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The combine is becoming the new NFL

Posted Feb 25, 2013

Thoughts on Packers pick, Montee Ball and more

Jacob from Plattsburgh, NY

Two offensive tackles ran faster 40 times than Stepfan Taylor and almost as fast as Montee Ball.

If you’re wondering why that happened, I think the answer is that draft prospects are training specifically for the combine. They’re learning how to cut their times by doing subtle things with their start and stride. The question is will they remember to do those things when they’re playing in a game? In my opinion, 40 times for offensive linemen are meaningless. All I need to know is if the guy can pull across the line of scrimmage and get out in front of the back. If he can do that, as Jonathan Cooper can, then I don’t need a 40 time on him. What we need to understand is that the combine has become more than just a test for draft prospects; it has become an event for fans. The combine is the Super Bowl of fantasy football.

Chris from Andrews, TX

What do you think of Marquise Goodson? He ran the fastest time at the combine.

I think he’s a track man. He looks the part and based on what I saw at the Senior Bowl, he plays the part, too. Goodwin is a little guy you’re not going to run over the middle. You’re going to do one thing with him: Run him up the boundary. He’s a field stretcher and every team needs one, but at what price? In the later rounds, I’m buying, but not before that.

Andrew from Rockford, IL

Geno Smith must hate all this talk about him being a read-option quarterback. In my opinion, Smith has the arm strength and accuracy to be a premier pocket passer. He reminds me a lot of Andrew Luck.

I don’t agree with that comparison at all. I think Smith is a system quarterback who’ll require a lot more grooming in a pro-style offense before he can approach Luck’s level of performance. I liked the way Smith talked at the combine and he turned in a performance that will likely raise his stock, but a big part of his allure is his ability to run. Take that away and he’s not nearly as attractive. I had an enlightening conversation about the read option with Falcons Coach Mike Smith on Saturday night, and he said the same thing Mike Mayock said on Sunday, that you only have to present the threat of being able to run the read option to get the full effect of it. Mike Smith said just knowing an opponent can run the read option makes you have to defend it 60 times a game. Geno Smith will give a team that threat.

Zach from Woodstock, IL

Stepfan Taylor had a 40 time of 4.76, one of the slowest running backs of the day. What will this mean for his draft stock?

It’s going to drop him, unless he runs significantly faster at his pro day or in personal workouts. It doesn’t change my opinion of him because I already knew a lack of speed is the weakness in his game. In my opinion, somebody is going to get a bargain.

Zack from Lynchburg, VA

Since there are a lot of people thinking it, I thought I should just put it out there. What do you think the chances are of Montee Ball falling to the Packers in round two? There will be a lot of Wisconsin sports fans cheering his name on April 25 or 26.

I think he’ll be there. It’s unlikely a guy with his 40 time will go higher than that, but Ball speaks so well in interview situations that it’s possible he’ll cause somebody to fall in love with him. He’s a very impressive interview. He says all of the right things and he says them with belief. You want him on your team.

Brad from Huntsville, TX

Is the combine to Indianapolis what the Senior Bowl is to Mobile?

Yes, but in a much bigger way. The combine is a bigger event. It attracts more of everything, including attention. The Senior Bowl is a Mobile event. The combine is a national event. The explosive growth of the combine is tied directly to fantasy football, which is one of the NFL’s strongest brands. The preponderance of media covering the combine are young people from home-grown web sites they run out of their bedrooms. I couldn’t understand why I knew so few of the army of young reporters at the combine, and then it was explained to me by one of my aged and ink-stained counterparts that these are kids that run their own personal fantasy sites and draft sites. It wasn’t a whole lot of years ago that the combine was a place where football writers that had nothing better to do with themselves went to justify their late-winter existence. The whole thing took place in one hotel and the RCA Dome. The writers hung out in the lobby of the hotel, grabbed coaches and players as they walked by, and did a few stories before they repaired to Ike and Jonesy’s. Now, the combine uses every hotel in Indianapolis and the media contingent is Super Bowlesque, and it’s only going to get bigger. I think this might be the future of the NFL. It’s becoming a track meet league. Fantasy football might be the brand that effects the change in culture the commissioner is seeking.

