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Time will tell who had the better board

Posted May 9, 2014

Second-day draft picks are Packer-type players

GREEN BAY—On Mel Kiper’s board, Khyri Thornton and Richard Rodgers didn’t fit where they were picked, but Ted Thompson picks from his own board, and the Packers general manager said he stayed “with what we consider the best player.”

The draft is all about opinions. Kiper and McShay and Mayock and even packers.com’s own Tony Pauline can all give you their opinions according to their boards, but where a player fits in the order is ultimately decided by his performance.

It’s not about what a player has done, it’s about what he’ll do, and Thompson stood by his second-day selections when he met with the media to conclude Thursday’s ceremonies.

“We feel pretty good about the picks,” he said.

Let’s review those picks, beginning with wide receiver Davante Adams, who the Packers selected in the second round. Gone were tight ends Jace Amaro and Troy Niklas, having been picked within the four picks immediately preceding the Packers’ selection of Adams. Wide receiver Allen Robinson and linebacker Chris Borland were still available.

Why Adams?

“I liked him a lot,” Thompson said. “I like his ability to catch the ball, first and foremost. I think he’s remarkable at that.”

Adams led the nation in receptions, 131. Twenty-four of those catches scored touchdowns. In just two years of college football, he caught 233 passes for 3,030 yards and 38 touchdowns. Those are eye-popping numbers.

Some of his combine measurables are just as stunning. He has a 39½-inch vertical jump and a 77¾-inch wingspan. Everything about Adams is special, except one thing: He required 4.56 seconds to cover 40 yards of artificial turf in Lucas Oil Stadium this past February, and that caused the speed prejudice that exists in the NFL to drop him down boards and into the laps of the Packers, who saw Adams’ real speed on his game tapes.

“When you turn the tape on, you see a guy that can create separation … create windows for the quarterback to throw the ball in,” Wide Receivers Coach Edgar Bennett said.

NFL.com projected third-round picks Thornton and Rodgers to be fifth and sixth-round prospects. The Packers’ board didn’t agree, and it’s that kind of authentic approach to drafting that has given the Packers under Thompson’s leadership a distinct identity. The Packers don’t pick Kiper’s players; they pick their guys.

“It was a pretty good list,” Bennett said of the glut of wide receiver talent in this draft class, “but we work it down as far as Packer types.”

Thornton is a Packer-type defensive lineman because he has the toughness and selflessness to be a two-gapper. He was a chase tackle at Southern Miss, but he’ll two-gap with the Packers.

“You’re always looking for those type of guys,” Defensive Line Coach Mike Trgovac said. “I like his versatility.”

On other boards, Thornton doesn’t have the measurables to warrant a third-round pick, but those boards are often built for 4-3 defensive tackles, for the Aaron Donalds of the game, not for the two-gappers, the grunts of the game. Thornton fits what the Packers do.

“I feel good about the direction we’re headed,” Trgovac said of the stable of young defensive linemen the Packers have acquired over the last three drafts.

How might B.J. Raji respond this year?

“I don’t know. We’ll see. That’s a good question,” Trgovac said.

Rodgers is pure upside, and that’s why he ranked higher on the Packers’ board than on nfl.com’s. Rodgers was forced to make the move from tight end to wide receiver in Cal’s spread offense last season, and now he’ll move back to tight end with the Packers. The Packers’ board ranked Rodgers according to what the Packers think he can become.

“Richard is a very good pass catcher,” Thompson said. It is first and foremost, of course.

Some boards are all about measurables. The Packers have their own system for grading and ranking players, but that information is proprietary, as Thompson would say, so we wait to see how these players will rank themselves. It will determine who had the better board.

Related coverage: Packers add to DL stable; select developmental TE

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