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It's just the beginning

Posted Mar 6, 2018

There is size in this draft and rushers who know how to use it

Derek from Eau Claire, WI

Our secondary is loaded with young first- and second-round draft picks. Shouldn’t it become a strength of the team at some point, if healthy?

I agree. They just need playing time and experience. Damarious Randall played how he’s capable of playing during the final two months of the season and Kevin King is as good a cornerback prospect as there is in this league. It’s just the beginning. With Joe Whitt Jr.’s track record, there’s reason to believe the pass defense can turn things around next season. It happened when fans wanted to rush to judgment on Tramon Williams, Sam Shields, Casey Hayward and Micah Hyde. Patience.

Rick from Bluffton, SC

Other than quarterback, how many top-five picks in the last five drafts are still around? I think that you can build a great team with fewer picks. Would my last five drafts prove me right or wrong?

Well, all of the first five picks from the last five drafts are still around. They aren’t all superstars, but they’re still in the league. There are a few cases where teams with fewer picks have done OK with their draft classes, but can think of more examples where it didn’t work out. Fewer picks mean fewer bites at the apple.

Mike from Fort Wayne, IN

What is the process of assigning value to graded players and who is involved? Is it by committee, scouts, debate, etc.?

The scouts write their own reports on prospects and assign grades. Eliot Wolf once told the story about how his first scouting report was on future Steelers cornerback Chad Scott. He gave him a first-round grade. The GM takes all of the data – and his own analysis – and makes the best decision he can for the franchise.

Chris from Appleton, WI

I know the Packers have this supposed "need" at pass rusher, but I can't help but be blown away by Leighton Vander Esch. The combination of size and speed (256 pounds with a three-cone under 6.9) is nearly unheard of. I can't help but think having a linchpin for the defense could do wonders for the pass rush. Am I crazy here?

I know Mike Mayock told reporters at the combine this isn’t a great year for pass rushers, but I’m enamored by several in this year’s draft. There is size in this draft and rushers who know how to use it. Vander Esch (6-4), Sam Hubbard (6-5), Josh Sweat (6-5), Marcus Davenport (6-6), Chad Thomas (6-6) and Arden Key (6-6) all have phenomenal length for “elephant” ends. We still have a long way to go until draft day, but Vander Esch shot onto my radar with his numbers at the combine.

Kyle from Spooner, WI

Amid all this reminiscing about Ted Thompson's brilliance in moving on from Favre to Rodgers, let's not forget that the draft pick acquired in the trade with the Jets ultimately helped the Packers acquire Clay Matthews. Picks, not players.

The sliding scale on which round the pick would fall into was a nice touch, as well. And Thompson was able to swing that trade because he had picks to wheel and deal.

Maximillian from Sydney, Australia

Does that 40-time catapult Shaq Griffin into a first-round pick for the draft?

First round, I’m not sure, but it would be an awesome story if it worked out that way. The projections I saw going into the combine had him as a likely third-day selection. I’d imagine these numbers are going to vault him at least into mid-round consideration, if not higher.

Sam from Sussex, WI

What is your take on Lamar Jackson? How successful do you think he can be? What skills must he refine at the next level? For a Heisman winner, he seems to be flying low.

I love him. I think he’s going to go far in this league…as a quarterback. There are some mechanical things he’ll have to work on at the next level, but his speed and arm strength are going to take him far. If I were a GM, he’d be on my board.

Luke from Dorchester, England

If Alex Smith had been taken at No. 24 by the Packers, would they have moved on from Favre for him?

That’s impossible to answer. Sticking with Rodgers was based on what Ted Thompson and Mike McCarthy had seen from him in practice for three years. Alex Smith’s first three seasons in San Francisco were affected by playing early and a revolving door of coordinators and coaches.

Mike from Charlotte, NC

We're all talking about Rodgers as though we know that he'll make a full recovery. What if he doesn't? I gotta think the Packers have a lot of information on him, but until you see him in real and sustained game-time action I think it is foolish to discuss the signing. I am alarmed that they are planning to sign him before that. Aaron Rodgers or not, we're talking a cap-killing contract. What if those 13 screws take part of that magic away?

