The Truth About the Draft: Nobody Knows Anything

How I learned you can't always rely on your sources, especially when it comes to a Packers draft.

The year was 1981. It was mid April, two weeks away from the NFL draft. The Packers were coming off a 5-10-1 season and last place finish in what was then the five team NFC Central. They owned the 6th pick in the draft and they had many needs.

I sat down with then Green Bay Packers Director of Player Personnel Dick Corrick to record segments for a five part series previewing the draft from a Packers perspective. We went through the various college prospects by position and Corrick evaluated each group. In those days running back was a highly valued position and this draft class was loaded with them. Guys like George Rogers out of South Carolina, James Brooks from Auburn and Freeman McNeal out of UCLA. In fact, six running backs would be taken in the first round of this draft! (imagine that happening today) Corrick expressed interest in this group. At the time the Packers were relying on injury prone Eddie Lee Ivery and Gerry Ellis at the position.

Corrick also raved about the linebacker class. There was talented Hugh Green out of Pitt, E. J. Junior from Alabama, and a promising young guy at North Carolina by the name of Lawrence Taylor. The class was also strong at the top in defensive backs.....Ronnie Lott from Southern Cal, Kenny Easley out of UCLA and Hanford Dixon from Southern Miss. The top tackle was another Southern Cal prospect, Keith Van Horne. The top guard was Mark May out of Pitt. Position by position Corrick expounded on the best players and how they might fit in the Packers scheme. Yes, it was an age when teams were not as buttoned up and media adverse as they are today.

The one position in which Corrick showed no interest at all was quarterback. He made it clear to me the Packers were more than content with starter Lynn Dickey. The ten year veteran had thrown for over 3500 yards and 15 touchdowns the previous season. Remember, the league was run-centric at that tiime so those were decent numbers. The back-up was four year veteran David Whitehurst who had already started 34 games for the Pack, including all 16 in 1978 during which he led the team to an 8-7-1 record, their first winning season in six years. I asked Corrick about Rich Campbell out of Cal, the top prospect in the upcoming class. He had thrown for over 7,000 yards and 34 touchdowns, but Corrick reiterated that Green Bay was set at the position and the team had no interest in Campbell or any other qb.

During the week leading up to draft day I went on the air with my five part draft preview series, interspersed with Corrick sound bites, focusing on different positions each day. On the day I did quarterbacks, I boldly predicted, based on Corrick's remarks to me, that there was absolutely no way the Packers were taking a signal caller with that number six pick.

The draft began on April 28th. George Rogers went first to the Saints. the Giants followed by taking Lawrence Taylor, then the Jets tabbed Freeman McNeal. Seattle took Kenny Easley at number four and the St. Louis Cardinals followed with E.J. Junior. Packers on the clock. Ronnie Lott still on the board. Commissioner Pete Rozelle strides up to the podium. I am scrambling to find my Ronnie Lott video so as to air it immediately. As I search, I hear Rozelle announce "With the number six pick in the 1981 NFL draft, the Green Bay Packers select.......quarterback Rich Campbell!"

What? Needless to say I was caught by surprise, not to mention embarrassed and furious. I thought Corrick had clearly run a play action fake around me and used me to mislead, and I was young and naive enough to bite on it.

Turns out I may have misjudged him. Decades later Packer historian and former beat writer Cliff Christl would write that Corrick was sure he had convinced coach and general manager Bart Starr to take Lott (who would go on to a Hall of Fame career), but on the morning of the draft Starr surprised him by telling him he had decided on Campbell. As it turned out, Campbell mostly sat on the bench for four years and was a bust.

I think about that day every year as we approach another Packer draft. I just have to smile when I read and hear about "inside information" leading up to the big event. The Packers will trade down. They'll trade up. They're targeting a receiver....no, a defensive lineman.....no, an inside linebacker.....a quarterback. Heck, I wrote such an article myself for CHTV (Go to Bed Early on Draft Night, March 21). They all make for interesting reading and great fun, but no matter how "inside" the source claims to be, it's pure guesswork.

As I learned the hard way, unless you are actually in those draft meetings at 1265 Lombardi Avenue, you don't know anything. And as the Dick Corrick story illustrates, even if you are in the meetings you may not know who the pick will be. The people who actually make those decisions aren't talking, and even if they do, they likely aren't telling it straight.

