On the first day of the NFL Draft, Green Bay's general manager Ted Thompson made a very uncharacteristic move concerning his second- and third-round draft choices. He traded them to New England to trade up into the first round. He also got another fifth round selection to be used later today.
In previous drafts, Thompson has notoriously traded high picks for more picks in the later rounds, and he's generally done a good job using the abundance of picks he has. People from Ashwaubenon to Superior and all the way back to Beloit have been wondering about this deviation, and I have a theory.
I think Thompson is finally putting the finishing touches on the team he's wanted to build since he took over in 2005.
At the beginning of his tenure, there was a lot of work to be done to revamp the Green Bay Packers, which had become an old team that couldn't win in the playoffs and that was over the salary cap. In his first draft, Thompson found, arguably, the two biggest jewels in his hunt for treasured players in quarterback Aaron Rodgers and safety Nick Collins.
The next year, he found a bona fide stud amongst the Broncos at Western Michigan in wide receiver Greg Jennings. It was also his busiest year in free agency, in which he signed former Heisman Trophy winner and fourth overall pick Charles Woodson and Ryan Pickett, a player who will contribute heavily (pun intended, baby!) to Green Bay's defensive line.
All the while, he's been picking up and discarding offensive linemen, trying to find the right ones to fit Green Bay's zone blocking scheme in the running game.
More recent draft picks haven't had the kind of productivity that Rodgers, Collins, and Jennings have had, but this year some will get their shot. The player who comes to mind is Justin Harrell, a guy declared a bust after just two injury-filled seasons. He's a projected starting defensive end this year, and will have the chance to prove a lot of people wrong. As Packer fans, we should all hope that he does, regardless of our sentiments to the front office.
Also, we'll also see how a couple more Thompson acquisitions in the secondary play out a couple years down the line. Pat Lee and Tramon Williams are the apparent cornerbacks of the future as Al Harris and Woodson start to get a little older.
To summarize, just look at the defense: Seven of the 11 projected starters will be Thompson acquisitions, and many of the rotation players in the secondary and on the defensive line will be the same.
The offense will be similarly constructed, as only tackles Mark Tauscher and Chad Clifton and wide receiver Donald Driver are hold-overs from the pre-Ted Thompson days.
For a long time, Ted Thompson defenders (apologists, some might say) have been saying "Just trust Teddy. He's got a plan."
Many Ted Thompson critics (haters, some might say) have been skeptical of that, thinking that he's only been looking out for his own gain or that he doesn't know the first thing about building a football team.
But with the first day of the 2009 draft and close inspection of Thompson's work so far, people should be able to see that plan and how it's starting to gel into something tangible. Something that Vikings and Bears fans will learn to respect and fear in the coming years.