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There's still a place for returners in today's NFL

The Packers have prospered in developing mid-round offensive linemen


Steven from Madison, WI

Gentlemen - loved the thoughts on old jerseys, especially the love for Butler. I only have two jerseys, each from the Super Bowls of my lifetime, and each from DBs that made big plays in the stretch run and playoffs - Tramon being the other. If the Packers are to finally make that SB leap, who's the jersey you imagine me buying - aka, what DB is going to make the biggest impact for us this upcoming year?

There's plenty of worthy candidates, but Ha Ha Clinton-Dix appears to be on the verge of something special. The natural ability has been evident since the Packers drafted him, but he's really starting to put it all together. Once he does, opposing offenses will need to watch out.

Dan from Houston, TX

Thinking about Jordy's development, it's interesting to think about young guys like him, T.J. Lang, Lane Taylor, Mike Daniels, and some guy named Aaron Rodgers having time to develop behind proven stars. Yet, we judge young guys like Adams, Randall, and Rollins for being forced into starting early.

I couldn't have said it better myself. Adams is a perfect example of a young player who finally got healthy and shined. You don't hear many complaints about him these days. Randall and Rollins are training together on the West Coast. I can assure they're putting everything they have into reversing their fortunes in 2017.

Randy from San Diego, CA

I read the Insider Inbox every day. Yesterday Nick Collins was mentioned. He was one of my favorite Packers. Do you think he'd have been a Hall of Famer if not for his unfortunate injury?

The path to the Hall of Fame isn't easy for safeties, but Collins was making a serious case for Canton. He was coming off his third consecutive Pro Bowl appearance at the time of his injury and only getting better. I was stunned when I realized he's still only 33 years old. If he stayed healthy, Collins should have had at least five more years of premier play ahead of him. It's unfortunate, but he sounded like a man who's at peace during his Packers Hall of Fame ceremony last summer.

In his eighth season with the Packers, LB Clay Matthews appeared in 12 games and recorded 24 tackles, five sacks, three passes defensed and a forced fumble. Photos by Evan Siegle and Matt Becker,

Josh from Pilger, NE

It seems as though TT always drafts prospects that I would consider under the radar or not Saturday college football household names. Why are his drafting grades and insight so much different than all these network gurus who provide such extensive mock draft data? Do you feel he sees things that most of these individuals don't?

GMs are so well-researched on these prospects, especially in the early rounds. Still, it seems like Thompson finds at least one player each year that others are sleeping on. Jordy Nelson and Clay Matthews quickly come to mind as overlooked playmakers who would easily go in the Top 10 of a redraft of their respective classes.

Kaveh from Tallahassee, FL

An old baseball principle: if two prospects run to first base at exactly the same speed, who do you pick first, the guy with sloppy form, or the guy who ran it perfectly? 100 times out of 100, you draft the sloppy guy, because you know you can coach him to get faster. Which NFL positions do you see coaches training away college sloppiness most effectively?

I don't know if there's one position where that occurs more than others, but the offensive line seems like a spot where the Packers have prospered in developing mid-round draft choices from unheralded programs. David Bakhtiari (Colorado), Josh Sitton (UCF) and T.J. Lang (Eastern Michigan) had the tools to be Pro Bowl players, but each player took his game to another level after coming to Green Bay.

Jamey from Nashville, TN

Congratulations Wes! You just got the chance to make the first pick for the Packers in the upcoming draft. However, on your board, at the time of your pick, you have a guard, a pass rusher and a DB all graded very close, whom do you pick and why? Keep up the great work!

Wow. What an honor. I'm going to say pass-rusher. They have a solid stable with Clay Matthews, Nick Perry, Kyler Fackrell and Jayrone Elliott returning, but you never can have enough outside backers.

Rod from Chugiak, AK

Back in my school days my observation was those who wrote sports for the school papers were jocks at heart, without the bodies and skill sets to make the team. My guess is that type probably goes on to do much of the sports writing on the pro level. As a two-time state freestyle wrestling champ, when I read downers on Randall and Rollins from the pundits as well as your inbox, I know for dead sure, "They've never tried to perform with a groin injury!" Barring more such debilitating injury, we can expect bright futures for both young CBs.

