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The King of Comps

by Mike Conklin

E-mail: mikeconklin@packerpedia.com
July 6, 2012


Maybe it doesn't matter the Packers didn't trade Matt Flynn.

It's hard to know what kind of trade value a seventh round draft pick with only two career starts might have had, but many fans were clamoring for the Packers to place the franchise tag on him and trade him to the highest bidder.

In retrospect, there wasn't as much of a market as those fans once thought. Flynn had a couple of suitors in free agency, but there certainly wasn't a frenzy for his services. But even if there had been, maybe the Packers would have been better off letting him go in free agency anyway.

The Packers are going to gain a compensatory pick for losing Flynn. And if there's one thing Ted Thompson has proven, it's that he makes the most of his compensatory picks.

Since joining the Packers in 2006, Thompson has had six compensatory picks, and added another four this year. Despite the fact that all the picks have been in the fourth round or lower, at season's end last year all of them were still in the NFL. Considering how difficult it is for late-round draft picks to forge a career in the NFL, that is a remarkable statistic. Some of them haven't made their mark with the Packers, but considering the fact that there are such long odds against players drafted in the final four rounds, the simple fact that they are all still in the NFL is noteworthy.

In 2006, Thompson drafted Tony Moll in the fifth round, and Dave Tollefson in the seventh. Moll started 18 games in three years with the Packers before he was traded to the Ravens. After a stint with the Jaguars, he was signed last year by the Chargers. Tollefson spent his first season on the Packers practice squad, but has made his mark in the NFL with the Giants. He had a career best five sacks last season, and signed with the Raiders as a free agent this year (after receiving some interest from the Packers).

In 2007, the Packers chose Clark Harris in the seventh round. Harris didn't make an impact in Green Bay, and bounced on and off the practice squads of the Lions and Texans. He finally found a home in Cincinnati, and has been their long snapper the past two seasons. (The Packers had drafted him as a tight end.)

Thompson sent fans scrambling for their draft guides when he picked Josh Sitton in the fourth round of the 2008 draft. Sitton wasn't even rated as draftable by most of the draft publications, but has proven to be the best compensatory pick in the Thompson era. It has been well documented that he was virtually unknown until scouts went to the pre-draft pro day workout to see Kevin Smith from Central Florida. Sitton had a great workout himself that day, and that performance generated buzz among scouts. He was a late riser up draft boards, and in retrospect was a steal.

In 2010, Marshall Newhouse was selected in the fifth round. Newhouse made his way on to the end of the roster as a rookie but was inactive all season, before turning heads as the most improved player in training camp last season. Unable to see Newhouse's improvement during the lockout, the Packers were concerned about their depth at the all-important left tackle position last offseason. As a result, they re-signed Chad Clifton and drafted Derek Sherrod in the first round. Newhouse's emergence, however, allowed him to fill the void after Clifton went down and Sherrod wasn't ready for prime time yet. He went on to start 13 games, steadily improving as the year went on. This season, the Packers appear to be content to move forward with Newhouse as the starter.

Last year, the Packers picked Davon House in the fourth round. After showing a few flashes early in training camp, injuries derailed his rookie campaign. This year, he was one of the revelations of OTA's and minicamp practices, and looks like he will challenge for playing time. Providing he can stay healthy, his arrow is clearly pointing upward.

Based on Thompson's success with his compensatory picks the last several years, it only makes this year's crop even more intriguing:

Mike Daniels (Fourth Round): We recently wrote about Daniels, and took an in-depth look at what he will offer the Packers. He appears to be a solid rotational type of player who can offer depth to the defensive line, and possibly more. His nine sacks were the third-best in the Big Ten last year, and he added 13.5 tackles for loss. Scouts like his potential as an inside pass rusher, and he will have a chance to make an impact.

Jerron McMillian (Fourth Round): To many, this may be one of the more intriguing picks of the draft. McMillian (pronounced "McMillen") was not a highly touted prospect, and the Packers were one of only three teams that met with him before the draft. Thompson & Co. would never tip their hand, but the suspicion here is that they highly coveted McMillian. He was considered a borderline prospect at best by most of the draft publications, but Thompson made sure he snatched him before anyone else had the chance. At the time, the Packers had already traded away their fifth round pick, so if they had not selected McMillian at the end of the fourth round it appeared they would have had to wait nearly two full rounds until their next pick. There may be no evidence to corroborate this theory, but it appears Thompson may have targeted McMillian before the draft even began.

Andrew Datko (Seventh Round): If you can take a chance in the seventh round on a player that has second round talent, why wouldn't you do it? Datko's draft stock was hurt by the fact that he had shoulder problems in college, and maybe those injuries will derail his career. But if renowned physician Dr. James Andrews says his shoulder checks out, that's a good sign. If a seventh-round pick has a chance to play a premier position like left tackle at a high level, the risk-reward is certainly in the Packers' favor. It is a good sign that Datko has been solid in offseason workouts so far. He alternated between the right and left tackle spots, and even played with the number ones when Martshall Newhouse missed some time.

B.J. Coleman (Seventh Round): Thompson gave McCarthy another quarterback to bring into his laboratory. In its pre-draft coverage, Scouts Inc. said Coleman "possesses a very strong arm and can make all the NFL throws as well as stretch the field vertically." They weren't too sold on some of his other attributes, but if anyone can get the most out of him it would be McCarthy and the coaching staff he has assembled. For a player who has all the tools like Coleman does, a seventh round pick doesn't sound like too much of a gamble.

Taking a closer look at the compensatory draft history, there may be a trend that emerges. The selections of Moll, Sitton, and McMillian all were players that were not highly touted, that seem to fall into the category of "scout's picks." Each of them were chosen in the fourth or fifth round. And in each of those situations, these players seemed to have been selected too high based on the general consensus of those outside of the organization. It does not seem like too much of a stretch to think that the Packers were actually targeting those players.

That brings up another question: As the Packers plan their pre-draft strategy, do they look at compensatory picks any differently than their regular picks? From the outside looking in, it seems that they might. For one thing, they can not trade the picks. Because they are not movable pieces, maybe the Packers can slot certain players and know they will likely be able to choose them with that particular selection. It would stand to reason that if the Packers fall in love with a late-round or borderline prospect, one possible solution would be to pre-determine that they will likely choose that player with one of those compensatory picks. With picks like Sitton and McMillian, it seems like that may be a possible scenario.

Whatever the case may be, Ted Thompson seems to have a good handle on it based on his track record. Looking toward the future, it seems likely that the Packers should net a fourth round pick or so next season for losing Flynn. Considering Thompson's success in the past, there is a good chance that pick will pan out.


(Photo credit: Packers.com)