Grading Thompson's first draft

After two years, the grades are in, and PackerReport.com's Steve Lawrence says the Packers' 2005 draft won't land on the honor roll. However, the long-term grade will depend on the play of Aaron Rodgers.

There's one thing on the minds of many Packers fans. Who will Green Bay select in the first round of the 2007 draft?

April's meat market will be Ted Thompson's third as the Packers' general manager. It's no secret Thompson wants to build a contender primarily through the draft. So, how did Thompson do in his first draft?

Here's a review of the Packers' 2005 draft, with grading done on a curve, with more expected of early-round picks than late-round selections.

1st round (No. 24) — Aaron Rodgers: How Rodgers does as the replacement for Brett Favre will define not only this draft, but perhaps Thompson's entire tenure in Green Bay. If Rodgers becomes a legitimate starter, then the Packers will be, at worst, a playoff contender for the next 10 to 12 years. If Rodgers bombs, the Packers could very well wind up being like the Chicago Bears were throughout the Favre era, in a never-ending search for an adequate quarterback. Not to mention the waste of a plum first-round pick, a ton of money and a lot of time trying to develop him. Rodgers hasn't done much in limited playing time, but he showed solid improvement during training camp. To get a fair shake, Rodgers will need an entire year of taking the majority of reps in training camp, practices and games. Grade: Incomplete.

2nd round (No. 51) — Nick Collins: Next season will be a big one for Collins, who has flashed enough promise to think big things — recall his two interceptions in the finale against Chicago — but has made enough mistakes to make you scratch your head. Because he played small-college ball (Bethune-Cookman), Collins arrived in Green Bay as a raw prospect, so perhaps it shouldn't be a surprise he's had more downs than ups. Still, as a second-round pick in a playmaking position, the two interceptions recorded in his first 31 professional games is a disappointment. Grade: D-plus.

2nd round (No. 58) — Terrence Murphy: The wide receiver/kick returner barely got his feet wet before bruising his spinal cord in a game at Carolina in October of his rookie season. The Packers were hopeful he'd make a full recovery, but they released him last April. Getting virtually nothing out of a second-round pick, especially at a position of need, was a big setback for the team. Grade: Incomplete.

4th round (No. 115) — Marviel Underwood: Based on a promising showing during training camp, Underwood may have challenged the maligned Marquand Manuel at some point for the starting job at strong safety, but a knee injury ended Underwood's season. Grade: Incomplete.

4th round (No. 125) — Brady Poppinga: He looked completely ill-prepared to be the starting strong-side linebacker early in the season, and for good reason. Poppinga missed most of training camp after suffering a season-ending knee injury during his rookie season. Still, he started in Week 1. He was a tremendous liability in pass coverage early, but either he improved his skills or the coaches did a better job of hiding him. There are no such questions about Poppinga's ability to run around and hit people. Any time you draft a legitimate starter in the fourth round, it's a good thing. Grade: B-plus.

5th round (No. 143) — Junius Coston: Thompson showed what he thought of Coston's long-term prospects by drafting two guards and a tackle in the 2006 draft. At least he's on the team, though. Grade: D.

5th round (No. 167) — Mike Hawkins: This is generally what happens when you draft a guy with infinitely more speed than ability and toughness. Hawkins played in 11 games as a rookie, and the Packers no doubt expected much more from the ultratalented but raw prospect. Instead, he was waived at the end of training camp with a knee injury. Hawkins signed with Cleveland, and didn't do much during six games. The Browns cut him late in the season — if you can't make it in Cleveland, what does that say? — and he's now with Minnesota. Grade: F.

6th round (No. 180) — Michael Montgomery: His season ended on injured reserve, but he's shown he could become a decent pass rusher. He had 1.5 sacks in 11 games, but got to the quarterback frequently enough during his occasional playing time. That's about all you can expect from a sixth-round pick. But, with Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila's role reduced to situational pass rusher (assuming Cullen Jenkins re-signs and KGB is retained) and Aaron Kampman becoming a big-time sack man, Montgomery may not have a role on the team unless he has a breakout training camp. Grade: C-plus.

6th round (No. 195) — Craig Bragg: Bragg — yet another player brought in to return kicks the past few years — was the only 2005 draft pick not to make it out of his initial training camp. He's out of the league. Grade: F.

7th round (No. 245) — Kurt Campbell: The smallish small-school linebacker has spent two seasons on injured reserve and hasn't played a regular-season snap. It's good work if you can get it. Grade: Incomplete.

7th round (No. 246) — Will Whitticker: After Thompson dispatched Marco Rivera and Mike Wahle and bombed on their veteran replacements, Whitticker was thrust into the starting lineup. He wasn't great, but he did start 14 games, which is darned good for someone picked with the 10th-to-the-last selection. The mountainous Whitticker didn't stand a chance in Mike McCarthy's zone run scheme and was released at the end of training camp. He spent half the season with Miami but didn't play, and will attempt to win a roster spot with Washington. Grade: C.

Overview: Building through the draft is great. It's the only way to build a long-term winner. But Thompson will need to do better than this if he's to propel the Packers to the promised land. Only Collins and Poppinga are long-term starters, and only Rodgers, Collins, Poppinga, Underwood and, perhaps, Montgomery are good bets to make next year's roster. Not surprisingly, the long-term grade for this draft depends on Rodgers.

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


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