No Spinning 2011 Draft Numbers, But ...

Before roasting the Packers for their 2011 draft — a huge misstep for a draft-and-develop team — we took up a scout’s challenge to compare Green Bay’s haul to the rest of the league. (Leon Halip/Getty Images)

The defending Super Bowl champion Green Bay Packers drafted 10 players in 2011. With the release of Derek Sherrod on Monday, general manager Ted Thompson’s seventh draft class is down to just two players.

There’s no spinning the numbers. Second-round pick Randall Cobb is one of the best young receivers in the league and fourth-round cornerback Davon House has the potential to develop into a long-term starter at cornerback. Nonetheless, 2-for-10 isn’t good in baseball and it’s not good for a draft-and-develop outfit like the Packers.

“No, it’s not, but look around the league,” a scout said in a text message on Monday.

We took him up on the challenge in this list for our members. As it turns out, the Packers aren’t alone in wallowing in their draft misery:

— Carolina drafted eight players. Only Cam Newton remains.

— In the NFC North: Chicago drafted five players; only two remain. Detroit drafted five players; only one remains. Minnesota drafted 10 players; only three remain. Combined, they harvested four starters.

— Indianapolis and Jacksonville each drafted five players; only one player remains.

— Philadelphia drafted 11 players; just three remain.

“The 2011 draft was perhaps the worst I can remember since the early ’80s,” said the NFL’s longtime head scout, Dave-Te’ Thomas.

While media pundits don’t even wait for the final picks to be made before issuing their report cards, general managers wait four seasons before rendering judgment. Not many will be pleased.

Of the 254 players drafted in 2011, only 112 remain on 53-man rosters or injury lists. That’s 44.1 percent. Just 73 are starters, based on depth charts posted at Ourlads.com. That’s 28.7 percent.

“Wow, I knew that draft class busted but I wouldn’t have guessed it was that bad,” a second scout said.

As a “rule of thumb,” Thomas said teams need their first- and second-round picks to be at least three-year starters before they hit free agency after Year 4. Their third- and fourth-round picks should start for at least a season or two.

The Packers landed only one starter (Cobb). They are one of eight teams to get only one starter in that draft class. In all, teams acquired, on average, 2.28 current starters.

Only three teams drafted more than three starters. And there’s no coincidence that Denver (five), San Francisco (five) and Seattle (four) are among the league’s powerhouses after hitting the draft jackpot. Denver selected defensive end Von Miller in the first round and got one of the two biggest steals of the draft with tight end Julius Thomas in the fourth. San Francisco’s first two picks were outside linebacker Aldon Smith and quarterback Colin Kaepernick. Seattle general manager John Schneider earned his salary on Day 3 of the draft with linebacker K.J. Wright (fourth round), cornerback Richard Sherman (fifth) — the other big steal of the draft — cornerback Byron Maxwell (sixth) and Super Bowl MVP linebacker Malcolm Smith (seventh).

The black eye will be Sherrod, with the broken leg sustained during his rookie season ultimately dooming his career. Of the 32 first-round picks in 2011, 25 are starting today. Thirteen have been selected to at least one Pro Bowl. Offensive lineman Danny Watkins (Philadelphia, No. 23), receiver Jonathan Baldwin (Kansas City, No. 26) and Sherrod (No. 32) are out of the league. Quarterback Blaine Gabbert (Jacksonville, No. 10) and offensive lineman Gabe Carimi (Chicago, No. 29) are backups elsewhere (San Francisco and Atlanta, respectively). Quarterback Christian Ponder (Minnesota, No. 12) is a backup with the Vikings. Adrian Clayborn (Tampa Bay, No. 20) is on injured reserve.

Imagine Green Bay’s offense with a quality tight end. With hindsight being 20/20, Thompson blew it in this draft. He moved out of the fourth round by sending fourth- and seventh-round picks to Denver. The Packers got tight end D.J. Williams in the fifth round and inside linebacker D.J. Smith in the sixth. Neither player is in the league. Denver grabbed Thomas and fellow tight end Virgil Green, a superior blocker, in the seventh. Thompson also slid back five spots in the sixth round in a deal with Miami. The Packers selected guard Caleb Schlauderaff in the sixth round and tight end Ryan Taylor in the seventh. Schlauderaff is out of the league and Taylor recently landed with Cleveland. The Packers missed another quality tight end, with the Dolphins nabbing Charles Clay in the sixth and defenslve lineman Frank Kearse in the seventh.

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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