Asked if he pays attention to rumors that link Team A to Player B, the Green Bay Packers' general manager said on Thursday: "I know for a fact that they don't have any inside information (on the Packers) because, for the most part, sometimes I'm the only inside information. And I'm not telling anybody."
The Packers' veil of secrecy was evident in how they handled the signing of free-agent defensive end Julius Peppers. In a completely unexpected move, the Packers woke their fans from their traditional March hibernation by signing Peppers on a sleepy Saturday morning.
"This happened fast," Thompson said. "It happened very quietly. It was one of those rare things where the thing was put to bed and everybody was back home before anybody knew about it. Quite frankly, it was kind of refreshing to do it that way."
With rare exceptions — such as Packer Report reporting the Packers' strong interest in Casey Hayward in 2012 — secrecy has been the Packers Way come draft time. Nobody envisioned the Packers — who always traded back under Thompson — moving up to get Clay Matthews in 2009. Thompson traded up again in 2011 to get safety Morgan Burnett; nobody in Burnett's camp knew the Packers had any interest. Nobody could have predicted the Packers would use their first six picks in 2012 on defensive players, with Nick Perry certainly not the expectation as the first-round pick.
So, what direction Thompson will go in next Thursday's first round is anyone's guess. The prospects no doubt have been debated among Thompson, his scouts — including top guns Eliot Wolf, Brian Gutekunst and Alonzo Highsmith — and the coaching staff. Ultimately, it will be Thompson's decision in his role of benevolent dictator. As one source put it, Thompson listens to "everyone and anyone" and gathers as much information as possible. Ultimately, however, the buck stops with him.
Following conventional wisdom, it would be logical to assume the Packers would grab one of the top safeties (HaHa Clinton-Dix or Calvin Pryor) or versatile and athletic linebacker Ryan Shazier if one of them is available at No. 21. Any of those players would add a much-needed athletic presence to the middle of their defense.
Thompson, however, hasn't always followed conventional wisdom.
Take, for instance, the selection of Perry. The Packers needed a 3-4 outside linebacker to pair with Matthews. However, Perry told reporters at the Scouting Combine that he preferred to play defensive end in a 4-3 scheme. Thompson pulled the trigger, anyway.
So, even with the obvious needs on defense, it certainly shouldn't be a shock if the Packers were to pounce on a wide receiver such as Odell Beckham or Jordan Matthews in the first round. Nor should it be a shock if he were to pull the trigger on tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins, either at No. 21 or by moving back. And wouldn't it just be "Totally Ted" to buck conventional wisdom in this outrageously deep draft by trading up rather than back to take advantage of a top prospect falling within range?
"I might sound like a broken record, but we feel that the draft is a long-term investment," Thompson said. "We don't get too carried away with what our perceived needs are at the moment. We think that's good business. If you can marry those things (need and talent) up, that's fine, but if you stretch to try to fill ‘need' somewhere, then you end up messing up a couple of spots, so we try to stick to the best player available. That helps for me because it keeps it simple."
When it comes to cracking the Packers' draft code, nothing has been simple. Other than to expect the unexpected.
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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/PackerReport.