Joe Camporeale/USA TODAY

Packers GM Ted Thompson’s Defensive Line Draft History

Will the Green Bay Packers be looking to improve their defensive line? If so, Ted Thompson's draft history provides clues on who he might select.

This will be Ted Thompson’s 13th draft running the Green Bay Packers. Dusting off a series we wrote in 2015, we look back on his previous 12 drafts and try to find trends that might be worth remembering as we look ahead to this year’s draft. We continue this series with the defensive line.

Note: Green Bay changed to its 3-4 scheme in 2009. For the sake of this series, defensive linemen who became outside linebackers with the scheme change will be written about with the OLB group.

DEFENSIVE LINE (17)

2005, 6th round — Mike Montgomery, Texas A&M (6-4 7/8, 276; 5.07 40; 34 1/2 vertical; 4.32 20-yard shuttle; 7.38 3-cone; 19 reps; NA arms; NA hands): Montgomery played 58 games over six seasons with the team, though he played more than 10 games in just three of those seasons. All eight career starts came in 2008. He finished with five sacks for his career. He was the 22nd of 39 defensive linemen selected. Jovan Haye, who was selected by Carolina nine picks later, played in 73 games (46 starts) in seven seasons. C.J. Mosley, who was taken 11 picks later, played in 140 games (31 starts) over 11 seasons. Grade: C.

2006, 6th round — Johnny Jolly, Texas A&M (6-3 1/4, 317; 5.45 40; DNP vertical; DNP shuttle; DNP 3-cone; DNP reps; 32 1/2 arms; 10 1/2 hands): Jolly started all 32 games in 2008 and 2009 but two arrests led to three seasons out of the league. The Packers took a chance on Jolly in 2013 and he rewarded them by starting eight of the first 13 games. He missed the final three games with a neck injury that ended his career. He finished with 61 games (47 starts), three sacks and five forced fumbles. Jolly was the 15th of 22 defensive tackles selected. What might have been without the legal issues. Still, he played in more games than the four tackles selected ahead of him.

2006, 7th round — Dave Tollefson, Northwest Missouri State (6-4 1/4, 255; 4.74 40; 27 vertical; 4.48 shuttle; 6.98 3-cone; 27 reps; 32 arms; NA hands): Tollefson, the third-to-last player selected, didn’t make the Packers’ roster. That would be Green Bay’s loss. He played in 78 games for the Giants and Raiders from 2007 through 2012, with a career-high five sacks for the Giants in 2011. Tollefson had 10.5 career sacks. Twenty other defensive players were selected in the seventh round. They combined for 13. Grade: F.

2007, 1st round — Justin Harrell, Tennessee (6-4 3/8, 300; 5.08 40; 30 1/2 vertical; 4.79 shuttle; 7.63 3-cone; 24 reps; 33 1/4 arms; 10 hands): Without question the worst draft pick in Thompson’s tenure, Harrell played all of 14 games in his career — seven (with all two career starts) as a rookie, six in 2008, none in 2009 and one in 2010. His career, derailed by chronic back problems, ended with a torn ACL sustained in the 2010 opener. Harrell was the second of 20 defensive tackles selected and the fifth of 45 defensive linemen at No. 16 overall. The next defensive tackle off the board, Alan Branch at No. 33, has played in 134 games (79 starts). If there’s any consolation, Harrell was one of six defensive linemen taken in the first round. Not one of them was in the league in 2012 and not one of them made it to a Pro Bowl. In fact, only one of the 20 defensive tackles made it to a Pro Bowl (Paul Soliai, fourth round, Miami). OK, never mind consolation: Nine of the next 15 first-round picks were selected for at least one Pro Bowl. Grade: Is there such a thing as F-minus? G? Z?

2009, 1st round — B.J. Raji, Boston College (6-1 1/2, 337; 5.23 40; 30 vertical; 4.69 shuttle; 7.90 3-cone; 33 reps; 32 arms; 10 3/8 hands): Raji, the No. 9 overall pick, was the second defensive lineman off the board and the first defensive tackle selected. Even though he missed all of 2014 with a torn biceps tendon and surprisingly retired after the 2015 season, he ranks sixth out of the 38 defensive linemen selected with 78 starts. He’s one of three linemen (and the only tackle) to make it to a Pro Bowl. Raji had a breakout second season with 6.5 sacks and had three more sacks during a Pro Bowl 2011. That gave him 10.5 sacks in his first three seasons. Rather than progress from there, Raji became nothing more than a run-stopper with just one-half sack in his final 45 games. At this point, it’s pretty clear Raji’s career is finished. Grade: C.

