Thompson sticks to his plan

General manager refuses to sway from draft board on Day 1

When the Green Bay Packers traded the 30th pick in the first round of the NFL draft Saturday, few were surprised. Two picks later starts the second round, so at 30 you're almost getting a second-round talent but having to pay first-round money.

The trade made sense in every way and with the Packers' first pick of the draft, coming at No. 36, they surprised most and picked Kansas State wide receiver Jordy Nelson, who caught 122 passes for 1,606 yards last season.

"He had a phenomenal year," Packers GM Ted Thompson said. "I'm sot sure how many drops he had, but it couldn't have been more than a handful. I think he's a really good player. "He's a guy I had my eyes on for a while."

If we learn anything from Thompson with this pick, it's he will always stay true to his draft board and pick the highest-ranked player remaining when it's his turn.

The Packers were about as needy for a wide receiver this year as they were last year at defensive tackle when they picked Justin Harrell. Nelson, an All-American, joins a wide receiver group that includes Donald Driver, Greg Jennings, James Jones and Koren Robinson. The need at wide receiver was not there, but this gives new starting quarterback Aaron Rodgers another target.

What Nelson gives the position is size at 6-2, 217 pounds. He also has been a good punt returner in college, so he's versatile for being big. Nelson was selected ahead of USC tight end Fred Davis (48th), who would've filled an obvious void behind starter Donald Lee. Also, by trading the 30th pick to the Jets, the Packers passed on picking Purdue tight end Dustin Keller, who was picked by the Jets.

Thompson, however, has never been swayed to pick position over value. If a kicker is rated ahead of a quarterback, he'll go with the kicker. It's the way he's wired, and he learned this from former Packers GM Ron Wolf.

Ironically, Wolf's final first-round pick for the Packers was Jamal Reynolds. As time went on, we found out Mike Sherman, who was replacing Wolf, wanted Reynolds over Wolf's pick, linebacker Dan Morgan. So, Wolf picked Reynolds, who bombed. Wolf said he never would give a coach a player he didn't want.

Thompson and coach Mike McCarthy, you would assume, were in agreement with the pick. Then with the second second-rounder the Packers pick Louisville QB Brian Brohm. What's going on here? The Packers are deep at wide receiver, have Rodgers at quarterback and have no tight end depth and they pick Brohm?

If Rodgers was a seasoned veteran, this would be a good to great pick. Brohm could learn from somebody who has been through it all. But with Rodgers' inexperience, you wonder what Packers fans will say the first time Rodgers throws three interceptions in one game.

He needs room to grow, make mistakes and learn from them, just like Brett Favre did. Rodgers doesn't need to be looking over his shoulder this season, he needs to know he has the coaches' trust. Still, with Favre riding his tractor into the sunset, the Packers needed a No. 2.

A second-rounder is backing up your untested starter, assuming the Packers don't sign Daunte Culpepper or another veteran QB? It's a shaky thought.

Even though a year ago many thought Brohm was the best college quarterback and a sure-fire first-round pick. Thompson was surprised he lasted until the 56th pick.

"We felt very fortunate he was there," Thompson said. "He'll be a good, solid guy behind Aaron. We'll get him ready to play, but Aaron's the guy."

The Packers could go from one of the most stable quarterback situations for years to one on thin ice. Not that Rodgers can't play, but he's been injured twice as a backup and a veteran QB would've been the perfect fit as a backup.

Now if Rodgers gets injured, Brohm stands next in line.

The Packers added Auburn cornerback Patrick Lee with their final second-round pick of Day 1. He's the only pick on the first day that fills a need. Beyond aging starters Al Harris and Charles Woodson, nothing is certain with the depth at this position. Lee gives the Packers someone they believe can develop into a future starter, and someone who should help during passing situations this coming season.

"He's a tough guy and likes to play bump-and-run," Thompson said. "We feel very good he was there. We didn't have any idea he'd be there at 60."

So in review, Nelson and Brohm appear to be more backup-types right now, who could help in the future. Meanwhile, Lee is a player the team needs to help in 2008.

The perfect scenario regarding the Packers' picks for this coming season is: Nelson helps a little here and there, meaning the veterans in front of him remain healthy. And with Brohm, he imitates Rodgers' first three seasons and watches one of the most productive quarterbacks in the NFL from the sideline.

And Lee learns from the veteran in front of him and becomes the nickel back.

Normally, you like your early picks of the draft to help right away, but none of these picks should start in 2008. So it appears Thompson is comfortable with his nucleus of players and continues to build the team the way he has always done — by the draft board.

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