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Thompson preview heightens mystique


It's an art form and all around the league this week its practitioners are standing in front of their media, spinning the information in such a way so as to deceive the reporters that continue to work so diligently, and hopelessly, to loosen from the lips of the interviewed any hint as to whom the teams they cover might draft.

Some – make that most – flat lie. Therein lies the difference between some – make that most – and Packers General Manger Ted Thompson. Thompson doesn't lie; he just isn't forthcoming, which he readily admitted when he began Thursday's draft preview with this disclaimer:

"I know you get frustrated with me because I'm not exactly forthcoming. That'll continue. I'm not trying to be insulting. It's just that I wouldn't be doing my job if I gave someone else an advantage," Thompson told the room full of reporters, all of whom were poised to ply the highest standard of insightful and philosophical cross-examination, which they did. Thompson, however, never cracked.

So, who will the Packers pick with the 32nd pick of the 2011 NFL draft? After sitting in the media auditorium at Lambeau Field and listening to Thompson conduct his draft preview for the first time in my time as editor, I can honestly say I have no more idea now than I did before the press conference began.

Hey, it's all part of the game. It's part of the intrigue and suspense that makes the draft sports' greatest offseason event.

Truth be known, I'd be disappointed had Thompson actually provided information on the subject. After listening to any one of the league's 32 such draft previews this week, you'd come away with the feeling that something truly important is at stake. It all has a national security feel to it and it all contributes to the draft's amazing, inexplicable mystique.

If, however, you are one of those who absolutely needs to know who and for what position the Packers might draft, all you have to do is find out what players fit at the Packers' pick, for no one adheres more firmly to the value line than Thompson does and, after all, he's the boss.

"It's not a democracy. At some point, I will make the call," Thompson said.

I like that kind of talk. It has strength. It speaks of accountability.

Being accountable, of course, isn't that difficult when you have Thompson's track record. He's on a roll. Good players such as Aaron Rodgers and Bryan Bulaga have fallen to him, and when good players haven't fallen to him, he's gone up to get one, as he did with Clay Matthews.

It's all about the value line. That's what keeps coming through about Thompson. He keeps a close watch on his value board and he makes sure he doesn't draft players where they don't fit.

Ted Thompson doesn't reach. No way. Won't do it. Forget about it.

"We go by the way the value board is set up. We do that openly and honestly. At the end of the day, we still believe in drafting the best player available is the way to go. You don't know what your needs are going to be, as we found out last August," Thompson said.

"If we're trying to trade up, then there's a particular player we value higher than where we are on the board. If we can move back five spots and get the same player, we're not averse to doing that."

He was describing Matthews and Jordy Nelson, the latter being a player Thompson targeted in the 2008 draft and moved back into the second round to pick.

So, if you want an idea what player the Packers might draft next Thursday, choose from that group of players that appear to fit where the Packers are picking because that's where Thompson lives. That's his track record. He stays true to his board.

The big problem, however, is knowing who fits at that pick because Thompson's not tellin'. In fact, there are even whispers around the league that the men who conducted their individual draft previews this week are such a paranoid, mistrusting bunch that they've even begun assembling their boards in a kind of code – 15th is really 20th, if you know what I mean – because they don't even trust the in-house security that guards those boards.

Don't you love it?

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