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Inbox: That's all the motivation you need

NFL GMs cannot become a product of groupthink

G Jon Runyan

David from Appleton, WI

Good morning Insiders. Last year this time we were wondering what Roger Goodell's basement was going to look like on "Draft Day" (not the movie). This year, we are looking forward to a "normal" draft and excitement is brewing. What are you looking forward to seeing on the three nights of NFL Draft 2021?

My coworkers.

Al from Green Bay, WI

College memories – waiting too long to begin to study for the test, and then cramming up to the last minute. I'm certain the Packers' scouting team has done tons of homework in preparation for the draft, but are we moving into the "cramming" phase with long days and short nights?

Not really. The scouting reports are filed and draft boards built, but there will still be some discussion among GMs and scouts this week as they hit the home stretch. If you're "cramming" nine days out from the NFL Draft, however, then you weren't very efficient with your energy the last six months. The hay isn't quite in the barn, but it's at the door.

Vinny from Arlington, VA

I know a lot was made of the Packers not drafting a WR in the first round last year (and ultimately the whole draft) and pundits highlighted that they failed to get Rodgers an offensive weapon. My question is, was it possible that GB intended to draft a WR in the first round but the ones they had first grades on were all selected before they could pick? So much is made of the fact that GB has not drafted a WR in the first round since 2002 but perhaps they would have had the board fallen differently.

I think Brian Gutekunst said as much last spring. It's not like it was lost on the Packers' brass that the draft was historically deep for receivers. The problem was the highest-rated guys went before Green Bay could pick 'em, including Justin Jefferson. Now, this is where you point out, "Well, why didn't they take Tee Higgins?" and I respond with, "Well, they also could've ended up with Denzel Mims." Either way, the Packers obviously had the highest grade on Jordan Love. Whether you agree or disagree with the move, NFL GMs cannot become a product of groupthink. This isn't your fantasy league where Gary with the nice lawn from down the block drafted a defense in the fourth round and now the whole neighborhood starts taking defenses. GMs have to trust their board. You can't afford to overdraft a player just because there was a big run on that position. Imagine if Ted Thompson did that in 2005 instead of drafting perhaps the greatest QB to ever play the game.

Ross from Hudson, WI

What is higher this season for the Packers: expectations or optimism?

Optimism is high but so, too, are the expectations after back-to-back appearances in the NFC Championship Game. With everyone the Packers are bringing back, I don't think I'm going out on a limb saying these are the highest the expectations have been in Green Bay since 2011.

DT from Bozeman, MT

In the hyper-competitive arena that is the NFL, do you see young players like Jon Runyan finding even more motivation in David Bakhtiari's injury time, sensing a chance for more playing time to develop and show off their abilities? I suppose a weak analogy is a running back seeing an opening and recognizing he must act instantly before that opportunity closes.

No. One, that's not really Runyan's personality/style. Two, the kid just wants an opportunity and an opportunity is what he's going to get. Corey Linsley and Lane Taylor are gone, leaving two starting spots available regardless of Bakhtiari's unfortunate injury. For a young NFL player, that's all the motivation you need.

Jeff from Milwaukee, WI

Who will be leading tackler in 2021?

Krys Barnes plays a blood-and-guts position, but if he stays healthy, the second-year linebacker has all the makings of a perennial leading tackler who also can punch the ball out. I'm eager to watch Barnes grow in Year 2. He's a natural leader.

Dean from Leavenworth, IN

The Packers don't have a QB No. 3 on the roster. I expect that spot to be filled by training camp most likely by a Day 3 draft pick or a UDFA. I'm currently smitten by Arkansas QB Felipe Franks. The draft grade/projection for him is seventh round/UDFA. The tape and advanced stats on Franks would indicate he'll be gone before the seventh round. Considering that barring injury, a third QB wouldn't suit up for any games, how high a pick would be too high to spend on a player that doesn't make the 46?

Probably sixth round. I think most NFL teams want their picks from the first five rounds to make the 53-man roster. If that player doesn't, then something went awry. The Packers almost always have three QBs on the roster/practice squad at any time. There was a month where the Packers only had Aaron Rodgers and Scott Tolzien after Matt Flynn wasn't re-signed in 2015, but then they signed Matt Blanchard in mid-April and drafted Brett Hundley. I would think the Packers draft a QB on Day 3 but their recent track record is solid with UDFAs, too (Tim Boyle and Taysom Hill). One way or another, reinforcements are coming.

Gabor from Budapest, Hungary

Good morning, Wes. I think there is one other way to receive draft picks thanks to the other teams in the division: if they sign free agents of the Packers. Is there any example when a notable player was selected by a compensatory pick which was received for losing a player to a division rival?

This question reminded me I need to put together a master list of compensatory picks and how the Packers acquired them. Let me get back to you on that Wednesday.

David from Appleton, WI

Good morning Insiders. Do you ever create your own mock draft? Not for publication, just for fun.

I'll mock the first round the morning of the draft. I don't publish it but it's fun to look back on.

Derek from Eau Claire, WI

Do you see the Packers bringing in another punter for training camp this year? Someone with better tackling skills?

They already have one – Ryan Winslow, who finished the year on the Packers' practice squad. Green Bay has six specialists on its offseason roster – two at each position. Assuming all six make it to camp, that's the most specialists I can recall the team carrying on the offseason roster.

