Since Wednesday marks the start of April, and April marks the month of the NFL Draft, we’ve decided to start a weekly series, in which we will review the previous four drafts of the Green Bay Packers.
Perhaps we’d better start at the beginning….
The Scene: Prior to the 2005 NFL Draft, fans of the Packers did not know much about their new general manager, Ted Thompson – and what little we knew, we didn’t much like.
In less than four months on the job, Thompson had taken a 10-6 team coming off its third straight NFC North Division title and seemingly torn it apart.
He decided to pass on bringing back two-fifths of the team’s very good offensive line by not re-signing guards Marco Rivera and Mike Wahle (the latter of those two decisions brought an especially high amount of heat on Thompson). He then released arguably the team’s leader on defense, free safety Darren Sharper.
Fans thought the team still had enough firepower on both sides of the ball to make a run at yet another division title, provided our new GM could have a good draft class. But we were a very unsure bunch on the morning of April 23, 2005.
The Draft: One of the draft’s biggest questions was answered right away as the San Francisco 49ers nabbed quarterback Alex Smith (Utah) with the first pick in the draft. That left the draft’s other big-name QB, Aaron Rodgers (California) wondering when his name would be called. And wondering. And wondering.
As Rodgers kept plummeting, Packers fans began to ask the unmentionable: Could Thompson actually take a quarterback in the first round? Surely not, right? The team needs too much help in other areas if it is to make a run! Besides, Brett Favre has at least another two or three years left in the tank!
Then, it happened.
Minutes before the Packers’ selection, ESPN cameras caught a smiling Rodgers on his cell phone, presumably talking to Thompson.
He was as Green Bay selected him with the 24th overall pick.
A reeling fan base continued to watch in horror as Thompson used the second round-pick acquired from New Orleans in the Mike McKenzie deal to select a 1-AA free safety (Bethune Cookman’s Nick Collins) and a wide receiver (Texas A&M’s Terrence Murphy). The Murphy pick was the team’s original pick and made little to no sense as the Packers already had Donald Driver, Javon Walker and Robert Ferguson at the position.
If all of that indignity wasn’t enough, Green Bay then traded its final pick of the day, a third rounder, to Carolina for two fourth round picks the following day.
Thompson wasn’t done trading down on day two, either, making two more deals with Philadelphia and New England. Those trades turned two picks into four. Seven of eight Green Bay selections on day two came via the trade route as it had two late-round picks from when it traded defensive back Marques Anderson to Oakland early in the 2004 season.
The only pick that was actually Green Bay’s to begin with was a fourth round selection, used on BYU linebacker Brady Poppinga.
The two picks obtained from the Anderson trade were used on guard/center Junius Coston (fifth round, North Carolina A&T) and defensive end Mike Montgomery (sixth round, Texas A&M).
The other five selections obtained from the Carolina/Philadelphia/New England trades were defensive back Marviel Underwood (fourth round, San Diego State), cornerback Mike Hawkins (fifth round, Oklahoma), wide receiver Craig Bragg (sixth round, UCLA), linebacker Kurt Campbell (seventh round, Albany) and offensive guard Will Whitticker (seventh round, Michigan State).
The Results: Turns out we might have been wrong on Rodgers. Dead wrong.
After sitting behind Favre for three seasons, Rodgers finally was given the reigns as the team’s starter for the 2008 season. All in all, he played very well, throwing for over 4,000 yards, 28 touchdowns and just 13 interceptions. He has plenty of arm strength, good decision-making skills, can make plays with his feet and is a solid leader. He’s already one of the league’s better quarterbacks and could become one of its top passers very shortly (fingers crossed).
Same goes with Collins. After showing some flashes, both good and bad, during his first three seasons, the light really came on for him in 2008. He recorded 72 tackles and seven interceptions (returning three for touchdowns) in earning his first Pro Bowl selection. He’s a free agent after next season and locking him up long-term is key for the Packers.
Murphy – we hardly knew ye. The wideout looked to be showing some real potential before suffering a helmet-to-helmet hit in a game against Carolina early in his rookie season. The hit ended his season. Murphy was later found to be suffering from a narrowing of the spinal column near his neck. He was born with this condition and it was responsible for ending his pro career. He finished with five catches, 36 yards and a lot of untapped potential.
(Update: I originally wrote that the hit on Murphy caused the narrowing of his spinal column. Reader Scott M. correctly pointed out that Murphy was born with this condition. Sorry for the error.)
As for the day two picks, Poppinga and Montgomery are the only players left on the roster. Poppinga shows some potential as a run-stopper and pass rusher, but has shown almost no coverage ability. He’ll be in the mix for a starting linebacker spot in the new 3-4 scheme. Montgomery hasn’t done much of anything outside of a few instances, but the team liked him enough to re-sign him to a two-year contract – despite my pleas for them to do otherwise. He figures to be in the mix at end or outside linebacker next season.
Coston, Underwood and Whitticker – at one point or another – all either started or had potential to become starters. All ended up fizzling out, though, and are no longer around.
Hawkins, Bragg and Campbell never did much of anything and are also all gone.
The Grade: B+
Despite all his numerous trades down, which started a trend with him, Thompson failed to gain much from it in 2005. That being said, he landed two big-time talents, one on each side of the ball, in Rodgers and Collins and any time you can do that, you’ve had a nice draft for yourself. Had Murphy panned out like I think he would have, this draft would have been even better. But if that had happened, we might not have ended up with Greg Jennings so I digress.