Washington shows difference in philosophies

Only time will tell whether Mike Sherman's 2004 draft class rivals the 2005 and 2006 classes put together by his replacement as general manager, Ted Thompson. But one thing we can say for sure is this: Trading down for more picks is wiser than trading up, especially when the player you trade up for isn't a sure thing.

It's been more than a week since the draft, but the difference in draft philosophies became particularly telling during last weekend's minicamp. Defensive tackle Donnell Washington showed up too fat and was kept off the practice field by Thompson and first-year coach Mike McCarthy.

Sherman traded up 14 spots during the 2004 draft, sending Jacksonville the Packers' third- and fourth-round picks, to land Washington.

Trading up is fine, but you had better be darned sure it's worth it. Hindsight of course is always 20-20, but it's hard to imagine Sherman was absolutely positive that Washington would turn into the run-stuffing machine that Sherman had envisioned.

For instance: "He's lazy," was a typical refrain uttered by scouts interviewed in pre-draft stories. The refrains were so common that Washington addressed them during his first minicamp.

"Coming out of school, everyone thought, 'Donnell is lazy,'" Washington said, vowing to prove his legion of doubters wrong.

Fast forward two years, and the proof is in all the pudding Washington probably was eating during the offseason.

None of this is meant to rehash old news, but it is to point out that Thompson's draft philosophy, more times than not, is the right one.

It's common sense, really. An examination of the top 10 draft picks from the first rounds of the 1990 through 2003 drafts (it's too soon to make a definitive statement on players drafted in 2004 and 2005) found that about 45 percent of those 140 players wound up being busts. Amazingly, for all the work teams put into these marquee picks, flipping a coin would have netted a similar success rate.

If it's that hard to find a quality player in the top 10 of the draft, then logic dictates it's harder still to find a quality player in the second round or the second day of the draft. Sure enough, even the sainted Ron Wolf, when you look at his drafts from 1992 to 2003, hit to some degree on only 39 of his 108 picks. That's 36 percent.

If only one in every three draft picks becomes even a decent player, then common sense says that the more picks you have, the better the chances of finding someone who can help the football team.

Sherman, of course, took the opposite tact, which is why he's no longer the Packers' general manager. Instead of acquiring more picks — or even standing pat — Sherman continually traded up to get a player he just had to have. In 2004, he spent two picks to get the lazy Washington and two more picks to, infamously, land punter B.J. Sander.

It was even worse in 2003. He spent two picks to get defensive tackle Kenny Peterson, two picks to get defensive tackle James Lee and two more picks to get linebacker Hunter Hillenmeyer. He wasted a sixth-round pick in 2004 to land cornerback Chris Johnson in the seventh round in 2003. Of those four players, three were busts, and only Hillenmeyer is a good player. Unfortunately, Sherman got rid of him to keep Torrance Marshall, and Hillenmeyer is tackling people in Chicago.

Unless Washington pulls his head out of his butt — or mouth away from the feed trough — his Packers career will end without him having played a regular-season snap.

That he would have turned out to be such a stiff — if an out-of-shape football player can be called stiff — is an indictment on both Sherman and Washington.

Not that Thompson will be forever immune to making such dreadful draft picks, but when you stockpile picks like Washington stockpiles Little Debbies, at least there's margin for error.

Lawrence is a regular contributor to PackerReport.com. Send comments to steve_lawrence_packers@yahoo.com.

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