If you want to get some insight into the draft philosophy of Scot McCloughan beyond what he did in his six years calling the shots in San Francisco (2005-2010) it might be instructive to take a look at his mentor, Ted Thompson. He has been the Packers’ general manager since 2005 so he has 10 drafts in Green Bay to examine.
McCloughan worked under Thompson in two different organizations. He was a regional scout for the Packers from 1994-1999 while Thompson was the director of player personnel. They both were in Seattle from 2000-2004 when Thompson was the VP of football operations and McCloughan serving as the director of college scouting.
Thompson’s draft philosophy, which has built a Packers team that has a Super Bowl title and is annually in contention to get another one, is simple—take the best player available. But what about team needs?
They are considered, said Thompson, but only as part of the equation.
"You factor everything in. But [need] doesn't carry as much weight as it might with other organizations,” Thompson said during his annual pre-draft news conference Wednesday, via Jason Wilde of ESPN Wisconsin. “There's a certain amount of weighting in terms of need, but I am adamant that that's not the way to draft. The way to draft is to take the best player . . . If you reach and take something that’s not quite as good, then you may not be getting the same value. I know you don’t believe that, but it’s true. That’s what we do.”
Not coincidentally, this is very similar to what McCloughan has said about filling needs vs. taking the best player available. He referred to Thompson when he talked about how he builds his roster during his introductory press conference in January.
“Everybody says, ‘Well you need this, this, this and this,’ which I understand,” he said. “You know, a lot of times in pro free agency, you can address those needs a little bit, but I learned from Ron Wolf early on, I learned from Ted Thompson early on, I learned from John Schneider, you can never have enough good football players on your team. If you keep adding that, you’re going to have your couple of two, three superstars that are going come out and become stars.”
The few times that Thompson has abandoned his core philosophy the results have not been good. Wilde points to the 2012 draft as one that didn’t work out because the GM went for need. The Packers had finished the 2011 season ranked dead last in defense. Even though they went 15-1, they were carried by the offense and were one and done in the playoffs, losing at home to the Giants.
In 2012 Thompson used his first six picks on defensive players and traded up three times, a maneuver that is highly out of character for him. Only three players from that draft remain with the team. That is a serious issue for a Packers team that acquires players almost exclusively through the draft.
The issues created by the poor returns from 2012 were compounded by the fact that 2011 was not a strong draft for Green Bay either either. Only one player of the 10 Thompson drafted that year, second-round pick Randall Cobb, is still on the roster.
It doesn’t look like Thompson particularly reached for need in the 2011 draft. He took four defensive players and six on offense. What happen to that draft?
“Quite frankly, sometimes it just doesn’t work out. As much as you’d like to have some sort of magic pill to take before I pick up the phone and draft somebody, we don’t have that,” Thompson said. “We just have to depend on our work and what we thinks going to happen in the future with [each] young man in this organization. Sometimes it doesn’t work out.”
It’s also possible that 2011 was just a bad draft year. The Redskins had 11 picks and only two, Ryan Kerrigan and Niles Paul, are still on the roster.
I recommend reading the entire article if you want some good insight into how Thompson operates and, by extension, what McCloughan might do when things get rolling at the draft a week from today.
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