Five things learned at the NFL Scouting Combine – Day 2

Notes on offensive linemen and the NFC North


INDIANAPOLIS – Draft prospects began to meet with the media on Thursday at the NFL Scouting Combine, while the press conferences for coaches and general managers around the league also wrapped up.

Here's a handful of highlights:

1. Some top offensive tackles are also being looked at as potential guards.

Kansas State's Dalton Risner has versatility in his background, while Alabama's Jonah Williams and Oklahoma's Cody Ford have also heard from teams about moving inside.

Risner's story is interesting, because he played center since the age of 5 through his first year in Manhattan, Kan., where he earned Freshman All-America honors. Then he moved to right tackle for three years, making himself into a highly touted prospect.

"Every team pretty much asks me where they believe I might fit in," Risner said. "I feel comfortable across the whole offensive line. At the Senior Bowl, I had the opportunity to play left tackle, center and right tackle. At Kansas State, I took a lot of guard reps throughout practice.

"My answer to all them is I really do feel comfortable wherever a coach needs me."

Williams and Ford publicly expressed a stronger desire to stay at tackle, but they aren't going to rule out whatever gets them on the field fastest in the NFL.

Williams, who has been training with Risner out in California, is smaller than the prototypical tackle at 302 pounds. He's also dealing with the "short arms" stigma, as they measured 33 5/8 inches, not quite the supposed ideal 34 1/2 for blindside pass protectors. But his resume at Alabama is impressive.

Ford is the biggest of the top tackle prospects at 329 pounds but has heard rumblings about moving to guard as well. He's one of four starters from the Sooners' starting offensive line at this combine.

"Personally, I feel better on the outside, but talking to teams throughout the week, it's pretty much been can we use you everywhere?" Ford said. "That's what the talk has been and I'm alright with that."

2. Wisconsin's three offensive linemen might figure out a friendly wager on who gets drafted first.

Tackle David Edwards and guards Michael Deiter and Beau Benzschawel haven't put anything on the line, but they might warm up to the idea.

"We haven't sorted that out yet, but maybe," said Benzschawel, a Wisconsin native who grew up a Packers fans. "After the combine, maybe we'll get something going."

Added Deiter: "No, but it'll be a little bit of bragging rights. But we could. That's a good idea. Maybe we should."

Deiter already has bragging rights on his linemates as the one who scored a touchdown for the Badgers, catching a backwards pass on a trick play and finding his way into the end zone.

"It's come up a couple times, definitely something I like to say," Deiter said, joking that because he caught the ball, but the play was officially a rush, he's both a wide receiver and running back as well. "Not a lot of guys can say that. You can go see it – 2017 vs. Illinois."

3. Playoff heartbreak will serve as the Bears' motivation.

Chicago's last-second loss to Philadelphia in the NFC wild-card round in January on a missed field goal by kicker Cody Parkey (since released) will be fueling a Bears team that remains confident it's right on the brink.

"They truly believed in where we were last year at the end of the year in the playoffs, and they were ready to win the Super Bowl," Bears head coach Matt Nagy said. "But they also understand how tough it is, and every play matters."

Nagy likened the motivational piece to the Bears' loss last season in Week 1 at Lambeau Field, when Packers QB Aaron Rodgers returned from a knee injury to bring Green Bay back from a 20-0 deficit for a 24-23 victory. Nagy said it was a "sick feeling," but it stuck with his players and pushed them to their first NFC North title and postseason appearance since 2010.

They're carrying many of those same feelings now into the offseason.

"The hunger that was in our players' guts and what was in their eyes when we talked and I met with them individually (after the playoff loss), you can't make that up," Nagy said. "They're ready. They're ready to get back at it.

"I think now it's hard to stay where we're at, being 12-4. We're 0-0 now. So that's going to be my biggest challenge as the head coach is to make sure that there's no complacency and our guys realize that we're now the hunted."

Take a look at photos of Packers players during their NFL Scouting Combine appearances.

4. An old friend/foe who's back in the division has the Lions excited, and there's no telling what Detroit will do with the No. 8 overall pick in the draft.

Former Packers assistant coach Darrell Bevell, who after six years in Green Bay (2000-05) went on to serve as offensive coordinator of both Minnesota (2006-10) and Seattle (2011-17), is back in the NFC North and Detroit is fired up to have him.

Bevell is the Lions' new offensive coordinator working for defensive-oriented head coach Matt Patricia, an interesting match given they were opposing coordinators for the Seahawks and Patriots, respectively, in Super Bowl XLIX.

"He's obviously somebody I have a great deal of respect for, playing against him in some of the bigger stages of our game," Patricia said. "One of the things that's great about him is just his experience through the different systems he's been in, and he's been able to evolve and adapt many different offenses to fit the quarterbacks that he's been around."

Those quarterbacks include Brett Favre, in both Green Bay and Minnesota, and Russell Wilson in Seattle. Now he's with Matthew Stafford in Detroit, which is looking for more offensive weapons for the veteran signal-caller.

Rumors are swirling that the Lions, who own the highest pick in the draft of any NFC North team at No. 8 overall, could select a tight end that high, given the buzz surrounding Iowa prospect T.J. Hockenson.

But Lions GM Bob Quinn isn't about to tip his hand, and there's no telling which direction he might go.

"If it's a player that's worthy of the eighth overall pick, and he happens to be a tight end, then I'm not against that," Quinn said. "It's kind of a little bit early in the process to say who that player may or may not be, but I don't have any guidelines that I've ever developed over my years in scouting that say, 'You can't take a player at this position, at that number.' I don't think that way."

5. Mike Zimmer has a new thought about dealing with the Vikings' kicking woes.

Minnesota's head coach saw his team knocked out of the playoffs three years ago when Blair Walsh missed a 27-yard field goal.

Then last season, Daniel Carlson missed three field goals in Week 2 at Lambeau Field against the Packers, including two in overtime. Carlson's miss from 35 yards out on the final play ended the game in a tie, which ultimately cost the 8-7-1 Vikings a playoff spot.

"You know, these golfers have a swing coach, and everybody's got coaches now to do these things, and so I've been thinking really, really hard about trying to find a true kicker's coach, where that's all he really does," Zimmer said.

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