The 2011 Green Bay Packers have to be considered the front-runners to win the Super Bowl. The sheer amount of talent that Green Bay possesses (on both sides of the ball) has been simply dominant thus far. However, the Packers didn't just luck into the talented players they have. Rather, they devised a methodical plan for constructing their team that is probably the smartest I've ever seen.
First, let's look at the origin of this talent...
Here are the starting players on both sides of the ball for the Green Bay Packers, and how they came to be a Packer:
QB: Aaron Rodgers (Drafted in 2005, 1st round)
LT: Marshall Newhouse (Drafted in 2010, 5th round)
LG: T.J. Lang (Drafted in 2009, 4th round)
C: Scott Wells (Drafted in 2004, 7th round)
RG: Josh Sitton (Drafted in 2008, 4th round)
RT: Bryan Bulaga (Drafted in 2010, 1st round)
TE: Jermichael Finley (Drafted in 2008, 3rd round)
WR 1: Greg Jennings (Drafted in 2006, 2nd round)
WR 2: Jordy Nelson (Drafted in 2008, 2nd round)
WR 3: James Jones (Drafted in 2007, 3rd round)
RB: James Starks (Drafted in 2010, 6th round)
DE1: Ryan Pickett (Free Agent via St. Louis)
NT: B.J. Raji (Drafted in 2009, 1st round)
DE2: Jarius Wynn (Drafted in 2009, 6th round)
LB1: Clay Matthews (Drafted in 2009, 1st round)
LB2: A.J. Hawk (Drafted in 2006, 1st round)
LB3: Desmond Bishop (Drafted in 2007, 6th round)
LB4: Erik Walden (Unrestricted Free Agent)
CB1: Charles Woodson (Free Agent via Oakland)
CB2: Tramon Williams (Unrestricted Free Agent)
FS: Morgan Burnett (Drafted in 2010, 3rd round)
SS: Charlie Peprah (Unrestricted Free Agent)
Right away, it's easy to notice the number of drafted starters on this team. of the 22 starters on offense / defense, 17 were homegrown by the Packers organization. This doesn't mention starting kicker Mason Crosby, a 6th round selection in 2007 (Punter Tim Masthay was signed as an Unrestricted Free Agent). All 11 starters on offense were drafted and grown inside the Packers organization. Keep in mind that this is an offense which leads the league in virtually every significant offensive statistic, including points scored.
So, if Green Bay is so successful in the draft, what's their secret? Well, the answer to that question is threefold. First, it's important not to discount the sheer volume of Green Bay's draft selections. In the last 6 years, Green Bay has selected 57 players in the NFL draft. Second, as a general strategy, the Packers identify the skill position players that they are targetting, and trade as needed to get to those players. Rodgers, Jennings, Nelson, and Jones were all in the top 3 slots of the Packers' draft day board in their respective years. If the Packers don't have their heart set on a particular player, they take the best defensive tackle or offensive tackle on the board. DT and OT are, statistically speaking, the hardest positions to fill, so it stands to reason that strength in numbers is a good policy here. Finally, the Packers have simply not missed much on their high-round selections. In the first round of the draft, the Packers have found a starting QB, LB, NT and RT. Those are four of the hardest positions in the NFL to fill, especially considering the quality of Rodgers, Raji, Hawk and Bulaga. In the second round, the Packers have found Nick Collins (starting FS last year - out for the season this year, but still one of the league's finest), Greg Jennings, and Jordy Nelson. The third round has added Finley, James Jones and Morgan Burnett. In the last 6 years, there have been 10 starters drafted out of a total 21 picks from the first 3 rounds. Add Collins, and that's a 50/50 success rate, which is uncanny in the NFL.
For all of you wondering how the Broncos can start to get it together, this is how it's done. Trade NFL-ready players to acquire draft picks. Tons of draft picks. Target specific skill-position players with those picks, and, when in doubt, take the best DT/OT available. And finally, make sure that the players you take in the first 3 rounds are as automatic as they come. That's how Green Bay built a winner, and the Broncos would be wise to do the same.