NFL draft offers plenty of flexibility for Packers’ GM

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Thompson likely to let his draft board dictate where Green Bay goes for help

The Green Bay Packers are 17 days and a handful of hours away from annual infusion of rookie talent.
Naturally, Packers fans are eager to see GM Ted Thompson try to top his 2014 masterpiece that produced Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, DaVante Adams and Corey Linsley, among others.
It’s possible given the 2015 NFL draft’s depth and the Packers’ history of navigating the three-day affair with aplomb.
I’ll try to anticipate Thompson’s moves based on past performance.
Will he trade up? I don’t see it. The only way is if there’s a player the Packers absolutely love that also fills a glaring need AND happens to slide within trading distance.
That’s a lot of ifs.
Furthermore, Thompson dislikes parting with multiple picks to move up, which means less chances to hit on players in mid- to late-rounds.
Perhaps Thompson will trade back, acquire more picks and STILL select the player Green Bay covets. Moving back is always a possibility with Thompson because he trusts his board and his scouts to the point that they give him multiple viable options.
In turn, Thompson relies on his system and allows it to work for him. He may bypass a “name” player in the draft, trade back and land a lesser-known player who draws quizzical looks from Packers’ fans.
The truth is Thompson knows what he’s doing and is among the best when it comes to working the draft. That’s why I think he’ll sit tight at No. 30, allow the draft to unfold and nail a quality player at one of three positions of perceived need: Inside linebacker, cornerback and tight end.
If Thompson elects to choose an inside linebacker, one possibility is UCLA’s Eric Kendricks, a versatile backer with the range to cover tight ends or backs if necessary. Mississippi State’s Bernardrick McKinney is a big hitter with a much bigger frame (6-0, 232 vs. 6-4, 255), but he also could be a liability in coverage.
Some of this depends on how defensive coordinator Dom Capers and head coach Mike McCarthy plan to use the inside linebackers.
Another possibility is tight end, where Minnesota’s Maxx Williams appears to be the top talent by a long shot. If Williams is still around in the late twenties, the Packers might consider trading up but that’s only if they believe he can be an impact player in his first year.
Those types of talents are rare. On the other hand, if Williams is graded significantly higher than other players as the draft unwinds and the 30th pick is at hand, Thompson might go tight end and trust his board to fill other needs (cornerback and inside linebacker) in the second round and beyond.
That would be riskier if the Packers hadn’t matched Oakland’s offer for safety Sean Richardson on Monday. By retaining Richardson, Micah Hyde is free to play more cornerback. Also, if Morgan Burnett were to be injured, Richardson’s presence would allow Clinton-Dix to retain his role as a wide-ranging, ball-hawking last line of defense.
The Packers also re-signed fullback John Kuhn on Monday, which helps special teams and covers them on third downs.
Slowly, the pieces are falling into place at 1265.
I would expect Thompson to go inside linebacker at No. 30, followed by the best available player, especially if it’s a cornerback, defensive lineman or edge pass rusher.
The Packers also will snag a quarterback. My guess is they’ll begin looking in earnest as early as the fourth round. Also, Thompson’s apt to draft an offensive lineman with versatility ala Don Barclay.
Often, the team’s strategy is dictated by who’s gone and who’s still available. Back in the day, when the media tried to elicit a response from GM Ron Wolf in terms of who he might draft, he would reply, “I will if you can tell which players are gone.”
That summed it up.
Thompson, like his mentor Wolf, is willing to trust his scouts – and his board – and stay cool as a cucumber throughout. The Packers also don’t have a big-shot owner sticking his nose in football business, or an adversarial GM-head coach relationship to deal with.
In Green Bay it’s all about football, and in 17 days and a handful of hours Thompson is going to get busy improving the team’s roster. For Packers’ fans the draft is the gift that keeps on giving.
Chris Havel is a national best-selling author and his latest book is Lombardi: An Illustrated Life. Havel can be heard Monday through Friday from 4-6 p.m. CDT on WDUZ FM 107.5 The Fan, or on AM-1400, as well as Fan Internet Radio ( Havel also hosts Event USA’ MVP Parties the evening before home games.