Since there is no way of definitively looking into the future and predicting what Ted Thompson's picks will be in May, I wanted to take a look back at his past picks. So, in part one of my five-part series, I'm going to provide a Green Bay Packers draft review for the each of the past five years. Here are Thompson's 2009 picks, a review of each pick, as well as a cumulative review of the whole lot.
Preview: Thompson needed to focus on defense, as the hiring of new defensive coordinator Dom Capers meant the current roster, which had played in a 4-3 scheme, wasn't going to fit into what Capers wanted to do. With Aaron Rodgers leading the offense to a top 10 ranking, it was clear the defense was holding back the Packers from taking the next step.
Round 1, Pick 9: BJ Raji, NT, Boston College. Grade: B
Raji practically fell into the team's lap as only two other defenders were chosen before him (Tyson Jackson, Chiefs and Aaron Curry, Seahawks). A quintessential nose tackle for a 3-4 scheme, Thompson had to pounce. In his first season, Raji anchored the #1 run defense in the league. Despite injuries in his second season, Raji turned in an absolutely dominant performance in the playoffs en route to a Super Bowl title. Since then, however, Raji was shifted from playing tackle to defensive end, and his play has subsided to the point where he tested the free agent market this off-season and ended up signing a one year deal with the Packers.
Due to his strong start and Super Bowl title, Raji gets a solid grade. However, not living up to potential the past few seasons (zero sacks in 2012 or 2013) hurts Raij and prevents him from receiving anything better.BJ Raji was a great first pick for GB in 2009
Round 1, Pick 26: Clay Matthews III, LB, USC. Grade: A+
In a very un-Ted-Thompson-like move, the Packers traded their second and both third round picks to the Patriots to jump back into the first round and draft Matthews. And every day since, I've thanked my lucky stars that he did so. Matthews has become one of the NFL's premier pass-rushers, tallying 50 total sacks in 69 regular season games. He also recorded the Packers' record for sacks in one postseason (3.5) in 2010. After signing a 5-year deal before the 2013 season, Matthews secured the weak-side pass-rush in Green Bay until 2017.
Despite being hampered by injuries throughout the past two seasons, Matthews has consistently been at or near the top of the team in sacks. With his constant threat, teams are forced to adjust their offensive blocking schemes, opening lanes for other rushers. Clearly a game-changer, Matthews deserves the best grade possible.
Round 4, Pick 109: TJ Lang, T/G, Eastern Michigan. Grade: A
With no picks in the second or third rounds, Thompson turned his attention to the offensive line. Lang was a tackle throughout college, but was viewed as a potential guard as well in the pros. After making the switch to guard in 2011, Lang has only missed one start in three seasons. Anchoring the middle of the line with Josh Sitton, the duo is consistently viewed as the best guard pairing in the league.
Converting player positions in the pros is not always easy. However, through patience (three starts over his first two years) and practice, Lang proved his value and received a new contract prior to the 2012 season.
Round 5, Pick 145: Quinn Johnson, FB, LSU. Grade: D
One of only two fullbacks drafted in 2009, Johnson was cut after the 2010 season. He never quite fit Mike McCarthy's offense, which prefers tight ends that can line up in the backfield to imitate the fullback position. I don't give Johnson a failing grade here because he was an interesting prospect. He was a great lead blocker in college, but the smash-mouth style of running is now a thing of the past in the NFL.
Round 5, Pick 162: Jamon Meredith, T/G, South Carolina. Grade: F
Clearly trying to prepare for life after Chad Clifton and Mark Tauscher, Thompson took Meredith in the fifth round to try and find a steal. The 17th tackle off the board, Meredith never made the 53-man roster, but was signed to the practice squad. He never played a regular season snap for the Packers.
Round 6, Pick 182: Jarius Wynn, DE, Georgia. Grade: C
Wynn didn't start a game during his first season with the Packers, and was cut afterwards. Due to injuries, he was brought back during the 2011 season and registered 3 sacks in 4 starts in 2012. Not incredible value, but he made the squad and contributed over the course of three seasons. He gets a mediocre grade for being mediocre.
Round 6, Pick 187: Brandon Underwood, CB, Cincinnati. Grade: F
Underwood was speedy and flashed great potential at points in college. However, he faced numerous off-the-field issues, resulting in his release in September 2011. Tallying zero starts in two years, Underwood didn't see the field often and provided little value to the team during his short tenure.
Round 7, Pick 218: Brad Jones, LB, Colorado. Grade: A
Jones was hidden in the depth chart for the first three seasons of his career, but ultimately took advantage of Desmond Bishop's injury in 2012 and held onto a starting job for 2013. He contributed to the squad with his special teams play, but and waited patiently for his opportunity to arrive. After signing his second career contract in 2013, Jones proved great value for a seventh round pick, resulting in a great grade. He isn't the greatest LB or ILB in the league, but for a seventh round pick, he has provided value on defense and special teams since being drafted.
Green Bay Packers Draft Review - 2009
Overall, Thompson hit on four of eight total picks. He hit home runs with his first three and last pick, and struck out in the middle. However, weighting the early rounds heavier, as that is where more impact is expected and more money is spent, Thompson did exceptional. Even in his rare foray into trading up and grabbing an unheralded linebacker from USC.