The 2009 season saw the Green Bay Packers jump to an 11–5 record and into the playoffs.
That jump was no fluke, and some like myself (check my April to August articles, people thought I was nuts) predicted it, but were disappointed with the burnout that was the trip to Arizona that resulted in a season-ending loss.
So how did they get there? Draft room gold.
Of all the key players, just four (Chad Clifton, Mark Tauscher, Donald Driver and Nick Barnett) were drafted before Ted Thompson's time. Two (Ryan Pickett and Charles Woodson) were acquired by free agency, and only one was brought in by trade.
I have seen and heard Ted Thompson criticized for lack of free agency pickups, but getting two key performers and a solid special teamer in free agency has been at least a break-even proposition because the “key losses” to free agency under his watch have been very minimal.
He has resigned all the key components on the roster. In fact, no player on this roster had his current contract from any manager except Thompson. This is now his team in every sense of the word.
2010 is now judgement time. Thompson's reputation is on the line.
The contracts to Clifton and Tauscher pretty much prove what all are saying—the Packers management truly believes they are set to win now. And not just the NFC North, but rather, a serious run at the holy grail—the Lombardi Trophy.
With the undeniable success Thompson has had in the draft room, it is time to try to find a bit of currency to upgrade the eight 2010 picks they currently have. Without a desire to hamstring the 2011 season by using next year's picks, which should have at least 4–9 spots less value than this year’s round choice, he needs to find an edge and draft more currency.
Where can he get that currency? Mining the current roster for other team’s gold.
Draft currency is often associated to points assigned on the draft value chart. The Packers picks are worth 760 for Nos. 23, 350 for No. 56, and 155 for Nos 86, 56, 31, 25 and 19 as the rounds play out. Packaging lower picks with same round picks can move a team up for certain players, but deletes the extra body to plug in from a lower round pick. For example, Green Bay could have had two second-round and a third-round pick instead of linebacker Clay Matthews—sometimes trading up works.
The other place teams have value in draft currency is in the players they currently have under contract. How much value do players that are replaceable on the current roster have in draft terms?
First, to look at getting value for a player, the trading team has to be able to replace that player without creating an equally large need on their own roster. Second, they need to find a team with the value to make the trade work.
Elite teams rarely make significant roster moves. Teams just on the edge of elite—and trying to get there—and desperate teams make these types of moves. Player contract status, and team chemistry come into play—but far less than one would think.
A certainty is that professionals tend to honour their contracts or find new professions. Most professional athletes love their profession.
This begs the question: Which on the current Packers' roster could be mined for draft currency without leaving a larger hole to fill? Another question is how much currency these player chips really possess in the big draft poker game?
Some inkling as to the value teams place on a player was pretty evident in the tender offers the various RFA throughout the league received.
Franchise key position players, most notably at DL, OT, and CB received huge tenders, or franchise tags. There is a trickledown effect to simply “starter level” and “depth level” depending on the relative value of the position the player plays, and the age and mileage left on the player is in question.
The second thing most league GMs are very remiss to do is trade a single player directly for a pick...direct comparisons are often too clear cut to allow loss of face or job loss in the GM fraternity. They try to “spread things around."
Hell, would you really want to be the player the Packers received for Favre? Even if it took more than that to land Matthews...but I digress, (and managed to drag both hot buttons in at the same time).
What does the 2010 roster have that would have real draft currency value and not create a gaping hole in the Packers lineup on game day? What positions do the Packers have excess bodies and not enough elite level players? Which players probably have more value elsewhere?
Only two or three spots come to mind in terms of “depth over quality” on this team. Both of which have seen various people screaming as a “weakness” on the roster.
First, is the offensive line.
With Tauscher and Clifton resigned, the Packers have a legitimate excess of “backup” quality players at the offensive tackle position. Presuming T.J. Lang is virtually untouchable due to his age and contract status, the Packers have Alan Barbre, Daryn College, and Brenno Giacomini, who can reasonably thought of as potentially expendable.
If one looks to the inside positions with Josh Sitton, Jason Spitz, Daryn Colledge, and Scott Wells all being considered league starter quality. Dietrich Smith has shown adequate backup value, and Lang is being raved as a potential all-pro inside. This offensive line grouping clearly has the depth value that the Packers could use to gain some draft points.
Tony Moll was beaten out by Barbre and Giacomini last year and was traded for a player deemed to have slightly less than second round value. Tony Moll played a significant number of snaps and added needed depth to the team that received him.
His value is the guideline I will use for valuing the potential “nugget values” Thompson can mine from this roster.
