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A baseball spin on the draft

by Mark Daniels

Former Packers General Manager Ron Wolf told me once, drafting college players is a lot like baseball. If you hit .300, you're a Hall of Famer. Whaddya say we put that premise to the test. I've covered every draft conducted by the two general managers who have built Super Bowl champion teams, Wolf and his protege, Ted Thompson.

Wolf was hired in November of 1991 and even before his first draft, whacked a couple of grand slams in hiring Mike Holmgren as Head Coach and trading a first round pick for Brett Favre. But let's focus strictly on the draft picks. If every choice is like stepping to the plate, Wolf is more Ted Williams than Bob Uecker. Between 1992 and 2000, Wolf ochestrated a total of 90 draft choices. To be considered anything better than an out, the player had to at least be a contributor to the Packers for more than a season, or for another NFL team like a Mark Brunell and Matt Hasselbeck. I have Wolf batting a solid and even .400 with 36 hits in those 90 picks. He wasn't a big power hitter with what I figure was three home runs, players who appeared in multiple Pro Bowls. They were Mark Chmura, Marco Rivera and Donald Driver who retired as the Pack's all-time leading receiver. A testament to Wolf's late inning heroics, all three of those guys were taken in the 6th or 7th round. Wolf delivered triples with the likes Dorsey Levens, Antonio Freeman and Darren Sharper. A half dozen doubles, guys who made at least one Pro Bowl including Chad Clifton, Mark Tauscher, William Henderson, Bubba Franks, Mike Flanagan and Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila. That's not to say there weren't some big strikeouts. I'll include his very first draft choice, Terrell Buckley, taken 5th overall in 1992. While good old T-Buck had a nice NFL career, it was not pleasant in Titletown and Wolf cut his losses quickly. John Michels was another embarrassing at bat with the number one choice in 1996. There's no denying the overall quality of the drafting acumen of Wolf however, building a champion through the draft in five years.

Enter Ted Thompson in 2005, who learned the scouting ropes under Wolf, went off to Seattle for a spell and came back to run the Pack. Thompson has turned out to be more Pete Rose than Hank Aaron, a lot more productive, run scoring singles than free swinging home runs. Incredibly, Thompson's batting average in my opinion is even better than Wolf's, to the tune of 38 hits in 87 draft picks over his first nine years, computing to a robust .436. Two important home runs, with Aaron Rodgers, his first overall pick in 2005, and Clay Matthews with his daring trade back into the first round 4 years later. Multiple Pro Bowl triples arrived with Nick Collins and Greg Jennings, his doubles scored with A.J. Hawk, Josh Sitton and Jordy Nelson. Ted has had his share of groundouts and three bad strikeouts swinging with Justin Harrell and Derek Sherrod, two first rounders, and second round choices like Pat Lee and Brian Brohm.

There's a reason the Packers own the NFL's best winning percentage since the advent of free agency and have reached the playoffs 15 times in the past 20 years, they have had a pair of pretty good hitters when it comes to judging NFL talent.