Sure signs of a playmaker

Brett Favre and many Green Bay Packers fans were very frustrated in April when the New England Patriots plucked Randy Moss away from the Oakland Raiders just ahead of the Packers. Packers general manager Ted Thompson opted to use the draft to select James Jones out of San Jose State and, thus far, Thompson's faith in the draft is looking pretty good, says's Dylan Tomlinson

On the weekend of the NFL draft, I don't know if any single person was cursed more in the state of Wisconsin than Green Bay Packers general manager Ted Thompson.

While the selections of first-round pick Justin Harrell and second-round pick Brandon Jackson were not widely popular, it was the Packers' third round pick that drew the most criticism.

The widely held belief was that Thompson could have sent a third-round pick to the Oakland Raiders for disgruntled receiver Randy Moss. Instead, Thompson opted to use the 78 th pick of the draft on James Jones, a receiver from San Jose State that virtually nobody had ever heard of.

Fans were livid. So was quarterback Brett Favre, who had spent the majority of the off-season lobbying to bring Moss to Green Bay. People felt Thompson had the chance to bring a future Hall-of-Famer to Green Bay and instead he opted for a little-known receiver and Moss was traded to the New England Patriots.

Guess what? Sometimes the general manager knows exactly what he's doing.

Granted, we're just three games into the preseason, but here are some stats that are more than a little interesting: Jones is second in the NFL with 16 catches. He is third in the league with 196 receiving yards and has two touchdowns.

When a player like Detroit's Shaun McDonald leads the NFL in receiving yards, it makes it easy to understand how meaningless preseason stats can be. But as a rookie, Jones has played far better than Greg Jennings did a year ago when he won the right to start alongside Donald Driver. Meanwhile, in New England, Moss has missed each of the Patriots' three preseason games with an injured hamstring.

It's safe to say that while Jones is creating all kinds of excitement about his future in Green Bay that people in New England are nothing but disgusted that their biggest off-season acquisition has done virtually nothing since arriving.

I'm not suggesting that Jones will have a bigger season than Moss, who isn't exactly known for his love of training camp or the preseason. After all, rookie receivers rarely make much of an impact during their first seasons. That was certainly the case for Driver in 1999, Javon Walker in 2002 and to some extent Jennings last season. While Jennings won the starting job and showed flashes early in the season, he struggled over the second half of the season as he tried to battle back from an ankle injury.

My fearless August prediction is that Jones will have a more productive rookie season than Jennings did a year ago. I also predict that while it seems likely that Jennings will keep his job as the Packers No. 2 receiver, I think Jones will have more receptions than Jennings this year.

Thompson could have made the popular move and traded for Moss. If the trade went as well as anyone could have anticipated, he might have gotten a season or two of good production from him. If things went wrong, having Moss in the locker room could have very quickly become a nightmare.

Instead, Thompson went with the little-known receiver from San Jose State. Right now, it appears he made the right choice.

Dylan Tomlinson

Dylan Tomlinson is a frequent contributor to and Packer Report magazine. E-mail him at

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