As I mentioned last week in my mid-season rookie report card for the 2017 Green Bay draft, it takes at least three or four years to properly evaluate a class. I figured that this is a perfect opportunity to turn back the clock and assign grades for the 2014 Green Bay draft, as some members of this class may hit free agency for the first time this spring. Going back in time, many people mocked the Packers to take either a safety (Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, Alabama; Calvin Pryor, Louisville) or an inside linebacker (C.J. Mosley, Alabama; Ryan Shazier, Ohio State). In addition to the need to add a young playmaker on defense, the Packers were looking to add depth at the wide receiver position and find a new tight end to help offset the neck injury sustained by Jermichael Finley a few months prior.
1st Round, 21st Overall, S Ha Ha Clinton-Dix: While he did not take over the starting job from day one, it did not take Clinton-Dix long to show flashes of playmaking abilities that reminded everyone of ex-Packers safety Nick Collins. By the end of the year, Clinton-Dix was clearly a great first round pick by Ted Thompson, arguably his best first round pick since Clay Matthews and B.J. Raji in the 2009 NFL Draft. In his first three years, Clinton-Dix amassed eight interceptions and was named to his first Pro Bowl just last year. Clinton-Dix has also been immune to the injury bug that seemingly never leaves Green Bay, as he has not missed a game yet in his career. While Clinton-Dix has taken a noticeable step back this year, he has time to turn his play around as he became the first first-round draft pick that Ted Thompson used his 5th year option on, meaning he will not be a free agent until after the 2015 season. Grade: A
2nd Round, 53rd Overall, WR Davante Adams: Adams has had a bit of a tumultous career in his short time with Green Bay. After a bright rookie campaign that saw him record 7 receptions for 117 yards and a touchdown in a playoff game against Dallas, many saw signs that Adams could be a future star with Aaron Rodgers throwing him the football. This all fell apart in his second season, with fellow WR Jordy Nelson tearing his ACL in the preseason. Both Adams and Randall Cobb proved that they were not ready to take over the duties of a #1 receiver, and Adams appeared to have hands made of stone. He barely eclipsed his rookie totals with a stat line of 50 receptions for 483 yards and only one touchdown, despite starting 12 games, most of which were as the number one receiver. Since that season, Adams has turned his career completely around and has appears to be the future at the WR position in Green Bay, putting up 19 touchdowns in 26 games since the beginning of the 2016 season (playoffs included). While the Rodgers’ collarbone injury certainly hurts his chances, Adams appears to be due for a huge payday come March, whether it be from Green Bay or one of the other 31 NFL teams. Grade: A-
3rd Round, 85th Overall, DL Khyri Thornton: Without a doubt, Thornton is right up their with fellow DL Justin Harrell and OT Derek Sherrod as one of Ted Thompson’s biggest draft busts. Placed on injured reserve during the first preseason of his career, Thornton never saw the field in a Packer’s uniform. He was subsequently released during final cuts his second year and spent about a month with New England before being signing with Detroit to close out the 2015 season. He has since become a regular but unspectacular contributor along their defensive line. It’s impossible to label Thornton as anything but a complete whiff by Ted Thompson as a 3rd round pick is a high price to waste for someone who never takes a snap for your team. Grade: F
3rd Round, 98th Overall, TE Richard Rodgers: Perhaps best known for his contribution to the “Mo-Town Miracle” Hail Mary in Detroit during Week 13 of the 2015 season, Rodgers has never truly lived up to the billing of a third round pick. Yes, he was a big reason why the Packers won that game, and he also put up 8 regular season touchdowns that year, but the Packers still did not think think enough of him to avoid bringing in two high profile tight ends this year in the free agents Martellus Bennett and Lance Kendricks. While Richard Rodgers is a solid possession receiver and redzone target, he ran a 40-yard dash time that rivals offensive lineman and will never be a great run blocker. However, look for Rodgers to be resigned near the veteran minimum to give the Packers some depth at the tight end position. Grade: C+
