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Thoughts should be driven by 49ers

Young men help teams avoid the ‘cliff’


Travis from Edgerton, WI

Media reported a fused toe was a reason certain teams completely took Eddie Lacy off the board. Durability and health-wise, what does this mean?

Based on what I've read, the surgery was to have occurred in January of 2012, which would mean Lacy played on the toe last fall when he led Alabama to the national title. If that's the case, then logic would dictate that what we saw is what the Packers are getting.

Mike from Sussex, WI

Vic, could you offer an explanation as to how Matt Barkley goes from being a highly sought first-round pick last year to falling to the fourth round this year in a significantly weaker QB class? Who got it wrong, the guys last year or this year? My gut tells me that one season of play shouldn't make that much of a difference in draft stock.

You're asking a perfectly logical question. In my mind, Barkley's draft stock was dramatically impacted by performance, and I think that's a mistake because you don't draft a player based on what he did, you draft him based on what he's going to do. I acknowledge that it's natural for performance to have some kind of an effect on where a player is drafted, but it shouldn't be this dramatic. If he had the talent to have been considered a possible first overall pick going into this season, then once he satisfied concerns about his shoulder injury, he still had the talent to be worthy of a higher pick than the fourth round. Hey, Tom Brady was drafted in the sixth round. That says it all about the draft as a science.

John from Winnipeg, Manitoba

What is the status of Derek Sherrod? Will he be ready for training camp?

Mike McCarthy revealed on Saturday night that Sherrod underwent a second surgery following the season, and that his injured leg is much improved over its condition last season. I don't know what that means as far as his availability in OTAs and training camp, but Coach McCarthy's report would indicate a positive outlook for the former first-round pick.

Fred from Nashville, TN

Why do you think the Packers didn't go for Jesse Williams? Is Johnny Jolly looking that good?

Williams is considered to be a top-heavy player, and that's an unappealing body type in today's game, when everybody's looking for players of length. Williams is not a player of length. He's a mountain of a man. That's also true of John Jenkins and Brandon Williams, two players I really like. They also fall into that mountain-of-a-man category; they lack the length everybody wants, and that's why they fell in the draft. Once upon a time, everybody wanted those kinds of guys, now everybody's looking for basketball players. I acknowledge that the game is changing, but if you're running a 3-4, you still need a mountain of a man at nose tackle. As for Jolly, Coach McCarthy reported on Saturday night that he had recently met with Jolly, and that Jolly is following a path that would return him to the NFL.

Conor from Glen Mills, PA

Vic, some people say the 49ers having an awesome draft is a case of the rich getting richer. To play devil's advocate, what would you say is their weakness?

In my opinion, their weakness is the read-option they plan to use. I say that because until I'm convinced otherwise, I believe using your quarterback as a runner exposes him unnecessarily to injury, and you can't win it all without "The Man." I think the 49ers have "The Man," but their "Man" is a runner and I think that's a problem.

Tim from Indianapolis, IN

When predicting who the Packers will take in the draft, we need to start looking at the Senior Bowl more closely. Ted always seems to pick standouts from that week. Datone Jones and Johnathan Franklin are prime examples.

I completely agree. The Senior Bowl is the best forum for evaluating talent because it pits prospects against prospects and it allows NFL scouts to have those prospects tested in a manner that would expose their weaknesses, if they have any. A college coach can hide a prospect's weakness with scheme. A prospect can build his stats against players that aren't prospects. In some ways, I think the Senior Bowl tells us more about him than what he did in game action during the season. I also think it's better for a coaching staff to be in attendance at the Senior Bowl than coaching a meaningless game in Hawaii. By the way, Jones and Franklin jumped out at me at the Senior Bowl. Jones is one of the first guys about whom I inquired to Tony Pauline. I pointed at Jones and asked Tony if he could play in a 3-4.

Marty from San Francisco, CA

Vic, do you get the feeling the Packers' choices were driven by thoughts of playing the 49ers?

Yes, I do. The game is evolving and the Packers clearly acknowledged as much when they sent their coaching staff to Texas A&M to get a tutorial on the read-option. Spread offense and its concepts are making their way into the NFL and everybody is reacting to them in an aggressive manner. Everybody is looking for players of length, which is to say players that resemble basketball players; those are the kinds of players you need to stop the read-option. Hey, Datone Jones is a former basketball player. Ziggy Ansah, the fifth pick of the draft, went to BYU to play basketball. The 49ers are the team to beat in the NFC. How are you going to beat them if your thoughts aren't driven by them?

Matt from Tallahassee, FL

Last year, you said your best pick should be your first pick. Do you think that was the case again this year?

It better be, or your board is wrong, and when your board is wrong, your salary cap takes a hit.

Alex from Chapel Hill, NC

Vic, how does the undrafted free agent signing system work? Is it just a big free-for-all as soon as the draft finishes?

Yep. Teams start calling undrafted prospects those teams had already identified as players they'd like to sign. This is where the agents are important. They know what the needs are for each team and they direct their clients to those teams that offer the best opportunity for making the roster.

Jason from Summerville, SC

Is unused cap money a use-it-or-lose-it type of deal year to year?

Not anymore. Once upon a time, that's the way it was, and teams with cap room remaining in December would do a contract with a player to eat up that room so they wouldn't lose it. Now, cap room just automatically gets added to the next year.

John from Cheshire, CT

I really hate to sound like a typical fan who wants free agent after free agent, but with cap space this year, why not look at Brian Urlacher as a short-term fix to plug up the middle and add a snarly attitude?

As a player gets older, he approaches the "cliff," which is the point in every player's career that it becomes obvious that age has robbed him of his talent. What we don't know is when the player will reach that "cliff" season, so when you sign an older player, you're gambling that you're not signing him in his "cliff" season. If you do it one time, you might get lucky. If you do a lot, the odds will get you. More often than not, you will have wasted money and cap room on a player whose skills are eroding. In my opinion, football is a young man's game. If you live by that philosophy, you'll be able to avoid the "cliff."

Lucas from Gladstone, MI

Last year, the Packers couldn't stop the run. Do you think Datone Jones can be the difference maker in the Packers defense?

First-round picks are supposed to be impact players, which is another way of saying difference maker. I think that should be the expectation for a first-round pick. In my opinion, they need to do a whole lot more than just contribute. Be that as it may, I think a first-round pick should be given time to assimilate himself into the pro game. I think it's unfair to expect immediate impact.

Gabriel from Appleton, WI

Are you getting a bunch of people asking you if the Packers should sign Tim Tebow?

Yes, I am, but I'm accustomed to it. This has been going on for me since Tebow threw his first fake-run jump pass at Florida. I don't worry about it.

Chris from Green Bay, WI

I feel like everyone is worried about the depth at safety, but no one seems to be concerned about the Packers having three outside linebackers and only adding two late-round draft prospects that may not even make the team. How do you feel about the depth at outside linebacker?

I sense that on a lot of teams, this one included, linebacker is becoming a devalued position, except for the rushers, such as Clay Matthews. More and more, teams are using sub packages and those sub packages are replacing linebackers with defensive backs. We've certainly seen that with the Packers. Defenses are trending toward defensive lineman/linebacker hybrids matched with a secondary full of defensive backs. That's why I don't worry about depth at linebacker. You need two outside linebackers that can rush the passer, and a couple of guys that can hold up against the run when you're playing against a team that likes to run the ball. I think that's the trend.

Paul from Waukesha, WI

Vic, is the number of players a team can sign at 90 now?

Yes, it is. Following the draft, teams may include on their roster 90 players that include those that are under contract and all of the recent draft picks.

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