I think you’re working yourself into a tizzy, Mike. Step away from the keyboard, put a cold washcloth on your forehead and breathe. Remember when everyone was worried Tom Brady wouldn’t be the same after he tore his ACL in 2008? And then all the mass hysteria when something “went wrong” in his surgery? Rodgers is going to be fine. The Packers will have all the information they need before the deal gets done.

Dave from Germantown, TN

How much do the scouts consider the value of playing at a football factory like Alabama, OSU, etc., when evaluating a prospect? The player may be a one-year starter but he was up against four- and five-star recruits and future NFL players for the three or four years at school every day in practice.

It doesn’t hurt. While there are no sure things, NFL teams can get a gauge of a player’s upside from the SEC even if there’s only one season of film.

Jeremy from Green Bay, WI

How much stock do teams put into players that skip their last bowl game? Does it depend on the reasoning or is that viewed as "quitting" on your team?

The player has to do what’s best for the player. I don’t care how it’s viewed. What do you call it when a college coach leaves before a bowl game to take another job?

Joe from Santa Monica, CA

Hypothetically speaking, if Aaron Rodgers were to take a contract before Kirk Cousins, would that then low-ball the amount Cousins would get as a free agent?

I don’t think so. Cousins is an unrestricted free agent. Rodgers is not. Supply and demand.

Stephen from Burleson, TX

Do you guys think if a quarterback is available at 14, would Green Bay consider taking this before the DB?

This is where a writer with less self-awareness would say something crazy like, “I’ll eat my hat if the Packers draft a quarterback at No. 14.” Darin Gantt taught me better than that. Let’s just say I’d be surprised if Gutekunst went with a QB at No. 14. There are greater needs elsewhere.

Mike from Wilsonville, OR

Remembering back to 2005, do you think the Packers will have done enough due diligence on a top quarterback prospect, say Josh Rosen, to seriously consider drafting him if he were unexpectedly to drop to them, as did Aaron Rodgers?

If by due diligence you mean have a grade on Rosen and the other quarterbacks, then yes. I still wouldn’t count on Green Bay taking one that high.

JJ from Cayce, SC

I know I’m biased here but if Hayden Hurst is available in the second round, how do we not take him? He’s older but if we are truly in win-now mode then wouldn’t it make sense to take someone who’s already physically developed for the NFL and could contribute right away?

Being an older prospect doesn’t necessarily mean he’s ready to contribute. Just look at Margus Hunt, Brandon Weeden and Drew Henson. Hurst has great size and base. That being said, Hurst is a solid NFL prospect. His 40 time is going to get him noticed (4.67). Thompson never drafted a tight end earlier than the third round. Is Gutekunst willing?

Scott from Dallas, TX

I know each team is limited to 60 interviews at the combine, but is there a limit on the number of interviews a player can do? I've been on some marathon job interviews and I can imagine that it could be quite a beating for some of the top players.

The standard is about 15 minutes, according to several prospects at the combine. Really, it can’t go much longer than that since both the team and player usually have more interviews lined up afterward.

Chai from Evans, GA

When a player signs a franchise tag with a team, then later comes to terms on a contract in the same year, how does the tag count against the cap for the year, and would that contract take the place of the franchise tag? Thanks for keeping me entertained.

Once the tag is signed, the player is locked in at that salary and it serves as a one-year contract (guaranteed for injury). If he later agrees to an extension, teams tack on the extra years and can absorb some of the signing bonus into the existing cap.

Tony from Hershey, PA

How do cash incentives get figured into the cap number? Most contracts include built-in incentives and I was curious how that money was set aside. If a player reaches an incentive, how is that money counted on the team's cap? If he doesn't, where does that budgeted money end up?

There is “likely to be earned” and “unlikely to be earned” language worked into every incentive in a contract. Likely to be earned means the player previously accomplished that incentive in the past (snaps played, sacks, Pro Bowl selection, etc.). So that bonus is calculated into his initial cap number. If he doesn’t meet those thresholds, then teams get credit back. Unlikely to be earned means the player has yet to accomplish those feats and it isn’t reflected in the initial number. If he accomplishes it, then it gets added to the cap.

