STOP! Before you continue reading this article, please realize that in no way, shape, or form do I believe that Ted Thompson was or is a better general manager than the amazing Ron Wolf.
Wolf is second to none and one of the best to ever have the title of general manager, regardless of sport or team. Bringing in Reggie White and trading for Brett Favre are arguably the two biggest moves in Packers franchise history, and both were because of Wolf’s actions and the reason the Vince Lombardi Trophy came back home to Titletown, USA in 1997.
However, two things prompted me to write the following article and do the following research I hope you will take a look at.
The first was that I really wanted to see how good of a drafter Ron Wolf was. Everyone knows how great he was finding talent and making wise financial moves, but how good?
The other question I wanted to answer was in regards to Wolf, how good has Ted Thompson really been on hitting in the draft? We all know he loves to build through the draft, but has he done it as well as Wolf did?
Please realize, all I am looking at are the players that each general manager drafted on draft day. Free agency does not count, re-signing does not count, and neither do trades.
A “good” pick is someone that played consistently with their expectations as well as the round they were drafted in. A great player is someone who exceeded those expectations.
Also remember that all stats and decisions are based solely on what each player did with the Packers. Future stats were not taken into consideration for these picks.
RON WOLF’S DRAFTS
3. Robert Brooks, WR: Seven seasons with Green Bay, five starting, 306 receptions, 32 touchdowns
4. Edgar Bennett, RB: Five seasons with Green Bay, four starting, 3353 rushing yards, 19 touchdowns
6. Mark Chmura, TE: Seven years with Green Bay, five starting, 188 receptions, 17 touchdowns (great)
13 picks (2 good picks, 1 great pick)
1. Wayne Simmons, LB: Five years with Green Bay, three starting, 175 tackles
1. George Teague, CB: Three years, all starting, six interceptions, three fumble recoveries
3. Earl Dotson, OL: 10 seasons with Green Bay, six starting (great)
6. Doug Evans: Five seasons with Green Bay, four starting, 12 interceptions (great)
9 picks (2 good picks, 2 great picks)
1. Aaron Taylor, OL: Three years with Green Bay, all starting
5. Dorsey Levens, RB: Eight seasons with Green Bay, three starting, 3937 yards, 28 touchdowns (great)
6. Bill Schroeder: Five seasons with Green Bay, three starting, 225 receptions, 20 touchdowns (great)
9 picks (1 good pick, 2 great picks)
1. Craig Newsome, CB: Four seasons with Green Bay, three starting, 4 interceptions
3. William Henderson, FB: 12 seasons with Green Bay, 320 receptions, 14 touchdowns (great)
3. Brian Williams, LB: Six seasons with Green Bay, four starting, 252 tackles
3. Antonio Freeman, WR: Eight seasons with Green Bay, six starting, 431 receptions, 57 touchdowns (great)
5. Travis Jervey: Four seasons with Green Bay, special teams contributor
7. Adam Timmerman, OL: Four seasons with Green Bay, three starting (great)
10 picks (3 good picks, 3 great picks)
3. Mike Flanagan, OL: Eight seasons with Green Bay, four starting
3. Tyrone Williams, CB: Seven seasons with Green Bay, six starting, 19 interceptions
6. Marco Rivera, OL: Eight seasons with Green Bay, seven starting
8 Picks (1 good pick, 2 great picks)
1. Ross Verba, OL: Four years with Green Bay, all starting
2. Darren Sharper, FS: Eight years with Green Bay, seven starting, 36 interceptions (great)
8 picks (1 good pick, 1 great pick)
1. Vonnie Holliday, DE: Five years with Green Bay, all starting, 32 sacks
2. Mike Wahle, OL: Seven years with Green Bay, five starting
5. Corey Bradford, WR: Four years with Green Bay, 71 receptions
8 picks (3 good picks)
1. Antuan Edwards, CB: Five years with Green Bay, seven interceptions
3. Mike McKenzie, CB: Seven years with Green Bay, five starting, 15 interceptions
3. Cletidus Hunt, DT: Six years with Green Bay, four starting, 17 sacks, 119 tackles
4. Josh Bidwell, P: Four years with Green Bay, all starting
7. Donald Driver, WR: Ten years with Green Bay, seven years, 577 catches, 43 touchdowns (great)
12 picks (4 good picks, 1 great pick)
1. Bubba Franks, TE: Eight years with Green Bay, seven starting, 256 receptions, 32 touchdowns
2. Chad Clifton, OL: Nine seasons with Green bay, all starting (great)
4. Na’il Diggs, LB: Six years with Green Bay, all starting, 311 tackles
5. Kabeer Gbaja Biamila, DE: Nine seasons with Green Bay, five starting, 74.5 sacks (great)
7. Mark Tauscher, OL: Nine seasons, all starting (great)
13 picks (2 good picks, 3 great picks)
TED THOMPSON’S DRAFTS
1. Aaron Rodgers, QB: Four years with Green Bay, one starting, 28 TD passes (great)
2. Nick Collins, FS: Four years with Green Bay, all starting, 11 interceptions, 4 touchdowns
4. Brady Poppinga, LB: Four years with Green Bay, three starting, 158 tackles
11 picks (2 good picks, 1 great pick)
1. AJ Hawk, LB: Three years with Green Bay, all starting, 229 tackles
2. Daryn Colledge, OL: Three years with Green Bay, all starting (great)
2. Greg Jennings, WR: Three years, all starting, 24 receiving touchdowns (great)
3. Jason Spitz, OL: Three years with Green Bay, all starting
4. Will Blackmon, PR/KR: Three years with Green Bay, three punt return touchdowns
6. Johnny Jolly, DT: Three years with Green Bay, one starting, 54 tackles, seven passes defended
