Why not the most valuable available player?

PackerReport.com's Steve Lawrence explains why picking the "best available player" isn't always the best option, and why Thompson may have blundered by trading down instead of up.

Ted Thompson knows more about this sort of stuff that you or I do. He does this for a living.

Remember that fact, and keep repeating it, as you try to sort through the first day of the Green Bay Packers' belly flop into the 2007 NFL draft.

I suppose you could blame all of this on the San Francisco 49ers for taking linebacker Patrick Willis with the 11th pick of the first round. Willis was supposed to be the guy going to Buffalo at No. 12. Instead, the Bills took running back Marshawn Lynch, leaving the Packers without who they wanted at No. 16.

With Lynch off the board, it was on to Plan B.

Thompson steadfastly sticks to the mantra of taking the best player available. That's great, but there has to be a little flexibility in that line of thinking, doesn't there?

Maybe Justin Harrell will be a fine upgrade to the line (even if the scouting report on NFL.com compared Harrell to Johnny Jolly, a promising but seldom-used sixth-round pick by the Packers last year). If he can stay on the field for more than a few games per season, that is. But if there was one position where the Packers had to feel pretty good about themselves entering the draft, it was defensive line. Not that Jolly, Colin Cole, Corey Williams are Pro Bowlers, but nor are they bigger and brawnier versions of safety Marquand Manuel or whoever the heck they think is going to help Brett Favre and Donald Driver move the chains.

So, even if Harrell was the best available player, is he the most valuable available player if he only can fit into the defensive tackle rotation and maybe play 25 or 30 snaps a game? Wouldn't it have made more sense to pick one of the safety prospects, such as Texas' Michael Griffin (to Tennessee at No. 19) or Florida's Reggie Nelson (to Jacksonville at No. 21)? Wouldn't it have made sense to pick the most valuable available player, since one of the safeties could win a starting job and make an impact for every defensive snap? Wouldn't it have made sense to maybe trade back a few spots to get a much-needed receiver?

Oh, yeah, that's right. Thompson knows more about this stuff than you or I do. He does this for a living.

Generally speaking, I appreciate Thompson's penchant for trading back and acquiring more picks. But in what generally is considered a weak draft, why would he want more picks to select from a less-than-stellar crop of players? Wouldn't this be the year to choose quality over quantity?

Instead, Trader Thompson moved back 16 slots in the second round, passing over skilled offensive players such as running backs Kenny Irons and Chris Henry, fullback Brian Leonard and wide receiver Steve Smith. At No. 63, Thompson selected running back Brandon Jackson, who didn't do anything of merit (other than need both shoulders operated on) at Nebraska until the end of last season.

Oh, yeah, that's right. Thompson knows more about this stuff than you or I do. He does this for a living.

Then, in the third round, were some real head-scratchers.

With the 78th pick, Thompson selected wide receiver James Jones, who makes up for his lack of explosiveness (12.8 yards per catch last season) by posting a Wonderlic score of 9, which was worst among the 43 wide receivers at the combine.

No doubt, the Packers needed a receiver. The thing is, there were a bunch of real good ones available had Thompson traded down in the first round or up in the second. Worse, the Packers need some big-play ability at receiver, and the stats and 40 time (4.54 seconds) indicate Jones isn't that guy.

Oh, yeah, that's right. Thompson knows more about this stuff than you or I do. He does this for a living.

At No. 89 — the extra pick gained by moving back earlier — the Packers picked safety Aaron Rouse of Virginia Tech. Rouse is a big guy who is neither strong nor packs a punch. He had a good junior season but was demoted for three games as a senior due to subpar play and some stupid penalties.

So, we are to believe a safety who wasn't good enough to be "the man" in college is supposed to step in and be a starter in the NFL?

 Oh, yeah, that's right. Thompson knows more about this stuff than you or I do. He does this for a living.

My repetition of those lines isn't meant to be sarcastic. Thompson does know more about this stuff than you or I do. He's broken down more film by 7 a.m. on a Saturday than most of the rest of us have combined. Saturday's four draftees, and the guys he adds to the draft class on Sunday, deserve a chance to show what they can do before you flood Todd Korth's e-mail box with letters calling for Thompson's head.

Still, Thompson had better hope these players perform better than their college resumes indicate. If you're not going to build the team through free agency, then you had better hit a home run in the draft.

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

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