Fine with me.    Makes the draft all the more intriguing.     I can't wait.

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Ken Lass is a former Green Bay television sports anchor and 43 year media veteran, a lifelong Packers fan, and a shareholder.

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Comments (53)

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Leatherhead's picture

April 19, 2020 at 06:45 pm

If you don’t think you’ve been misinformed.....you probably are.

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flackcatcher's picture

April 19, 2020 at 08:52 pm

Thanks, Ken. Bet you were smiling a bit when you wrote this....

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Packer_Fan's picture

April 19, 2020 at 08:56 pm

Yup, no one knows what will happen and Gute doesn't either. He has some thoughts, but the draft is so dynamic that nothing is for sure. And yet. The media goes bananas over the drad. And that includes all the Packer sites.

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Stroh's picture

April 19, 2020 at 11:07 pm

Of course... That's what makes it so fun and interesting. Since Wolf took over the reigns as GM, they have a pretty good model for predicting the players and picks they might make. Wolf and Thompson both followed it very closely, particularly in the 1st rd.

In this draft, Josh Jones is the obvious target at #30 and if he makes it he will be the pick. If he doesn't it becomes much more complicated and a trade down to the top of rd 2 is a highly likely move.

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murf7777's picture

April 20, 2020 at 08:16 am

Predictable? So, are you telling us you knew Gutey was going to pick Gary and Savage last year? As the article states none of us know what they are thinking.

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Pizzadoc's picture

April 20, 2020 at 04:17 pm

Read it again. They have a model for predicting, not predictable.

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Stroh's picture

April 20, 2020 at 06:00 pm

Thank You. Following the model you can at least narrow down the field a bit. But its impossible to know what another person is thinking. So its still a crap shoot. I didn't see them drafting Gary, because I didn't think of him as an OLB prospect, I saw him as a 43 DE only. I got the position right, but the player wrong.

This year OT is the position of preference. But have to wait to see how the first 29 picks shake out. If Josh Jones is on the board, I think he is the pick. He should be the preferred pick, if he's not available it gets tricky IMO.

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Spock's picture

April 20, 2020 at 09:59 am

"Wolf and Thompson both followed it very closely, particularly in the 1st rd.". The funny thing is, is that both men didn't do particularly well at their first round picks and Wolf, in particular, really nailed his later round picks. Early Ted did the same.

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Stroh's picture

April 20, 2020 at 06:14 pm

I know it seems that way right. But have you or I ever actually compared their 1st rd track record against other GMs. The contemporaries? I wonder of that would change our thinking in that regard.

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Thegreatreynoldo's picture

April 20, 2020 at 07:02 pm

Agreed. I remember GB having the 14th pick and I was chanting "don't screw it up, let's get something, anything. Just take Bubba Franks. He won't be great but he will play."

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flackcatcher's picture

April 20, 2020 at 07:20 pm

Bubba Franks and Ed West. Bet Gute wish he had them now... :-)

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Handsback's picture

April 19, 2020 at 09:43 pm

Frankly, until the picks 1-20 have people's names in them....right now even Gutsey has no idea who he will pick.

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Thegreatreynoldo's picture

April 20, 2020 at 03:18 am

That seems true to me. But Gute knows who he won't pick at 30.

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Leatherhead's picture

April 20, 2020 at 09:26 pm

No, I cannot agree with that.

Dozens of coaches and scouts working 70 hour weeks leaves you a little less clueless. You’ve got your guys. You already know you want Gary and Savage and Jenkins and Sternberger and Luck and a few others in the Top 100. At this point, you’re calculating where you can draft these guys without reaching.

There is probably a short list of guys you’ll take at 30, ranked, if you can’t trade down. Then you have scenarios about your next pick.

No idea! Last year, Gute said they wanted Gary all along.! I’d be damn disappointed if a GM making millions of dollars didn’t have any idea of what he wanted.

I think it’ll be a DB, or the Pettine Hybrid Guy. We don’t have a starter at nickle or the hybrid spot.

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albert999's picture

April 19, 2020 at 11:14 pm

Run stuffer at 30

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dekan51's picture

April 20, 2020 at 12:23 am

not bpa?

