You're only as good as you draft — at least in Packers general manager Ted Thompson's mind.
Thompson has been highly publicized to stick to his "draft and develop" philosophy, and for the most part, there have been no complaints with the talent and eventual starters that Thompson has produced under this year in and year out mechanism. Jordy Nelson, Greg Jennings, Clay Matthews, B.J. Raji and T.J. Lang highlight the early years of Thompson drafting stars in Green Bay. More recently, David Bakhtiari, Eddie Lacy, Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, Mike Daniels and Randall Cobb — all of which have made some kind of impact with the Packers since 2012.
However, there has also been quite a few duds under Thompson's reign.
There's a risk with selecting a player in the higher rounds, presumably between the first and the third. Either the player makes an immediate impact, pans out over the coming years or suffers a serious injury that requires further maintenance and debilitates what could've been a promising career. Or, well, they're just not good at all, which is always a possibility and has been a possibility.
Straying from the optimistic side of things and remaining more pessimistic above all else, let's look into the five biggest draft busts in the Thompson era, which began when he assumed general manager duties in 2005.
5. CB Patrick Lee - 2nd round, 60th overall
After a promising end to his college career at Auburn, Lee was drafted to Green Bay in hopes of playing third fiddle behind starting corners at the time Al Harris and Charles Woodson. Instead, he fell behind Tramon Williams and Will Blackmon in the preseason and capped off his rookie year on injured reserve due to a knee injury that may have attributed to his rapid descent. He was the third of three second-round picks for the Packers, capping off an early portion of the draft where they selected Nelson and quarterback Brian Brohm at 36th and 56th overall respectively. Needless to say, the Packers whiffed on two of their three early-round selections.
Lee started one game for the Packers in 2010 thanks to a depleted secondary unit but went on to play in 32 total during his career in Green Bay. The Packers chose not to re-sign the former Associated Press All-SEC recognized corner, and he went on to finish his career swapping between the Lions and Raiders in 2012. His career as a Packer netted him 19 total tackles and a single defended pass.
4. DT Jerel Worthy - 2nd round, 51st overall
Worthy was at one point recognized as the top defensive tackle in the nation and touted as a late-first round to second round pick — but that's not where the Packers selected him. They didn't necessarily reach for Worthy more than halfway into the second round, but given the hype behind Worthy's career in the NFL and how heavily sought-after of a prospect he was, that's good enough to make Worthy the fourth-biggest draft bust in the Thompson era.
"Quick get-off," "Speed to shoot the gap," "Ability to collapse the pocket," and "Can take over games and dominate for stretches," were some of the notes on Worthy coming out of Michigan State. He did none of those things in Green Bay. In two seasons with the Packers, he started four games, and while he accumulated 2.5 sacks and a forced fumble in his rookie season, the Packers saw him as disposable. He was traded to the Patriots in August of 2014 for a conditional late round draft choice, only to be waived by the team 18 days later.
3. DT Khyri Thornton - 3rd round, 85th overall
Thornton showcased his abilities in the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl before the NFL Combine, where Thompson began taking notice of Thornton's strength and athletic abilities. At 6'3", 304 pounds with 28 repetitions in the bench press, it was hard not to notice. Thornton was initially projected in the fifth or sixth round, but Thompson drafted him in the third, making him the fifth defensive lineman drafted by the Packers in three years.
Thornton never saw the field for a regular-season game with the Packers. Instead, Thornton made camp on injured reserve and was eventually released a year later.
Thornton's former defensive line coach at Southern Mississippi, Derrick LeBlanc, had high praise for Thornton, despite the high expectations with being drafted earlier than expected. "They're getting a guy that's going to work his tail off," he said. "Once he bought in, he was a different football player. He runs all over the place. He's a 310-pound man who can run, and that's one of the things that got him picked by Green Bay."
2. OT Derek Sherrod - 1st round, 32nd overall
Sherrod is one of those players whose career was severely handicapped by injury. The Packers made Sherrod their first draft choice almost three months after winning the Super Bowl, and he alongside fellow tackle Bryan Bulaga were expected to do great things. Instead, Sherrod saw action in just five games in his rookie season of 2011 and unfortunately broke his leg in a week 15 game in Kansas City. As a result, he wasn't seen for almost a whole two years due to his recovery process.
In 2013, he began the season on the physically unable to perform (PUP) list but was eventually added to the active roster in November. 363 days later, the Packers parted ways with the former first-round selection and released him. Ironically, he was signed to the Chiefs two months later. His career in Green Bay ended with a lone start during the 2014 campaign, tacking on another asterisk to Thompson's list of early round duds.
1. DT Justin Harrell - 1st round, 16th overall
Justin Harrell is the biggest draft bust of the Thompson era, and in case you didn't agree, just ask these guys.
No, seriously, that video is hilarious.
Anyways, Harrell lived out a grim career in Green Bay that was plagued by injuries. In his three seasons with the team (missed all of 2009), he started two games and both of which were during his rookie season. 18 tackles is the best statistic Harrell walks away with after participating in 14 games. In his tenure at Tennessee, Harrell was dealing with a torn biceps tendon, however, the early years of Thompson evidently saw him take more risk in the draft based off of this selection.
Harrell finally saw the field in October. His second season, however, is where the trauma began. Harrell was placed on the PUP list for the start of 2008 and in 2009, he missed all 17 games because of a back injury suffered in training camp — but it doesn't end there. In the 2010 season opener against the Philadelphia Eagles, Harrell was one of two players equipped to the Packers in 2007 to be lost for the season. Running back Ryan Grant suffered a season-ending ankle injury while Harrell tore his ACL, effectively ending his career in Green Bay.
A head-scratcher of a pick that left many fans scrambling, like those guys in the aforementioned video. If it's any consolation, just remember, many draft analysts in 2007 had the Packers taking running back Marshawn Lynch at 16th overall, however, the Buffalo Bills snatched him up at 12th overall. That should ease the vexation.
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