Draft and Develop Working with Offensive Line

After more misses than hits early in his tenure, general manager Ted Thompson has built a strong offensive line.

Whether it's the scouting or the coaching, the Green Bay Packers have hit on a successful formula with their offensive line.

That wasn't the case in the first three years of general manager Ted Thompson's tenure.

Daryn Colledge and Jason Spitz had decent careers — Colledge helped the Packers win a Super Bowl — but didn't play to their draft slots, leading to some questions about the Packers' ability to draft top-quality linemen.

Allen Barbre and Breno Giacomini were bombs but have become valued commodities elsewhere, leading to some questions about the Packers' ability to develop linemen. Barbre has found a home in Philadelphia — where he recently signed a contract extension — and Giacomini helped Seattle win a Super Bowl before signing with the Jets.

Based on an obviously subjective scorecard, you could argue that Thompson swung and missed on seven of the eight offensive linemen selected during his first four seasons. The exception, however, was a home run: the fourth-round pick used on Pro Bowl guard Josh Sitton in 2008.

During the five drafts spanning 2009 through 2013, Thompson and his scouts and offensive line coach James Campen have had a far better success rate.

In 2009, the Packers acquired guard T.J. Lang in the fourth round. Jamon Meredith, a fifth-round pick, never played for Green Bay but started 20 games for Tampa Bay the past two seasons.

In 2010, the Packers reeled in tackle Bryan Bulaga. And for a fifth-round selection, fellow tackle Marshall Newhouse was a pretty good find, as well.

Injuries have sabotaged the career of Derek Sherrod, the 2011 first-round pick. Thompson, however, pulled off a rare feat last year by drafting a starting left tackle, David Bakhtiari, in the fourth round. Of the 32 projected starting left tackles, 18 were taken in the first round while only eight were acquired in the fourth round or later.

The starting center figures to be either J.C. Tretter, a fourth-rounder in 2013, or Corey Linsley, a fifth-rounder in 2014.

Going back to that subjective scorecard, Thompson has hit on four of his 10 offensive line picks from the past six drafts. Of the remaining six, it's far too early to render a verdict on Tretter and Linsley.

One sign of the Packers' success in drafting offensive linemen can be seen in, well, the draft. From 2005 through 2011, Thompson drafted 14 linemen — two per season. Of those, two were selected in the first round, one in the second and one in the third.

From 2012 through 2014, Thompson drafted only four linemen — 1.3 per season. None of those were selected in the first three rounds.

A second sign can be seen in statistics. The Packers fielded the league's seventh-ranked run game last season — their best finish since ranking third in 2003 — and the line finished fourth in ProFootballFocus.com's pass-blocking efficiency metric, despite the 45 sacks allowed being the ninth-highest total in the league. In PFF's cumulative offensive line rankings, the Packers' front wall ranked 10th. That lofty ranking came with Bulaga missing the enitre season and Aaron Rodgers out half the year.

Thompson's OL Draft Picks

2005: Junius Coston (fifth), William Whitticker (seventh).

2006: Daryn Colledge (second), Jason Spitz (third), Tony Moll (fifth).

2007: Allen Barbre (fourth).

2008: Josh Sitton (fourth), Breno Giacomini (fifth).

2009: T.J. Lang (fourth), Jamon Meredith (fifth).

2010: Bryan Bulaga (first), Marshall Newhouse (fifth).

2011: Derek Sherrod (first), Caleb Schlauderaff (sixth).

2012: Andrew Datko (seventh).

2013: David Bakhtiari (fourth), J.C. Tretter (fourth).

2014: Corey Linsley (fifth).

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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at packwriter2002@yahoo.com, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/PackerReport.

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