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Inbox: Make that extra pick count

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Sam from Janesville, WI

I learned a lot about your ancestor, Ainsworth Rand Spofford, from Wikipedia. Pretty cool stuff. Any chance you would grow your hair and beard like him as a nod to your journalist heritage?

I couldn’t grow a beard if my life depended on it.

Logan from Bloomington, IN

With the hiring of LaFleur and Hackett, I feel like there may be a renewed focus on the running game. Both coaches had a lot of success previously, but with very different teams and running backs. I don't believe this team will turn into a power running team, but do you see something similar happening?

Fournette and Henry are a different style of running back, to be sure, but the Packers’ duo should really be coming into its own now. I’m curious.

Derek from Maple Grove, MN

It seems our new head coach and our new offensive coordinator really know how to get the most out of a running game. I, for one, am excited about this approach as I feel our run game has not been as effective as it could be in recent years. However, this has not been Aaron's favorite part of the game. Do you see this causing any problems going into the 2019 season?

No. I think given the fresh start, Rodgers will remember he won his second MVP award when Lacy and Starks combined for 1,472 yards and 11 touchdowns on the ground.

Patrick from Inver Grove Heights, MN

Your answer to Andrew from Simi Valley, CA, got me thinking, what was the thought behind the CBA making only the top 51 contracts count against the salary cap vs. 53 starting in the NFL new year? Why not count the 53 like the regular season?

I’m not sure where the number 51 came from. The idea obviously is to provide reasonable cap flexibility during the offseason with a 90-man roster, but maybe not too much flexibility, so roster cut-down time doesn’t create a slew of veteran cap casualties.

Mariah from Milwaukee, WI

Who is your favorite current player to watch that is not on the Packers?

At the moment? Giannis Antetokounmpo.

Eric from Kenosha, WI

Both Jaire Alexander and Marcus Davenport made the PFWA All-Rookie squad. So, it seems the Packers could not have gone wrong either way, and they have an extra pick this April. Not bad, eh?

Now make that extra pick count. Really count.

Michael from Portland, OR

Congrats to Jaire making the All-Rookie team. Well-deserved. Looking at the selections there's a lot of first-round talent. How many are first-round selections (excluding ST)? Other than quarterbacks (you can only have one) who were the highest first-round selections to not make it?

Of the 22 offensive and defensive players selected, I counted 15 first-round picks, and three more taken in the first five picks of the second round. So roughly half of the first 37 selections in the draft made the All-Rookie team. The highest non-QB picks not to make it were taken at No. 11 and No. 12, Minkah Fitzpatrick and Vita Vea.

Max from Troy, MO

It’s always exciting to see what new pieces we might be able to add in free agency, especially with a GM willing to engage. With so many of our own impact players as potential free agents (Breeland, Matthews, Wilkerson, and more), how do you balance re-signing your own with bringing in outside guys? I’ve never been a “change for change’s sake” sort of guy, but I don’t know that maintaining the personnel status quo is the way to go either.

It’s about projecting a player’s value to the team within a certain cost range, and comparing that to who else might be available at what cost. That’s why a lot of decisions are made in the two-day negotiating window before players can actually sign with other teams. Everyone is gauging the market.

Nicholas from Portland, OR

To me re-signing Breeland is a major priority. Our secondary has been a mess for years. We’ve got some promising young talent now, and his veteran presence there helps them develop, plus he has a tendency to make plays. Yeah, it may cost a pretty penny, but we need all the help we can get back there in the modern NFL. Thoughts?

As noted above, cost/value will matter. But I agree with your general sentiment. Going into next season with King, Alexander and Breeland as the top three corners, plus Jackson, Brown and Williams if you need him, and maybe another draft pick, sounds promising. Josh from St. Paul, MN, asked about Breeland’s penalties. He had a few too many (one facemask, three defensive holding, and one DPI accepted against him in seven games), but two of those flags came in his first game, at New England, after missing the first half of the season.

Sam from Hartford, WI

I take solace in the fact that when you redecorate Wes's cube while he's gone, we won't have to worry about him stealing Jobu's rum. It's very bad to steal Jobu's rum.

LeeAnn from Corydon, IN, suggested voodoo dolls of two specific NFC North linebackers for the display. This has quickly gotten out of control.