Paul from Milwaukee, WI

There have been a few standout guys at the combine that look like they could be picked in the top 10. For those players, do Packer scouts and coaches who attend the combine spend a lot of time gathering information on guys they have no realistic chance in getting? If a QB or RB is projected to go to a certain team within the first 10 picks, why would the Packer organization spend a ton of resources (interviewing, gathering data, etc...) with that particular player?

The Packers probably will do their research a little more this year picking higher in the draft, but I don’t know if it resulted in them dedicating formal interviews to those players. There are only so many hours in a day in Indianapolis.

Perry from Campbellsport, WI

Do teams still do the Wonderlic test? Also, do some teams take into account how much talent is coming at a certain position in next year’s draft?

Teams don’t do the Wonderlic. The NFL administers it. They have their draft boards for the future, too. Scouting isn’t just a one-year retrospective. It’s constantly monitoring the college ranks for talent. I talked to a couple agents and a scout in Indianapolis who already were talking about where a few prospects will fall in the 2019 NFL Draft.

Juan from San Antonio, TX

Ever been to San Antonio? For the combine, we have a dome stadium next to a convention center surrounded by hotels and the Riverwalk with great restaurants a few minutes’ walk from it all. Oh, and right now weather highs in the 70s with nighttime lows in upper 50s. Sound like an option? The NCAA thinks so for multiple Final Fours.

I visited San Antonio in 2011. I absolutely loved it. The Riverwalk is breathtaking. I wouldn’t hold my breath on the combine heading south, though.

Dennis from Naples, FL

Mike, you answered a question about the Combine staying in Indianapolis. I am pretty sure with the new stadium in Los Angeles that the Combine will be moving west for its new home? Prove me wrong.

The NFL doesn’t ask me for my input, but I feel like Indianapolis is perfect spot for the combine. It’s in the heart of the United States and a fair commute for all teams, scouts and prospects. There’s also history to consider. It’s practically an institution. I mean who hasn’t visited “Steak ’n Shake” at 2 a.m.?

Dan from Wausau, WI

More of a comment. I see an interesting situation developing in Minnesota. The alleged pursuit of Cousins suggests a recognition by MN that you cannot win it all without what you perceive to be the "man" under center vs. Zimmer's philosophy, which is win with defense, ball control and not beating yourself. I don't think committing to the "man" financially necessarily fits with Zimmer's philosophy and am curious to see how it plays out.

We don’t know because the Vikings haven’t had “the man” during Zimmer’s tenure. Yes, Sam Bradford, Teddy Bridgewater and Case Keenum had flashes, but they’ve combined for one Pro Bowl – and it was Bridgewater as a replacement in 2015. I, too, am curious to see how it plays out. Zimmer is right. His legacy will be tied to whatever direction the Vikings take.

Garrett from Texas

Has anyone ever run at the combine with their arms flailing back like in DragonBall Z?

No. Unfortunately, Mike Daniels didn’t run the 40 at the combine in 2012 or otherwise he might have tried.

Lori from Brookfield, WI

Wes, please tell the story about yourself that Larry alluded to in his last "Three Things.”

The one about how I maxed out on the bench press at 170 pounds and only after Mike Atkinson stopped the bar from crushing my larynx?

Adam from Columbia, MD

Maybe Wes will get an extra Coke Zero as part of his next paycheck.

It was waiting for me when I got into the office Monday.

Milan from New York, NY

Mike and Wes: My wife wants to know why you still have your high school yearbook pictures on the Insiders site, when your podcasts show two healthy, wealthy adults.

Wealthy? You sure she’s on the right website?

Jim from Rancho Cucamonga, CA

Are you sure the “Three Things” video report with Larry wasn't two-and-a-half? If Larry was counting on his fingers it wasn't quite three. It did provide good info and entertainment value as always.

It may be my favorite part of the job.

Mitchell from Edmond, OK

Hey Wes, do you still call Ma Hod every night before bed to tell her goodnight?

No comment.


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