Now, because they had the worst record (8-7-1) of the four teams that exited the playoffs this past weekend, we know the Packers will have the 21st pick in the 2014 NFL Draft.
A tough finish to the season can only be consoled by looking forward. There will definitely be plenty of changes on the Packers roster this offseason. With close to 20 players on the current roster set to be free agents come March, there will be plenty of holes for Ted Thompson and his crew to fill before the 2014 season begins.
As usual, Thompson’s MO will be building through the draft, and with the 21st pick in the first round the Packers will definitely have the opportunity to find a key contributor for the 2014 season.
The Packers have plenty of needs on the roster, and this may only intensify as Green Bay loses players to free agency.
However, a brief survey of the past 15 drafts would tell us that teams can usually find a quality player at pick 21, and this should give us hope that Thompson and company will find a player in the first round that can come in and contribute immediately.
Of the past fifteen 21st overall picks, twelve have been consistent starters for their respective ball clubs. Five of the 15 have made it to the Pro Bowl – wide receiver Randy Moss (1998), cornerback Nate Clements (2001), nose tackle Vince Wilfork (2004), center Alex Mack (2009), and tight end Jermaine Gresham (2010).
In fact, only two of the 15 21st picks could be considered busts.
In 2000, Sylvester Morris was a promising wide receiver prospect coming out of Jackson State, but after being selected by the Kansas City Chiefs in the first round, Morris dealt with a litany of knee injuries and ended up only playing in 15 games for Kansas City before being released.
In 2005, the Jacksonville Jaguars took a chance and drafted athletic prospect and former Arkansas quarterback, Matt Jones, with the 21st overall pick. In his rookie season, Jones attempted to make the transition to wide receiver, but the whole project was a mess and Jones was out of a job only a few seasons later.
But really, out of the 15 players selected 21st overall in the draft over the past decade and a half there have only been two players that haven’t panned out.
Likewise, Alex Mack has been Cleveland’s starting all-pro center since being drafted in 2009, and Sam Baker has been a consistent presence at left tackle for the Atlanta Falcons since he was taken with the 21st pick in 2008.
But the success of the 21st pick goes well beyond offensive linemen.
The Bengals have found two quality tight ends in Tyler Eifert (2013) and Jermaine Gresham (2010) when they selected 21st overall. Both players cause matchup problems on the field, and I am sure are the type of players the Packers would like to find at tight end if they go that route with their first round selection this year.
Historically, the 21st pick has also been a good position for finding a top nose tackle. Both Vince Wilfork (2004) and Phil Taylor (2011) were taken 21st overall, and they are arguably the top nose tackles in the league.
The Packers will also be looking for safety help in the draft, and the only safety taken at no. 21 over the past 15 years was Reggie Nelson, who was drafted by Jacksonville in 2007 and is now one of the top free safeties in the league and a true ballhawk for the Cincinnati Bengals defense.
There will also be plenty of 3-4 pass rushers available this year in the latter half of the first round, and in 2012, the Patriots found a pretty good one in Chandler Jones with their 21st pick. Jones had 11.5 sacks in 2013 and has been a consistent force in generating quarterback pressure.
So does the 21st pick guarantee the Packers will find a true difference-maker in the first round?
Draft busts, like Matt Jones and Sylvester Morris, would beg otherwise, but with a look at the past 15 drafts, the 21st pick is a pretty good spot in the first round.
The Packers just may get a shot at selecting the top tight end, safety, or nose tackle in the draft. They may also get a chance at finding value in the depth of pass rushers, offensive linemen, and cornerbacks in the 2014 draft class.
We know Thompson will draft based on value, but all early indications show that for this year’s draft the Packers will probably find a quality player at a position of need with the 21st overall pick.