By Michael Terrill @MichaelTerrill on May 1, 2014
There’s no question that the job Ted Thompson has done as the general manager of the Green Bay Packers has directly led to the success of the team over the past decade. The 2014 NFL Draft is arguably Thompson’s most important draft in five years. But before we can turn our focus to that, I thought it would be interesting to power rank Thompson’s top 20 draft picks since he joined the organization in 2005.
A.J. Hawk starts off the list at No. 20 for the simple reason that he can be considered somewhat of a bust. The No. 5 overall pick in the 2006 NFL Draft has been a consistent linebacker for many years. Unfortunately, he’s never really cemented his status as one of the elite middle linebackers in the league, which was expected of him after being taken so high in the first round.
Offensive tackle Bryan Bulaga’s numerous injuries over the past two years has hampered his success after a solid rookie season. Many believe Bulaga will continue to be a dominant offensive lineman in the league for many years to come. However, the fact that the former 2010 first round pick has failed to remain healthy is the reason why he is listed at No. 19.
Mike Daniels exploded in his second season as a legitimate pass-rushing threat on the defensive line, which is something the Packers need more of in 2014. The fourth round selection has emerged as the class of Green Bay’s 2012 draft class. The hope is that he can continue to improve along with the rest of the defensive linemen.
Offensive lineman T.J. Lang was taken in the fourth round of the 2009 NFL Draft. He has quietly become a dependable asset when it comes to protecting Green Bay’s superstar quarterback Aaron Rodgers. Along with the other young offensive linemen, the Packers are looking forward to Lang taking the next step in his career.
Even though safety Morgan Burnett had a rough go at it last season, he’s proven to be a very talented defensive back. He certainly has plenty of work to do in order to get back in the good graces of the team, but it should be safe to say that 2013 was nothing more than a glitch for the third rounder.
Mike Neal has emerged as a successful pass-rushing threat. The outside linebacker/defensive end took a while to show the team what he’s made of, but the fact that he has played the position well gives the team confidence they made the right decision to re-sign this offseason. The former second round draft pick will look to continue being a presence in the backfield of Green Bay’s opponents.
Johnny Jolly had a world of problems off the field, but no one could deny his talent on game day. The defensive end has put up decent numbers throughout his career. The reason why he ranks No. 14 is due to the fact that he was a sixth round selection in 2006. He wasn’t expected to have as big of an impact as he had when he was given an opportunity to play.
It might be a surprise not to see Randall Cobb higher on this list, but the reason he comes in at No. 13 is because he was the best player available when he was chosen in the second round of the 2011 NFL Draft. It was a no-brainer for Thompson to select him. With that being said, Cobb is a superstar in the making, and Thompson deserves kudos for that.
Quarterback Matt Flynn has saved the Packers more times than fans would like to admit. The seventh round draft pick gave Green Bay a boost down the stretch in a primetime matchup in 2010, which many credited with giving the Packers the necessary confidence to win the Super Bowl. He then set franchise records in a game in 2011, and he was a huge reason why Green Bay was able to win the division last season.
Desmond Bishop worked hard and gave the Packers every reason to make him a starter. Unfortunately, a knee injury in a preseason game against the San Diego Chargers in 2012 derailed his career to a point of possible no return. Regardless, the former sixth round draft selection was outstanding for Green Bay in 2010 and 2011, which just so happened to be some of the best seasons in franchise history.
B.J. Raji’s numbers have taken a nosedive the past two seasons. With that being said, he stood up when it mattered most, which was in 2010. Raji’s interception returned for a touchdown in the NFC Championship Game will go down in Packers lore as one of the most exciting and improbable plays in franchise history. Raji definitely needs to step his game up, but regardless of what happens, he will be forever be loved for that one play.
Jermichael Finley should be higher on this list, but his inability to take his game to the next level hurt his chances. Rodgers believes Finley has the talent to be the best tight end in the league. Unfortunately, the former fourth round draft pick could never take his game to elite status. Nonetheless, Finley is a beast on the field when he wants to be.
Even though running back Eddie Lacy has only played in one season, he showed enough in his rookie year for fans to call Thompson a genius for the pick. Thompson knew he wanted a running back, but it was a tough call between Lacy and Montee Ball. Choosing Lacy last year may be the reason why the Packers win the Super Bowl this season. The Offensive Rookie of the Year has all the makings of being a superstar.
James Jones had his share of struggles, but he continuously managed to come up when it mattered most. He also proved in 2012 that he had what it took to be a dominant wide receiver when the two players ahead of him on the depth chart dealt with injuries. It will be interesting to see in 2014 if Jones, who is now a member of the Oakland Raiders, has the talent on his own, or if it was Rodgers who simply made him better.
Josh Sitton is one more reason why the 2008 draft class just might be Thompson’s best since he became the GM in Green Bay. The offensive lineman has consistently been good in the pass and run game. Not to mention, he does whatever the Packers ask of him. The 2010 Offensive Lineman of the Year has a lot of work to do if he wants to regain that title. Nonetheless, it’s nice to see him take on a leadership role these past couple of seasons.
If only Nick Collins was never forced to retire due to his neck injury. I’m convinced that the Packers would have won another Super Bowl over the past three seasons if Collins were still on the roster. The second round draft pick in 2005 had the talent, raw instincts and football IQ to become the best safety in franchise history. His excellent play throughout the 2010 season was a big reason why Green Bay was able to win Super Bowl XLV.
Jordy Nelson is hands down one of the most underrated players in the NFL. The former second round draft pick always had the look of someone who could be very successful at the professional level, but the fact that he’s gone above and beyond is a direct credit to him as a player. The chemistry between Nelson and Rodgers is inspiring, which is just one of several reasons why he’s one of the best.
Greg Jennings did join forces with the enemy, but regardless, he’s still one of the most talented wide receivers the Packers have ever seen. His big-play capability made him a fan favorite. Not to mention, Brett Favre and Rodgers both benefited by having him line up next to them. The third round selection in 2006 may never know what it’s like to win again, but at least he had the privilege of winning the biggest game with the green and gold.
Thompson’s maneuvering in the first round of the 2009 NFL Draft is the stuff of legend. Thompson scouted Clay Matthews for over a year prior to knowing that the Packers would switch to a 3-4 defense. He then traded the pick Green Bay got from the New York Jets for Favre to the New England Patriots in order to move back into the first round and grab Matthews. The rest is history as Matthews is the most feared pass rusher in the game.
To this day, Thompson has to be shocked that Rodgers fell to the No. 24 pick in the 2005 NFL Draft. Thompson’s first selection still remains to be his best as Rodgers is arguably the best player in the league. So many people doubted his abilities, but Green Bay knew he had a chance to be special. Many fans questioned turning the team over to Rodgers after Favre’s spectacular season in 2007, but Rodgers proved he was destined for the role.
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