In 2013, he selected defensive end Datone Jones in the first round.
In 2014, it looks like he hit on safety HaHa Clinton-Dix in the first round but third-round defensive tackle Khyri Thornton and fourth-round linebacker Carl Bradford might be fighting for their careers later this month.
Including a fourth-round pick used on cornerback Davon House in 2011, Thompson used 10 draft picks in the first four rounds on defensive players from 2011 through 2014. Daniels is the only undisputed good starter from that group, though Clinton-Dix and Hayward have played enough good football that they seem more like answers than questions.
There’s no question that Jones and Perry haven’t played to first-round expectations. Jones lost his starting job to Josh Boyd, a fifth-round pick from the same draft class. Boyd, in fact, played 69 more snaps than Jones last season. Had Perry panned out, the Packers might not have felt compelled to give Julius Peppers a three-year, $26 million contract.
Nonetheless, they’ve hardly been busts. In small doses, both players have performed well.
Jones, who was suspended for the 2015 opener on Thursday, was billed as a three-down player when he was drafted. However, it appears the Packers have closed the book on that idea. After starting three of the first five games, he didn’t start a game the rest of the season and rarely saw the field in the base defense or on run downs. Still, he’s shown a glimmer of being an all-around defender. Surprisingly, he led the defensive linemen in snaps per tackle on running plays by a large margin.
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Outside linebackers in a 3-4 scheme earn their fame by sacking the quarterback. Perry has just nine sacks in three seasons, including three last season. However, with his size and strength, he was tremendous against the run last season. According to league data, the Packers allowed 1.29 yards less per carry with Perry on the field compared to when he was on the sideline. That was the best differential among the NFL’s 3-4 outside linebackers, according to league data. Among Green Bay’s outside linebackers, he finished behind only Matthews in snaps per tackle. A lot of Matthews’ production, of course, came after the move to inside linebacker put him in position to make more tackles.
Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at email@example.com, or leave him a question in Packer Report’s subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/PackerReport.