2009, 6th round — Jarius Wynn, Georgia (6-2 5/8, 275; 5.08 40; 31 1/2 vertical; 4.58 shuttle; 7.40 3-cone; 19 reps; 34 1/2 arms; 11 hands): Wynn played in 36 games (four starts) during his three seasons in Green Bay. He saw action with four other teams, last playing with Buffalo in 2014. His 10.5 career sacks were only one-half less than Raji, who was taken 173 picks earlier. Wynn was the 29th of 38 defensive linemen selected and ranks 17th with 69 games. Of the nine linemen taken after Wynn, only three played more games — a list led by Ricky Jean Francois, a seventh-round pick who the Packers signed last month. Grade: B-minus.

2010, 2nd round — Mike Neal, Purdue (6-3, 294; 4.95 40; 33 vertical; 4.53 shuttle; 7.53 3-cone; 31 reps; 33 1/2 arms; 10 1/4 hands): Neal’s first two seasons were ruined by injuries, and he missed the first four games of 2012 with a league suspension. Neal cut weight and successfully transitioned to outside linebacker to at least partially salvage what had been a wasted draft pick. In three seasons at end, he played 20 of a possible 48 games (one start) and had 5.5 sacks. In three seasons at outside linebacker, he played in 47 of a possible 48 games (28 starts) and had 13.5 sacks. Neal was the 16th of 54 defensive linemen selected. He is 23rd with 29 starts and 15th with 19 sacks. Was Neal a disappointment? Yes, but here’s some perspective: Six more defensive linemen were selected from the end of the second round through the end of the third round. They combined for 20.5 sacks. Neal, whose name was mentioned with Clay Matthews and Julius Peppers in an Al-Jazeera America documentary on performance-enhancing drugs, was out of the league last year and his career seems over. Grade: C-minus.

2010, 7th round — C.J. Wilson, East Carolina (6-2 7/8, 290; 4.93 40; 33 vertical; 4.50 shuttle; 7.65 3-cone; 32 reps; 33 1/8 arms; 10 hands): Wilson played 50 games (11 starts) as a solid run-stopper for four seasons in Green Bay, and has continued his career with Oakland, Chicago and Detroit. Wilson was the 45th of 54 defensive linemen selected but ranks 22nd with 84 games played. Of the nine defensive linemen drafted after Wilson, only one has played in more games and none have more than his 7.5 sacks. Grade: B.

2011, 7th round — Lawrence Guy, Arizona State (6-4 1/8, 305; 5.08 40; 29 vertical; 4.43 shuttle; 7.60 3-cone; 28 reps; 32 3/4 arms; 10 3/4 hands): Guy didn’t play a snap during his one-plus season with the team. The Packers certainly didn’t botch the pick, though. He’s turned into a quality role player who recently signed a four-year, $13.4 million contract with New England. Guy was the 39th of 43 defensive linemen selected and the ninth of 13 taken in the seventh round. Of that seventh-round group, Guy ranks second in games (67) and starts (20) and first in sacks (6.5). Overall, Guy ranks 19th in games and 21st in starts. Grade: F.

2012, 2nd round — Jerel Worthy, Michigan State (6-2, 308; 5.08 40; 28 1/2 vertical; 4.60 shuttle; 7.60 3-cone; 28 reps; 33 arms; 9 3/8 hands): If you want some vinegar in the wound, Thompson actually moved up eight spots to select Worthy. In two seasons with Green Bay, he played in 16 games (four starts). During camp in 2014, he was traded to the Patriots for a bowl of leftover chowder and a deflated football. He didn’t play with New England, Kansas City or Detroit during stints with those teams in 2014 and 2015 but did play in 13 games for Buffalo in 2016. His career totals are 31 games (four starts) and 2.5 sacks. Worthy was the 13th of 44 defensive linemen selected but ranks 30th in games, 31st in starts and 30th in sacks. Green Bay traded up to No. 51 overall to get Worthy in a deal with Philadelphia. The Eagles landed Vinny Curry at No. 59; he has 19 career sacks. Grade: F.

