Out with finesse, in with smashmouth

PackerReport.com's Todd Korth assesses Green Bay's 2006 NFL draft and explains why general manager Ted Thompson and coach Mike McCarthy used quantity in an effort to find a few good "football players."

Ted Thompson continued to stick with his master plan of transforming the Green Bay Packers into a contender this weekend through NFL draft. The Packers general manager has vowed to make Green Bay stronger by placing a greater priority on drafting players and less on over-priced free agents, a formula that seems to work best at winning championships in the National Football League.

Look no farther than the Pittsburgh Steelers, which selected 17 of their starters on last season's Super Bowl XL championship team through the NFL draft. Same with the Seattle Seahawks, Pittsburgh's opponent in Detroit. Thompson, in his five seasons in Seattle, used the draft to help the Seahawks contend for an NFL title. He went with heavy with the draft and a little bit in free agency to find playmakers and "football players."

On Saturday and Sunday, Thompson took seven picks and turned them into 12 in an effort to find those same playmakers and football players who have helped the Steelers and Seahawks rise to the top of the league. Because of their dismal 4-12 season last year, the Packers were able to start the draft with a bonafide playmaker in A.J. Hawk. The jury, of course, is still out on the other 11 picks, but keep in mind that those are the kind of players Thompson and head coach Mike McCarthy are seeking.

Will all 12 selections make the team? Probably not. Of Green Bay's 11 selections last year, nine are still with the team in some fashion, and some already, like safety Nick Collins, have proven to be the hard-hitting, play-making football player that Thompson and McCarthy prefer.

Because of injuries, age and ineffective performances, Thompson in this past weekend's draft and last year, is trying to inject the roster with youth, toughness and talent - in that order. In the process, Thompson and McCarthy have made it clear that they are trying to redefine the attitude in Green Bay, shedding the finesse label that the Packers have been stuck with in recent years to smashmouth.

Instead of selecting a player like Ahmad Carroll, who was more of a track star than football player, coming out of Arkansas, they took guys like A.J. Hawk and Iowa's Abdul Hodge. Those guys are born football players, who love and respect the game.

Overall, Thompson felt that he selected players that met the team's objectives as it entered the draft.

"I call it a country football player, a guy that knows how to play the game," Thompson said. "It might be a guy that might not be as big, or might not be as fast, but always seems to make the play. We've had them around here. They are guys that make the play. (Defensive end) Mike Montgomery has a little bit of that. You could watch him in practice and think, ‘He doesn't look that special,' but if he plays 20 plays in a game, he's going to make five or six tackles. It just happens for him. That's what I'm talking about. Guys who like to practice. Love to be around the game. They're passionate. They like like talking about football. That sort of thing."

Aside from Hawk, who should be able to make an immediate impact, most Packers fans have probably never heard of the team's other 11 selections. Green Bay's first pick of the second round is a guy from North Pole, Alaska, of all places. But that guy, offensive lineman Daryn Colledge, apparently is the type of nail-eating, football-loving player that the Packers want on their roster.

"Nobody is going to be kept for a ‘freebie,'" Thompson said. "They have to be a football player. In rare occasions, you keep somebody around because you think he's going to become a player in the NFL, but these guys are going to have to earn their stripes. But if they do, it's easy to conclude to me that we'll be a better team because they've taken the place of somebody else."

To be fair, Thompson selected six players on offense and six on defense over the two-day draft. The team also will sign more free agents.

When all was said and done, Thompson felt "pretty good" with his draft class. Of course, we won't know just how good this class will be, or who will make an immediate impact, for some time. In the meantime, the Packers will begin taking a much closer look at these new players when the first of their two May mini-camps begins on Friday.

Entering the draft, the Packers needed help at linebacker, offensive line, wide receiver and defensive back. For the most part, Thompson addressed those needs with one or more players. If all goes well, the "football players" will rise to the top, and the Packers will take another step back toward respectability.

Todd Korth

Todd Korth is managing editor of PackerReport.com and Packer Report. E-mail him at packrepted@aol.com.

Packer Report Top Stories