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Football Sex Personified: Stalking Green Bay’s Ted Thompson (Part 2)

dondraper

In Part 1, I reviewed Green Bay’s WR situation and suggested this about Ted Thompson’s selection of three WRs in the draft:

Firstly, drafting WRs this year gives him a safety net if he loses one or more of his top WRs to free agency in 2015. Secondly, and more importantly, the influx of rookie WRs enables Thompson to make one or more of his top WRs expendable. . . . In other words, drafting three WRs this year wasn’t just a defensive gesture. It was also—and I would say primarily—an offensive tactic.

This is where I want to begin.

Here’s a table that highlights the two primary ways to think about the rookie WRs:

Name

Defensive Gesture

Offensive Tactic

Davante Adams

2014 injury insurance for Nelson and Boykin,

Likely eventual starter

2014 replacement for Boykin,

2015 replacement for Nelson

Jared Abbrederis

2014 injury insurance for Cobb

2015 replacement for Cobb

Jeff Janis

2014 flyer

Injury insurance for Boykin or Adams

2015 replacement for Boykin,

if Adams has replaced Nelson

Now, even if you think that these three guys were drafted only with the defensive perspective in mind, they could still make decent investments as potential injury fill-ins, just as James Jones did in 2012 and Jarrett Boykin did last year.

And don’t worry about the Packers having “too many” WRs on the roster. In 2011 Thompson kept Greg Jennings, Jordy Nelson, James Jones, and Randall Cobb (in addition to a semi-retired Donald Driver) on the roster—and in 2012 he added Boykin to that mix—and all of those guys have had fantasy utility. In 2008, Jones was the team’s #4 WR and in 2009 and 2010 the #4 WR was Nelson. In 2011, Nelson was the #2 WR—in the entire NFL—and in 2012 Jones led the league in receiving TDs. Even with a crowded roster, on the Packers a guy who was a backup WR one year can emerge as a fantasy starter the next year.

Of course, a factor that contributes to the emergence of one-time backups is the removal of the guys who started ahead of them, and Ted Thompson has no problem with letting starters go, which leads to my ultimate point: We need to consider the offensive perspective, that these rookie WRs were drafted as potential replacements for the WRs above them who are either average in talent and/or about to be too costly to keep.1

What makes me think this?—I’ve been stalking Ted Thompson and based on what I’ve seen I suspect that he’s open to replacing some of his starting WRs within the next few years.

When Ted Thompson became Green Bay’s GM in 2005, he had two 1000-yard and top-10 receivers from 2004 in Javon Walker and Donald Driver. Entering 2005, Driver was already a smallish former-seventh-round 29-year-old underrated overachiever who coming from Alcorn State was fortunate just to be in the league and thus was willing to play at almost any reasonable price for the team that had given him a shot, whereas Walker was a young 220-lb. first-round stud with two years left on his rookie contract who, on advice from his new agent Drew Rosenhaus, was publicly threatening to holdout and even retire unless he was paid like a guy who had just finished the previous season as the league’s #2 receiver.

In response, Thompson released a public statement—“I don’t anticipate us making any concessions in this matter”—and then basically told Walker to go f*ck himself by drafting in the second round TX A&M WR Terrence Murphy, who had a combine 40 time of 4.39 seconds at 202 lbs. and at the time was his school’s all-time leader in career receptions. With his potential replacement on the roster, Walker eventually reported to training camp, and then in the first game of the season he tore his ACL and missed the rest of the season—which in theory would’ve created an opportunity for Murphy—but Murphy suffered a neck injury as rookie, went on IR, was found to have spinal stenosis, and was forced to retire less than a year after being drafted.

Still, the loss of Walker’s intended replacement didn’t make Thompson alter his valuation of Walker, who still wanted more money than Thompson wanted to spend, and so, with a year left on Walker’s contract, Thompson traded him for a second round pick in 2006—and then he immediately drafted Greg Jennings with a second round pick. In a very real way, Thompson used Walker’s trade value directly to choose the man to replace him.

By the end of 2007, Jennings had joined Driver as a top-30 WR, effectively replacing Walker’s production, and they were supplemented by Thompson’s 2007 third-round pick, James Jones—and the next year those three were joined by Thompson’s 2008 second-round pick, Jordy Nelson. Those four held down the fort for three years—but then in 2011, with Jennings a free agent in two years, Driver a 35-year-old has-been, and Nelson and Jones not yet top-30 WRs, Thompson went back to the second-round well and drafted Randall Cobb.

You know what happened after that: By the end of 2012, Nelson, Jones, and Cobb were all top-30 WRs—and the soon-to-be-30-year-old Jennings and the ancient Driver, who had been the team’s #4 and #5 WRs that year, were set to leave the Packers via free agency and retirement.