Joshua from Panama City, FL

I don’t know anything about Knile Davis, but I know he is a big back who just ran a 4.37 40. Does this honestly even matter for him?

There’s not much tape on him, due to injuries that robbed him of playing time, so if his medicals are good, his combine workout could make him a much more serious prospect than anyone would’ve otherwise expected. This guy really does look like Tarzan. If he stays healthy, maybe he’ll prove he can even play like Tarzan. How much are you willing to pay to find out? That’s always the question on these kinds of guys.

Ben from Westmoreland, NY

Is Manti Te’o as a Packer even possible?

I think he could be there, and the Packers interviewed him so they must have some level of interest. He impressed me with his calm and poise in his press conference on Saturday, but he just didn’t pass my eye test. He reminds me of David Pollack, who was a great college football player with good-enough measurables, but some guys just don’t look as big or as menacing as their numbers, and that’s the feeling I got with T’eo.

Mark from Reno, NV

Now, I’m totally confused. The combine interview with Coach McCarthy was all about studying schemes and the read option. Your postgame analysis of the playoff loss to the 49ers was all about winning one-on-one match-ups. Did you finally get a chance to watch some game tape?

Oh, that’s so cute how you worded that. Here’s something you can chew on: The Packers lost at home to the 49ers when they didn’t run the read option, and they lost to the 49ers in the playoffs when the 49ers did run the read option. I guess the scheme didn’t matter. Wadda ya think did matter?

Calvin from Seattle, WA

I think Tony Pauline set a combine record for speed talking.

He’s got all of that information in his head and when he opens his mouth it starts pouring out. He’s the best. I love his work.

Pablo from Mexico City, Mexico

If you find a really good defensive player, just take him and figure out how you’re going to use him. I really liked how Ted Thompson answered that question. Don’t make it more complicated than it already is; just follow your logic and common sense.

Jerry Reese of the Giants said: “There are always good players in the draft. You have to see who fits your system.” Fans and media are always trying to find that one way to do it. The fact of the matter is there are many ways to do it. Whatever your way is, be committed to it.

Carl from Moreno Valley, CA

With the Packers’ coaches visiting Texas A&M to receive coaching on how to stop the read option, are players allowed to attend such sessions? Would they be allowed to seek such outside coaching on their own?

On their own? Yes. With their coaches? No.

Chase from Genoa, IL

At this point in the draft process, every projection and prediction is simply speculation, however, for the sake of conversation, what would you think of Ted Thompson trading out of the first round to get more value picks, in what some experts have called the deepest draft in 10 years.

All of the teams at the top want to do that and nobody wants to come up. The key in going down is finding a team that wants a particular player you don’t want but the team directly behind you does.

Bruce from Las Vegas, NV

Who’s the pick at 26? I’ll go Barrett Jones.

I’ll go with Chance Warmack or Jesse Williams. Or how about Eddie Lacy or D.J. Fluker? Joe Namath? The whole Alabama team? Seriously, I felt like I was covering an Alabama pro day this past weekend. How did they get so many good players?

Thomas from Dunkerton, IA

With so much emphasis being put on value, and there really being no clear-cut top pick this year, do you see a scenario where the top few teams just let the clock run out?

The Vikings did it when they picked Kevin Williams and that worked. I guess you could say that if nobody will trade with you, you can pass until you get to where you want to be. You’d be losing the value of your pick, but if you don’t think what’s there is worth the price, then the value really doesn’t exist. It’s an intriguing question.

Nate from Tucson, AZ

Thanks for the videos from the combine. What’s your connection to the guy from Dallas that you’re featuring him?

His name is Rick Gosselin and he’s an esteemed, long-time football writer for the Dallas Morning News. He also did a draft prospects rankings for a lot of years that was extremely credible. His thoughts play well and I wanted packers.com readers to hear them. Rick is one of a shrinking breed of reporters that have dedicated their lives to their craft. The combine media room is divided by the speaker podiums in the middle. On one side of the podium, the ink-stained wretches such as myself sit and write. The other side of the room tends to be populated by the army of fantasy reporters. Each year, the number of reporters on one side of the room shrinks, while the number of reporters on the other side increases. I worry about my profession.

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