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albert999's picture

April 20, 2020 at 12:50 am

Did u see our nfc championship loss?

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dekan51's picture

April 20, 2020 at 06:32 pm

yes i did. have you ever been part of an nfl draft? you don't draft need. what if the best run stuffer on the board at #30 has a 3rd round draft grade? your logic is it doesnt matter. pick him. i disagree with you. i say pick best player available. now, if all things are equal, and @ #30 there is a run stuffer (blacklock) and a wr (your pick) and a OL (again, you pick) and a ILB (Murry or Queen or Baun) who do you take? then, im totally good with Blacklock. Now, if he's gone but the rest is available, do you really just take the next best run stuffer? not me.....

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Stroh's picture

April 21, 2020 at 12:48 pm

In the scenario you just described you take the player from the position of highest value. That would be OT over DT, WR or ILB. Positional value is at the heart of the Packers draft model. Those positions are QB, OT, Pass rusher and CB. Positional value is how the Packers have largely drafted in Rd 1 since Wolf took over.

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jannes bjornson's picture

April 20, 2020 at 08:07 pm

Get a big DT in the late third or fourth.

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Spock's picture

April 20, 2020 at 10:03 am

Very much doubt that. Run stuffers are almost always later round picks as they are less valuable than, say, pass disrupt-er/QB tacklers as run stuffers aren't typically 3 down players.

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AgrippaLII's picture

April 20, 2020 at 11:12 pm

I agree. If Gutekunst takes a DL early it will be someone akin to Kenny Clark in skill set. He can get a NT type guy in the fourth round or later. It would lessen the sting if they don't get Clark re-signed next year.

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ricky's picture

April 19, 2020 at 11:22 pm

Going by Gutekunst's (admittedly brief) draft history, it seems likely he'll look to trade within the first round. For who or what position? I'd guess a WR or OT, depending on BPA, and the price of the move. Would I bet on it? Nope. But if I'm right, you heard it here first. If wrong, I will disavow any knowledge of this post.

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Stroh's picture

April 20, 2020 at 12:38 am

If he trades in rd 1, it won't be to stay in rd 1. IMO he's as likely to trade out of Rd 1, as he is to pick in Rd 1. Only a small group of players (3 or 4) IMO would tempt him to draft at #30. My guess is they are all off the board when #30 comes up and Gutey moves down.

The chances of moving up are really slim, less than 10% IMO. And if he does it would be a small move up, likely w/ Seattle to jump ahead of Baltimore.

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jannes bjornson's picture

April 20, 2020 at 08:05 pm

He could move up ten spots or down four.. That should be his range to hit on a playmaker.

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Stroh's picture

April 21, 2020 at 12:44 pm

At most he would move up 4 spots (Seattle) and down 10. You got the directions flipped. And its FAR more likely he moves down than up!

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Thegreatreynoldo's picture

April 20, 2020 at 07:05 pm

Here is a link to an article examining each GM's inclination to trade up or down during the draft.

https://overthecap.com/analyzing-draft-trades-current-gm-trends/

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murf7777's picture

April 21, 2020 at 06:45 am

Thanks very interesting article. This really shows the most consistently successful teams trade down. Pittsburgh thou not so much. This tells me what my beliefs have been are accurate.. The draft is a crap shoot and the more “at bats” you get the better chance of hitting the talent. I believe this is one of the big reasons why the packers have been so successful as Wolf and especially TT traded down quite a bit. Do they have these records on trading for past GM’s TGR?

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justjan's picture

April 21, 2020 at 01:52 pm

wrong comment. sorry

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Turophile's picture

April 20, 2020 at 03:08 am

The media drives fans to love and hate certain picks, according to both where they were valued by media consensus (such as it is) and how they were described by draft 'experts'.

The truth is that scouts can have hugely different opinions about the same player - and media reports on a player might be overly influenced by teams wanting a player to fall to them (so they spread disinformation). I'm not saying all media draft experts are fooled by this, but some are.

As for where a player should be drafted, well just look at the re-drafts you can find online a few years later, and see how differently teams might have done things, with a few years hindsight. Evaluations, even by experts, are regularly wrong, sometimes spectacularly wrong.

