Ted Thompson and Brian Gutekunst had very different approaches to the draft.
Now, I don’t have insights into what these guys are actually thinking.
I don’t hang out with them on the weekend, we don’t chat on the phone after games.
But I have studied them, I’ve watched their every move and I think it’s clear how they each approached their craft.
They’re very different.
It’s still early in Brian Gutekunst’s career as a GM, but his early results are pretty consistent. He moves up early in the draft and get impact players. After that, his mid to late round picks are… of debatable value (so far).
I believe Brian Gutekunst does a lot of homework on the top prospects and looks for the big impact difference-makers at the top of the draft. He is confident in his early picks and makes sure he gets his guy.
Fans were surprised when the Packers picked Rashan Gary, but Gutey said that they’d settled on him as the pick months prior to the draft.
In his other three 1st round picks (Alexander, Savage, and Love), Gutekunst traded up to make his selection.
In all three instances, I think he patiently watched the board unfold, then, when there was only one player remaining from his top tier, he made the decision to move up and get them (read more on What Drafting The Best Player Available Really Means here).
This is the defining characteristic of Gutey’s draft philisophy.
Rather than waiting to see who will fall, he spends mid round draft capital to move up and get a better player at the top of the draft. He believes in having more stars to get a better player and believes that since it’s easier to scout the top players, it’s worth spending more resources to get something closer to a sure bet.
Ted was a regional scout at heart. He took a lot of grief from fans for looking into so many small school Day 3 guys.
No one laughed when they became All Pros, though.
Ted felt the draft was a crapshoot and no matter how hard you studied, you were still going to have some major misses. Still, he tried to outstudy his peers. He tried to win in the middle rounds. He felt like if he could find All Pros in the rounds when other teams were getting practice squad guys and backups, that his team would be better.
In the early rounds, he didn’t go for the shiny objects. He would rather trade down and get more picks in later rounds so he would have more chances to find those hidden gems.
Throughout his career, he was fond of saying that you could get more hits when you took more swings.
As a result, he didn’t make flashy picks in the 1st. When Rodgers dropped, he made the tough decision to take him, knowing both the grief he would get and the fact that it was the right move. He traded down, right out of the 1st round more than once, and when he stayed put, he usually took linemen – the most practical picks a team can make early on.
Then, in the late rounds, he went to work, finding guys like Aaron Jones, David Bakhtiari, and Josh Sitton on Day 3.
It wasn’t exciting on draft day, but Ted’s strategy was that it wasn’t about short-term excitement, it was about long term value and getting as many chances to find a good player as possible.
Gutekunst values getting a brighter star at the top of the draft to have a bigger impact on the team. He values using mid-round picks to move up and get more star power from fewer players.
Thompson valued getting better players in the middle of the draft and improving his team by doing better in the middle rounds than his peers. He valued moving down to get extra picks and having more chances to find a contrinbutor.
So which is better?
Well, Thompson found a great quarterback, kept his team consistently competitive, and won a Super Bowl.
Gutekunst selected a quarterback we hope will be great, kept his team consistently competitive, and hasn’t won a Super Bowl yet (granted, he’s only had a few years to try and is still primed for at least another run or two).
Personally, I favor the Thompson approach. The draft is a crapshoot and you want to find as many guys as possible that can help make your team better.
That doesn’t make it “right,” though. Football is a complex sport and there’s multiple ways to win.
Either approach can be successful – time will tell which works out better.
Hit the comments below to let me know which method you prefer.
Bruce Irons has played, coached, and studied football for decades. Author of books such as A Fan’s Guide To Understanding The NFL Draft ( * On sale between now and the start of the 2021 NFL Draft * ), A Fan’s Guide To Understanding The NFL Salary Cap, and A Fan’s Guide To NFL Free Agency Hits And Misses, Bruce contributes to CheeseHeadTV and PackersForTheWin.com.
Follow Bruce Irons on Twitter at @PackersForTheWn.