11 picks (4 good picks, 2 great picks)
1. Justin Harrell, DT: Two years with Green Bay, 27 tackles (projected good)
2. Brandon Jackson, RB: Two years with Green Bay, 515 rushing yards, 46 receptions (projected good)
3. James Jones, WR: Two years with Green Bay, 67 receptions
6. Korey Hall, FB: Two years with Green Bay, 15 receptions
6. Desmond Bishop, LB: Special teams contributor, 35 tackles
6. Mason Crosby, K: Two years with Green Bay, 79.5 FG percentage (great)
11 picks (5 good picks, 1 great pick)
2. Jordy Nelson, WR: On year with Green Bay, 33 receptions
4. Jeremy Thompson, DE: One year with Green Bay, only player Thompson traded up for (projected great)
4. Josh Sitton, OL: One year with Green Bay, two starts (projected good)
9 picks (2 good picks, 1 great pick)
WHAT IT ALL MEANS
What we see here is that Thompson’s percentage of making at least a “good” draft pick is 42.8 percent (18/42). I understand that currently Thompson’s percentage stands at 33.3 percent (14/42) because I do not believe the four projected players have reached their full potential, but when everything pans out they will be looked at as at least good players.
Wolf’s drafting was a little less stellar on Draft Day when compared to Thompson. With 90 total draft picks under his name, Wolf drafted 34 “good” or “great” players giving him a draft percentage of 37.8 percent.
Before you go crazy, there are a few things to take into consideration when looking at the two general managers. The first is clearly that the majority, if not all, of Thompson’s draft picks have developed into what they can be.
Also, this works the other way in that players like James Jones who are considered good right now, may not end that way when it is all said and done.
Thompson has drafted in only four years for the Packers while Wolf was involved in nine, and over time picks will average out and one’s percentage will go down. This has not occurred with Thompson yet but it says a lot that Thompson still has such a high rate of taking good players with his draft picks.
A quick note is that Wolf’s first four years with Green Bay saw his “good player or better” percentage add up to 39 percent (16/41), very similar to Thompson’s first four years.
The next factor to take into consideration is the team’s performance while each GM was in office. The Packers were never better than when Ron Wolf was in office, and because of it their team was very deep and did not need as many needs as teams that Thompson inherited.
Ron Wolf’s average starting position while picking in Round 1 was 20.3, while Thompson’s was quite a bit lower at 18.7. Don’t forget that this was the case for every round so on average, Thompson has had almost two more players to choose from each round than Wolf. It does not sound like much, but it really is.
The third factor is the one and only, Brett Favre. Because of Favre’s durability ever since he stepped onto the Frozen Tundra in 1992 means that any quarterback that Wolf drafted was not going to make any impact and strictly be a backup for the Packers, meaning it would be hard to consider them “good” while on the Packers.
Wolf drafted Ty Detmer, Mark Brunell, Matt Hasselback, and Aaron Brooks and, had Favre not been around, all four of those would have turned out to be “good” picks.
Thompson did have to deal with Favre for the last three years, but not nearly in the same sense.
One thing I will give Wolf when looking at these stats is the difference in “great” players. As I said, a great player is someone that greatly outperforms expectations based on many factors, including when they were drafted and what that position spot on the team looked like.
Wolf’s rate for finding great players in the draft was 16.6 percent (15/90), while Thompson’s stands at 11.9 percent (5/42).
Once again, Thompson’s picks are projected by me but I think most would agree on my predictions of Justin Harrell (once he gets healthy, he has the most talent of any defensive lineman), Brandon Jackson (has progressed every year), Josh Sitton (give him time and he will be a solid starter), and Jeremy Thompson (perfect body for a 3-4 defensive end) for the future.
When and where Wolf and Thompson have found their draft gems is an interesting stat as well. On average, Ron Wolf’s “good” or “great” players were taken in Round 3.47, or somewhere in between the third and fourth round. Thompson’s average round was 3.27 and just a little earlier than Wolf’s average.
Wolf was extremely consistent in his drafting, but round three was his most successful round by number, as nine of his quality players came from that round. From an average standpoint, his first round picks were his best as he went eight for ten.
For Thompson, five of his gems have come in the second round which stays pretty consistent with both the GM’s averages. From a percentage standpoint, Thompson has hit on four of six sixth round draft picks, making that his best round by average. Surprisingly, no players drafted in rounds five or seven have panned out for Thompson as “good” players or better.
Ron Wolf was an unbelievable general manager. He had an outstanding relationship with everyone in the Packers organization and is still loved by many.
Ted Thompson has his detractors, but when you look at it, he has not done all that poorly in the draft and I have faith in him that he will continue to build the Green Bay Packers through the draft.