So as KenLass says, you just don't know, and even what you think you know is very possibly wrong. The draft is just such a huge lottery that teams try to make sense of as best they can (and still often get it wrong). Nevertheless, there will still be the 'draft grades' handed out by everyone and their sister the day after the draft............it's just like teams that were said to have "won the offseason" by making big trades, and then fail to achieve anything that year.

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Pizzadoc's picture

April 20, 2020 at 08:16 pm

Recent (sorta) Dream Teams: Eagles, Browns: fail

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bmaafi's picture

April 20, 2020 at 05:32 am

Some Packers fans and even NFL fans in general think they know everything or at least think they know more than everyone else just because they watch broadcast film on YouTube and if they are lucky some all 22 here and there as well. We all have our opinions and that's all good. I definately have strong opinions but they are just that. You can look at how a team drafts historically to give you an idea, but things happen...

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bodei1newbie1's picture

April 20, 2020 at 07:06 am

i hope they don't pick a wide receiver in the first round but try to get a offensive right tackle if one is there

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Guam's picture

April 20, 2020 at 07:26 am

Great article Ken - thank you for sharing this bit of history. I never try to pick players - I lack the knowledge base and certainly have zero inside information. I do like to try to identify needs by position and then sit back and see what Gute (and many others before him) does.

Go Pack Go

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arthurl's picture

April 20, 2020 at 07:34 am

I'm still disappointed how they picked Gary with that 12th. I'm even more disappointed they are trying to make him an OLB when they spent on FA players at that position. The Smith bros are durable players and they could have locked in Fackrell as the 3rd to give them a blow. Anyway, seems like a wasted pick with long term ramifications when they had other needs to address. As for this draft, just hope they are smart. To their credit, last draft by GM was better than his 1st one....he really hit a home run drafting Jenkins.

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Duneslick's picture

April 20, 2020 at 01:39 pm

Why 2 thumbs down. everything he said was a fact. They had 3 outside lbs 2 who were free agents who were paid about 15 million each . Why draft and outside LB and at 12. GB had bigger needs at almost every position.

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Thegreatreynoldo's picture

April 20, 2020 at 07:11 pm

Gary being a wasted pick is not a fact. And I write that after writing in the CHTV article that Gary was an awful pick. Still, it isn't a fact, yet.

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blacke00's picture

April 20, 2020 at 09:09 am

So far I'm not impressed with Gutekunst. I think he likes to think he's the smartest person in the room. I think over the last 2 years his drafts have been average, nothing more. Kinda like Thompson in many ways. He is willing to make FA signings which is a good thing.

The Packers, historically, have drafted poorly in the 1st round. This might be the case because the Pack usually drafts in the second half of the round, but that's really no excuse.

The question I have, does Gutekunst consult with his scouts and make joint decisions or does he just draft who "he" wants? Does he consult adequately with the coaching staff and does he go with the staff input? I would like to think that he does but I'm not sure. Thompson obviously didn't do this as per recent comments that were attributed to McCarthy. Hmmm?

Perhaps I'm cynical. There are big egos in place here and they have a tendency to see themselves the end all and be all.

Let's hope for the best

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Turophile's picture

April 20, 2020 at 09:39 am

I saw the same thing about Murphy when the Packers organisational structure was changed.
He was power hungry, arrogant, etc etc. Once things quieted down fan speculation was shown to be a bit hysterical.

I even remember TT being called arrogant - and it would be hard to find someone less like that.

Here we are again with Gutekunst, the arrogance claim with nothing of any substance to back it up.

If you don't like his drafting, ok, but the "thinks he's the smartest guy in the room", that's just a weak attempt to justify your perception of him.

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leche's picture

April 20, 2020 at 10:12 am

The Gute "smartest person in the room" thing is of his own creation though. He talks up the draft as it's his thing and what he does best...

Then when you look at last year, he basically just drafted every guy at the top of the RAS chart that filled a position of need and called it a day. It was so mindblowingly simple a 3 year old could do it. It showed very, VERY little of him actually being the smartest guy in the room.

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Since'61's picture

April 20, 2020 at 10:20 am

And yet we went 14-4. Name a 3 year old who had a 14-4 Record in the NFL last season. Stay safe. Thanks, Since ‘61

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leche's picture

April 20, 2020 at 12:51 pm

Well "he" didn't do anything, but that's all fine. My point is Gute has shown his cards to be 'supreme athleticism even if it means more development'. And the takeaway is that no one that single minded is a "draft expert"

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Stroh's picture

April 20, 2020 at 05:52 pm

You dont' rise through the ranks to become a GM of a team by accident! You damn right he should think he's the smartest in the room. That's how he got to be the head of the damn room!