4th Round, 121st Overall, LB Carl Bradford: Bradford was a bit of a unique case in Green Bay, as he played a DE/OLB hybrid and college and spent his rookie season inactive for all 16 games as he transitioned to ILB. He then spent his second season and most of his third season on the Packers’ practice squad before being promoted near the end of the 2016 season to give the Packers depth at the inside linebacker position. He was released following the 2016 season and bounced around the league. Currently a free agent, Bradford was coined “Captain of the Scout Team” by the coaching staff during his long 2-year stay on the Packers’ practice squad but never actually made an impact on the field. Grade: D-
5th Round, 161st Overall, C Corey Linsley: Since having taken over the starting center job in training camp his rookie season, Linsley has never looked back and has easily surpasssed all expectations of a 5th round pick. Linsley is a perfect example of Ted Thompson’s ability to pick out diamonds in the rough, as Linsley has started in every game he has been healthy for in his career. He has done a great job of stabilizing the center position, as Green Bay seemed to have issues finding a long-term center ever since Scott Wells’ departure following the 2011 season. Linsley has had minor injury issues, but that is excusable due to the fact that he plays a tough position that never gets to take a snap off during game days. Linsley should be a top priority to be re-signed at the conclusion of this season. Grade: A
5th Round, 176th Overall, WR Jared Abbrederis: Seeing as Abbrederis was the first Badger ever drafted by Ted Thompson, it did not take long at all for him to become a fan favorite. Drafted to be a punt returner and project to develop at WR, Abbrederis showed great route-running ability and solid hands early on. Unfortunately, Abbrederis suffered many injuries in his short time with Green Bay, as an ACl tear took away his entire rookie year and a concussion put him on injured reserve early in the 2016 season, leading to his release and subsequent signing by the Detroit Lions, whom he plays for now. Abbrederis never really made his mark as a punt returner, and only played a role on offense during the 2015 playoff game against Arizona when injuries left the Packers with only Abbrederis, Jeff Janis (more on him later), and Randall Cobb. Abbrederis finished that game with only 6 receptions for 69 yards and never got to score a touchdown as a Packer. Grade: D
6th Round, 197th Overall, CB Demetri Goodson: Goodson, a 24 year old rookie from Baylor, originally played college basketball for Gonzaga. This was a peculiar pick at the time as he was an older rookie who would take time to develop due to him only having played a lot of basketball compared to football. Over Goodson’s career, he has made more of an impact on special teams than defense, where he is typically a liability. Goodson currently resides on the Packers’ Physically Unable to Perform (PUP) list after sustaining a gruesome knee injury late last season. It’s a long shot at best that the Packers re-sign Goodson, as in his three years with the team he has failed to really make much of an impact on defense. Grade C-
7th Round, 236th Overall, WR Jeff Janis: Perhaps the best well known seventh round pick on the Packers since QB Matt Flynn, Janis has always been sort of a folk-hero around Green Bay. Year in and year out, Janis makes sure to show off his incredible speed in training camp and Packers’ fans clamor for him to see more time on offense. Despite tantalizing athleticism, Janis has never stood out on offense, excluding the 2015 Arizona game mentioned before where he was the recipient of not one but two Aaron Rodgers’ Hail Mary’s in a last ditch effort to win the game. Of course, one game from almost two years ago is not the reason Janis still has a role on this team. The coaching staff has decided to use his speed on special teams where Janis has proven to be a dynamic gunner over the course of his rookie contract. Look for Janis to resign with the Packers as Jarrett Bush-type of special teams weapon with the ability to catch a Hail Mary any given Sunday. Grade: B
Overall Grade: A-
All-in-all, this was a great draft class by Ted Thompson, as he found three potential stars in Ha Ha, Adams, and Linsley, as well as solid role players in Janis and Rodgers. Even though busts such as Thornton and Bradford hurt this draft’s grade just a little bit, to hit on five out of nine draft picks is a solid ratio, especially when you consider that the Packers finally found a defensive play-maker in Ha Ha Clinton-Dix and their center for hopefully the next 10 to 12 years in Corey Linsley.