Green Bay Packers general manager Ted Thompson has always subscribed to the Ron Wolf draft theory of stockpiling swings at the plate.
On Monday, Thompson received two more hacks in the upcoming 2014 draft when the NFL awarded him a pair of compensatory picks, one in the third round and another in the fifth. It's a valuable currency the Packers have spent well in the team's history, regardless of whether Wolf or Thompson was making the final decisions.
Another chance to strike gold awaits Thompson in May.
According to a press release from NFL Communications, the Packers received the No. 98 overall pick for losing Greg Jennings to the Minnesota Vikings and the No. 176 pick for Erik Walden signing with the Indianapolis Colts last spring.
The Packers now have a pick in every round, with two in both the third and fifth, and nine selections total.
"We’re certainly glad to have them,” Thompson said of the compensatory picks back in 2012, per Rob Demovsky of the Green Bay Press Gazette. “It’s always good to have extra picks. Like (former Packers GM) Ron (Wolf) said, ‘The more swings you have at the plate, the better off you usually do.’"
More swings equal more opportunities, and more opportunities increase the probability of getting a hit during a process that is always unpredictable.
Thompson has actually fared better than most picking players during the draft, in part because he's always getting more dips into the pot.
With two more picks awarded in 2014, Thompson has now been awarded 11 compensatory picks since debuting as the Packers general manager in 2005. He's received at least one in every year but 2005 and 2009, and compensatory picks were out of his control during his first year on the job.
|2006||OL Tony Moll||5th|
|2006||DE Dave Tollefson||7th|
|2007||TE Clark Harris||7th|
|2008||OL Josh Sitton||4th|
|2010||OL Marshall Newhouse||5th|
|2011||CB Davon House||4th|
|2012||DE Mike Daniels||4th|
|2012||S Jerron McMillian||4th|
|2013||DL Josh Boyd||5th|
*No comp picks in 2005, 2009
Most of those added selections have turned into assets, especially recently.
Thompson picked Josh Sitton with a fourth-round compensatory pick in 2008. He's since become a stalwart on the Packers offensive line, earning Pro Bowl honors in 2012 as a right guard and All-Pro recognition as a left guard last season. Sitton has made 80 starts over six NFL seasons.
Marshall Newhouse arrived as a fifth-round comp pick in 2010. He eventually slotted in as the offense's starting left tackle during the highest scoring season in Packers history. A year later, Thompson used a fourth-round comp selection on cornerback Davon House, who remains on the roster.
In 2012, he struck out with safety Jerron McMillian but hit a home run with defensive lineman Mike Daniels. While McMillian was cut last December, Daniels has developed into a disruptive pass-rusher who should see hit snaps skyrocket next season.
His most recent compensatory pick came last season, when he selected defensive lineman Josh Boyd in the fifth round. Boyd flashed as a raw but versatile player who should be part of Green Bay's defensive line rotation in 2014.
Other Thompson comp picks include offensive tackle Tony Moll (fifth round) and defensive end Dave Tollefson (seventh) in 2006 and tight end Clark Hunt (seventh) in 2007.
Once upon a time, Wolf used his awarded picks to snag players such as Tyrone Williams (third, 1996), Marco Rivera (sixth, 1996), Matt Hasselbeck (sixth, 1998), Josh Bidwell (fourth, 1999), Aaron Brooks (fourth, 1999) and Cletidus Hunt (third, 1999). Mike Sherman, who took over in 2001 and bridged the gap between Wolf and Thompson, selected Najeh Davenport (fourth, 2002) and Scott Wells (seventh, 2004).
The Packers' 33 compensatory picks are the second-most since the league started the program in 1994. The Baltimore Ravens lead the NFL with 41.
This season will actually be the first time Thompson has been awarded a third-round selection, or the highest of compensatory picks. The NFL deemed Jennings' five-year, $45 million deal with $17.8 million guaranteed worth the No. 98 selection, with only the Pittsburgh Steelers (No. 97 overall) receiving a higher pick.
While the Packers made an effort to bring Jennings back to Green Bay, Thompson can probably feel good about the extra third-round pick and cap space he now has without the 30-year-old receiver.
Walden's four-year deal worth $16 million and $8 million guaranteed with the Colts surprisingly netted Thompson a fifth-rounder. Walden produced three sacks over 15 games in Indianapolis, but Thompson essentially turned a former street free agent into a fifth-round pick, an incredible asset turnaround.
The Packers signed no unrestricted free agents last spring, providing nothing to counter the net loss of Jennings and Walden.
Four picks in the top 100 and seven selections in the first five rounds once again provides Thompson significant ammunition to improve his roster. Eight times as Packers general manager, he's entered a draft with at least nine total picks. And only once—in 2010—has he picked seven or fewer players in a single draft.
If the early impressions of this draft are any indication, the chance to add another talented player in either the third or fifth round appears higher than normal in 2014.
Noted draft analyst Mike Mayock called this a deep, talented draft class during a February conference call:
From my perspective, this is the deepest and best draft class I've seen in probably ten years. That's been reinforced by most of the general managers and scouts I've talked to throughout the league. I had one GM tell me the other day that having a top 20 pick this year is very similar to having a Top 10 pick last year. So I think there's more depth. I think there are certain positions that are stacked this year and you can get a quality player through three or four rounds.
Bleacher Report's Matt Miller shared the same opinion:
Mentioned this on radio, but 2014 draft class is so deep that many 2nd round picks would be mid-late firsts in "normal" year.— Matt Miller (@nfldraftscout) March 16, 2014
The Packers still need a talent infusion at several positions, including safety, inside linebacker, tight end, center, defensive line and possibly even receiver.
And while trading compensatory picks is not allowed, having nine total selections should give Thompson the ability to move around the board, with the possibility of trading up to get a player during an early round. He's also been known to move back and hoard picks in the middle rounds, which might be a more sound strategy in a draft expected to be deep at several positions.
Thompson should expect to see more compensatory picks next spring, too.
The Packers have signed both Julius Peppers and Letroy Guion during free agency, but both were cut by their respective teams and won't count in the NFL's formula. However, unrestricted free agents Evan Dietrich-Smith, James Jones and Marshall Newhouse have already departed, and several others—including Jermichael Finley, John Kuhn, Matt Flynn, Ryan Pickett and Johnny Jolly—remain possibilities to sign elsewhere.
Dietrich-Smith, who signed a four-year deal worth $14.25 million and $7.25 million guaranteed with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and James Jones, who agreed to a three-year deal worth $11.3 million with the Oakland Raiders, figure to each fetch picks for the Packers come next March.
Thompson's cycle of accumulating draft capital chugs along.
Losing players in free agency hurts, but the compensatory pick program has helped alleviate some of the pain. And few general managers have benefited more from the system than Thompson, whose draft-and-develop strategy for roster building remains built on having as many cracks at finding young, cheap talent as possible.
A goldmine of additional draft capital handed to Thompson this year—in the form of second third- and fifth-round picks—should allow the Packers general manager to go swinging for the fences again during the 2014 NFL draft.
Zach Kruse covers the NFC North for Bleacher Report.