That totally describes me. I love sports, but wasn't athletic enough to play anything at a remotely high level. Passion can be blinding for fans. I remember how much I criticized Ben Sheets for getting injured near the end of the Brewers' 2008 season. He tried to make a spot start late in the year and couldn't muster an 88-mph fastball. He then missed the entire 2009 season.

Ralph from Goose Creek, SC

It seems Ramczyk of the Badgers is dropping down in some mock drafts. Could he be another tackle who could come in and play guard? That would help the RG position and also doesn't hurt having another guy who can play tackle?

Everything I've heard suggests Ramczyk is the top tackle in this draft class, but there have been guys like Zach Martin who have made successful moves inside after successful college careers at left tackle. Ramczyk's frame (6-6, 310) screams tackle, but I guess that's up to whoever drafts him to decide.

Drew from Waterloo, IA

Have we heard any update on what got Davon House sat in Jacksonville? I admire what the Jags have done with their defense, but it seemed like a lot of money to pay a bench player.

House told our Michael K. Spofford it had to do with the Jaguars moving from press-man coverage to more of a zone-based defense. It's clear what he'll be asked to do in Green Bay. This defense favors what House does best.

Marjorie from Roseville, CA

This has probably been addressed before, but how long can a player be on the practice squad? How about a player that has been activated for a game or two and then goes back? Thanks.

Players have three years of practice-squad eligibility. A player needs to be on the practice squad for six games for it to count as a practice-squad year. On the 10-man practice squad, NFL teams also are permitted to carry four "veteran exemptions," allowing players with one or two accrued NFL seasons to remain eligible for the practice squad (e.g. Chris Banjo in 2014).

Paul from Milwaukee, WI

Wes - Do you think teams value a player's ability to return kicks and field punts nowadays? It just seems since the NFL changed the kickoff rules and tried to basically eliminate kickoff returns for the sake of injuries, that position is a lost art now. What do you think?

It's part of the equation, but kickoff returners don't have as many opportunities to impact games as in the past. Fielding punts is still an art. You never can have enough guys who are proficient in it. It can be a risky proposition. As important as it is to protect the football, it also is an opportunity to demoralize an opponent with an explosive play. I guess what I'm saying is there's still a place for returners in today's NFL.

Scott from Memphis, TN

You mentioned the salary cap carrying forward. Isn't there a minimum cap spend that must be met?

Yes. It gets complicated, but I believe teams must meet a certain percentage threshold over a three-year span.

Ben from Chicago, IL

Hey Insiders, since 2018 will likely bring multiple compensatory picks to the Packers, any chance Ted Thompson would trade a regular 2018 draft pick for a 2017 draft pick? How would one figure the value between the two picks? I'm just hoping Packers can get the help they need this year -- even if it's a jar-on the-shelf player, that's an extra year of development compared to the 2018 pick.

I hadn't thought of that, though it's not like Thompson to mortgage future draft picks. The Packers know they'll be coming into four likely mid-round picks next year. Since you're able to trade compensatory picks, he could also use those to move around in 2018. Stick in a pin in that question.

Sarah from Cambridge, MA

I bought an Eddie Lacy jersey a few years ago, knowing all along we weren't likely to keep him after his first contract was over. No regrets! He was great to watch. Maybe he'll come back next year.

The door has been open for former Packers returning to Green Bay. Anyone who previously purchased James Jones, Ryan Grant, Matt Flynn and House jerseys have been able to break them back out of the closet.

Ron from Rockford, IL

Hey guys, do you anticipate there being additional free agents available after June 1?

The NFL changed the rule regarding Post-June 1 cuts a few years ago. Teams are allowed to release a player now and kick their cap hit one year down the road, allowing the player a chance to catch on with a new team and participate in more of the offseason program rather than being a sitting duck.

