In order to evaluate the success or failure thus far for Green Bay Packers general manager Ted Thompson, we must look at the team's record, the roster Thompson inherited, changes Thompson has made to the roster and make a projection for the future.
Thompson inherited the '04 Packers who had gone 10–6, including 5–1 in the division, outscoring their opponents 424 – 380 (remarkably similar to the scoring differential that left them 6 – 10 in 2008).
As of that offseason, the contributors on the team were mostly older players.
Only five of the 12 players from the 2000 draft class that were contributing, only two of six picks from the '01 class were contributing, and only three of six picks from the '02 class were contributing. Only two players from the '03 and '04 draft classes, Nick Barnett and Scott Wells, were playing significant roles.
The net result: an average team age that was the fourth oldest in NFL.
In that count, Javon Walker, Najeh Davenport, Craig Nall from the '02 class, and Robert Ferguson, Bhawoh Jue and David Martin from the '01 class are included as “successful” picks. Thus, the reality was that the team he inherited had only six starters from the previous five draft classes, with one, Walker, about to hold out, get injured, and eventually be traded.
At that point the team had six starters and seven backups who had been acquired by draft or trade with less than five seasons in the NFL. This was a recipe for an aging, reeling football team, one that went 4-12 Thompson's first season.
It was little wonder the disaster happened after that old team was run out of the park by Mike Vick and the Falcons, and that the coming implosion was inevitable. It is rather remarkable the turnaround was anywhere near as quick as it has been.
The 2005 draft class—Thompson's first—brought us Aaron Rodgers, Nick Collins, Brady Poppinga, and Michael Montgomery. The other picks from rounds four through seven included two spot players and three complete misses. These kids needed a bit of time and help.
The 2006 draft class brought in A.J. Hawk, Will Blackmon, Jason Spitz, Daryn College, Tony Moll, Cullen Jenkins, Greg Jennings, and Johnny Jolly. It also brought Abdul Hodge as a backup for a couple years, with four picks in rounds four through seven that did not stick.
This was the offseason where Thompson brought in Charles Woodson and Ryan Pickett as free agents as well.
The 2007 draft was a great draft, although it is remembered negatively because first-round pick Justin Harrell has yet to prove himself.
This class featured Brandon Jackson, James Jones, Aaron Rouse, Korey Hall, Desmond Bishop, Mason Crosby, and DeShawn Wynn. Amazingly, 10-12 players picked are significant roster players, even if most are only the “depth” that gives us hope. Only a fifth and a seventh rounder failed to stick.
And there is a potential that there will be more serviceable starters from this class than on the entire roster Thompson inherited. He also arranged the trade for Ryan Grant during this offseason.
While it is way to early to really evaluate the 2008 class, it did feature Jordy Nelson, Patrick Lee, Jermichael Finley, Brian Brohn, Matt Flynn, Josh Sitton, and Breno Giacomi, —all who made the roster—and another player, Brett Swain, who is on the practice squad. This offseason also brought the FA signing of Brandon Chillar.
There are three roster spots filled by players drafted and released by other teams during that four-year period; Jarrett Bush, Charlie Peprah and John Kuhn, none truly huge losses to the other teams, or true gold for us.
The undrafted free agents signed in that period include Tramon Williams and Donald Lee, players of significant value who were acquired for nothing.
Tell me I am missing something, but Thompson acquiring nine starters and 19 significant backups, in his first three drafts is pretty remarkable drafting, especially compared to the previous administration.
Thompson inherited a team with Walker, the second best player on the team, and an entire host of other players looking at free agency (both starting G, RB, S, K,CB.... I may be missing some but at least seven of 22 starters plus K).
He had no cash room to sign anyone and no stockpile of draft picks. He had a starting QB significantly past his prime with no replacement in sight.
Now, he has a team with a rising star at QB, youth and depth nearly everywhere on the roster, one of the youngest teams in the NFL, money to spend, and extra draft picks.
Please explain to me how come Thompson is being questioned by the fans. Somehow, I only see one draft pick that looks really bad on a resume of nearly five years of success that should be beyond question.
With the roster he has built, and make no mistake, this is a roster he has built, the evaluation of Ted can start after next season, his fifth.