Thompson Makes No Predictions Or Guarantees

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Over the past two years in Green Bay, General Manager Ted Thompson has turned seven draft picks each season into a total of 23 selections, stockpiling the roster with competition, depth and potential long-term starters at several positions.

Thompson enters this weekend's 2007 NFL Draft with nine selections - one in each of the first six rounds and three in the seventh. But whether the Packers will finish the draft with less than, more than, or exactly nine new players is anyone's guess, even Thompson's.

During his annual pre-draft press conference on Monday, Thompson said he goes into every draft assuming he's going to pick in the slots he has. And even for a GM with Thompson's penchant for trading, that actually happened once.

In 2004, his final year as vice president of football operations for the Seattle Seahawks, Thompson had seven selections and never moved out of any of those seven slots for the two-day draft.

"We tried like heck to trade all day long - up, down, it didn't matter - and we sat and picked at all seven of our picks," Thompson said. "It's just the way it worked out."

Which means there's just no telling what will happen in a given draft, no matter the history and tendencies of the GM. In his seven total seasons in charge of the Seahawks' (2000-04) and Packers' (05-06) drafts, Thompson has never traded up, but Monday he wasn't going to rule out that possibility either.

He noted he's tried to trade up in previous drafts but simply never struck the right deal. "We just weren't able to find a team willing to trade back," he said.

Thompson was being asked about the possibility of trading up because of all the projections that have the Packers taking a running back in the first round to replace departed free agent Ahman Green.

Most experts have labeled two running backs - Oklahoma's Adrian Peterson and California's Marshawn Lynch - as first-round caliber, and while Peterson is almost certain to be gone by the time the Packers select at No. 16 overall, Lynch may be available. Then again, someone ahead of the Packers might want to pick him too, prompting the questions as to whether Thompson would consider trading up in the first round.

"It sort of depends on the team at a particular time in the draft and the way that team's board is," Thompson said. "If you're in a position where you think there's one player on there you desperately would like to have, and that's the only player you'd desperately like to have, then it makes sense to try to move up and take that player."

Thompson said he's had two teams call this week to inquire about the team's No. 16 overall pick, but he characterized those calls as "fishing expeditions."

How potential trade decisions are made on draft day depends on how the Packers have certain players rated going into the draft. That's where the personnel, scouting and coaching staffs' preparation comes in.

A team's draft "board" is built based on how they've graded players, giving them a relative comparison to other available players as the draft unfolds. Making all those hours of preparation count for something, and not getting caught up in a last-minute decision in the heat of the draft, is something Thompson learned from his mentor, former Packers GM Ron Wolf.

"Stay true to yourself and true to the board," he said. "Part of that is all this work that we've done, putting together the board, that's staying true to yourself. But once you put it up there, and you believe in your heart that's the way it should be, then you stick with the board."

{sportsad300}Following that approach is why Thompson wouldn't commit Monday to drafting a running back for certain despite Green's departure. He wasn't aware the Packers haven't drafted a running back since taking Najeh Davenport in the fourth round in 2002, but said that was immaterial.

What matters is drafting a player whose value fits the round and number of the pick, though Thompson did concede that positional needs factor into the equation when players of comparable value who play different positions are available in a given slot.

"If you feel like you might have more of a pressing need right at this moment, you might go for Position B," Thompson said. "But if there's a difference in those players, if Position A is truly a better player, then we feel like you have to take Position A.

"Because a draft ... is an investment in a player that's going to be here for a number of years, and when you don't take the best player, it'll just come back and bite you every time."

Having a well-constructed draft board certainly helps the team react to the circumstances that play out during the draft, because things rarely go as predicted. That's why Thompson said he tries not to fret over all the possible scenarios, particularly this year at No. 16 overall because too many different things can happen in those first 15 picks.

Last year, Thompson confessed to worrying a bit at No. 5 overall, because he had targeted linebacker A.J. Hawk as the player he wanted to select. But there's no point in doing that this year, at least not until the draft approaches the 16th slot, the scenarios diminish in number, and the board can be consulted meaningfully.

"There are scenarios that I would prefer have happen much more than other scenarios that could happen, but there's not anything you can do about it," Thompson said. "So you just have to be prepared to do what you have to do, and pick the player that you think can help the Packers the most."

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