As the NFL draft mercifully approaches (less than two weeks away now … and counting), we’ve read countless items about draft history and draft strategy. Very little surprises us at this point — but that changed Thursday with a passage in an ESPN.com story by Mike Sando.
“The Minnesota Vikings have selected 61 players since Rick Spielman took over their draft room in 2006. Eight of the 61 have earned Pro Bowl honors. The Green Bay Packers have drafted 87 players since Ted Thompson became their general manager in 2005. Seven of the 87 have become Pro Bowlers.”
First, a couple of caveats: Spielman didn’t run the 2006 draft with the Vikings; he was hired after the Fran Foley fiasco. Foley ran that draft. Also, Spielman did not have full control of the draft room until 2012, when he was promoted to general manager.
So if 2006 is no longer in play — the year Pro Bowl linebacker Chad Greenway was drafted — Spielman is really tied at seven with Thompson, albeit in two fewer seasons running the draft. And it can be debated just how many of the remaining Pro Bowl players should be credited to Spielman. To be sure, also, the Pro Bowl is hardly the perfect way to judge the success or failure of draft picks.
That said, there are interesting and instructive notions to come from that simple paragraph comparing the work of the two NFC North personnel bosses.
• There is a perception that Thompson is a draft guru who has built the Packers from the ground up while Spielman’s tenure with the Vikings has been more of a mixed bag. The reality is that both men have had their fair share of draft hits … and both have had their fair share of draft misses.
• The major difference lies in the magnitude of Thompson’s biggest hit and Spielman’s biggest miss. In 2005, Thompson’s first draft after being named GM, Green Bay chose Aaron Rodgers in the first round. Rodgers sat behind Brett Favre for three seasons before taking over and becoming one of the best QBs in the NFL.
Faced, too, with the prospect of replacing an even older Favre with the QB of the future in 2011, Spielman and the Vikings chose Christian Ponder in the first round. If that had worked out, we wouldn’t be talking about the Vikings drafting a quarterback again this year.
Conclusion: If all else is equal, drafting a great quarterback will make you seem like a genius … and drafting a mediocre quarterback will make the rest of what you accomplish pale in comparison.