Bill from Raleigh, NC

Hi Mike, please get in on Wes's comment about “the [new stitched] field looked immaculate” for the December games. I thought the field looked very slippery in at least one game. Do you remember the MVS jet sweep that he had a chance of breaking? Yes, it's possible he just got excited and tripped over his own feet, but I thought he turned on his last gear and the field let him down. Do you remember that play? What did you see?

I remember it, I watched it on film, and I saw MVS simply stumble. I recall one early December game having a fair amount of pregame precipitation, so some slipping was going to be unavoidable.

Betsy R. from Philadelphia, PA

The question about field stitching has me fascinated. How does the field crew go about finding people to sew something with such large dimensions? How would one apply for such a position and what is a helpful background? I've always said, you find sewing professionals where you find sewing professionals.

Sorry Betsy, they use a stitching machine.

Bill from Menominee, MI

I'm not jumping on the Nick Foles bandwagon just yet, but let's be honest, the free-agent QB tree is picked pretty bare. When looking around the league at what team is in need of an NFL-ready QB, the Jaguars top the list. They don't have a prospect, nor do they have a high draft pick. Is Foles a fit in Jacksonville?

I’m not sure the Jaguars will have much choice. But they do pick seventh, and the first four picks (Cardinals, 49ers, Jets, Raiders) won’t be quarterbacks unless the spots are traded. The Bucs at No. 5 sound like they’re committing to Winston with Arians. So it’s not a bad year to be picking seventh and need a QB.

Barbara from Estero, FL

I don't know a lot about football, but do you think the Packers will have a better season this year with all the changes? I hope so, I like winning.

You’re not alone.

Mark from Carmel, IN

One hundred seasons of football in GB and only 15 head coaches. That has to rank among the best numbers in the league for tenure, right?

The Steelers have had three head coaches in the last half-a-hundred years. We’ll never see that again.

Gretchen from Kaukauna, WI

I just read Aaron Rodgers' piece on the Wounded Warriors Project for The Players Tribune, and man, it got me! Really puts things in perspective. I highly recommend it to everyone who has not read it yet.

Anytime Rodgers opens up, he’s incredibly engaging. Not that he isn’t at other times, but when he decides to express personal feelings, he’s very thoughtful and purposeful about it.

Day two of the leadership event held at Lambeau Field was geared toward 140 male Brown County middle school students.

Kristen from Surprise, AZ

If the Rams and Chiefs face off in the Super Bowl, Goff and Mahomes would be the youngest pair to play in the big game by a significant margin. They are 24 and 23, respectively. The previous youngest pair were Tony Eason (Patriots) and Jim McMahon (Bears) who were both 26 when they played in Super Bowl XX. Fun fact: Bart Starr did the coin flip for Super Bowl XX!

Another fun fact: The pregame show was only two hours long. Imagine that. I remember because I watched the whole thing waiting to see if my hometown would be mentioned.

Jake from Redondo Beach, CA

To follow up on the question by Dylan from Stevens Point, WI, would Brady-Brees be the oldest Super Bowl QB combo? And to take it a step further, would Brady/Brees-Goff/Mahomes be the largest age differential? It seems we'll witness a broken record with any combination.

Appears so.

Simon from Santa Clara, CA

I know you guys don't like posting things until they become official, but do you write the stories before things become official so you can post them right away?

Whenever we can.

James from Santa Maria, CA

To add on to Scott from Martinez, GA, with a new coach and second-year GM do you think this will help with the gamesmanship on draft day to land their guy or get the trade they want? There's no metrics out there on draft tendencies.

I think Gutekunst scrapped the reads any others thought they might have on him when he traded out of the first round and back into it in a span of about 30 minutes.

James from Boynton Beach, FL

With the solid ownership, top-end leadership, talent in the coaching ranks and on the field it looks like Cleveland’s time to shine has arrived, or am I missing something?

I said in this very space 12 months ago that John Dorsey would take Cleveland from winless to the playoffs in two years. If their pick at head coach was a good one, I see the Browns in the postseason in 2019.

David from Rio Rancho, NM

So Andy Reid leaves Philly, goes to KC. What changed? Him? Players? New scheme? What?

A little of everything. Same with Payton and the Saints in my opinion.

Shawn from St. Peter, MN

In regards to the onside kick, I was surprised to see a crafty (but failed) maneuver by the Chargers in the divisional round. A dodgeball-style move where the kicker tries to hit one of the players lined up on the front line in hopes of it bouncing back. Did you see it? Thoughts?

