Is Ted Thompson wide receiver mad?

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An article this morning from Greg Bedard over at jsonline.com on the Packers’ overloaded receiver position reminded me that I still have a problem with TT’s approach to WRs and keeping 12 of them on the roster (at the expense of keeping other players at other positions of greater need). With Robinson gone (a move I am still uncomfortable with – could see him contributing for another team now), there are 12 players competing for 5-6 spots. As Bedard points out, Driver, Jennings, Jones and probably Nelson are all safe. I would think it would be difficult to cut Ruvell Martin too considering he contributes in some way pretty much every time he’s on the field (Martin may be one of the best WR blockers I’ve seen in a long time).

So this begs the question, why would TT set up a situation where there are essentially 7-8 guys competing most likely for just 2 spots at a position of strength? We’ve argued before that TT drafting 2 WRs in this draft was a bit questionable again, as this is not a position of need. After reading Bedard’s article and Johnny Quinn’s quote, I wondered if perhaps TT may be searching for special teams aces (not just return guys, but fliers too), and that may explain having 12 WRs on the roster. But keeping 12 guys with the hope of landing a special teams ace doesn’t quite add up. The only other mini-explanation I could come up with is that the Packers may be searching for a Wes Welker-like slot guy or another Greg Jennings yard-after-catch guy, so they’re keeping a bunch of guys on the roster to see if any have that kind of potential.

Anyway, this prompted me to do some research. Since TT took over in 2005, the Packers have drafted 8 wide receivers – which means they have used more draft picks on wide receivers than any other position (OG – 5, LB – 5, Safety – 4, and so forth). (Curiously, in these 4 years, he’s only drafted 2 RBs). Reviewing this and noting TT’s propensity for picking up WRs after the draft and keeping them on the practice squad, I’m developing a mini-theory that TT may simply be WR mad.

Unfortunately, if you examine the NFL contributions of his 6 WR draft picks (we obviously don’t have info yet on Nelson and Swain), you’d find that TT hasn’t been overly successful with his picks. Sure, Jennings was a big-time find and James Jones could really be a contributor someday. But the other 4 are either all out of the NFL or in the NFL but not playing at all (David Clowney for the NYJ). I’m not sure what percentage of success a GM should have with respect to each position, but 33% strikes me as a bit low.

Now I agree with TT’s apparent belief that in general, WRs are a critical part of the team and having a solid group there is important. I am also on record saying better teams aren’t afraid to upgrade positions that do not, on the surface, seem to need upgrades (like TT did with kicker last year and like the Patriots seem to do often). Still, my concern right now is that the Packers core group of receivers (especially when Robinson was still here) was a really, really quality group – so using up 12 roster spots is excessive. The only way I could look past this someday is if one of the group of 7 or so really competing for a spot turns out to be another Jennings-like find, a solid return guy or a Steve Tasker.

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9 Responses to “Is Ted Thompson wide receiver mad?”

  1. someonesstory Says:

    In defense of the players he’s picked at the position, I’d point out that Thompson picked Terrence Murphy with his second second round pick in 2005, and Murphy looked like he would be a quality player before his career ended due to a neck injury.

  2. Dave in Tucson Says:

    This is probably just going to reveal my lack of football genius-itude, but is it possible that one or more of these guys could be transitioned to the defense to play cornerback?

    How big a difference is there in the skill sets between WR and CB? I know I’ve heard commentators say thinks like cornerbacks are just receivers that can’t catch.

    Or is this just an issue of money (WR Salaries > CB Salaries?)

    -Dave

  3. awhayes Says:

    someonesstory – good point, Murphy did look to be a decent prospect before his unfortunate injury and if he’d panned out, TT’s % would be closer to 50% – which probably wouldn’t be bad. But he didn’t pan out. And, I’d still argue that especially this year, TT has used too many draft picks and roster spots on WRs.

  4. MC Says:

    My guess is that there’s no top-secret WR plan, per se, but Ted just happened to target a few guys whose raw skills were really intriguing to him; it just so happens that they play wideout and are now part of a logjam at the position…

    Although, heck, maybe McCarthy has designs on keeping a whopping seven wideouts on the roster and Ted is just accomodating him.

  5. awhayes Says:

    Dave – interesting thoughts and I really like your new word of “genius-itude” (packergeeks is a big fan of making up words just like this…).

    I haven’t heard of any plans to try any of the present WRs at CB, but I suppose it could happen. While I do think there are similarities between CB and WR and the transition wouldn’t be impossible (in fact, Packer CB Will Blackmon is an example of a college WR who is playing CB in the NFL), I would be somewhat surprised if TT had specific plans to turn any of the WRs on the roster now into CBs. I think that the position of corner (like many other positions frankly) has become a highly specialized position in recent years and that if a CB were needed, drafting a CB or getting a free agent CB would be the advisable route.

  6. awhayes Says:

    MC – you may be onto something w/re to MM perhaps requesting to keep more than the traditional 4-5 WRs or more simply, that MM may be behind this somehow. In fact, MM apparently has a huge play-book with hundreds of plays (many still unused) and maybe he has some kind of plan to revolutionize NFL offenses by changing some of the traditional sets most teams use (for example, we’ve already seen his 5 WR sets, tight ends in the backfield and some other offensive innovations). I actually wouldn’t be too surprised if this were part of his overall plan.

    Still, I wouldn’t really have a problem with keeping extra WRs if there weren’t roster space limits. But considering there are limits, I’d rather use any extra roster spots on areas of greater need like CBs, LBs, FBs, DEs, RBs, or even safeties.

  7. Aaron Says:

    Andy – FYI, someonesstory is me when logged into WordPress… ;)

    I hear you on the percentages, but how many of those were Day One picks? Of the what-would-have-been 50 percent ‘hits’ – Jennings, Jones and Murphy were all premium first-day (until this year) picks.

    I don’t mind him missing out on guys like Clowney later in the draft when he traded back several times to acquire multiple picks. If he had traded up to get the likes of Clowney there would be cause for concern. That’s what eroded the Packers’ depth so badly under Sherman…

  8. awhayes Says:

    Aaron,
    Good point – with the more important draft picks (the earlier ones), a good argument could be made that he hasn’t done too badly with the early ones (though again, I wouldn’t put Murphy in the great pick category as he only played in 3 games in his career).

    My overall point really is that between drafting more WRs than any other position and consistently keeping a bunch of WRs on the roster, TT’s focus seems to be disproportionately in favor of WRs to the possible exclusion of other players at positions of greater need.

  9. toolkien Says:

    Maybe he just wanted to make sure the Pack didn’t end up with a Bill Schroeder as a #1 receiver.

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