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I liked what I saw in 2008


Steve from Fredonia, WI

With Donald Driver nearing retirement, do you see the Packers going for an athletic, aggressive receiver in the draft?

Vic: As opposed to a nonathletic, nonaggressive receiver? Just kidding. Yeah, I could see the Packers picking a wide receiver. This draft is supposed to have some depth at wide receiver in the middle rounds and that's always a good spot to take a swing at the next Donald Driver, so to speak. I love taking wide receivers in the middle to late rounds: I just don't like taking them in the first round. If one is at the top of the board, well, then go ahead and pick him, but I'd prefer that a premium-position player be at the top of my board in the first round.

Paul from Cheyenne, WY

What in the world does "OTA" stand for? I see it all the time but have no idea.

Vic: It stands for organized team activity. I don't know who invented it or why it stuck; I would've thought something like "VP" (voluntary practice) would've been more easily understood, but they mean the same thing. I never thought I'd say this, either, but I wish we were going to have a full season of OTAs this spring. I've never much liked them because we've always had a tendency to make too much out of touch-football passing drills, but I don't know what I'm going to do with myself in May and June if we don't have them. I'm starting to find out what a true creature of habit I am.

JD from Austin, TX

I can see how scouts can rank players of the same position against each other, but I have trouble seeing how to rank players of different positions into one list.

Vic: You weight certain positions. It's the only way to do it. A 6.0 quarterback is worth more than a 6.0 guard. A 5.5 cornerback ranks higher than a 5.5 safety. Every team has its system for doing these kinds of things. I don't think the grade matters as much as the ranking because the order in which you pick players is all that counts. Yeah, the grades determine the rankings, but grades are often massaged to accommodate the rankings. It's most important to know that one player is better than another player. There are lots and lots of draftisms and I've spent nearly a lifetime collecting them. One of my favorites is: "You don't have to get all 350 guys right. Just make sure you get the guys you pick right." That was a favorite of Tom Modrak's, who did a lot of great work in this league for a long time.

Jeff from Saint Paul, MN

Normally, the days following the draft are a flurry of activity with teams signing oodles of undrafted free agents. If there is no CBA in place, will those days following the draft look the same this year?

Vic: No, once the final pick is made, teams may no longer communicate with any of the players they drafted or who weren't drafted and are now free to sign as undrafted free agents. If I was a general manager, I would be vigilant about driving home that point to my scouts because I think the league is going to be vigilant about policing this situation, and I sure wouldn't want to be the team that's made an example of by the league.

Tou from Fresno, CA

Hillis, Peterson and Vick are other candidates for the Madden cover. Can you believe that? I personally thought the cover should either be A-Rod, Charles Woodson or Clay Matthews.

Vic: I pay no attention to these things but I have to admit that I'm surprised Aaron Rodgers isn't the guy. I know it's all about marketing but Rodgers is the fastest-rising star in this league. He is "The Man" and he's poised to push Brady and Manning aside, if he hasn't already. Hillis? Please, somebody explain that to me.

SFC Christopher from Afghanistan

Hopefully, this finds you in good health. I'm sorry it took so long to get sent out. Again, I have really enjoyed your work and it helped motivate me every day.

Vic: Thank you so much, Christopher, for sending me the American flag that flew over Afghanistan on Sept. 11, 2010, and for the frame it is in, and for the certificate and picture of yourself that will make this artifact of your commitment to your country something that will grace the wall of my office for as long as I have one. I have always thought of "Ask Vic" and its readers as a family and our family is most proud of the men who fight for the very freedom of expression we exercise in this column. Come home soon.

Dan from Charlotte, NC

I've been fascinated to watch Mike McCarthy's career unfold ever since the day he was hired. Somewhat of a surprise choice, GM Ted Thompson obviously saw something special in McCarthy's leadership ability. I've been impressed with the thoroughness he applies to preparation for even minor details, such as fumble-recovery drills for offensive linemen and footwork and ducking pass-rushers for quarterbacks. I also think he has done an excellent job of surrounding himself with top-level assistants. Do you believe he is on track to be considered the best coach in the NFL in the near future?

