When you’re dealing in a science as inexact as drafting NFL players, it’s worth remembering that smart guys miss too.
But the misses have become increasingly clear in Green Bay, where recent drafts have not helped General Manager Ted Thompon’s reputation as an evaluator.
As pointed out by Rob Demovsky of ESPN.com, releasing second-year safety Jerron McMillan on Tuesday means the Packers have fewer than half their draft picks from the 2011 and 2012 drafts on the current roster.
Granted, Thompson believes in buying in bulk, trading down to amass picks. And with a good roster in place, there are fewer spots for late-round picks to occupy.
But after giving big contracts to quarterback Aaron Rodgers and outside linebacker Clay Matthews this year, the need is greater than ever to hit on those picks to backfill the roster with cheap talent, and lately, Thompson hasn’t.
McMillan was one of their fourth-rounders in 2012, the 133rd pick overall. Now, of the 18 players they drafted in 2011 and 2012, only eight are still with the Packers, with two of those on injured reserve (though second-round gem Randall Cobb is designated for return).
“You never want to give up on a young guy,” Packers coach Mike McCarthy said after McMillian was released, but that’s what they’ve increasingly done.
Of course, Thompson built the roster that makes it harder for late-round picks to stick, so he does deserve credit. And all seven of his 2010 picks are still with the team, so it’s not as if he’s never been good at this.
But as with other respected evaluators, there can be downturns. Go look at Bill Polian’s last few drafts in Indianapolis, or the defensive backs and receivers the Patriots have burned high picks on in recent years.
At the moment, the Packers seem to be in one. If Rodgers were healthy, everything would look better, certainly. But the absence of quality quarterback depth only underscores the accumulation of small problems that have turned this season into a big one in Green Bay.