A back, and three trades back
Updated On: Apr 27 2013 11:29:04 AM CDT
Ted Thompson arrived at the podium Friday night out of breath. It had been a busy day for the Green Bay Packers general manager -- signing star quarterback Aaron Rodgers to a $110 million contract extension, investing a second-round draft pick in a running back by selecting Alabama's Eddie Lacy, and making three trades to accumulate four extra draft picks -- so it was hard to blame the 60-year-old for being winded.
"Sorry," he said with a chuckle. "My age is starting to catch up with me."
Thompson had better have gotten his rest Friday night. (He was seen heading for his truck roughly a half hour after his brief 6-minute press conference.) In the morning, he'll be armed with 10 picks in Saturday's third and final day of the draft: Two fourth-round picks (Nos. 109, 122), three fifth-rounders (Nos. 146, 159, 167), two sixth-rounders (Nos. 173, 193), and three seventh-rounders (Nos. 216, 224, 232).
"We feel like the board held together really good. We came in to this hoping to build and maybe add some picks for tomorrow. It worked out today," Thompson said. "But we’ve still got to finish it tomorrow."
A draft that began with Thompson turning down trade overtures on Thursday for the No. 26 overall pick -- a selection Thompson used on UCLA defensive end Datone Jones -- has now filled two of the team’s most obvious needs with Jones and Lacy, who rushed 204 times for 1,322 yards and 17 touchdowns last year as a junior for the Crimson Tide.
After taking a by-committee approach at running back last season, with Alex Green, Cedric Benson, James Starks, Ryan Grant and DuJuan Harris all leading the team in rushing in various games, Lacy could be the workhorse back the team has lacked for much of Thompson's tenure. Before taking Lacy at No. 61 Friday, the highest pick Thompson had ever invested in a running back had been the 63rd overall pick in 2007, which he used on Nebraska’s Brandon Jackson.
In his previous eight drafts, Thompson had picked just four running backs (Jackson and DeShawn Wynn in the seventh round in 2007, Starks in the sixth round in 2010, and Green in the third round in 2011), and the Packers have gone an NFL-high 43 consecutive regular-season games without a 100-yard rusher. The Packers actually talked about Lacy when they were on the clock in the first round, then got remarkable value when durability questions about him left him still on the board at No. 61 after Thompson's first trade of the day.
"We felt very good about taking him," Thompson said. "We really did."
In turn, Lacy could command more attention from opposing defenses -- if healthy -- than the Packers’ collection of backs did last season, when Rodgers faced almost non-stop Cover-2 schemes designed to thwart the passing game.
"I think it brings balance," said Lacy, who sat behind recent first-round draft picks Mark Ingram and Trent Richardson at Alabama before becoming the starter this season. "I will allow the defense to not just be able to focus on the passes because there’s a back in the backfield who's going to have to make them think about the run. And if we can run out of the shotgun, it'll just make the offense that much more dangerous."
Lacy's selection came after the first of Thompson’s three trades sent the Packers’ 55th overall pick to the San Francisco 49ers in exchange for the 61st pick and an additional sixth-round pick, 173rd overall. By trading back, the Packers didn’t have the chance to pick between Lacy and Wisconsin’s Montee Ball, who went to the Denver Broncos at No. 58.
Lacy wound up being the Packers' lone selection Friday when Thompson engineered two more trades. First, he traded the Packers’ third-round pick (No. 88 overall) to the 49ers, receiving the 49ers' third-round pick (No. 93 overall) and an additional seventh-round pick (No. 216 overall) in exchange.
Then, Thompson traded the 93rd pick to the Miami Dolphins for three selections – the 109th, 146th and 224th picks overall.
When the day was over, the three backward trades meant that 2/3 of the way through his ninth draft as the Packers' GM, Thompson has made 26 draft-day trades – and 20 of them have been backward to accumulate more selections. After trading back on 13 of his first 14 trades in Green Bay, Thompson traded up three times last year and joked, "I'm not my father's son anymore." Friday, he was back to being Jimmy Thompson's frugal boy.
"It was a function of the board. … If there are a number of players that you feel comfortable in taking, then you’re not as apt to move up," Thompson explained. "Some of the trades resulted (from) solicitation on our part. Some of it was just, spur of the moment, we get a phone call. If it sounds like a good thing we checked the board, make sure it’s still solid and make sure we can do it."
According to one trade value chart, the Packers got the short end of each of the three trades. On the first, they were minus-35.8 points; on the second, minus-17; on the third, minus -17. Thompson, though said it wasn’t a concern.
"We use a fairly standard (chart)," Thompson said. "If you feel good about a trade and being comfortable that you’ll be able to get a player or a group of players at a later time, then so what if you’re five points below or something like that? Most of the time everybody tries to be kind of fair about it."
Thompson also dismissed the notion that the Packers helped the 49ers, the team that eliminated them from the NFC playoffs last January and is the prohibitive favorite in the NFC entering this season, get two players they wanted. San Francisco took Rice tight end Vance McDonald at No. 55 and Auburn linebacker Corey Lemonier at No. 88.
"It's just numbers. It's not like you’re trading guys," said Thompson, whose team opens the 2013 season at the 49ers on Sept. 8. "I don't look at it like that. It's more a function of numbers and what they might see in a player, then you’re trusting your own scouting department in terms of what we see and how we’ve built the board."
Listen to Jason Wilde every weekday from 9 a.m. to 10 a.m. on "Green & Gold Today" on 540 ESPN, and follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/jasonjwilde.