Thompson Eyes Adding Competition To Roster

As GM Ted Thompson has said, a draft pick is a long-term investment, and that’s why he believes in taking the best player available, not reaching to fill needs. In the short-term, though, there’s a key element akin to that philosophy. Bringing in the best available players will create the best possible competition for spots in the lineup, or on the roster as a whole. - More Press Conference Transcript | Video | Audio

As General Manager Ted Thompson has said many times, a draft pick is a long-term investment for a football team, and that's why he believes in taking the best player available with each selection, not reaching to fill specific needs.

In the short-term, though, there's a key element akin to that philosophy as well. Bringing in the best available players will create the best possible competition for spots in the lineup, or on the roster as a whole. That competition does, or can do, several things for the coming year.

It can reveal which young players have matured enough to take on starting, or prominent, roles. It can push the established starters to perform at a higher level to keep their jobs. And it can accelerate the development of young, quality players who are playing behind, and competing with, seasoned pros.

Any and all of those possibilities makes a team stronger, and the approach certainly paid dividends for the Packers last year as they rose from an 8-8 squad to a 13-3 division champion that reached the NFC title game.

So while the Packers, with the 30th overall pick, won't be selecting as high in each round this year as they have the past two years (5th and 16th in the first rounds in 2006 and 2007, respectively), what Thompson wants to accomplish with his selections is no different as the Packers attempt to rise even higher in 2008.

"We're going to try to put some heat on these guys and let them compete and see what happens," Thompson said Monday during his annual pre-draft press conference. "We want to create competition, as we've always done, create as much competition as we can at every spot, and there is no spot that doesn't need more competition."

That includes quarterback, Thompson said, where fourth-year pro Aaron Rodgers is taking over for the retired Brett Favre.

As he searches for a viable backup to Rodgers, Thompson was asked repeatedly if he has to be careful about how high in the draft he might select a quarterback, given the message that could send to Rodgers.

Knowing his draft philosophy and how he views competition, Thompson surprised no one by dismissing draft position as a consideration for another signal caller, despite his unwavering support for Rodgers as the heir apparent since drafting him in the first round three years ago.

"If we take a player at any other position, it's no slight on the players that we have at those positions," Thompson said. "Aaron, he's comfortable in his own skin. He understands the NFL is the NFL."

The questions about any potential reaction by Rodgers to drafting another quarterback stemmed from what happened in Philadelphia last year. The Eagles, looking for a potential long-term replacement for veteran quarterback Donovan McNabb, drafted the University of Houston's Kevin Kolb early in the second round.

McNabb began wondering, publicly, what that move said about the organization's feelings toward him, and the story took on a life of its own.

Thompson has no worries about that type of fallout, and said that if the best player on his draft board at No. 30 in the first round, or No. 56 or 60 in the second round for that matter, is a quarterback, he'll have no problem taking him. As a former player always fighting for a job, Thompson knows players don't like it when a team drafts players at their position.

But it's the way of life in the pros, and Thompson isn't going to sacrifice making the best long-term investment for his team just to spare someone's feelings.

"This is the National Football League, and everybody's got to stand on their own two feet," Thompson said. "And Aaron's been preparing for this time and he's been hoping for this time to come and now it's come. So yeah, he's going to be our quarterback. If we take another guy at 30, we're not saying this other guy's going to be our quarterback. We're saying that we've gotten another guy to play the position. You can never have too many people, especially at the most important position in the National Football League."

Thompson also said the Packers' current lack of depth at quarterback - only developmental prospects Dalton Bell and Jerry Babb reside behind Rodgers on the roster - doesn't necessarily mean he'll definitely be drafting one amongst his eight selections. Same goes for tight end, a position that has only two players (Donald Lee and Tory Humphrey) on the current roster.

Between the draft and the weeks following, Thompson will find the players he wants to shore up those spots.

"There are other ways to get quarterbacks as you go through the spring and the summer, so we don't feel compelled to do anything," he said. "But again, if we can create more competition, that's a good thing."

Other questions Thompson addressed had to do with potential draft trades and the new time schedule.

{sportsad300}In his three Green Bay drafts, Thompson has turned 23 picks into 34 by trading back and accumulating more selections. This year he enters the draft with eight selections, and while he wouldn't tip his hand as to whether he'll be looking to trade down, or package some picks to trade up, or stand pat, he did indicate that there is a point of diminishing returns with stockpiling picks that might have to be cut by the end of training camp.

Thompson has never traded up in a draft, though with his team finishing as NFC runner-up and the roster sporting far more depth than two or three years ago, if there's a chance of trading up, this could be the year.

"It's certainly possible," he said. "But again, once you get going we'll see how it's working and how the board looks for us. If it looks a little desperate and there's one guy that we think addresses something really important in terms of his long-term value to the Packers and we just don't think he's going to make it to us, that's when you try to step on the accelerator."

The league is trying to do the same with the new time schedule for the first two rounds on Saturday. There will be only 10 minutes between first-round selections this year, as opposed to the usual 15, and the second-round timetable is seven minutes rather than 10.

Thompson said he doesn't see that having an impact on the Packers' draft operations at all, though he noted he wasn't thrilled with the later start time. Saturday will include only the first two rounds (rather than three, as in the past), but it won't start until 2 p.m. CT, three hours later than usual, so it's still likely to go well into the night before everyone comes back early for five rounds on Sunday.

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