Analyzing the last three drafts

Statistically, with seven starters and 16 backups plucked from the 2006, 2007 and 2008 drafts, the Packers have done better than most teams in the draft, but what does that mean? We break it down in this Packer Report exclusive.

Mark Twain famously said, "There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies and statistics."

So, here's a statistic: Over the last three NFL drafts, no team has more of those selections on their current roster than the Green Bay Packers.

What does that mean? Not nearly as much as anyone affiliated with the team or its fans desire.

A breakdown of the 2006, 2007 and 2008 NFL drafts by our friends at the Sports Xchange showed that the Packers have 23 of those players on their active roster. Only Kansas City (22) and Indianapolis (20) are even close.

Moreover, only six teams have more than the seven starters the Packers acquired in those drafts.

Those figures certainly look good on general manager Ted Thompson's resume. But a look beyond the numbers tells the real story.

In 2006, Thompson made 12 selections. Four of the first five are starters today (A.J. Hawk, Daryn Colledge, Greg Jennings, Jason Spitz), sixth-rounder Johnny Jolly also starts, and Will Blackmon and Tony Moll are key reserves.

In 2007, Thompson made 11 selections. However, he landed only two starters (Korey Hall and Mason Crosby), and the jury is out on his first- through third-round choices (Justin Harrell, Brandon Jackson, James Jones and Aaron Rouse).

In 2008, Thompson made nine selections. None of them earned a starting job, and second-rounders Brian Brohm and Patrick Lee failed to make even a miniscule impact. On the plus side, third-rounder Jermichael Finley and fourth-rounder Josh Sitton have good shots at breaking into the lineup in 2009, and fourth-rounder Jeremy Thompson and fifth-rounder Breno Giacomini will get opportunities.

All told, Thompson made 32 selections in those three drafts, including 14 in the first three rounds. For all of that, Thompson has just one blue-chip starter (Jennings) to show for it.

Thompson, time and again through word and practice, has said that the draft is the top way of building a team.

So, it's interesting to look at the 11 teams who landed at least seven starters in the last three drafts. They are Kansas City (11), Denver (10), Indianapolis (10), Buffalo (nine), Houston (nine), Philadelphia (eight), Green Bay, Oakland, Chicago, San Francisco and Jacksonville (all seven).

Of those teams, only Indianapolis and Philadelphia made the playoffs last season and five had losing records.

That's not to say Thompson's team-building method is wrong. Look at the three teams that are considered the NFL's model franchises.

New England hit a home run with a history-making sixth-round draft pick named Tom Brady. He won three Super Bowls without having elite playmakers around him, but was surrounded by veteran talent including past first-round picks like Willie McGinest, Ty Law, Richard Seymour and Vince Wilfork.

Pittsburgh's history with first-round picks includes a franchise quarterback in Ben Roethlisberger, as well as nose tackle Casey Hampton, safety Troy Polamalu, receiver Santonio Holmes and tight end Heath Miller.

Indianapolis has 10 starters and 10 backups to show for its last three drafts, but the bedrock of this franchise for years were first-rounders Peyton Manning, Edgerrin James, Marvin Harrison, Reggie Wayne and Dwight Freeney. Amazingly, the Colts haven't had a first-round bust since Trev Alberts in 1994.

The Packers have been miserable in the first round, with only four of them on the roster, and only one since Rodgers in 2005 (Nick Barnett, 2003). First-round picks must be impact players and form the core of the roster, but the Packers have missed far too often, whether it was Thompson, Mike Sherman or even Ron Wolf.

Also worth noting, the Patriots, Steelers and Colts have been carried by a large group of core veteran players, which explains the limited success of recent drafts by the Patriots (five starters, five backups in last three years) and Steelers (three starters, eight backups). The Steelers, for instance, have 18 players entering at least their eighth NFL season. The Packers have just seven, which equates to more young players filling key roles.

Of course, it helps that the Patriots, Steelers and Colts drafted franchise quarterbacks, and the Packers think they have one in 2005 first-rounder Aaron Rodgers.

The good news is, young players turn into veteran players. The question is, will players like Hawk, Colledge, Spitz, Harrell, Jackson, Jones, Lee, Finley and Sitton turn into difference-making pros? Or will the Packers be doomed to mediocrity because Thompson has drafted too many mediocre players?

Thompson's future in Green Bay rests in the answer to those questions.

What do you think about free agency and the draft?: Discuss hot Packers topics in our, free forums. Leave Bill a question in the subscribers-only Lambeau Level forum

Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at packwriter2002@yahoo.com, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Lambeau Level forum. Bill also is giving Facebook and Twitter a try. Find him on Twitter at twitter.com/packerreport


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