders.
Mike Neal, DE (56th overall pick in 2010): Will need to take a big step forward in 2012, after his sophomore season where he looked like a player coming back from injury. In just 81 snaps as a rookie flashed talent to suggest he could be a player when healthy, but such a small sample size maybe we just caught him on a good couple of weeks.
Andrew Quarless, TE (154th overall pick in 2010): Found it hard to fill the shoes of Jermichael Finley as a rookie, then found his role in 2011 reduced before injury. Too early to tell what kind of lasting impact he’ll have as a Packer.
Marshall Newhouse, T (169th overall pick in 2010): We wouldn’t feel all that comfortable with Newhouse starting without substantial improvements, but what do you expect out of a fifth-rounder in his first season? Was given an absolute roasting by Jason Pierre-Paul, gave up too much pressure and got too little push in the run game.
-0.5: That pick was not put to good use
Patrick Lee, CB (60th overall pick in 2008): Second round picks should play more than 126 snaps over a four year period. That’s less than a lot of players manage in two games. Two knee injuries make you wonder what may have been, but this was still a major disappointment.
Jeremy Thompson, DE (102nd overall pick in 2008): Looked terrible as a rookie (-7.8 grade on 161 snaps) and wasn’t cut out for life in a 3-4 when Green Bay switched over.
Jamon Meredith, T (162nd overall pick in 2009): Snatched off the Packers’ practice squad by the Bills, Meredith didn’t spend much time as a Packer.
-1.0: What a waste!
They got something worse than a waste …
-1.5: The scouts/ coaches failed, big time!
Brian Brohm, QB (56th overall pick in 2008): An odd pick at the time, Brohm was a huge bust for Green Bay and was subsequently cut and re-signed to the practice squad as a sophomore player. Naturally never saw regular season duty and has had no success around the league.
-2.0: You just drafted the love child of Jamarcus Russell and Ryan Leaf!
No Russell/ Leaf hybrids in this draft.
If you’re going to build a team through the draft you need to find good players. Unlike a Colts team that was unable to, Green Bay has and in the process managed to surround their franchise quarterback with lots of talent. It seems like every year they find a player who substantially upgrades a position, while finding others who solidify spots, allowing them to get younger (and spend less money) than their rivals. While they have their share of misses, the successes are so significant you can handle it.