How the Packers Drafts Hurt Their Depth
Clay Matthews’ fraudulent flag against Minnesota changed both the narrative and the outcome of the game, but it also demonstrated something about about the Packers in stark detail: they have no depth.
After the officials had a laugh to themselves, picked up the flag they’d thrown after Matthews aggressively hugged Kirk Cousins, and marched off the requisite 15-yards, the Vikings proceeded to shred the Packers defense for what remained of the fourth quarter and most of overtime.
The Packers couldn’t keep up, in large part because they didn’t have the physical ability to put quality players on the field in opposition. The pass rush and secondary were both completely gassed, but they also simply lacked numbers; they couldn’t put good players on the field.
The Vikings did exactly what you’d expect when facing an overmatched unit: they moved the ball easily and scored with abandon. But for the herculean efforts of their kicker, the Vikings would have defeated the Packers.
The Packers’ lack of depth can be attributed in part to injury. Oren Burks and Josh Jones didn’t play on Sunday and Kevin King was sidelined at halftime with a groin issue that’s likely to keep him out this week as well. But the lack of depth on defense is also an indictment of the last several years of the Packers’ draft.
How the draft determines depth
The chart below shows how many players remain on the roster from each of Ted Thompson and Brian Gutekunst’s drafts as general manager. As you’d expect, most of the draft classes dating back to 2005 have been all but exhausted, but a bad trend develops late.
The 2013, 2014, and 2015 draft classes are all but non-existent on the Packers’ current roster. These are players who should be either nearing the end of their rookie deals or just starting their second contracts, but they’re out of Green Bay entirely.
The 2015 class is particularly bad. Only Ty Montgomery and Jake Ryan remain, and Ryan is out for the year with a knee injury.
It’s true that some of these players not retained by the Packers have turned out to be useful players elsewhere. Micah Hyde and Casey Hayward, for example, both went on to success in Buffalo and San Diego, respectively. But as a whole, I think it’s more of a problem that the Packers haven’t identified quality players in the draft at all, and their depth has suffered as a result.
Teams rely on the draft as a source for quality players whom they can control for several years. Even if most picks don’t become stars, if they can contribute anything at all, the selection can be worth something to a team.
The Packers, though, don’t have contributors from many of Thompson’s late classes, and that lack of depth came out in a big way on Sunday. The Packers will need more contributions from recent picks to prevent it from happening again.