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Doug_In_Sandpoint's picture

April 20, 2020 at 09:50 am

What about this scenario? The Packers decide that they believe this year’s season will be cancelled entirely. They trade out of all of this year’s positions, improving all of them for next year’s draft. We take all rookie cash and sign a few more free agents just in case. Every other team loses a year off their rookie contracts while we have like 20 picks next year.

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Since'61's picture

April 20, 2020 at 10:28 am

Doug - very good Strategic thinking. I have actually thought about that possibility as well. However, the problem is that if the NFL season is canceled, which is likely, given the severity of Covid-19 that probably means that the College football season will be canceled as well. In which case how will next year’s draft picks be evaluated?

No one will have played football for an entire year which would meaneverything even more uncertain than usual. It would be a very interesting scenario to watch play out. Stay safe. Thanks, Since ‘61

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Stroh's picture

April 20, 2020 at 07:26 pm

There is almost no chance the NFL season is cancelled! Your one of the hoarders aren't you?!

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Since'61's picture

April 20, 2020 at 10:15 am

Since Ron Wolf became the Packer GM late in the 1991 season the Packers have had 4 losing seasons and 2 8-8 seasons over the last 28 seasons. They have been to 3 Super Bowls and won 2 of them. They have been to 8 NFCCGs winning 3 of them and have made the playoffs 20 out of the last 28 seasons. I’m confident this is second only to the Pats over the same time period.

Given the above, how bad can the Packers drafts have been especially given the fact that we usually draft in the high 20s or early 30s, like this year, and that we have maintained our consistency through 4 different GM regimes, Wolf, Sherman, TT and now Gute. Whatever we may think of our GMs someone or someone’s somewhere in the Packers organization knows what they are doing just based on our on the field results.

Having said that I still hope they pick a WR either at 30 or with whatever pick they have after they trade down(if they do so). Stay safe. Thanks, Since ‘61

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13TimeChamps's picture

April 20, 2020 at 10:56 am

I'm so glad you've pointed out how successful they've been since 1991. Making the playoffs 20 out of 28 years is almost mind boggling in the salary cap era. Yet so many fans on these sites (you know who you are) act like our front office doesn't have a clue. McCarthy was a horrible coach, Thompson was a crappy GM, Gute is in over his head, etc., etc.
I know the comeback to this will be "Yeah but we had two HOF QB's during that stretch and ONLY went to 3 Super Bowls" Came within a whisker of a 4th.
Four losing seasons out of 28. Hopefully, we continue this amazing run.

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splitpea1's picture

April 21, 2020 at 02:26 pm

They've drafted one great QB, drafted pretty well on offense, but the defensive selections obviously leave a lot to be desired. If we hadn't signed some notable defensive free agents, we probably would have not even made it to three Super Bowls.

The past consistency is real nice, but it's time to stop rationalizing, start looking forward, and building a physical team with a solid defensive base so we can take that next step. Repeatedly being the NFC bridesmaid has gotten kind of old, don't you think?

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tm_inter's picture

April 20, 2020 at 11:22 am

The draft is only three days away. I can't wait.

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Lare's picture

April 20, 2020 at 06:39 pm

Nice article, I agree. Not even Gutekunst has any idea on what's going to happen Thursday night. Everything will be dictated by other teams selecting before him.

I know everyone doesn't have anything else to do, but I've gotten so tired of all the pre-draft articles, mocks, predictions, prospect bios and free agent suggestions that I've just quit reading articles about them.

What will be will be, I'll read about what actually happens afterwards.

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jeremyjjbrown's picture

April 20, 2020 at 04:34 pm

"The Truth About the Draft: Nobody Knows Anything"

We just know probabilities. It's like the stock market. You win some, you lose some. You try to win more than you loose.

That doesn't mean nothing can be known.

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frankthefork's picture

April 21, 2020 at 10:00 am

IMO trade with Houston and get #40 , #122 and 197...what do you think?
Now we can get the middle round picks that actually play.

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