Second-Day Picks Prove Their Value

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First-round draft picks get most of everything - most of the attention, the hype, the money, the interviews.

It's understandable, given that first-round draft picks are among the top three dozen players coming out of the college ranks in any given year.

But as important as that first-round draft pick is for each team, it's players taken in the later rounds that build a team's depth and, in essence, can make or break a roster.

While Pro Bowl-caliber players like running back Dorsey Levens (fifth round, 1994), wide receiver Donald Driver (seventh round, 1999) and offensive tackle Mark Tauscher (seventh round, 2000) are tremendous NFL stories, late-round success goes beyond uncovering the occasional gem. Simply finding productive players in the later rounds who can contribute early in their careers goes a long way towards a team's long-term foundation.

General Manager Ted Thompson and his personnel staff have no doubt established a track record of late-round success in his first three drafts in Green Bay. Looking at what have been known as "second-day" selections (Rounds 4-7) since 2005, Packers draft picks have started a collective total of 71 games over the past three seasons.

That group is led by the 28 starts of linebacker Brady Poppinga (fourth round, 2005), the 13 of offensive lineman Tony Moll (fifth round, 2006) and the 10 of fullback Korey Hall (sixth round, 2007).

The impressive total of starts by second-day picks ranks as the best in the NFC North.

According to research by Packers.com, over the last three years, the Bears have gotten 64 starts out of players drafted in the fourth round or later, the Vikings 22, and the Lions just six. (Note: Those totals do not include veteran players acquired in trades for second-day picks, such as Minnesota offensive lineman Artis Hicks, who has 18 starts since being acquired for fourth- and sixth-round picks in 2006, and Chicago defensive back Adam Archuleta, who started 10 games last season after being acquired for a sixth-round choice.)

The key to the Packers' success lies in preparation, and dedicating as much attention to preparing for the second day of the draft as the first.

"What we do is we really make sure our (draft) board is put together from top to bottom, even from the (non-drafted) free agents that we select," director of pro personnel Reggie McKenzie said. "We make sure the bottom part of the board is right on point, just as well as the first and second round.

"The way I was raised in the draft through the Packers, from Ron Wolf to Ted, we try to find real players, not only in the first but even in the seventh round. That's the object. We want to make sure we draft guys that can help us improve."

The Packers' total of 71 starts over the last three years from second-day draft picks doesn't even include any from kicker Mason Crosby, a sixth-round pick who won the kicking job as a rookie last year and went on to lead the NFL in scoring.

Other second-day picks with multiple starts include offensive lineman Junius Coston (fifth round, 2005) with seven, defensive tackle Johnny Jolly (sixth round, 2006) with seven and running back DeShawn Wynn (seventh round, 2007) with four.

"You can go on back past three years, to the Tauschers and Drivers, and the philosophy really centers around getting the board the way you want it and not just making sure you have the top four rounds all set and then just make due and grab some guys in the fifth, sixth and seventh," said McKenzie, who has worked in the team's personnel department since 1994. "That's not the object. We try to hit on all of them.

"When you look at it and you see the success that we've had on that second day, Ted takes a lot of pride in that, and we want to continue that. We want to continue to hit first day too, now, but the object is to bring players in we think can help us."

Some of those players are signed as non-drafted free agents after the draft, having been on the Packers' draft board with late-round grades, but no opportunity arose to select them. In the last two years, defensive end Jason Hunter (2006) and defensive tackle Daniel Muir (2007) were non-drafted free agents who surprisingly landed a spot on the 53-man roster following their rookie training camp. Hunter has been with the team two full seasons now.

Finding quality prospects on the second day of the draft is only half the equation, though. The other half is having a coaching staff, like that headed by Mike McCarthy, capable of working with young players to get them on a fast learning curve and ready to make an impact within their first few years.

"I think it goes hand in hand, I really do," McKenzie said. "Of course it's the scouts' and personnel's job to make sure we identify the guys. Our coaches are involved in the evaluation process, too, and if they feel the same way (about a player), then the next step is to get those guys coached up and see how they fit in the system. We do a good job of that. Coach Mike does an excellent job of putting those guys in position not only to win a roster spot but to contribute."

McKenzie characterizes the relationship between the personnel and coaching staffs as "vital" to the entire process, and he cites the selection of Hall last year as a prime example.

The Packers early on informed Hall, who played linebacker at Boise State, that they intended to convert him to fullback, and the coaching staff was on board with that call from the get-go.

"Our offensive staff was open-minded to getting a converted linebacker, and they said, 'Hey, we'll work with this,'" McKenzie said. "You can get some offensive people who are close-minded, saying, 'We need a starting fullback. What are you doing giving us a college linebacker?' You can have some head-butting going on, but not here.

"The relationship is (built) on trust. We trust each other. We trust that the coaches can coach them up and get it done, and they trust that we're bringing in a legit prospect."

{sportsad300}With the changes to this year's draft, the second day will have a different look. Only the first two rounds will be held on Saturday, so Sunday will cover five rounds instead of four. That will put an added premium on the beginning of the second day, particularly the third round, because those players are still among the top 100 selections.

But it won't change the Packers' operations much, if at all, because their entire draft board will be built by the end of this week. Rather than doing a lot of shuffling of the board overnight between the two days, the Packers generally analyze their board before the second day relative to the overall depth of different positions after the early rounds.

Their evaluations of players don't change based on their own team's needs, though, or how the draft has gone. As is said often in the draft room, it's important to stay "true to the board," all the way to the end of the second day.

"We just make sure we study it through," McKenzie said. "The second day there's a lot more trades, so there's more strategy from that standpoint than which player you're going to pick.

"But we don't move a guy that was in the sixth up to the fourth round because we need that position. We leave the board as is."

Second-day draft picks, 2005-07, with number of starts in parentheses

2005

LB Brady Poppinga, 4th round (28)

OL Junius Coston, 5th round (7)

CB Mike Hawkins, 5th round (1)*

2006

CB Will Blackmon, 4th round (1)

OL Tony Moll, 5th round (13)

DT Johnny Jolly, 6th round (7)

2007

FB Korey Hall, 6th round (10)

RB DeShawn Wynn, 7th round (4)

(Total starts: 71)

*No longer on roster

Other second-day picks still on roster:DE Michael Montgomery (6th round, 2005), S Tyrone Culver (6th round, 2006), OL Allen Barbre (4th round, 2007), LB Desmond Bishop (6th round, 2007), K Mason Crosby (6th round, 2007).

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