Other readers have mentioned this. It’s as good a shot as anything right now.

Wayne from Seoul, Korea

Doesn't all this search for "the next McVay" that teams have been doing imply that they are thinking "plays, not players" instead of vice versa? Speaking of McVay, I am a huge fan, and it's not because of his brilliant mind, but he just seems like a special person, an outlier, to have that kind of charisma and leadership ability. If LaFleur is going to have success, it will have to be as much about his leadership ability than his "plays."

Absolutely. It’s about finding the whole package. McVay definitely is. Nagy and Pederson have proven themselves to be. The Packers believe LaFleur will, too, with the right players like the others have been given. But there’s no way to know for sure until the games start. No one knew for sure about those other guys before the games mattered, either.

Eli from Yardley, PA

Very early, but I try to attend a game when the Packers travel to the Northeast. Obviously much to change in next nine months, but I can't wait to see Saquon Barkley live against Pettine's defense. Is there one game and opposing player you look forward to see play against the Packers next year?

I’m intrigued to see Mahomes in person for the first time.

Mark from Hanover, PA

As a non-athlete, there are many things I do not understand about sports. In a recent II, it was mentioned that special teams players must master the fundamentals very quickly. If a 22- or 23-year-old has been playing this sport since he was 6 or 7, shouldn't he have already mastered the fundamentals? Isn't that the job of his pee-wee, high school and college coaches?

NFL coaches are constantly drilling fundamentals because they’re easier to lose, or get lax on, than you think. That said, I believe Wes was referring specifically to the basics of special teams, which in some respects are their own animal. Young players coming out of college often haven’t played much on special teams, so they’re learning that phase of the game at the NFL level. Given the Packers’ struggles in recent years, I wonder if the new regime will take a different approach to the construction of those units.

Dave from Naples, FL

How often does the assistant to the traveling secretary position open up in Green Bay?

Now you’re speaking my language.

Rich from Grand Rapids, MI

To all those questioning the scurry to interview offensive head coach candidates, I bring you the Final Four of the NFL playoffs – the four highest-scoring teams in the league. Defense still may win the championship, but it is the offense that gets you to the championship game these days.

First time it’s ever happened this way, and I suspect the influence of the defenses, just like last year, will manifest itself with a key play or two in big moments.

Jeremy from Lethbridge, Canada

Mike, there’s a gem of a line in your great grandfather’s “A Book for All Readers.” In discussing what makes for a good librarian, he suggests it’s less about having read all the books and more about being “carefully grounded” in the ones that matter. This fits. I don’t come here expecting you to have every possible answer, but I greatly appreciate that the answers you share are carefully grounded in a wonderful understanding of the big principles that matter. You do your heritage a good service.

Good to know, and thanks.

Kyle from Sturgeon Bay, WI

Somebody please beat the Patriots. I'm not sure I can handle Brady and Belichick winning another ring.

This will be New England’s eighth straight appearance in the AFC title game and 13th overall with Brady and Belichick. That’s astounding. If the Patriots can win at Arrowhead on Sunday in the arctic cold, which usually shifts the advantage to the younger QB, I’ll have to stop talking about the bulk of their dynasty being fueled by always playing at home in the postseason. Though it’s worth pointing out that during their current run of eight straight “final fours,” the AFC East has produced a measly two wild-card teams (’16 Dolphins, ’17 Bills). That’s it, two. Their division has set them up to play a lot of home playoff contests, but their last two AFC title games on the road, both at Denver (’13, ’15) they lost. Sunday should be a great game.

Gary from Hope Mills, NC

I’ve noticed that there are so many Packers fans in other states besides Wisconsin. Do you have any idea why they would choose to pull for the Pack rather than the teams in their own state? My reason is when I started watching football in the late ’70s NC didn’t have the Panthers and I actually started pulling for Green Bay before I even knew what football was. My father bought a bedspread with all the NFL logos on it. I saw that big G and my name is Gary so I’ve been a fan since I was 5.

Some became fans during the dominance of the Lombardi era, or their parents did and it was passed along. Some have gravitated toward the unique ownership structure and/or small-market environment. Some were attracted to Favre. There are many origins, but yours is one of the most adorable stories I’ve ever heard. A great way to end my week. Enjoy championship Sunday, everyone.

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