2012, 4th round — Mike Daniels, Iowa (6-0 1/2, 291. No tests because of shoulder. 32 1/2 arms. 9 5/8 hands.): It’s a short list of good picks at this position group, but Daniels — a compensatory pick at the end of the round  — has been by far the best of Thompson’s defensive line selections. Daniels was the 26th of 43 defensive linemen selected. He is tied for third in games (78), tied for ninth in starts (49) and ranks eighth with 22 sacks. Of the 16 defensive linemen taken after Daniels, maybe only Malik Jackson (fifth round, Denver) has outplayed Daniels. Between Worthy at No. 51 and Daniels at No. 132, 12 defensive linemen were drafted. Daniels ranks No. 1 in sacks and No. 2 in starts in that group. Grade: A.

2013, 1st round — Datone Jones, UCLA (6-3 7/8, 283; 4.80 40; 31 1/2 vertical; 4.32 shuttle; 7.32 3-cone; 29 reps; 32 3/4 arms; 10 hands): When he was drafted, Jones talked about being as relentless and as dominant as his idol, Reggie White. Not so much. Jones was a bust as the 26th overall selection. As was the case with Neal, Jones was a better player at outside linebacker than defensive line, but that position switch had more to do with salvaging a premium pick than any coaching inspiration. Jones was the seventh of 50 defensive line selections and the seventh of eight in the first round. In the 50-man class, Jones ranks fifth with 59 games but 22nd with seven starts and 13th with nine sacks. Taken two picks after Jones by Denver, Sylvester Williams has started 48 games. Taken 18 picks after Jones by Carolina, Kawann Short is a Pro Bowler with 31 starts and 22 sacks. Chris Jones, a defensive lineman from Bowling Green taken at No. 198 by Houston, has four times as many starts and as many sacks. Datone Jones had one sack and a team-high 16 quarterback hits in 2016 before signing with Minnesota. Grade: D.

2013, 5th round — Josh Boyd, Mississippi State (6-2 5/8, 310; 5.14 40; 26.5 vertical; 4.64 shuttle; 7.16 3-cone; 32 reps; 32 arms; 9 1/4 hands): Boyd was a solid role player before suffering a broken ankle in the second game of the 2015 season. He played in 26 games (four starts) in two-plus seasons. Picked 141 spots after Jones, it’s clear who provided the better value. Boyd was the 35th of 50 defensive linemen selected. Only one player selected after Boyd has a vastly better resume — the aforementioned Chris Jones. After not playing last season, Boyd’s career appears to be over. Grade: C-plus.

2014, 3rd round — Khyri Thornton, Southern Mississippi (6-2 5/8, 304; 5.03 40; 29 vertical; 4.76 shuttle; 7.83 3-cone; 29 reps; 32 1/2 arms; 9 1/2 hands): Thornton did almost nothing during his rookie training camp. At that time, Thompson was spared a difficult decision when Thornton had a bum hamstring and went on season-ending IR. A year later, Thompson gave up, cutting the 85th pick of the draft without him playing a single snap. In a pretty bad D-line class, Thornton ranks as one of the worst picks. But did Thompson give up too soon? Thornton started six games for the Lions in 2016. Thornton was the 15th of 41 defensive linemen selected. Fourth-round defensive line picks Justin Ellis and DaQuan Jones have combined for 60 starts. Grade: F.

2015, 6th round — Christian Ringo, Louisiana-Lafayette (6-foot 3/4, 293; 4.97 40; 29 vertical; DNP shuttle; DNP 3-cone; 33 arms; 9 1/8 hands): Ringo was the 36th of 43 defensive linemen selected. He spent his rookie season on the practice squad and played sparingly in seven games in 2016. Taken within seven picks of Ringo, Pittsburgh’s Anthony Chickillo, Houston’s Christian Covington and Kansas City’s Rakeem Nunez-Roches have combined to start 17 games with 6.5 sacks. Grade: D-minus.

