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Sherman & Co. Prepare For Battle In The NFL Draft War Room


Mike Sherman met with the media on Thursday to discuss the NFL Draft

He's been on the phone with former general manager Ron Wolf, but as Mike Sherman nears his first NFL Draft as the Packers' current general manager, it seems that his greatest preparation resulted from leading the team to a 13-5 record as a head coach last season.

That improved 2001 finish translated into a lower spot in the draft order. And while a draft guru could have helped with last season's opening pick at No. 10, it might be Coach Sherman who makes a better pick this season at No. 28 than would G.M. Sherman.

"You have to treat it almost like it's a football game, you have to react to what's in front of you," Sherman told the media in his pre-draft press conference Thursday. "A game changes. Blocking schemes, passes, things can happen during the course of a game that you don't have control over.

"In the top-10 pick you kind of take control of how things are going to go to a certain degree. When you're 28th, you just have to play the game and when something comes up you've got to react to it, whether it's the willingness to move forward (via trade), willingness to move back."

His strategy is simple. First, finalize the draft board. Then, be ready for anything.

"One thing I learned from Ron Wolf was never to go into the draft with a closed mind, that this is exactly what we're going to do and this is how we're going to go," Sherman said. "Certain things come up. You get a phone call and someone says, 'Hey, we'd like to move up and we'll give you this, you have to be willing to do that,' and you can't have a closed mind.

"So we'll be very open-minded and react accordingly. But at 28th, to speculate what's going to happen, who you're going to have, is a lot more difficult (than picking 10th)."

One thing Sherman is focused on however is translating his first round pick into immediate, effective play on the football field. A season ago the Packers' landed defensive end Jamal Reynolds with the 10th selection of the first round, only to watch Reynolds struggle with injuries and be outperformed by the breakout season of second-year player Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila, who tied an NFL record recording nine quarterback sacks in the first four games of the season.

"My major goal is to find a player who can impact our team immediately with that 28th pick and I'm sure that everyone who is picking before us and after that is feeling the same thing," Sherman said. "Those who guess right will be happy and those that don't won't. I think we can. There's enough talent in the first round and into the second round that we'll be able to find a player that should be a factor."

Noting that Reynold's rookie season had essentially been extended into 2002 due to his lack of playing time last year, Sherman warned that it was far too soon to give up on last year's opening selection.

"I think we can answer that question four years from now and we can say, 'Yeah, that turned out to be a hell of a pick,' or 'It wasn't,'" he said. "It would be presumptuous of me to say that's played out after one year with a guy who had an injured knee. I don't want to put a stamp on him just yet."

Sherman was equally unwilling to put a stamp on the position he'd most like to fill with his opening selection. Wide receiver? Needs one. Linebacker? Needs one of those, too. Offensive and defensive linemen? Can't have too many. Quarterback? Sure, the Brett Favre era will one day end.

Said Sherman, "I don't want to get into a situation where we're reaching, we need a linebacker so we reach down deep and try to pull one and take a lesser player than if we took somebody else. It's going to be interesting when we get to that point to see what's available and what we need, the best player and all that scenario wrapped up into one."

From Sherman, to Reggie McKenzie (Director of Pro Personnel) to John Schneider (Personnel Analyst to the General Manager) to every coach and scout down the line, tireless work and countless hours have gone into these selections. There are the statistics to consider, everything from a player's height and weight to his vertical leap and 40-yard sprint time. There are the tapes to pour through. There are workouts, exams and the scouting combine. And among such a staff, everyone has an opinion.

With the NFL Draft just over a week away, April 20-21, these final days are for weighing all the factors and finding a common ground.

"We almost have too much information available to us," Sherman said. "In the old days you'd just put the tape on and watch the tape. He can play. He can't play. That was it. And that's probably still the best way to do it, because that's what it comes down to, who makes the plays and who can't make the plays . . .

"You have to investigate their character, you have to investigate their leadership, their intellect, but how they play is what you're buying. You can't buy something that you can't see, and pretty much when you draft somebody you're buying a product that has to be visible on the tape, in my mind."

Regardless of whom the Packers select with their first round pick, G.M. Sherman will once again learn from Coach Sherman when it comes to celebrating.

"It'll be like scoring a touchdown," he said. "We'll be pretty excited if we get the guy we want and he's the guy we've been hoping for. But I'm sure there's going to be disappointments as guys get plucked off the board. Particularly from 15 to 28, there's going to be guys who we have our sights on who, he's gone, he's gone, he's gone.

"Who ever we take, you guys (the media) know this, we'll love him and say he's the best player that we could possibly pick. And that's a given. You can write that right now, 'Sherman is happy with his first round pick and very excited about it. It went exactly the way he wanted it to go.'

As if it were that easy.

Mike Sherman's Pre-Draft Press Conference

GM/Head Coach Mike Sherman (RealAudio)

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