Putting together a roster that will carry a team to a conference championship game in the NFL is no simple task, employing a staff of hundreds and utilizing data along with opinions from a myriad of sources. Most franchises fail to accomplish that task on an annual basis, as only four out of 32 National Football League teams reach the conference championship games each season.
The Green Bay Packers have spent years building their current team, partially through free agency but primarily through the draft. Because of this success that originally began with selecting quarterback Aaron Rodgers out of California with the 24th overall pick in 2005, Packers fans can now look back on the last few Green Bay drafts fondly, especially if the team should defend defeat the Atlanta Falcons on their home field on Sunday and reach Super Bowl 51.
Next to Rodgers, it could be said that there’s been no more important draft selection for this Packers team than the first player that Green Bay selected in 2008.
With the 36th overall pick that year, the Packers took Jordy Nelson, wide receiver out of Kansas State. All he has done since then is 497 catches for 7,366 yards and 63 touchdowns. While none of the rest of the members of that draft are still with Green Bay, Nelson proved to be a steal out of the second round in 2008.
The Packers surpassed their success in the 2008 draft the following year, nabbing several future stars and role players for their current roster.
Green Bay made USC linebacker Clay Matthews its second pick of the first round (26th overall) and Eastern Michigan offensive tackle T.J. Lang its fourth round pick (109th overall). Defensive tackle B.J. Raji, who was a major contributor to the Packers’ last Super Bowl victory in the 2010-11 season but is no longer with the team, was the Packers’ first selection this year (ninth overall out of Boston College).
Green Bay continued building its stellar offensive line in this draft, adding tackle Bryan Bulaga (23rd overall out of Iowa) with its first pick. Safety Morgan Burnett (third round, 71st overall out of Georgia Tech) and running back James Starks (sixth round, 193rd overall out of Buffalo were also part of this draft.
While most of this draft is no longer with the team, the 2011 draft wasn’t a complete bust for the Packers.
Green Bay picked up the player who is now Nelson’s bookend, wide receiver Randall Cobb out of Kentucky with the 64th overall selection in this year’s draft. Like Nelson, Cobb has shined on the field for the Packers, amassing 4,823 yards from scrimmage and 35 touchdowns on 416 touches so far in his career.
As a group, this year’s draft has been more of a success in terms of helping Green Bay this season than the 2011 draft class has been.
The Packers’ first pick this year, defensive end/linebacker Nick Perry (first round, 28th overall out of USC) and their fourth pick, defensive tackle Mike Daniels (fourth round, 132nd overall out of Iowa) were important part of the Green Bay defense this season.
With an impressive array of 11 picks in this draft, the Packers got a great contingent of role players and stars in 2013.
Running back Eddie Lacy (second round, 61st pick out of Alabama) and defensive back Micah Hyde (fifth round, 159th overall out of Iowa) have proven to be stars for Green Bay on their respective sides of the ball.
Defensive end Datone Jones (first round, 26th overall out of UCLA) has also been a contributor, as has offensive tackle David Bakhtiari (fourth round, 109th overall out of Colorado). Guard J.C. Tretter (fourth round, 122nd overall out of Cornell) has been a reserve this season
While Green Bay fans have enjoyed the play of the Packers’ first-round pick in 2014, Ha Ha Clinton-Dix (21st overall out of Alabama), the draft is deeper than just the talented defensive back.
Wide receiver Davante Adams was Green Bay’s second-round pick (53rd overall out of Fresno State) and the Packers’ second third-round pick tight end Richard Rogers (98th overall out of California) have been contributors this season as well. In addition, center Corey Linsley (fifth round, 161st overall out of Ohio State) and cornerback Demetri Goodson (sixth round, 197th overall out of Baylor) have played reserve roles this year.
No team can enjoy the success that Green Bay has this season without the contributions of several depth pieces on its roster, and this draft is all about depth.
All but one of the eight members of this draft class (sixth-round pick tight end Kennard Backman) are still Packers, and have all gotten into at least four games this season. Wide receiver Ty Montgomery (third round, 94th overall out of Stanford), fullback Aaron Ripkowski (sixth round, 206th overall out of Oklahoma), cornerback Quinten Rollins (second round, 62nd overall out of Miami Ohio) and linebacker Jake Ryan (fourth round, 129th overall out of Michigan) have seen the most action this year.
Offensive tackle Kyle Murphy (sixth round, 200th overall out of Stanford) has seen the least amount of playing time out of Green Bay’s current class of rookies, getting into only three games during the regular season.
It only goes up from there, however. Defensive tackle Kenny Clark (first round, 27th overall out of UCLA) and offensive tackle Jason Spriggs (second round, 48th overall out of Indiana) both made it into all 16 regular season games with five starts between them. The rest of this season’s rookie class all played in at least 11 games during the regular season.
In total, all but four of the players who are currently listed as starters for the Packers were drafted by Green Bay. It’s that kind of success that will not only allow the Packers to enjoy a successful season in the present, but if replicated, for years to come as well.