Ted Thompson has traded up or down in the first round exactly twice since taking over as Green Bay’s general manager in 2005, and both times were extremely successful. He moved back and grabbed Jordy Nelson in ’08, and he went up to get Clay Matthews a year later. It’s time for Thompson to do it again.
The Packers need to come away from the upcoming draft with either a true impact defender or a handful of players capable of contributing in 2017. Neither is likely to happen by sitting at No. 29. At that spot, Thompson will more than likely be looking at the sixth-best cornerback or the fifth best edge rusher. And while someone like Washington’s Kevin King or Wisconsin’s T.J. Watt might wind up becoming the next Darrell Green (28th to the Redskins in 1983) or Derrick Brooks (28th to the Buccaneers in 1995), that’s unlikely.
The best chance to add a real difference maker on defense is to trade up into the teens. Such a move would cost Thompson quite a bit (probably a 2 and a 3), but it could get him someone like Tennessee edge rusher Derek Barnett, Ohio State cornerback Gareon Conley, Alabama inside linebacker Reuben Foster or Temple hybrid Haason Reddick. That’s a pretty sizable upgrade from KIng and Watt – at least in theory.
The other far more likely option would be to trade out of the first round, and there should be plenty of interest from teams looking to grab a QB in the late 20s (49ers, Jets, Cardinals, Saints?). Such a move would give Thompson at least three picks on day 2 and perhaps an extra pick on day 3. And while he might not walk away from the draft with one legit impact player, he could leave the City of Brotherly Love with enough talented prospects to fill gaping holes on a roster that currently looks like a slice of Swiss Cheese.
In my opinion – and I said it at the time – that’s what Thompson should’ve done a year ago. Instead of taking Kenny Clark at 27, he could’ve grabbed both tackle Jason Spriggs and a D-lineman like A’Shawn Robinson in the second round and held onto his pick in the fourth (the one he traded away to move up for Spriggs).
The one negative to trading out of the first round is no longer having the fifth-year option available since that only applies to the top 32 picks. All other players sign four-year deals. But considering star QB Aaron Rodgers will be 37 in March 2021, I’m not sure Thompson should be all that worried about fifth-year options. Let’s be honest, the window for winning another Super Bowl is already beginning to close just a bit.
Considering Thompson has sat still in the first round of 10 of the previous 12 drafts, it’s a pretty good bet that Commissioner Roger Goodell will be announcing Green Bay’s No. 1 pick very late on Thursday evening. But if there was ever a time to make a trade – either up or down – this would be the year. Maybe Thompson will surprise us. After all, who expected him to sign four proven free agents in the past few weeks?