With the start of this year’s NFL Draft just eight days away, Green Bay Packers general manager Ted Thompson emerged from the dark.
“We spend a lot of time in the dark. That doesn’t make us weird,” Thompson said of he and his scouts.
Thompson took a break from last-minute draft preparation for his annual pre-draft news conference on Wednesday. As usual, he thanked everyone for helping assemble his draft board. And, as usual, he shed no light on what’s to come next Thursday (first round) Friday (second and third rounds) and Saturday (fourth through seventh rounds and undrafted free agency). Here are some highlights:
After being eyeballs-deep in the draft for months, what’s left?: “Walking the same steps over and over. Checking this, checking that. All of a sudden, I’ll get an idea about a particular player and run to the draft room and watch it and turns out to be the same player that we watched three months ago. So there’s a lot of that, but there’s also I think great value, certainly to me, to have the certainty and assurity of having done our work. With the staff that the Packers have given to me to help run the draft, there’s a lot of confidence in terms of our evaluations.”
On undrafted free agency at the conclusion of the draft: “We spend a lot of time on it and we make no bones about it. We’re active in the preparation part of it and we’re active in trying to execute it once the draft is over with. That’s part of the deal. I don’t know whether you say it’s more important than anything else, but you can look at our roster and see that we’ve got players from there and they’re still here.”
Is it chaotic?: “It’s kind of chaotic. It’s every man for himself during that thing. But it’s part of the process. We’re used to it. We’ve got a really good staff of scouts and personnel people upstairs, and they’re not only good evaluators but they’re good at other aspects of this game. So, we try to do it that way.”
Does he use success stories like Sam Shields as part of the recruiting process?: “We very much push the notion that if you come here, historically speaking, you have a pretty good chance of making the team, making the practice squad, making something where you can ply your trade.”
On drafting players from high-profile schools because they’re more NFL-ready: “Maybe. Quite frankly this draft is so excruciatingly painful — not this draft but all drafts — that if you want to make yourself feel better, you tell yourself that story. ‘It’s better to pick this guy because he went to a big school and it will work out better.’ But it may be just the opposite, where you pick a guy from a smaller school and you have to talk yourself into the fact that this guy is way better than the guy from the big school. Whatever makes me feel good at the time, that’s the stance we normally take and hope for the best.”
How do you balance level of competition vs. pure athleticism: “It just does. … As someone who played extensively at a school like that — has been under the lights, in pressure situations, doing the offseason training, doing all the things that professional football players do — there’s a comfort in saying, ‘Well, he’s used to some of this stuff.’ If you take someone from a smaller school, there might be that twinge in the back of your mind saying, ‘Is he ready for the NFL?’ But, quite frankly, most of the people that are eligible to be drafted or legitimate draft choice candidates have agents helping get them ready, have football departments back at their universities to help get them ready. I don’t think it’s quite as big a jump as it used to be. Once upon a time maybe, when there was 17 rounds and I didn’t get drafted. … Just had to throw that in.”
How does the team check out players with off-the-field issues?: “We all do quite a bit of that. It’s important. We care very much about the quality of the people and we think the better the person, the better the football player. We try and look at it like that. I’m not suggesting we’re perfect by any measure, but we look into that sort of thing and we try to be careful.”
Bill Huber is publisher of 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 www.twitter.com/PackerReport.