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Thursday, September 28, 2023

Column: Thompson again proves himself to be draft guru for Packers

At no other time of year does Green Bay Packers’ general manager Ted Thompson shine brighter than during the NFL Draft.

A Forbes article published last Wednesday reviewed each team’s draftees from 2005-2009 and judged each team’s performance based on variables such as percentage of games played, percentage of games started, whether or not the player was still in the league and the number of Pro Bowl appearances. The study ranked the Packers as the most efficient drafting team in the NFL.

It is hard to argue with the Packers’ success in the NFL Draft under Thompson. Just in that 2005-2009 sample reviewed by the Forbes study, Green Bay picked up Aaron Rodgers, Nick Collins, A.J. Hawk, Greg Jennings, James Jones, Desmond Bishop, Mason Crosby, Jordy Nelson, Jermichael Finley, Josh Sitton, B.J. Raji and Clay Matthews. Not bad, huh?

Thompson was again on his game for the 2012 draft this past weekend.

As we all remember, the Packers’ defense was god-awful last season. Green Bay ranked dead last in the NFL, giving up an average of 411.6 yards per game, including a league-worst 299.8 yards per game through the air. Part of the reason for that was a pass rush that was 27th in the league with a mere 29 sacks in 16 games. An NFL-caliber quarterback will tear you apart if you can’t put pressure on him.

So Thompson went to work and came up with a pair of disruptive defensive playmakers on days one and two.

But Green Bay’s first two selections of Southern California linebacker Nick Perry and Michigan State defensive tackle Jerel Worthy—whom Thompson traded up for—are being labeled as risky boom-or-bust type picks by many.

Perry and Worthy are both dogged by the same claim that they were lazy players in college, but I think the same could be said of many of the top prospects in this year’s draft. Nobody is perfect.

At 6-foot-3-inches and 271 pounds with a 4.64 40-yard dash time, Perry’s physical gifts are limitless, and many that are familiar with USC football believe that, like Clay Matthews when he came out of college, he has yet to come close to reaching his full potential. He recorded a Pac-12-high 9.5 sacks last season as a redshirt junior and gives the Packers the pass-rushing threat they need opposite Matthews.

Perry spent a lot of his time lined up as a defensive end in college, so the transition from a three-point stance to the two-point stance he will use as a linebacker in Green Bay’s 3-4 defense will be a challenge, but Perry has the athleticism to do it successfully. Plus, the Packers don’t need their pass rusher opposite Matthews to be spectacular, they just need Perry to be a viable enough threat off the edge so that teams can no longer double or triple team Matthews.

Badger fans certainly remember Worthy from his time with the Spartans. He was a dominant force against Wisconsin in the two teams’ two meetings this past season, whether it was blowing up the middle of the line to put himself in the Badger backfield or getting his arms in the air to deflect a pass. When he was on, there were few forces in college football as explosive off the defensive line as Worthy—his 3.5 sacks, 10.5 tackles for loss and six pass deflections in 2011 are evidence of that—but he fell to the second round because of perceived laziness and immaturity.

Though he’s best suited for nose tackle—a position occupied by B.J. Raji—the Packers will use Worthy as a defensive end in the 3-4, hoping that he can make up for last offseason’s loss of Cullen Jenkins.  

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Thompson has made a living in Green Bay through excellent drafting throughout his seven years as Packers’ general manager, and sometimes that means taking risks and drafting on sheer potential. Nobody is saying that Perry and Worthy won’t take work, but they fill immediate needs on defense in Green Bay.

Do they come with risks? Sure, of course, any draft pick does. But at this point I’m willing to give Thompson the benefit of the doubt that he’s earned. Because when it comes to the draft, he’s not wrong all that often.

How would you grade the Packers 2012 draft class? Let Ryan know what you think via email at or hit him up on Twitter @ryanmevans.

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