NFL

There are broken links in the Packers’ drafting and development chain

There are broken links in the Packers’ drafting and development chain

Yet another trade deadline has come and gone without Green Bay packers making a move This comes as no surprise to anyone who has paid the Packers the slightest attention since the beginning of time, but especially since the beginning of the Ted Thompson era. The Packers front office is conservative in nature. Draft-and-develop is the team’s mantra, and it’s been pretty successful, even if it mostly involves the luck (or foresight) of having an elite quarterback for much of the last fifteen years.

Drafting and development only works, of course, if it is drafted well. It also only works if it is developed well. If any of these links in this short chain breaks, the strategy falls apart. The Packers were also dealt an unfortunate financial hand by biology. The Packers’ cap situation began to get more difficult at the exact moment the COVID-19 pandemic hit the NFL’s salary cap. The NFL salary cap grew from about $120 million in 2011 to about $188 million in 2019, with average annual growth rates around 6-7%. The pandemic changed all that, with a massive crisis in 2021, the cap shrank by 8%. If the cap had continued at 7%, it would be roughly $19 million more than it currently is.

Maybe the Packers could have been a more active team in free agency over the last year or two if their financial flexibility hadn’t been stripped from underneath by some stupid virus. They might not have had to take such huge hits because of the aggressive restructuring that was required due to the cap crisis. May be. But this was not the universe we occupy.

What this meant in terms of building the roster is that the Packers had to get their draft and development strategy right. There was no other real choice. In the 2010s and 2020s, however, the Packers started hitting less and less. The Super Bowl The champion team was filled with inmates and UDFAs, accented by just a couple of free agent signings, most notably linebacker Charles Woodson and defensive tackle Ryan Pickett. Any grand narrative about this is going to have to make some arbitrary timeline choices, and of course the choice has to come after the Super Bowl. While the 2011 class only saw Randall Cobb finish as a productive player, the 2012 class saw Nick Perry, Casey Hayward and Mike Daniels become productive players (we won’t talk about the contract options that went make the Packers for this class). The team’s 2013 first-round pick, Datone Jones, never panned out, but Eddie Lacy, David Bakhtiari and Micah Hyde provided plenty of value.

In my grand narrative, the problem really begins in 2015. The Packers, eager to add bodies to their secondary in what was a never-ending quest to fix a leaky pass defense after the Super Bowl, lost both main selections in Damarious. Randall and Quinten Rollins. Ty Montgomery was slated to be drafted at receiver, but moved to running back and was eventually traded after a brutal 2018 season on kick returns. Linebacker Jake Ryan played but was never more than a level player replacement, and the rest of the class offered nothing. The Packers got virtually zero long-term value from the 2015 class, and there were knock-on effects that would hurt them for years.

The 2016 class brought them Kenny Clark, who has been outstanding in his time with the team, but the depth of that class didn’t add up. Jason Spriggs was drafted to take the reigns from Bryan Bulaga, but proved too physically weak to handle NFL defensive ends. Kyler Fackrell was routinely sent to the stands by offensive linemen. Blake Martinez and Dean Lowry ended up having decent careers as they oscillated between utility and replacement level, while Trevor Davis and Kyle Murphy ended up doing next to nothing.

The 2017 class is where the ghosts of drafts past are starting to show their trickle-down effects. After being pants to the NFC Championship Game of the Atlanta Falcons, the Packers desperately needed to add help to their secondary. Damarious Randall had been volatile, Quinten Rollins had shown zero signs of being an NFL player, Ha Ha Clinton-Dix had regressed, and Morgan Burnett was heading into the “head down” portion of his contract. The Packers added Kevin King and Josh Jones in the first two rounds, and both players brought negative value to the team. Montravius ​​Adams barely played during his Packers career. Vince Biegel was injured early in his career and was never able to show the same explosiveness that made him such an interesting prospect in Wisconsin. The only saving graces in this class were the running back duo of Aaron Jones and Jamaal Williams.

The 2018 class brought the Packers Jaire Alexander, a bona fide superstar. Outside of him, the only player who brought added value to the Packers was the enigmatic fast Márquez Valdés-Scantling. Josh Jackson, Oren Burks and J’Mon Moore didn’t add any value to the Packers. Day 3 value comes only from Valdes-Scantling, with most of the rest contributing negative value or not hanging onto the list.

The 2019 draft was the Packers’ big swing in the draft, selecting both Rashan Gary and Darnell Savage in the first round, a huge hit and miss. Elgton Jenkins was a big hit until an ACL injury hit him last fall. It hasn’t been the same since, but it’s hard to argue that it was anything but a success. A common story following Gary and Jenkins, the Packers didn’t get more depth from the rest of the class with Jace Sternberger, Kingsley Keke, Ka’dar Hollman, Dexter Williams and Ty Summers next to nothing.

The 2020 draft saw the Packers make the controversial decision to draft Jordan Love in the first round. They followed with semi-controversial moves, selecting AJ Dillon and Josiah Deguara in the later rounds. Love hasn’t really played and is heading into a fifth-year option decision with effectively zero NFL snaps. AJ Dillon had a very good 2021, and Deguara has developed into a serviceable split-blocking tight end, but little else. The most impactful player in this class was sixth-round pick Jon Runyan Jr, who has developed into a quality starting point guard.

The 2021 class has little to show outside of second-round pick Josh Myers, who is currently in his prime. Eric Stokes has been on the bench on and off in recent weeks. Amari Rodgers returns with his hands covered in movie butter. Royce Newman went to the bench. TJ Slaton is a decent rotational defensive lineman. The rest of the group is no longer with the team, is injured or contributes on special teams.

It’s still hard to judge the 2022 class too harshly, given that they’re rookies, but the early returns haven’t helped the team this season, especially the early draft picks. Quay Walker has been a big reason for the Packers’ porous run defense. Devonte Wyatt, 24, is a borderline DNP every week. Christian Watson has suffered three lower-body injuries after undergoing two knee surgeries at North Dakota State. Sean Rhyan gets DNP every week. The day three selections have really been the bright spot as there have been some flashes from Romeo Doubs, Zach Tom, JJ Enagbare and Samori Toure. Of course, the plan should never be to rely on third-day rookies.

Excluding the 2022 draft, which we shouldn’t judge by midseason alone, there were seven drafts from 2015-2021. In those seven drafts, the Packers drafted four bona fide stars in Jaire Alexander, Kenny Clark, Aaron Jones and Rashan Gary. They drafted another above average player in Elgton Jenkins. They drafted four solid players in AJ Dillon, Jon Runyan Jr, Josh Myers and Jamaal Williams. They drafted five fringe players in Darnell Savage, Josiah Deguara, Blake Martinez, Dean Lowry and Marquez Valdes-Scantling. The remaining players were just back-end roster filler or complete busts.

The actual draft (before the likelihood of getting a useful player plummets) only lasts about four rounds. If you only count their picks in the first four rounds, they had 29 “real” picks over those seven years. They acquired five difference makers. They acquired four pieces of good depth. They acquired five pieces of decent depth. There were simply too many mistakes in the first three rounds to overcome a decent third-day draft.

The reason the Packers offense is so devoid of talent has a lot to do with the lack of defense time and time again, starting in 2015. It’s not the boss. It’s not the lack of veteran additions. It’s because the draft and development chain was broken.



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