And here we are over a year after that. James Jones is gone, replaced by Jarrett Boykin, and Nelson, Cobb, and Boykin are all free agents in a year—and Ted Thompson has just drafted three WRs. What a surprise!!!

This is what Thompson does—he brings in WRs to replace other WRs he has brought in to replace other WRs. He’s basically the NFL’s Don Draper, balls deep in wide open fungibility. As I said in Part 1, Football Sex Personified.

The lesson here is this: Ted Thompson doesn’t need any given WR—that WR needs Ted Thompson.

If a WR is willing to take the right money to play the right role—as an aging Driver did throughout his time in GB, gracefully transitioning from #1 receiver in 2005 to #5 receiver in 2012, doing whatever Thompson and the team asked of him—then a guy can stay on the team for a long time. Who is this type of guy? Perhaps a guy who is underrated and thus has a discounted market value; a guy who doesn’t have a big ego; and maybe a guy who has already shown, in taking a discounted salary through a team-friendly contract, that he’ll do whatever he has to do to stay with the team. In other words, Jordy Nelson.

But if a WR is looking to maximize his payday after his rookie contract—like Walker in 2005—or maybe even just get what he thinks he deserves—like Jennings and Jones the last couple of years—then that guy probably won’t be one Thompson keeps around. Who is this type of guy? Perhaps an overrated guy with an inflated market value. Yep, Randall Cobb. Or maybe a guy who is acceptable but totally upgradable. That’s Jarrett Boykin.

So what’s the actionable information here? You should like Adams—but you already knew that, and it’s easy to like a second-round WR drafted by Ted Thompson—and you should really like Abbrederis and Janis as sleepers with a strong chance of outperforming their draft positions.

Why do I think these two guys actually have a shot in hell?

1)    Ted Thompson drafted them.

2)    Space ahead of them on the depth chart is likely to be created within a couple of years.

3)    In Boykin, the Packers have already shown the willingness to rely on a receiver who wasn’t drafted with a premium pick.

4)    Abbrederis and Janis were more productive in college than any other mid- or late-round WRs Thompson has ever drafted—except for two, and those exceptions are instructive.

Here’s a table of all the mid- and late-round WRs Thompson has drafted, with some of this information coming from the College Career Graph App. (Check out the app for yourself.)

Name

Rookie Year

Round

Pick

Rookie Age

Senior Year DR

Craig Bragg

2005

6

195

23

0.28

Cory Rodgers

2006

4

104

23

0.3

James Jones

2007

3

78

23

0.41

David Clowney

2007

5

157

22

0.1

Brett Swain

2008

7

217

23

0.31

Charles Johnson

2013

7

216

24

0.5

Kevin Dorsey

2013

7

224

23

0.19

Mean

NA

5.6

170.1

23.0

0.30

Median

NA

5.8

182.6

23.0

0.30

Jared Abbrederis

2014

5

176

24

0.37

Jeff Janis

2014

7

236

23

0.45

On this list, the only guys more productive in college than Abbrederis and Janis were Jones and Johnson, which is encouraging, since Jones actually has had a top-30 season and is now a #1 WR on a different team and Johnson was an early RotoViz favorite who tore his ACL in the preseason last year but still has a chance to make some noise with the Browns this year. Based on this table, you have to think that at least the two rookies have a shot of succeeding where others before haven’t.

In rostering Abbrederis and Janis, you won’t necessarily be betting on them—although I think they’re both talented, especially Janis—but you’ll be betting on Ted Thompson’s history. He’s going to turn over the WR depth chart in the near future, and when he does he might draft more WRs, but he’s also already drafted WRs, and if they show him something in 2014 then they might get a real shot to contribute in 2015. You might think I’m crazy to say that, but it happened in 2013 with Boykin—and RotoViz suggested before the season that Boykin could get some run.

Assuming the price is right, I’ll be grabbing Adama, Abracadabra, and Yannis2 as often as possible in dynasty and rookie drafts this year, and ideally I want all three, which might seem like a waste of draft equity and roster space—but I don’t think it is. No one hits 100% on all their draft picks and people shouldn’t draft as if they do. But if you get all three guys—and, again, as always, you MUST do it at the right price—then you’ll be (almost) guaranteed to have at least one (and maybe more) of those players work out for you within a couple of years—and for the past decade when one of Ted Thompson’s WRs has “worked out for you,” he’s worked out well.

If it’s good enough for Football Sex Personified himself to roster all three rookie WRs, it’ll be good enough for me. Is it good enough for you?

  1. I’m looking at you, Jarrett and Randall.  (back)
  2. damn you, Autocorrect  (back)
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