GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) — Ted Thompson played one season of baseball at Southern Methodist in 1975, so he knows a little about the game. He also knows a bit about swinging and missing.
The Green Bay Packers general manager used a baseball simile Thursday as he talked about next week’s NFL draft and his philosophy about trading. He credited retired Packers GM Ron Wolf in his explanation.
“It’s like Ron always said: ‘It’s kind of like baseball, you’re not going to get a hit every time you go to the plate, but if you have more swings you have a better chance at getting a hit,’” said Thompson, who has eight selections overall. “I think as a general philosophy, I’d rather have more than less. But at the end of the day I’d rather have more quality than anything. But quality and quantity both is a nice thing.”
For the most part, Thompson’s previous eight drafts have had both. He has picked 75 players overall, and when the season ended with a 45-31 loss to the San Francisco 49ers in the playoffs, 27 of the 53 players on the active roster were Thompson draft picks, starting with quarterback Aaron Rodgers in 2005.
He used to only trade backward, to get more “swings,” but is a bit harder to pigeonhole this year.
“(You trade up) when you think it’s when you think you see value. That’s the reason sometimes we’ll go backward, (too) — when we see value later in the draft and numbers at positions where we think there’s value,” Thompson said. “You know that you’re giving up something if you trade up and you know that you’re giving up something in terms of an opportunity to take a particular player in you go backward.”
In his first three drafts as Packers GM, Thompson executed nine draft-day trades, all of them to accumulate more picks. The trend stayed that way until 2009, when Thompson gave up a second-round pick and two third-round picks to acquire the New England Patriots’ first-round pick (No. 26) that he used on linebacker Clay Matthews, who has been to four straight Pro Bowls.
Last year, Thompson traded up three times. And armed this year with eight picks — only the fifth-round compensatory pick cannot be traded — Thompson could again be on the move.
The Packers do have some obvious needs despite winning its second straight NFC North title and a three-year regular-season record of 36-12.
Even though they used their 2010 and 2011first-round picks on offensive tackles (Bryan Bulaga, Derek Sherrod), the offensive line remains a need. There are only three outside linebackers currently on the roster, the Packers need a replacement for three-time Pro Bowl safety Nick Collins receiver Greg Jennings is gone.
Defensive linemen B.J. Raji and Ryan Pickett are entering the final years of their contracts and Thompson could be looking for a running back, too.
But one thing is certain: Because of their adamant draft-and-develop approach to team-building, Thompson and his reconfigured scouting staff can’t afford to swing and miss very often.
“We believe in drafting and developing players. We think that is the best way to build your team over the long term,” Thompson said. “That doesn’t mean we won’t sign free agents or do different ways of acquiring players and going to college free agency and that sort of thing, but we do believe that continually every year you need a new class of players and young men to join your team in order to sustain over the long term the ability to win and compete in the NFL.”
Does that put greater pressure on Thompson to be right, as he tries to keep the Packers a Super Bowl contender during star Rodgers’ prime?
“Pressure’s what you make it,” the 60-year-old Thompson replied. “I’m a single guy, I don’t have children to worry about. It’s not that much pressure. But you want to do right. I’m not trying to make light of this. It’s important. And we gnash our teeth over it and we try to do the best we can to make the right decisions. But at the end of the day, we don’t worry about things.”