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Inbox: He's right there

Drafted or not, every rookie has the chance to make life fair


Wesley from Raleigh, NC

Weston, don't worry too much about passing the Rocco grading system by the skin of your teeth. I personally loved your coverage of the American Bowl. Lots of potential there, love having you as part of the team!

I didn't cover the American Bowl! It's like they made a mistake and hired me instead of **some writer who covered the darn American Bowl**. Good morning!

Jesse from Akaska, SD

Just an observation after looking at all of the fifth-year contracts. In the bottom third of the draft there were only three players who had their fifth-year options exercised. Kenny Clark is the latest pick (27) that was awarded a contract. I call that a win. It will be a bigger win if we can parlay that into a second contract and keep him around a few more years.

Clark was a strong pick, particularly at the end of the first round when it gets trickier to find impact players. Of those last 10 picks from the 2016 first round, only Clark and Cincinnati cornerback William Jackson had their options exercised. At 23, Clark is on the cusp of becoming a star in this league. He's that close. He's right there.

Marcel from Redondo Beach, CA

Who do you expect will be the leader(s) of the defense now that there were some key departures from last year's team?

Tramon Williams is the first name that comes to mind. You can't have enough Tramons in your locker room. Blake Martinez also is becoming one of those guys. I don't know much yet about Za'Darius Smith, but he seems to have the kind of personality players rally around.

Mark from Canton, GA

Who do you feel is going to be the main kick returner this season? Do you see that as being perhaps a competition in training camp to see who may work the best, or just using some of the ones who we have had in the past? I just hope we don't do kick returner by committee, that doesn't seem to work.

Trevor Davis is a lot better than fans seem to remember. If Davis stays healthy, it's still his job to lose. He was a top 10 returner in 2017. Overall, I expect a good competition in camp. Those returning second-year receivers and defensive backs will push for the job, too.

Eric from Oshkosh, WI

One thing about "grading any draft" is you can't judge solely based on the player. The strength of the draft overall is a factor. For instance, A.J. Hawk was not a superstar like Brian Urlacher, but there weren't many players drafted after him that year who were better! Also, when every team passes on a guy who turns out to be great, can you really downgrade anyone for that? Look at how many teams passed on Tom Brady: All of them, including the Patriots. At least five times.

The draft is not an exact science. Some players go higher than they should. Others fall. Some don't get drafted at all. The beautiful thing is, drafted or not, every rookie has the chance to make life fair once the pads go on.

John from Denver, CO

Is it not entirely possible that Aaron Jones stays healthy for an entire season? I understand the concern and caution, but do we have to abandon all hope based on his first two seasons?

Nobody is abandoning anything, John Denver. Jones was a bell cow in college and can be again in the NFL. He's had two knee injuries, but not catastrophic episodes.

Neal from Ft Worth, TX

All the post-draft articles and film of Savage have me really pumped up about his potential. But Larry’s “First Impressions” of Jenkins was eye-opening! That man was pushing defensive linemen 10 yards upfield before the RB came flying by. It was reminiscent of Michael Oher in HS pushing 61 all the way to the bus.

Jenkins strikes me as a guy who's going to be a good pro. I don't know exactly where he'll settle in, but the athleticism he possesses for a 6-foot-4, 310-pound man should take Jenkins far. His center experience also is valuable considering the Packers haven't really had a naturally trained center other than Corey Linsley since JC Tretter left.

Dean from Leavenworth, IN

It's widely considered that TE is one of the two or three toughest positions to transition from college to the NFL. RB considered is one of the easiest. History certainly bears that out. TEs have to learn pass routes and adjustments and blocking assignments and adjustments in the running game and pass protection. RBs have to learn the same plus reading their blockers and their assignments. Why is there such a big difference in their respective learning curves?

I just think the playbook is so much larger for tight ends. Running backs have blocking assignments, but most can get by on instincts and athleticism in Year 1. Mastering the tight end position requires more refinement to be on the field consistently, which is why you typically see so few rookies dominate right out of the gate.