Brant from Millis, MA

I'm sure everybody is going to remind you of Darrell Thompson, 1st Round RB out of Minnesota in 1990. That got me thinking about terrible drafts (Mandarich) and it all seemed to change under Wolf. Did he bring his own scouts to GB? Or did he just have an eye for talent?

We regret our error. I scanned the 1990 draft too quickly. One of the most underrated parts of Wolf's administration is the front office he put together. As great of a talent evaluator as he was, Wolf's ability to surround himself with exceptional scouts is incredible. There were some talented scouts already on staff when Wolf arrived, including future Kansas City general manager John Dorsey. Over the years, Wolf would add Ted Thompson, Reggie McKenzie, Scot McCloughan, Alonzo Highsmith, Sam Seale, Shaun Herock, John Schneider, and many, many more.

Carl from Salt Lake City, UT

Has there ever been an NFL player who was 7 feet tall? Good for blocking field goals?

I believe the only 7-footer to play in the NFL was Richard Sligh, a reserve receiver on the Oakland Raiders team that lost to the Packers in Super Bowl II. If there's another, I can't think of him.

Willie from Hayward, WI

What are your thoughts on a credentialed media member being responsible for stealing Brady's jersey? I would assume it violates every written and unwritten rule of trust in the book.

Thou shall not steal. Shameful.

Bill from Lublin, WI

Wes, a few years ago, my parents' beloved St. Bernard passed away. His name was Reggie, named after the Minister of Defense. They're about to get another St. Bernard puppy, and have asked family members for good Packer-themed names. My parents are in their early 70s, so throwback names to the Lombardi era are just as good as more recent ones. Any suggestions? So far, I'm pushing for Gilbert (Brown), with Willie (Davis) or Frank (Bag-o-Donuts Winters) also in contention.

I like Gilbert for a St. Bernard. I'll also say Curly (Lambeau), Fuzzy (Thurston), (Jerry and/or Ron) Kramer, Zeke (Bratkowski), Chewy (Mark Chmura), and obviously (Jim) Weatherwax.

Josh from Brookline, MA

ReadingIsHard? Ha! Dave from Millerton, NY needs to go in the Insiders Inbox Hall of Fame. On a related note, who is the best question asker, statistically? Who has the best OBP (on blog percentage, as calculated as responses printed per question submitted), who has the most career hits (responses printed), and who has the most home runs (responses that generated more than mean 2SD comments in the comment section)? Love the work, keep it up!

That's fine if you have a problem with something I wrote, but please take the time to actually read it before passing criticism. I'm guessing you guys would know best who gets published the most. Off the top of my head, it seems like I answer Derek from Eau Claire and Paul from Milwaukee quite a bit.

Steve from Richmond, KY

No question - just a comment: I appreciate your insight in your answers. They really help me understand some of the moves our team makes. Thank you and "GO PACK."

I like Steven from Richmond, KY, too.

Peter from Quahog, RI

Hi Wes, What is the last movie you saw in the theater?

I went to "Beauty and the Beast" Friday and "La La Land" before that. Those are the only movies I've seen in the theatre since the 2016 season began. Two thumbs-up for both.

Kary from Sheboygan, WI

Wes - I forgot it was Wes Week! In regards to Madden, while the game play may not be exactly a match, how do you feel about the GM side of it? I'd suggest that the GM side is much closer to reality than the coaching/game play side of it.

I'm glad they expanded the preseason rosters, so now you can simulate a cut down. I'm still keeping my fingers crossed for a practice squad one of these years. My one gripe is I wish the scouting system was more streamlined. Not enough points for too many players leaves you guessing on many (at least the PS3 version).

Scott from Milwaukee, WI

EA Sports should release a new college football game without using any player likeness. Use the 2014 game as a base, simulate 4 years so it's all fake prospects, update every team's overall score to follow the 2017 top 100 ranking, upgrade everything to PS4, and release. I'd buy that game.

I'm with you. I don't care if they're all computer-generated players. I just wanna recruit a few two-star gems again.

Garrett from New Berlin, WI

So Vic says OK, Mike says OK, and Wes delivers a hashtag. The kid grew a beard hair or two! I love the fun you're having Wes, you guys are a hoot.


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