2016, 1st round — Kenny Clark, UCLA (6-2 5/8, 314; 5.06 40; 28.5 vertical; 4.62 shuttle; DNP 3-cone; 32 1/8 arms; 10 1/2 hands): The arrow is pointing up on Clark, who went from barely playing about two-thirds of the way into his rookie season to becoming a vital cog down the stretch. Even without Letroy Guion’s season-opening suspension, it seemed clear that it would be Clark and Daniels as the primary pairing in the nickel package in 2017. Clark didn’t have any sacks but had 33 tackles, three quarterback hits, four hurries and four stuffs (tackle at or behind the line of scrimmage vs. the run). (Premature) grade: B.

2016, 4th round — Dean Lowry, Northwestern (6-5 3/4, 296; 4.87 40; 32 1/2 vertical; 4.38 shuttle; 7.26 3-cone; 31 arms; 9 3/8 hands): Like Clark, Lowry got more and more playing time as the season progressed. Of his 157 regular-season snaps, 105 came in the last five games. Another 55 came in the playoffs. Lowry finished his rookie year with 14 tackles, two sacks, three quarterback hits, three quarterback hurries and one stuff. (Premature) grade: B-minus.

Overall grade: At this time one year ago, the Packers’ situation on the defensive line was dire, with Raji’s retirement and Mike Pennel’s suspension. Thompson’s draft history created little reason to be optimistic that he could fill the voids. To that point, Thompson had drafted three in the first round with Harrell, Raji and Jones, two more in the second with Neal and Worthy and one in the third with Thornton. If Raji was the best of those six, then Neal was second — and that required a position change. With one miss after another, Thompson was forced to fill holes with the likes of Johnny Jolly and Letroy Guion. Only Daniels provided some salvation. Last year’s draft, however, delivered Clark and Lowry, who look like they will be mainstays. Grade: D-plus.

What it means (if anything) for 2017: With Pennel no longer on the team and Guion’s looming suspension, the Packers were pretty thin up front with just Daniels, Clark, Lowry, Ringo and Brian Price returning — and Ringo and Price combined for only 86 snaps last year. Thompson, however, addressed this weakness by signing Jean Francois. Could the Packers draft a defensive lineman? Of course, but it’s no longer a pressing need. Daniels, Clark, Lowry, Guion and Jean Francois form a solid quintet.

As is the case at most positions, the 20-yard shuttle appears to be a key test for Thompson and his scouts. Since the move to the 3-4 in 2009, Thompson has drafted 13 defensive linemen. Eleven of them did the shuttle. Their average time was 4.55 seconds. The average time at this year’s Combine for players who would play on the line in a 3-4 was 4.65. Back to Thompson’s picks, only two were slower than 4.65: Thornton (4.76), who didn’t last long, and Raji (4.69), who was barely off the pace but had the good excuse of being 337 pounds. Ten of Thompson's picks have run the three-cone drill. They averaged a 7.52; the draft average is 7.68. Only Raji (7.90) and Thornton (7.83) were slower than the 7.68 average.

Based on that history, who fits the bill?

— Florida’s Caleb Brantley (6-2 5/8, 307; 4.62 shuttle; 7.66 3-cone)
— Alabama’s Dalvin Tomlinson (6-2 7/8, 310; 4.59; 7.68)
— Iowa’s Jaleel Johnson (6-2 5/8, 316; 4.62; 7.64)
— Michigan’s Ryan Glasgow (6-2 7/8, 302; 4.50)
— UCLA’s Eddie Vanderdoes (6-3 1/8, 305; 4.39; 7.69)
— Tulane’s Tanzel Smart (6-0 5/8, 296; 4.57; 7.53)
— Arkansas’ Jeremiah Ledbetter (6-3 1/8, 280; 4.56; 7.55)
— Note: Illinois’ Chunky Clements did not run the shuttle or 3-cone and Toledo’s Treyvon Hester will have a personal pro day next week.

Two players could fit in the elephant role:

— Michigan State's Malik McDowell (6-6 1/4, 295; 4.53; 7.69)
— Villanova's Tanoh Kpassagnon (6-6 3/4, 289; 4.62; 7.46)

Bill Huber is publisher of 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 www.twitter.com/PackerReport.


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