Ronald from Cheyenne, WY

OK guys, the draft is over and obviously the emphasis was on defense. I'm a little concerned about depth on the offensive line, what do you think?

That actually might be the position I feel the best about now, especially with Cole Madison back. The Packers return eight players and added veteran Billy Turner, who can play tackle or guard. I'd argue this is the deepest the Packers have been on the O-line since 2014.

Tecwyn from Grafton, WI

Good morning gents! Daily reader here. In response to James from Durango, CO, MVS and EQ matched or nearly matched the rookie production of Adams and Nelson, respectively. Wouldn't you rather get those young guys game time to help them reach their ceiling instead of paying a vet who has already hit their ceiling and is now headed back down?

I like the idea of developing young talent, especially this time of the year. If something goes awry like when Jordy Nelson tore his ACL in 2015, then I'm fine with pursuing a veteran like James Jones to round out a depth chart.

Blake from Itasca, IL

By what we did in free agency and the draft, the defense's cupboard is completely stocked. That said, I think eyes will fall on the offense this season, particularly the WR position. Camp will be fierce, and I see a lot of guys having potential. Who at this point is most poised to make the jump?

My out-of-the-box prediction – Geronimo Allison and the Packers' young receivers play well enough that receiver isn't viewed as a question mark next year at this time. Book it.

Ryan from Westfield, IN

Speaking of 26 Savage (and while we're at it, 52...and 7 in Washington), why 26? I always wonder what reason a player has for wanting a certain number. I'd be 58, my old high school number. Any good number stories?

I'm not sure why Savage was given No. 26, but I think my favorite number story was the Packers issuing Fabians Ebbele No. 68 because he was 6-8. To this day, the most touching tribute I can recall was the Packers assigning Nick Collins No. 36 back in 2005.

Packers rookies did on-field work inside the Don Hutson Center on Friday.

Don from Denver, CO

Hi guys! It's easy to get excited about Darnell Savage's speed on the back end of the defense, but why isn't anyone talking about his potential as a blitzer? We've seen Mike Pettine bring pressure from all positions, and Savage moves to the ball like a missile. Opposing QBs should keep their heads on a swivel, right?

You raise a good point. Pettine is known for bringing pressure with inside linebackers, safeties and cornerbacks. Savage seems like a perfect candidate to develop in that role.

Ken from Arvada, CO

In the past, you guys have said that you'd want Julius Peppers to be the first guy off the bus at road games. Who is your current pick and why?

Yosh Nijman, if he makes the team. The dude is massive. Otherwise, probably Jimmy Graham.

Al from Green Bay, WI

I was returning from a trip on Thursday, and I happened to be on the plane with Kingsley Keke. Weighing in at 288 pounds and looking trim, I thought, "Really? There were 149 guys picked ahead of him in the draft?" I'm anxious to see him strap on a helmet and go!

Keke is another one of those guys you want near the front of the bus. I don't get how scouts were confused about what type of scheme he's best suited for. Keke pretty much did it all at Texas A&M, at every weight. That's versatility, bay-bay. I want that player in my defensive front.

Chuck from Poynette, WI

Hey Insiders, now that the undrafted free agent signings are official which one or two players are you really excited to see in minicamp/OTAs?

I talked with **Manny Wilkins for a feature Friday**. He had a pretty impressive pro day at ASU in March despite an MCL injury in December. He brings a new dimension to that room. Also, Baylor linebacker Greg Roberts has my attention. He has NFL genes and the frame (6-5, 258) teams desire in an edge rusher.

Bill from Bloomfield Hills, MI

Everyone takes 90 players into camp if for no other reason than keeping 37 out of other camps. Do you want to be a team that decided not to bring in Ficken because you have Crosby, and 5-10 years from now realize you passed on an AP or HOF level guy.

Everyone takes 90 players into camp because you never know when you're going to stumble into the next Tramon Williams, Chris Banjo or James Crawford. As John Kuhn astutely pointed out during our Periscope last week, you also need rookies to take summer snaps off veteran players, especially at contact positions like running back.