Eric from Mequon, WI

I've noticed over the last few years that many DII and DIII players are getting more and more pre-draft exposure. Last year, three players in this class were drafted. Is this a new thing or have I just lived under a rock somewhere? What is the cause of this newfound interest in these players? Is there more film on them than in the past?

NFL teams always have been scratching at the dirt for players at smaller schools. I think what's changed is we're seeing more late-bloomers who catch the eye of scouts after dominating at the lower levels. I think back to Alex Cappa, who played at Humboldt State. I've been to that campus, as my sister-in-law's family lives in nearby Arcadia. It is a small Division II school at the edge of Northern California. Frankly, it reminded me of Trees for Tomorrow in Eagle River. Anyway, Cappa still received an NFL Scouting Combine invite and wound up going in the third round a few years ago. While some prospects do fall between the cracks, most often NFL scouts will find talent if talent is there.

Take a look at the top prospects at tight end heading into the 2021 NFL Draft.

Jon from Kingsford, MI

Is there a real reason why the ERFAs have not been signed?

There are no bonuses tied into exclusive-rights contracts, so signing the contract is mostly a formality. Unless the player is in the area and wants to get it over with, ERFAs won't sign until they report back for the offseason program.

Herb from Palm Desert, CA

Hi II, may I add one element to the appreciation of the speed of the professional game? When you're on the sidelines during a game, the violence of the collisions is frightening. Not only are players faster at the professional level, but they're also bigger and deliver car-crash impacts without touching the brakes. It isn't a game for the faint of heart.

It's been a good five years since the last time I was on the field during a game but that experience gave me a greater appreciation for quarterbacks – the good, the bad and the ugly. Every play, they're staring down some of the biggest, more intimidating human beings on earth. Oh, and if they pass that test, they still need to deliver the ball past some of the fastest, most athletic people on the planet. It's the hardest job in all of sports.

Jason from Woodbury, MN

Gentlemen, this question is only loosely related to football, so please feel free to skip. But I am genuinely curious. When did sensationalism become a widely accepted tactic both in the football journalism world and in the journalism profession at large, rather than being looked down upon by the majority? Sensationalism has been pervasive in nearly every article I have read for as long as I can remember, and the constancy of this sensationalism is disconcerting. Why and how did this happen?

Do yourself a favor and watch Paddy Chayefsky's "Network." It answers this question better than I ever could. It correctly predicted everything that's happened in television, and all forms of cable news, over the past 40 years.

Sam from Iowa City, IA

Is it true that Lex Luger was the last player to be issued No. 66?

That's correct. While he never played in a game, Luger (real name Larry Pfohl) was issued No. 66 during the 1982 season he spent on the Packers' injured reserve and during training camp in 1983. The number officially was retired in honor of Ray Nitschke on Dec. 4, 1983.

Sam from Iowa City, IA

Larry Pfohl/Lex Luger was in camp with the Pack twice in the early '80s. Steve "Mongo" McMichael and Reggie White both appeared in Wrestlemania XI after having recently completed seasons with the Pack. Which Packer of the last decade do you think would have the most to bring to pro wrestling? Please take into account athleticism, ability to cut a good promo, in-ring psychology, potential storylines and any other factor you see fit. Thanks for all the hard work!

You could also add Kevin Greene, Mojo Rawley (Dean Muhtadi) and Percy Watson (Nick McNeil) to that modern list of former Packers players/coaches who wrestled. Shout out to WWE official/former NWA champion/Packers shareholder Adam Pearce and Sho Funaki, who also are big fans. As far as which Packers player over the past decade would be the best pro-wrestling prospect, it's easily Jamaal Williams. He has the look, charisma, "promo" skills and all the athleticism in the world to do it.

Take a look at the top wide receiver prospects heading into the 2021 NFL Draft.

Chuck from Sun City, AZ

Ray Nitschke once called me a wimp. So, I have that going for me, which is nice.

I'm sure you weren't the only one…which you also have going for you…which is also nice.

Richard from Madison, WI

Grammar question (I know you guys are dedicated leatherheads, but you support your families by being excellent with the English language): A question today began with "The resigning of Aaron Jones," and I was practically out of my chair screaming "WHAT! WHEN DID THIS HAPPEN? WHY DID HE RESIGN?" As in "re-zihn," not "re-sine." Isn't there some trick of punctuation that you can use to fend off future heart failure in your readership?

Spoff was just testing the integrity of your heart valves. No, we needed a hyphen in there. It happens – to me more than Spoff.

Peder from Sturgeon Bay, WI

Is the (Sigh.) position on defense, offense, or special teams?

It's indubitably defense.

Mark from Bettendorf, IA

My wife turns 56 Wednesday. What do you think I should get her for a gift? Greatest need or best gift available?

In the game of life, you always go for greatest need.

Dar from Mansfield, TX

Wes, about your query whether Nickel from Mansfield nabs his squirrel (or is left barking for another day). The dachshund usually trees his target. Of course, even with great scouting, chasing is an inexact science. And one never knows until later how a squirrel class might develop. One key difference between chase day and the NFL Draft. Unlike humans, squirrels aren't very bright, so we can't infer much from their Wonderlic scores. Moral: draft only humans, never squirrels.

So, does a "tree" count the same as a "pressure"? And who charts that? Pup Football Focus? OK, I'll see myself out.


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