Vic: Nothing about what Coach McCarthy has achieved has surprised me. I didn't know much about him until he got the Packers job, but being that we're from the same place, I had some people start telling me about his acumen for offense and that piqued my interest for a game I covered between the Jaguars and the Packers in 2008. It was a late-season game and both teams were kind of playing out the string, but I knew that day that the Super Bowl was in the Packers' future because they had the two ingredients all Super Bowl teams must have: a good coach and a good quarterback. I gushed in my in-game blog that day about Rodgers' mobility and McCarthy's offense. They moved the ball with a kind of ease that reminded me of the Colts and Patriots. It was clear to see the Packers only needed some help on defense and they would be on their way to the Super Bowl. Yes, I believe the Packers have a coach who will be regarded as one of the game's best for the next several years.

Wally from Lloyd, FL

Does your wife think you have fluid hips?

Vic: She's not big on the hips. She likes knee-benders.

Ryan from Fargo, ND

"I like to watch." Don't tell me I'm the only one who picked up on that sly "Being There" allusion. You don't strike me as much of a gardener, or a messiah, for that matter.

Vic: As long as the roots are not severed, all is well.

Sean from Oconto Falls, WI

I always hear of the West Coast and spread offense. Are there any other standard offenses the NFL uses (besides the part-time Wildcat)?

Vic: There are several versions of the spread. One version I especially like is known as the "Bunch" formation. I like it because you can run out of it, too. I watched a Temple game last year to see what Al Golden was doing on offense; I had heard some intriguing things about his offensive philosophy. Anyhow, I liked what I saw. They did a lot of double-wing stuff and bunch formations, intended to stretch a defense vertically and horizontally. When they got you thinking one way, they hit you the other way; overplay the receivers and they creased you with the run. Watch him at Miami; he'll have the athletes there to make his plan work. The Giants introduced their version of "The Bunch" formation several years ago, but it was tighter and meant to overpower a spot on the field. The new version is more of a college thing. It spreads the field, yet, still offers the potential to overpower a specific spot. I think this new "Bunch" formation or a variation of it could become the next hot offense in pro football.

Andi from West Chicago, IL

Vic, we have fewer than nine days until the draft. Where will you be during it?

Vic: I'll be at the Packers headquarters at Lambeau Field; our team of reporters will all be there. Our big challenge is going to be filling the time between the start of the draft and the point at which the Packers pick, which is scheduled to be the last pick of the first day. We've got some things planned to help Packers fans through the wait. I plan to begin my live, draft-day blog about a half hour before the draft begins.

David from Paris, France

I'm liking the new picture in the suit.

Vic: My boss made me do it.

Mark from Yucaipa, CA

How about your top 10 list of must-read football books.

Vic: I'll do it off the top of my head, which means I'll likely forget one or two, but here goes: 1. The League; 2. When Pride Still Mattered; 3. Semi-Tough; 4. Instant Replay; 5. About Three Bricks Shy of a Load; 6. Slick; 7. Even Big Guys Cry; 8. A Civil War: Army vs. Navy; 9. Resurrection: The Miracle Season That Saved Notre Dame; 10. Out of Their League.

Kevin from Floyds Knobs, IN

The Great Bill Polian hasn't been hitting in the early rounds the last couple of years, it seems like. Why do you think that is?

Vic: First of all, years of drafting at the bottom has its price. Manning was the first pick of the draft, Freeney was number 11 overall, and those are the two players around whom everything the Colts do has been built. If the Colts had drafted, say, 20th in 1998, you wouldn't even be asking this question. You can't make chicken salad out of chicken feathers, but Polian has done a good job of finding plug-ins to keep the Manning machine moving. In recent years, however, sensing that time is growing short, the picks have started to take on a strong need/reach look, and that often produces misses.

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