Jeffrey from De Pere, WI

Well, Savage REALLY wanted to be a Packer and got the first, first-round draft pick contract locked down. Has Green Bay ever had a first-round pick signed that soon after the draft?

As the late, great Mac Miller once said, "It ain't 2009 no more." Rookie contracts are much easier to work out now than 10 years ago before the most recent CBA. Really, the most difficult contracts to negotiate now are third-rounders because of the room for interpretation with signing bonuses and the slotting system.

Perry from Ishpeming, MI

I just read that Savage signed his contract, so what is the policy on passing a physical? Same deal with UDFA invites to the camp, do they have to pass a physical before participating? What about players under contract? Just curious. And thanks for the great reading!

Most rookies will sign their contracts after passing their physicals. Since Elgton Jenkins and Jace Sternberger haven't signed yet, they'll sign "good faith" waivers to participate in the rookie camp and offseason program, which require teams to honor contracts in the event of an injury.

Dana from Eau Claire, WI

Feels like a lot of pressure is being put on Savage to be our safety savior right out of the gate – what do you see as other options for that roaming safety spot?

Savage won't be handed the position. Josh Jones and Raven Greene will have something to say about that. The Packers need options, though, especially with how safeties are now being asked to play more in sub-packages.

Karl from Green Bay, WI

I think Gina was asking if anyone was going to be throwing the football during rookie orientation, given that Boyle is not eligible to attend. Were you suggesting that Cole and Kendall might be changing positions to QB?

I was trying to explain who can participate and who can't. Wilkins is throwing this weekend at rookie camp. When there's only one QB on the roster participating, the Packers will bring in an extra QB or two on tryout, as well.

Jordan from Sturgeon Bay, WI

Call me crazy if y'all want to, but I think the Packers knew exactly what they were doing when they gave No. 87 and 52 away.

There's nothing devious going on. Do the math. There are 88 players on the offseason roster and only 99 numbers. Six are retired. Plus, Jordy Nelson has been off the roster for a year already. As difficult as it is, eventually you have to move forward.

Christopher from Savage, MN

You guys go a great job of shouting out the behind-the-scenes people and unsung heroes of the Packers organization in this forum! When you see these guys being mentioned in II, do you ever send a note over to them or their boss? I'm sure they'd love to know their work is appreciated/noticed by fans and it wouldn't hurt the year-end performance review, either!

Oh, I'm very vocal. When Evan Siegle and I were in the interview process with the Packers three years ago, I kept telling everyone, "If you only hire one Press-Gazetter, make sure it's E." He's that good. My face is splashed on a lot of our content, but there are so many talented folks behind the scenes that truly make our website the best in the NFL. They deserve 10 times the shout-outs they get.

Thomas from Grand Rapids, MI

Two-part question, one for my fellow insiders and one for Mike and Wes. Does anyone else purposely not look at who's answering the questions that day and try to figure it out based on their responses? Sometimes I'll get it figured out on the very first question, other times it takes me a little. Fun to determine the writer based on the personality in the responses. Mike and Wes, how do you see each other's styles differentiate from one another and what's something you like about the other's style?

Spoff is knowledgeable and gets to the point faster than I do. He doesn't require as many words to set up one-liners. That's a skill.

Dan from Allen, TX

Want to push back just a little on Rocco from Green Bay and his "grading" of Wes. I think your May 3 responses are your best collection ever. You need to take time away on assignment more often!


Henry from Hoback, WY

That cherry-picking response made me spit out my coffee I was laughing so hard! "The ninth one," too. Wes was on fire yesterday. A-plus.

So does that mean I pass?

Jack from Wauwatosa, WI

Wes, your last question yesterday indicates you were born in 1987....holy cow; I have T-shirts older that you! BTW, great job both of you!

I'm going to enjoy it while it lasts because the sand seems to be dispensing faster every year. Our new web intern, Ana, was born in 1997. I'm going to go feel bad about myself now.