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Mike Vandermause column: Like it or not, Thompson sticks to draft plan
By Mike Vandermause
Posted April 6, 2008
Like a good poker player, Green Bay Packers General Manager Ted Thompson never will show his hand.
If you want insight into which players the Packers will select in this year's draft, don't expect to pick up any hints from Thompson. His face is stoic and his cards are held tightly to his vest.
Thompson huddled with key advisors this weekend to formulate a position-by-position draft board. When that task is completed by the end of the week, team scouts will convene to compare notes. By April 24, two days before the draft, Thompson and his personnel assistants will have completed their preparation.
All draft information discussed inside the walls of 1265 Lombardi Ave. is top secret. You'd have better luck uncovering highly classified CIA documents.
While we won't learn where the Packers stand on specific players, we know the general blueprint for Thompson's draft strategy. He has a solid reputation, earned in Seattle and Green Bay, and his approach is worth studying.
# Thompson brings plenty of ammunition, and this year will be no different. He has accumulated six draft choices among the top 135 picks, which is significant considering only once in the past 37 years — in 2006 — have the Packers possessed more selections that early.
In addition to the Packers' own picks in the first four rounds, Thompson obtained a second-rounder from the Cleveland Browns for Corey Williams, which was a steal. The Packers also were awarded a fourth-round compensatory pick.
Thompson's first three drafts in Green Bay produced 17 overall choices in the top 135, and 14 remain with the team.
# Thompson takes the best player on the board, regardless of position, and is uncompromising in this view.
"A draft is an investment in the future," Thompson said. "Obviously, you would like to get dividends in that investment in the first year. But what you're doing is building over the long term, so to take a lesser player at a position of perceived need, as opposed to a better player at a position where maybe you don't need somebody right this second, doesn't make any sense to us."
# There's no magic formula for projecting NFL success, thus Thompson tries not to make the process too complicated.
"Every player is different, every situation is different," he said. "You're trying to predict how a 21- or 22-year-old kid is going to do when you uproot him from a school or family he's been with for the last four, five years.
"At the end of the day, we always try to revert back to the football thing. Is the guy a good football player? We just try to keep it simple: who's a good player, who's not a good player; who's a good guy, who's a bad guy."
# Thompson has learned to stick to his convictions, no matter how loud the critics howl. He was booed last year after selecting Justin Harrell in the first round, yet remained unfazed.
Thompson said: "You can't gnash your teeth over every pick and say, 'I wonder what the pundits are going to say or I wonder what the fans are going to say when I walk out there on the stage.'"
Thompson has no interest in winning a popularity contest.
"I would like for Packer fans to all think their organization is being run well and people like me know what we're doing," he said. "But that's not as important as doing the right thing."