Ever since Ted Thompson took over the role of General Manager for the Green Bay Packers, the team has been known primarily as a draft-and-develop team. Rather than spending ludicrous amounts of money on free agents, Thompson and the organization seek to find young, promising talent in the draft and develop them into key players.
Based on how free agency played out this year, it appears as if Green Bay will be doing the same thing in 2014. The Packers signed only two new players in free agency, Julius Peppers and Letroy Guion. After losing a few other players to other teams, Green Bay will look to the draft to fill the remaining holes left on the roster.
In this year’s draft, which will be held in New York City from May 8 to May 10, Green Bay will start with nine picks. The team has two picks in the third and fifth rounds and one pick in each of the other five rounds. With the exception of quarterback, running back, cornerback and the offensive line, Green Bay has a need at almost every other position, though some needs are more pressing than others.
The first glaring need for Green Bay is safety. After letting M.D. Jennings depart for Chicago, the Packers are left with Morgan Burnett and a number of young players who have potential but little experience. Alabama’s Ha Ha Clinton-Dix and Louisville’s Calvin Pryor are potential rookies who could have an immediate impact on the team, but it is possible that they are unavailable when Green Bay picks.
Even though Green Bay added Guion and Peppers through free agency, the Packers may still choose to draft defensive linemen in the later rounds to serve as future replacements for these players. Peppers is in the latter stages of his career, and Green Bay needs to find a long term solution. Clay Matthews, A.J. Hawk and Nick Perry currently anchor the linebackers, but Green Bay again has a need for another play-making linebacker who can have an impact on a defense that has struggled in recent seasons.
With the departures of James Jones and Jermichael Finley, Green Bay finds itself in the market for both a tight end and a wide receiver. It is likely that Green Bay waits until the later rounds to draft one of these positions because the needs on offense are not as severe as those on defense.
Obviously, if certain potential super stars were to fall to the 21st pick, Green Bay would likely add them to the roster for future development. For example, Green Bay had no immediate need for a quarterback when they drafted Aaron Rodgers in 2005, but drafting and developing him allowed the franchise to transition easily from Brett Favre to Rodgers. If potential replacements for some of the Packers’ stars were to be available, Thompson would have the awareness to draft them.
While Green Bay starts out with nine picks in the draft, it is possible that they will gain more once draft day begins. Thompson has a tendency to trade back in the draft, meaning he takes higher picks and trades them to other teams in exchange for more picks in later rounds. Because Green Bay has a need at many positions, it is possible he does this in order to find more prospects.
Green Bay has consistently been one of the youngest teams in the NFL. Their focus on the draft prevents them from getting into salary cap trouble and has always assured that they have available talent to develop for the future. Green Bay is just a few small pieces away from being able to reach the Super Bowl again. Through Ted Thompson’s skillful drafting and Mike McCarthy’s developing, the players that will don the green and gold after this year’s draft can become key pieces for Green Bay’s 2014 season.