Moll netted the Packers a points value in the vicinity of 120–150. Allen Barbre is now at the same age, has started half a season, and played very significant downs over two years.
While his success and failure can be debated, that is the vicinity of where he would be valued—a later third or early fourth rounder. Giacomini, whom was the development player depth that made Moll expendable as the backup to Barbre, still managed to beat out a fourth-round draft choice to maintain that spot. So he should still maintain about 40–80 points value, or another late fourth or fifth rounder.
If we presume Clifton, Tauscher, Sitton, Spitz, and Lang are worth more to the Packers than any other team in the league, and that there is insufficient data on Dietrich-Smith to place a value on him, there are only two more offensive linemen that Thompson could potentially look at moving—Wells and Colledge. Both are proven veterans of starter calibre, and any team with offensive line woes could plug them in as an instant upgrade.
But how much are they really worth?
At an inside position (center or guard) other than an all-pro, the value will never be higher than a second rounder. So, the middle of the second round ranks between 300–400 points, which are the approximate points value of Colledge and Wells.
The other positions with some depth of non-Sunday impact value is at the defensive end and linebacker spots. Ironically, the other “need” the Packers see an upgrade for. Both Jarius Wynn and Mike Montgomery are very hard working ends whom are clearly a better fit in a 4–3 alignment. Neither has the potential to ever be a starter in Green Bay but would add significant depth to a 4–3 team.
Somewhere in the 30–50 point range, a sixth rounder is the most likely spot.
The LB group is also a bit of an anomaly.
Brady Poppinga and Desmond Bishop are both starter quality in a 4–3, but have failed to gain impact status in the 3–4. A.J. Hawk is a whipping boy whom the fans are screaming is not playing to potential—a sentiment I disagree with.
I point to the situation in Oakland where Kirk Morrison, whom has had in excess of 125 tackles in each of his 5 seasons is in the same situation. It is hard for me to understand the whims of fans getting on a very solid starter like Hawk. Even harder in the case of Morrison, other than he had the audacity to question the work ethic and leadership qualities of one JaPorkus Russell for me to understand why Oakland would only tender at third round, and that he has not yet signed elsewhere.
What are these guys worth in the “points” scheme of things?
Strangely, not a heck of a lot.
If a borderline all–pro like Morrison is not gaining huge interest at a third-round tender level, that is as high as Hawk would draw with Poppinga or Bishop at least two rounds lower. That range puts them in the same category as Wynn, Montgomery, or Giacomini, all of whom in my opinion are for more readily moveable.
This brings me to the focus of this article, and the trade possibilities seem endless. A deal with Oakland intrigues me.
They are in a “have” position in a couple of places that it would make sense to get a deal done with. For a team with great and gaping holes in many places, they have a bit of an excess at defensive back. Safety Hiram Eugene and cornerback Sanford Routt would fit very nicely as the significant upgrades in the backup/replacement roles for Harris and Bigby and be instant upgrades to both the nickel and dime positions.
The cost of these guys is in the 150 points range each, only slightly less than Morrison. Oakland has huge holes in what is truly one of the worst OL in the league. Barbre, Colledge, or Wells are instant starters and upgrades, while Giacomini would go in as the top backup.
While “straight across” trades seem unlikely, a package where Green Bay sends, for example, Wynn or Montgomery, Colledge and Barbre or Giacomini, and a third round pick for one of the defensive backs, Morrison and Oakland’s second round pick at No. 39 gets the Packers into the range of getting three impact players in the Top 56 in the draft to upgrade to the super bowl quality lineup that goes out each Sunday.
Making a deal with, for example, Poppinga or Bishop, Wynn or Montgomery, or Giacomini and our fourth and fifth round picks could very likely move the Packers back into the end of the second or early part of the third for a fourth player that should fill another need immediately.
While I do not profess to know exactly what Mr Thompson is thinking as we head toward the draft, the unprecedented move into the first round last year and the success it netted; coupled with the signings of Clifton and Tauscher that scream “NOW,” I would clearly not be at all surprised to see him go mining. Mining the depth on the current roster to add to his chip stack in the big poker game that is the NFL draft.
I love the concept of a deal with Oakland that would bring in solid backup/nickel DBs and Morrison that would give unbelievable flexibility with our secondary and LBs and another top 50 pick for players that we have in house to replace.
Which other fringe players from other rosters could help our team on the RFA market, or juggling of picks makes sense to you?
I am growing weary of simply debating the relative value of only the No. 23 spot in the draft.