GREEN BAY – Defensive lineman, check.
Offensive tackle, check.
Pass rusher, check.
That’s a pretty good haul for two days. The Packers’ work is not done in this draft, with four more picks on the docket for Saturday, but Green Bay wrapped up the first three rounds with key additions that help the roster at arguably its three biggest areas of need.
Inside linebacker has not yet been addressed, but it’s hard to argue with the three positions the Packers selected. Quality big men are always difficult to find, and pass rushers are the stars of the 3-4 defense and the most significant difference-makers in the current game.
“Everything’s going good so far,” said GM Ted Thompson after selecting Utah State linebacker Kyler Fackrell with the Packers’ third-round pick on Friday night, bringing the first two days of the 2016 draft to a close.
Fackrell is the pass rusher the Packers had to add with Julius Peppers in the final year of his contract and Nick Perry re-signing for just one year.
Don’t start calling Thompson a needs drafter, though. Needs are naturally part of the equation, but if the picks are the right value and not reaches from further down the board, a GM is getting the job done.
In the second round, Thompson actively sought the convergence of need and value. He made a rather bold move, giving up two picks in the fourth and seventh rounds to move up nine spots and grab Indiana offensive tackle Jason Spriggs.
Conceding the draft is a “tricky business,” Thompson had zoned in on Spriggs once he got through the first half of the second round.
“We were sweating it looking at the board,” Thompson said. “It just didn’t look like the board was going to hold up all the way. It might have been a little bit conservative on my part but I felt like I’d rather have him than risk losing him.”
Translation: Thompson really, really liked this guy.
The value at that spot in the second round was just too good, and Thompson admitted he can have a stubborn streak in those situations.
“We really wanted him, to make him a Packer right about there,” he said. “We felt we were dancing with the devil if we waited too much.”
There’s admittedly risk in spending multiple picks for one player. Thompson has enjoyed success trading up before (Clay Matthews, Morgan Burnett, Casey Hayward). He has spent unwisely in that manner, too (Jerel Worthy, Terrell Manning). A tricky business, indeed.
On Thursday, Thompson had his choice of a handful of top-rated defensive linemen late in the first round, and he took the one he had graded the highest in UCLA’s Kenny Clark.
On Friday, an offensive lineman in Spriggs who was available far later than he ever projected became another big body for the trenches he just had to have.
“It’s a good big-guy draft, and we’ve added two of them,” director of player personnel Brian Gutekunst said after the selection of Spriggs. “That was a goal of ours.”
The goals on Saturday likely include an inside linebacker, but which prospects fit at which spots for Thompson is the burning question. A running back, a tight end and another big guy sure wouldn’t hurt, either.
The trade on Friday will make Thompson have to sweat again looking at his board on Saturday with only four picks going into the day, two of them compensatory selections at the end of the fourth round he can’t trade.
But that only speaks to how sure he was about giving up what he did to get who he wanted. He knew the consequences for the final four rounds, yet he did it anyway.
That’s having the courage of your convictions, as well as an idea for how to navigate the rest of the draft.
All that’s left is to see where Thompson’s path leads the Packers. Tricky business? Sure, but that’s what makes this fun.