Packers GM insists no pressure to fill holes via draft
GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) Even though his Green Bay Packers seldom add players in veteran free agency, general manager Ted Thompson insists that he feels no added pressure to fill roster holes with draft picks.
Nevertheless, with some clear needs on his team, Thompson will have to deliver some immediate contributors during the April 30-May 2 draft for a team that was minutes away from a berth in the Super Bowl.
''There's no more pressure on our part,'' Thompson said during his annual pre-draft news conference Wednesday in advance of his 11th draft as the Packers' decision-maker. ''The pressure, in my view, is making sure we take good players.''
That's something Thompson has certainly done the past two years, having added seven players who've either started or logged vital snaps the last two seasons: Running back Eddie Lacy, left tackle David Bakhtiari and safety/nickel defensive back Micah Hyde from the 2013 draft, and safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, wide receiver Davante Adams, right end Richard Rodgers and center Corey Linsley from last year's class.
Of those seven players, only one - Clinton-Dix - was a first-round pick. The Packers' first-round pick is No. 30 this year.
''The beauty of this particular business is the uncertainty,'' said Thompson, who holds nine picks - one in each round, plus two additional sixth-round compensatory selections - but has frequently added additional picks through trades. ''Because there's always that gasp when a name is called and they go, `He picked who?' And you hope that you don't do that, (where) other teams go, ''Who'd Thompson pick?' You don't want that kind of criticism.''
In retrospect, Thompson's 2011 and 2012 drafts merit such criticism. He has long said that it takes three years to properly evaluate a draft - a belief he reiterated yet again Wednesday - and the Packers have little to show for those two drafts at this point. From the 2011 draft, only Pro Bowl wide receiver Randall Cobb, a second-round pick, remains on the roster, as first-round pick Derek Sherrod's career was derailed by a gruesome leg injury and cornerback Davon House, a fourth-round pick who was the only other player from that draft to play a snap for the team last season, departed for Jacksonville as a free agent.
Meanwhile, only three of the eight players Thompson drafted in 2012 remain with the team: Outside linebacker Nick Perry, the team's first-round pick; cornerback Casey Hayward, a second-round pick; and defensive end Mike Daniels, a fourth-round pick.
While Daniels has emerged as one of the team's top players on defense, Perry was a part-time player last season and Hayward saw only limited action in sub packages, although he's in line to start this season following the free-agent departure of veteran cornerback Tramon Williams.
With his team coming off a spectacular late meltdown in their 28-22 overtime loss to the Seattle Seahawks in the NFC title game, Thompson will need picks at a few positions to work out this year. The team severed ties with three inside linebackers who started for them last season - 2006 first-round pick A.J. Hawk, Brad Jones and Jamari Lattimore - and as a result the position is the team's most glaring area of need. The Packers are also thin at cornerback and tight end, and could use quality depth on the defensive line and at running back.
''You don't hit on all of your decisions you make in the draft,'' Thompson admitted. ''Sometimes, those decisions are who we're picking. Sometimes, those decisions are, `Should we trade out?' Sometimes, those decisions are, `Should we trade up?' You never know how it's going to turn out.''