Imagine an entire wall that's a giant grease board. A couple of banquet tables in the middle of the room arranged in a large "L". More tables ringing the walls. Every seat with a laptop opened and on. Telephones are lined up on that center table with every NFL team and player agent on speed dial. That's the basic decor of what we used to affectionately call, the Packers' War Room. Political correctness will leave as the draft room. At the head of that center section of tables is Packers General Manager Ted Thompson, flanked by Head Coach Mike McCarthy and down the middle row are Thompson's chief personnel lieutenants, Elliot Wolf, Brian Gutenkunst and Alonzo Highsmith. Along the outer walls sit the rest of the scouting department, area scouts, the medical staff and assitant coaches. There's a couple of high definition TV's dialed in to both ESPN and the NFL Network. Every report on every draft eligible player is at the entire group's fingertips on all those laptops. The gang is ready to pick the 2014 draft.
Most of the debate about this player versus that player has already been heard. Aside from last minute persuasions, once the Houston Texans come off the clock with the number one overall pick Thursday night, that giant grease board wall will do the rest of the talking.
Thompson's draft board is massive, easily containing 300 names or more. Less than that number will have their name called by the end of the 7th round on Saturday. Here's a rough outline of how that draft board is laid out.
Like every mock draft there's a vertical list. The highest graded player, regardless of position, all the way to number 300. For argument's sake, it might look like this:
1. Jadeveon Clowney DE South Carolina
2 Sammy Watkins WR Clemson
3 Khalil Mack LB Buffalo
4 Jeff Matthews OT Texas A & M
5 Darqueze Dennard CB Michigan State
6 CJ Mosely LB Alabama
7 Marquis Lee WR USC
8 Taylor Lewan OT Michigan
9 Ha Ha Clinton Dix S Alabama
10 Eric Ebron TE North Carolina
Thompson also utilizes a horizontal list. The top ranked players by position, for example, how Ted's tight end list might look:
1 Eric Ebron North Carolina 2 Jace Amaro Texas Tech 3 Troy Niklas Notre Dame...
Finally, there's a list of players that merit first round grades, second round grades and so on through the possible undrafted free agents they'll sign by Sunday.
That's why Thompson needs an entire wall, but once the picking begins, the names come off the vertical, horizontal and the round by round grade lists. By the time number 21 rolls around, the draft room inhabitants can all see who their highest rated overall player is, how he fares at a position that may have experienced a round one run, and most importantly, whether or not his grade merits being a number one selection. If all three considerations brings the group to one name, regardless of position, he'll doff a Green Bay Packers cap, get a bro hug from Roger Goodell and contract negotiation notwithstanding, become the newest member of the squad.
Trader Ted is more than willing to pull the trigger on a deal if he sees a name on his board with a second round grade and is still waiting to be called midway through round three. Sacrifice a couple of picks later on and move up and get him. If all of his third round graded players are long gone when their third round pick is coming, he'll find a taker, deal down and pick up an extra 4th or 5th rounder when that group of players on his board are still bountiful.
When all is said and done, you'll hear Thompson say about his first rounder, "He was the highest rated player on our board." With mid to late round picks, the line is, "We never thought he'd still be available at that pick."
If the draft room operates as planned, the Packers will gain a starter, maybe two, and a handful of 2014 backups and special teams players.