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Packers NFL Draft Preview


Mike Sherman, invariably and impeccably prepared, has a definitive game plan for his second "solo" NFL draft, just ahead.

But he is equally equipped to adjust on the run should circumstances abruptly warrant when the National Football League conducts its 68th annual player selection meeting this weekend.

Holding forth for the media at his annual pre-draft press conference Monday, the Green Bay Packers' meticulous general manager and head coach was asked the key question: "How hard is it to gauge what you're going to have with the 29th pick?"

"It's pretty difficult to say that we're going to get a shot at this guy or that guy," Sherman promptly acknowledged, explaining, "I think you target about five players that you'd hope would be there. And you just don't know. All of a sudden, there could be a run on a certain position. And everybody has their mock draft, which I don't put a whole lot of stock into, because they change, and they go from this one to that one, and it screws with your head more than anything. So I try to avoid that as much as possible and just play it out as it unfolds. Make the decisions as you see it.

"We can assume all we want but the reality is we really don't know what the people ahead of us are going to do and who they're going to pick - for the most part after you get out of the first five picks."

Hence the need for multiple "options" - especially with the Packers having 11 selections over the draft's seven rounds.

Sherman, who exclusively presided over his first Green Bay draft in 2002 following Ron Wolf's departure, observed, "As I said last year, you really don't know how it's going to unfold until you're in the draft and it starts coming upon you. It's very much like having a game plan. You have a game plan going into the draft, but as people get plucked off the board, opportunities come up and others cease to exist, you adjust. And so we would definitely adjust to what's presented to us at that time.

"I remember saying last year that I think one of the things you have to do after you go into the draft is be flexible and have a set game plan but adjust to the personnel that is in front of you - much like you do in a football game. And that's about what we did last year - and we'll do again this year."

Addressing the possibility of moving down with the first round selection, Sherman said, "If we feel we can move out and still get the player we want, we'll try to do that. But I think it's presumptuous - to a certain degree - to think that somebody would move up to the 29 spot and give up enough juice to get there. I don't see that happening unless there's a quarterback or a very specific player. But I think those types of players are going to be gone well before the 29th pick."

Inevitably, Sherman was asked if Brett Favre's "future plans" might be a factor in the Packers' draft process.

"If Brett was standing right here, you could all ask him the same question you have asked of me, and you know the answer he would give you would be that he would keep playing as long as he feels good," he said. "I think it's an honest answer to a question that is going to keep being asked of him.

"I went down and visited with Hattiesburg, Mississippi (during the offseason)," the coach confided. "We visited at good length and he's excited about coming back, excited about this year. If he feels this way next year, keeps playing...keeps playing....keeps long as he feels good. And he feels good - he doesn't feel beat up. He's looking forward to the he was very positive.

"So I think the future for him is what it is. And I think he's going to play as long as he can play at the level he wants to play. And to make any more out of that...(Rich) Gannon's playing well into his career...Elway...There are guys playing a lot older than Brett is. And Brett enjoys playing the game. Brett has not indicated to me that he doesn't. So I don't see things changing for him in the near future."

As might be expected, Sherman's assessment of Favre's status elicited the inevitable question, "Is it then safe to say you don't feel a need to draft a quarterback?"

He rejoined, "If a quarterback had been there last year, that we thought could help our football team in the future, I would have taken one last year. I don't think you ever give up on a quarterback that you think can potentially help your football's such a valuable position. Brett could get hurt, so it's just not whether he's going to play next year, the year after that and the year after that. If you can protect yourself by signing a very good quarterback who you think can help, you know - a first round pick, he's going to be a pretty good quarterback. So, if one is there, you take him. If one's not, you don't."

The Packers field leader, who pronounced himself and his staff a week ahead of schedule in draft preparations, also indicated that promising performances by Craig Nall in the early weeks of the NFL Europe League season would not deter him from selecting a quarterback if the opportunity should arise.

"I think he's done a nice job over there," Sherman acknowledged. "He did some of the things we asked him to do. He's playing faster. I think he's making pretty good decisions, for the most part. He's had quite a few dropped balls on him, which hasn't helped his passing percentage. But I think he's done a nice job there...But, to put a whole lot of stock into, OK, he did this, but we need to do this, I'm not at that point with NFLE just yet, or with Craig."

Asked at one point to list the team's top three needs in the draft, Sherman replied, "That's a difficult question to answer. I think it's obvious we have to improve our defense - we need to help ourselves in our defensive line and linebackers...I'd like to get another safety.

"We're trying to improve the speed of our defense and trying to get fast linebackers, obviously. You want them also to be physical, but we want guys that can run. That's the criteria we've had here, but have not always adhered to.

"Offensively, you always want to get another offensive lineman. If you can, get a quarterback, a running back. If you get somebody who can play defensive back or return - or get a running back who can be a return guy. Those are all players that I'm looking for."

With 11 picks compared to just six a year ago, Sherman said he and his personnel/scouting staffs have invested many more hours in research on the '03 draft class.

"We have about 180 players on the board from the seventh round up," he said, adding, "We have 250 if you include our free agents that we've evaluated and we feel are worthy of a place on our board. But, in regard to the fact that we have 9 picks on the second day (none in the second round), we've done a lot of research - probably more than in the past even - just calling and making sure our information is accurate on all these players going from the fourth round to our last pick in the seventh round.

"So we've done extensive research on all those players - as we have in the first three rounds. But, because of the number of picks we have, we've looked at a lot more guys and have more names available to us."

Despite the additional "sleuthing" required, the imposing project was concluded a week ahead of former schedule, Sherman said, reporting, "We finished our evaluation process with the coaches and scouts on Wednesday of last week. We're about seven days ahead of schedule. We have this week now to go back...

"Normally, we have had the process going all the way up to Wednesday - maybe Thursday (of the week of the draft). We finished last Wednesday with our total evaluation in setting the board. And it's given me an opportunity, the last four days, to just reevaluate where we had players and the way we want them to fall...and go from there.

"I feel myself and our staff worked hard this week to make phone calls to check on players and make sure that things are what they were.

"We actually had an extra week in the draft this year because of having the draft after Easter," Sherman noted, adding, "After last year's draft, I did feel I'd like to have this last week to give us more breathing room to talk through certain scenarios that may come up. We gave ourselves maybe two or three days last year. I think we finished on a Wednesday so we had Thursday and Friday. Ron (Wolf) would take it right up to the Friday before the draft, usually...or the Thursday before the draft.

"There are advantages to that. That way, you don't mess with the board. Once it's done, it's done. That may be good or bad...So we'll figure that out as we go."

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