I know this is a bizarre idea, but why don't we just let the guys put on a jersey for a few minutes before we render judgment on the disaster that was Ted Thompson's 2007 draft. Is it asking too much to watch them beat on each other during training camp before we decide these guys are all a bunch of bums? Or, and I know this is really asking a lot, but can we watch this draft class in action, during preseason and regular-season games, before we decide the Packers would be better off with Mike Sherman as general manager?
Not to be rude, but you are not smarter than Thompson, even though you listened to every word uttered by Mel Kiper over the last month. You are not smarter than Thompson, even though you picked up a few draft magazines. You are not smarter than Thompson, even though you watched ESPN's highlight packages of the top prospects. I'm not smarter than Thompson, even though I picked up the phone and talked to a couple of friends/connections who work in the NFL and do this sort of stuff for a living.
With that said, the first-round selection of Justin Harrell is a real head-scratcher. Thompson's penchant for trading down didn't make a whole lot of sense in a draft that was light on talent, especially compared to last year. I'm amazed the Packers are heading into the upcoming season with the same lousy offense (minus Ahman Green) that suited up last season.
I know you are, too. But, I have a hunch Thompson knows what he is doing. Or at least what he's trying to do.
I also know that many of you disagree with that statement.
I heard Packer Report's very own Harry Sydney on the radio the other day, saying Thompson panicked when the Buffalo Bills took coveted running back Marshawn Lynch with the 12th pick in the draft.
Come on, Harry. I know you are a former player and coach, but do you really think that's true? Don't you think Thompson may have considered that possibility about 5 seconds after he learned the Bills traded their starting back, Willis McGahee, a couple months ago? Perhaps Thompson considered trading up to get him, but thought better of it when recalling Lynch's bad back and the fact he never was a workhorse at Cal.
I got one e-mail from a guy saying Thompson "hates" Brett Favre, and this offseason was proof. Look, I'd like to see Favre go out on top as much as the rest of you, but Thompson is building the Green Bay Packers, not the Favre Bay Packers.
Thompson is building this team to contend for four or five or more years. His job is not to build a short-term winner just so Favre can get into the playoffs one more time. I know Favre has done a lot for this franchise, but the franchise has done an awful lot for Favre, too, from millions upon millions in salary, to Thompson rebuilding the offensive line in the 2006 draft, to coddling him during Favre's annual should-I-retire sagas, to Sherman telling Favre he could skip some of the offseason workout programs if he wanted to.
So, with that rant out of the way, let me give you my take on this draft.
Many of you have complained that Harrell was a reach.
Well, that's what Kiper said, but reality says Harrell might have gone to Cincinnati at No. 18 or almost certainly to Denver at No. 21. He was Kansas City's guy at No. 23.
Why would Thompson trade back instead of up?
Maybe he sees an 8-8 team that's a lot further away from 10-6 than it is 6-10, and thus he needs to add more players and more competition.
Remember, last year's team was crushed by every above-average team it played until last year's season finale. My guess is Thompson is putting little stock into that Week 17 win at Chicago, and putting quite a bit of stock into those back-to-back December throttlings by the Jets and Patriots.
Why Harrell in the first round instead of a safety or a receiver?
First, safety Reggie Nelson went off the board at No. 21. After Ted Ginn Jr. at No. 9, the next receiver to be picked was Dwayne Bowe by Kansas City at No. 23. So, in Thompson's judgment, neither Nelson nor a receiver were the "best available player" at No. 16. Second, first-round receivers are anything but a sure thing. I'll write more on that on Saturday.
Beyond that, it should be pretty clear by now that Thompson is building a defense-first, grind-it-out team suited to playing in chilly Green Bay.
In free agency in 2006, his big signings — his only ones to date — were cornerback Charles Woodson and defensive tackle Ryan Pickett. In the 2006 draft, he drafted linebacker A.J. Hawk in the first round, guard Daryn Colledge in the second, and linebacker Abdul Hodge and guard Jason Spitz in the third.
Throw in Harrell, and that's a big commitment to the defense and the offensive line. Quarterbacks like Favre come around once every decade or so. If you don't have one, you better have a great defense and an above-average offensive line to fall back on.
Maybe Harrell helps give them that great defense. Maybe he won't. I guess we'll have to wait for more than a few days to find out.
Lawrence is a regular contributor to PackerReport.com. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.