Lombardi: Assessing the draft

PackerReport.com's John Lombardi examines Green Bay's 2006 draft, explaining why the Packers again stockpiled picks and why depth is so vitally important in today's NFL.

It is impossible to grade the draft after just a few days. No one knows if any of these kids will pan out. There are no sure things in the NFL. That being said, there are some things we can comment on concerning the Selection Draft.

1. Ted Thompson did a good job of accumulating picks. Some are starting to call him Trader Ted. He started out with seven picks and ended up with 12. If quantity outweighs quality, the Packers are the big winners in the 2006 draft. Unfortunately, quality is the name of the game and it could take years to determine if this draft is any good. Still, the more picks a team has, the better the odds it might find some impact players. It is basic statistics.

2. The Packers, at least subconsciously, are admitting that they have many holes to fill based upon their picks. They feel that linebacker, wide receiver, offensive line, defensive back and the return game are big needs. They must also feel that defensive line is not as solid as it could be. Anyone who watched last season would agree with this assessment, but it is interesting to see Green Bay draft for need so blatantly.

3. Only the choice of Ingle Martin was outside an obvious position of need. He is an intriguing pick. Initially he signed to play at Florida, but left when Chris Leak signed with the Gators. Furman is a good team for its level of competition and it is possible that this kid could pan out with some time. The high school he attended, Montgomery Bell Academy in Nashville, TN, is one of the best in the game and is a powerhouse school in the state. He was heavily recruited as a senior, but Leak was the number-one recruit in the nation when he committed to Florida, so there was very little chance that Martin would beat him out no matter what. Aaron Rodgers had better not slack off, because this guy may steal the backup role.

4. I know that while at Ohio State, A.J. Hawk was a great player on a great team and made plays all over the field. I just think that he was not a fifth pick. He will make the linebacker crew better and will improve the team, but at five they should have got someone who is more of a real difference-maker. Maybe they have him rated higher than me or that he was the best player when the time came, but I find that hard to believe. I believe that there were still a few guys on the board who would have made the Packers a better team. I would have even been more enthused if they had traded down and got more picks. I am not saying that Hawk stinks or will not be a good addition to the team. I just feel that by taking someone else or getting even more picks, the team could have plugged more holes.

5. In the NFL today, too much emphasis is placed on the top of the draft and consequently the top of the roster. Having some superstars on your team is a sure fire way to the bottom of the standings. Winning teams maximize talent and cost at each position, and try and make the most of the salary cap. It is not enough to have stars at each position. If you did that, you could not pay any backups and when injuries come (and they will) the dropoff would be drastic. Winners are made on the second day of the draft. Surprise starters and depth is what is needed to succeed in this league.

If we examine each position on a scale of one to 10 with two players at each position, the key is to have the highest score across the board. If you have Brett Favre with a score of eight at this point in his career and Aaron Rodgers with a score of five, that is a total of 13 points. But for arguments sake, they sign Kerry Collins and he is a six, then the team is ultimately better at that position. But if the Packers are unable to sign a backup corner because of the higher dollar amount owed to Collins, then they go into the season worse off as a team. Favre and Collins equal a 14 on the scale, one better than Favre and Rodgers. Assume Al Harris scores a seven, and Jason Horton is a three. But because Collins has a higher cap number, Green Bay is unable to sign a corner that scores a five. Currently they are a 10 at corner but could be a 12. It is a net loss. QB is a more important position, so the decision may be made to do it, but with reservations. This balancing act must occur at every position. The Patriots are masters at this. So are the Steelers. Any surprise that they have combined to win four Super Bowls the last couple of years?

The draft is probably the most important event for a pro football team. If any of last weekend's picks contribute this year, then it truly will be successful. Really, only Nick Collins was a contributor from last year's draft. Then the question will be, are they contributors because they have earned it, or because the team stinks that bad and there is no one else available. I hope it is because Trader Ted knows what he is doing.

John Lombardi

Editor's note: John Lombardi is the grandson of legendary coach Vince Lombardi. His football experience includes stints with two teams in the World League (now NFL Europe); in the scouting departments of the Cleveland Browns and Tennessee Titans; and graduate assistant coach and director of football operations at Vanderbilt. E-mail him at johnlombardi22@yahoo.com.

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