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The combine does not imitate football

Posted Feb 26, 2013

Prospects continue to emerge based on combine workouts

John from Little Rock, AR

Interesting question and answer regarding the top teams passing on their picks. Do you think Goodell would penalize such behavior for the spectacle it would create?

I don’t think it would get to that point. Passing on a pick has been done in the past. Bill Belichick did it when he was the coach of the Browns and the player he had targeted, Kyle Brady, was picked by the Jets directly in front of the Browns. Belichick passed on his pick as he worked a trade with the 49ers. Here’s what interests me about the question as it pertains to the draft now: Teams have become manic about fitting themselves to the pick. Everybody is targeting players and then moving to where those players fit if they don’t fit where the teams are originally ordered. So, passing on picks can be a means for fitting yourself to the pick in those cases when the player you’ve targeted doesn’t fit where you are and you can’t trade. We’re talking about passing on a pick for the purpose of saving cap room, and it makes all the sense in the world to me. The game is fluid; it steadily evolves. Those who embrace change are the ones that win in any era.

Jeff from Minocqua, WI

Vic, if the Packers draft Margus Hunt (pictured), I’m offering my services. I lived in Estonia for 11 years and I’m fluent. I would love to see the beast of the East in green and gold.

No need; he speaks perfect English. I sat in on his interview this past weekend and I was enchanted by how calmly and intelligently he spoke. I felt as though I was in a college classroom listening to a professor. I wanted to ask, “Margus, do you think you’re too intelligent to play football?” I watched him at the Senior Bowl. I didn’t him see him do much. Tony Pauline’s answer to that observation was that Hunt is raw. I can appreciate that answer. Rick Gosselin offered an interesting opinion on Hunt when I asked Rick about Hunt. He said the guy is a phenomenal kick blocker.

Jonny from River Falls, WI

Kenny Vaccaro has great speed, power and playmaking ability. Do you think he would be a great contributor against the read option?

That’s not why Vaccaro is likely to be a top 15 pick. Vaccaro will go early in the draft because he’s a safety that has cornerback-like coverage skills. It makes him an every-downs player. I covered a safety similar to Vaccaro. Carnell Lake ran a 4.37 and had cornerback-like coverage skills. In fact, he played cornerback very effectively late in his career. As a safety, when teams went three-wide, Lake stepped up into the slot and became the nickel corner. Can you understand what an advantage that gives a defensive coordinator against no-huddle offenses? It means you’ll almost never get caught with a bad personnel package on the field. Vaccaro is the new NFL safety, which is to say he’s a safety-corner hybrid.

Terrence from Bangalore, India

European soccer leagues have a system in which teams can loan players. The team loaning out the player can get the player back once the loan period, which is normally half a season or a full season, is complete, but not any time before that. Top teams normally loan out their fringe players to lower teams since they could get more playing time there. Do you think such a system would be useful in the NFL?

The NFL did that kind of stuff years ago. I think it’s a disgrace that any pro sports league would allow such a thing. When I was a kid, the Steelers had a backup quarterback named Rudy Bukich. They got him in a trade with the Bears. The next season, he was gone. I asked my dad why the Steelers got rid of him. He said they gave him back to Halas, and then explained that the Bears had traded Bukich to the Steelers for future considerations. In this case, Bukich was the future consideration. He was traded for himself. Fifty years, I still hate it.

Jeff from Colorado Springs, CO

Have you seen LB Cornelius Washington from Georgia? He’s putting up ridiculous numbers at the combine. He looks like a DE to me. What do you think?

He jumped out at me at the Senior Bowl. I knew nothing about him. All of a sudden, in a pass-rush drill, he made his guy whiff. It was one of those big-time plays that makes you say, “Who dat?” I asked Tony Pauline about him. He told me Washington was a tweener. Tony made it sound problematic, as though Washington would be one of those tweeners that gets stuck between DE and LB. A 3-4 team in need of a rush-backer will fall in love with him because guys with pass-rush talent are at a premium and will always be overdrafted.

Andrew from Somers Point, NJ

Bring Cullen Jenkins back?

That would not be my expectation, but I’m not saying it won’t happen.

Paul from De Pere, WI

Scheme is about finding/creating the favorable one-on-one matchups and exploiting them, so scheme matters in that sense, however, if you have less talent than your opponent, scheme can only mask so much. Put the right players in the right call, they still have to make the play. Spying Kaepernick with Erik Walden did not work. Players, not schemes.

You can scheme schemes or scheme personnel. What you’re describing is scheming personnel. When you scheme personnel, it absolutely is players, not plays, because if the players were different, you wouldn’t use that scheme.

Jered from Baton Rouge, LA

What’s your take on Dion Jordan? Might he be available at the 26th pick? He was very impressive in his workout yesterday, but I’m thinking he’d make a better OLB than a DE.

He’s a rush-backer with huge upside. What bothers me is that he has a chronic shoulder injury that has caused him to lose 20 pounds, since he can’t work out in the weight room as intensely as he’d like. I see that as something that has to be fixed. The next question is how long will it take to fix it and what will that mean for his rookie season? I think the shoulder will drop him.

Grant from Richmond, VA

How much will scouts and GMs take into account a slow 40 time from Manti Te’o? Will it hurt is draft stock?

I think Te’o is in free fall.

David from Racine, WI

I noticed most of the league’s better linemen and pass rushers have great three-cone times, relative to their positions. What does a fast three-cone time tell scouts?

It’s a change-of-direction drill. It tells scouts how quickly a guy can change gears and go in a new direction. I think change of direction is something you should be able to see on game tapes. In my opinion, if you don’t see all of the things you need to know about a guy on a game tape, then you haven’t done enough work on the guy.

Travis from Carlsbad, NM

Cullen Jenkins and Nick Barnett both recently hit the open market. I would say we have issues at both of their respective positions. Do you think it would be a wise move to bring them back? Maybe for nothing else but added depth with former players who know the system?

Or because you know the names? Travis, I’m not speaking for anyone but myself, but my door swings one way, forward. I don’t like the idea of trying to turn the clock back. I think it’s critically important to stay on the front side of the little hand on the clock. In my football world, new and young are better than used and old.

Jonathan from Larson, ND

Maybe I am wrong, but it seems to me that if Greg Jennings really wanted to stay with the Packers, he would be willing to settle for less money. What are your thoughts?

I think that’s unrealistic and unfair. This is professional football, and I think we all know what that means. It disappoints me that so many fans don’t understand or appreciate the emphasis teams must place on a healthy salary cap, and why players that have dedicated their lives to a short-lived profession need to capitalize on their talents to the fullest. It’s the charm of the game. It’s the yin and yang that keeps it from being dull. Age is the enemy. It’s the opponent that always wins. It’s the “team” you never want on your schedule.

Ben from Indianapolis, IN

What is everyone’s obsession with the scheme failed and not the players? Have Packers fan become so spoiled with decades of winning, a recent Super Bowl victory and the love from the media that they cannot accept that the team may have holes in its personnel?

That’s what it is. When you ascribe to plays, not players, you’re finding a way to avoid admitting defeat, because real defeat means having to acknowledge that you weren’t good enough. Plays, not players, is an excuse for losing.

Jesus from El Paso, TX

I hate fantasy football and I am 25 years old. What should I watch when the last ounce of football’s soul is swallowed up by stats and scheme? Will the Super Bowl soon give way to the Madden Bowl?

When I first started covering the combine, the idea was that it imitated football. Now I’m getting a strong feeling that football is imitating the combine.

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