8. What if the Packers never traded up for Clay Matthews?
The Packers traded up for Clay Matthews in the 2009 NFL Draft with the New England Patriots, giving up a second-round pick and two third-round picks to get him, receiving a fifth-rounder in return.
The move benefited Ted Thompson and the Packers as Clay Matthews is the team’s all-time leader in sacks and is still one of the best defensive players on the Packers even after nearly a decade with the team.
But the move benefited Bill Belichick and the Patriots even more as they ended up trading one of the third-round picks that they acquired in the trade for a pick that they used to move up and get Rob Gronkowski and another pick that they used to draft Julian Edelman.
Regardless of the success the Patriots have had with this trade, the move Thompson made to get Clay Matthews is still one of the best moves he made during his tenure with Packers.
What if the Packers never traded up for Clay Matthews?
The Packers defense during the 2010s would have dramatically changed had this move not happened, since not making this trade would mean that the Packers missed out on one of the best defensive players in their history.
If they had not moved up for Matthews and stayed at pick 41 I am going to assume that they would have taken a player to help their front seven. I think they would have selected Paul Kruger who was an edge talent out of Utah and went a few picks later.
The Packers defense would have been very different in 2009/2010. They would have likely lost early in the 2010 playoffs instead of winning Super Bowl XLV without Matthews, who was an All-Pro that year.
In that time Kruger does a decent job but is still underwhelming.
The Packers decide to bring in another pass rusher and draft Cameron Jordan in the first round of the 2011 NFL Draft, who becomes the Packers’ second first-round pick from Cal in a decade.
The Jordan pick is a success (not just because they avoided taking Derek Sherrod) and he is still having a great career in Green Bay in this timeline. The Packers defense continues to be average in the 2010s and the Packers still draft Mike Daniels in 2012.
The three-headed monster of Jordan, Daniels and B.J. Raji gives the Packers a solid defensive line. But while having Jordan on the line gives Daniels’ rookie stats a boost, the Packers still take Datone Jones in the 2013 NFL Draft to pair with Nick Perry.
The Packers defense is decent in 2013 but the Packers soon realize Jones is a bust and they decide to sign Julius Peppers in the 2014 offseason (which obviously happened in reality) and he has a similar career to the one that he had with Green Bay in the normal timeline.
The Packers take Denzel Perryman instead of Damarious Randall in the first round of the 2015 NFL Draft. But Thompson doesn’t feel as secure at the cornerback position headed into the 2016 offseason without Randall, and decides to bring back Casey Hayward.
Raji still retires and the Packers still take Kenny Clark in the first round of the 2016 NFL Draft, but they decide after Peppers returns to Carolina (which still happens) to take T.J. Watt in the first round of the 2017 NFL Draft and then move up in the second round for Chidobe Awuzie.
The Packers defense struggles in the first part of the 2010s without Matthews but as of today their defense might be strangely better without Matthews in my scenario.
Actual Packers 2017 defensive starters
Defensive line: Mike Daniels, Kenny Clark and Dean Lowry
Alternative reality Packers 2017 defensive starters
Defensive line: Mike Daniels, Cameron Jordan and Kenny Clark
Linebackers: T.J. Watt, Nick Perry, Blake Martinez and Denzel Perryman
Secondary: Casey Hayward, Chidobe Awuzie, Morgan Burnett and Ha Ha Clinton-Dix