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Tony Pauline gives Senior Bowl hit list

We're all part of the fraternity of football


Steve from Lake Stevens, WA

Vic, which positions are deepest in this draft?

Tony Pauline says "offensive tackle is very good. Space linebackers, very good there, with guys that can drop into coverage, not just rushers. Not a bad center crop. Wide receiver is OK; two first-rounders, four second-rounders. Good defensive tackle class."

Chuck from Gold Canyon, AZ

What did Tony think of Blake Martinez during Senior Bowl practices? I don't see him mentioned in many four-round mock drafts, but he impressed me at Stanford and reports had him having a solid week. I know mock drafts aren't reality but could he be this year's Jake Ryan and a good fit for ILB in the middle rounds, allowing us to fill other need positions that are BAP in the early rounds?

Per Tony: "He did well. He didn't have any breakdowns; he had like six tackles in the game. He's an intelligent player who's somewhat athletic. He's a three-down player. Late third round."

Luke from La Crosse, WI

What specifically has allowed the Panthers to emerge as a Super Bowl contender? Has their roster changed that much from a year ago?

The Panthers are the perfect example of what patience, the accumulation of draft picks and their development can produce. Cam Newton is the poster child for that formula. He was an immediate hit as a rookie, but then struggled and created doubt as to whether he would step up to the elite level. He has. He's a much more efficient and educated passer. As Newton was developing his skills, the Panthers were accumulating high draft picks. Luke Kuechly immediately comes to mind. How much better would the Panthers be with Kelvin Benjamin? Would they be undefeated? The Panthers have drafted very well.

Steve from Las Vegas, NV

Vic, I really missed your updates on players from the Senior Bowl. Now that it's over, who really made an unexpected impression with Tony?

I don't know what his expectations were, but these are his impressions of the players Tony believes were the top performers at the Senior Bowl: "Carson Wentz really stood out. He did what a quarterback from a small school has to do. He has a big arm, can make all of the throws. He's 6-5, 233. Wednesday was cold, rainy and windy. He was the only guy who could cut the wind. He was pretty accurate. I liked his leadership skills. He wasn't overwhelmed. Either he or Jared Goff from Cal will be the first quarterback taken. Kenyan Drake of Alabama looked like a real playmaker. Had a major knee injury; came back last year. Very explosive all three days of practice. Reggie Bush kind of quickness and explosion. Really did well as a pass-catcher out of the backfield. Braxton Miler was outstanding. He looked like he had played receiver all of his life. You can tell he's been working on the nuances of the position. Nick Vannett looked like a large possession receiver. Got down the seam, made difficult catches in crowds. Held his own as a blocker. Jason Spriggs of Indiana looked very good. Very athletic. Tremendous pass protector. The big question was what was his strength at the point of attack like? He answered that question. He went from the second round to late in round one. Vernon Butler (325 pounds) of Louisiana Tech and Matt Ioannidis of Temple were both really good. Ioannidis at times looked like a one-man show. Noah Spence of Eastern Kentucky, by way of Ohio State, did really well rushing the passer. He projects as a 3-4 outside linebacker. He looked like a first-round pick in 2013. He looks the part. He came in shape."

Randy from Medicine Hat, Canada

Which Super Bowl was the most important, in your opinion? Was it Joe Namath's guaranteed victory game?

Yeah, I think it's Super Bowl III. The merger was going to happen anyhow, but this cemented it. Super Bowl III also drove the popularity of pro football to a higher level. Namath was the kind of headliner the game needed. He had the kind of charisma football had been lacking. With the Jets' win in Super Bowl III, there was no stopping the NFL. It's been an up arrow for the league ever since. All these years later, look where this game and this league are. The world stops for football this Sunday. It's really amazing, especially for someone who began covering the NFL when it was still begging for attention.

Brett from Green Bay, WI

The Broncos win if...

They force turnovers and don't commit any. They have to do to the Panthers what the Steelers nearly did to the Broncos. One fumble can change it all.

Stephen from Cedar Falls, IA

Vic how do you see the Packers' tight end situation this offseason panning out, as Justin Perillo and Andrew Quarless are both free agents?

It's obviously a position of need; the numbers tell us that. In Mike McCarthy's tight end-friendly offense, I think the need is accentuated.

Del from Sterling, IL

Have you ever covered a team that completed two legitimate Hail Mary passes in a single season?

I had only covered a team that completed one of them in all my years prior to this past season. The Jaguars completed one to beat the Texans in 2010. In that game, the Texans defender, Glover Quin, attempted to knock the pass down but batted it directly to the Jaguars receiver, Mike Thomas. I remember doing a video with Thomas the following day. We were standing at the exact spot where he made the catch. He was holding the ball and the gloves he used to catch the ball. I remember saying, "This is the spot, these are the gloves and this is the ball." Thomas smiled, and then somebody turned on the sprinklers and we got doused and we had to do it again.

Tim from Denver, CO

I have worked with small businesses all my life and once one becomes profitable they start to invest back into themselves to save on taxes. This can be a renovation of offices to additions of some sort. Can an NFL team do the same to hide profits from the cap?

The salary cap is a product of the gross, not the net.

Wallace from Plano, IL

I'm 66 years old and have enjoyed the Packers for at least 55 years. Draft-and-develop works. We enjoy competitive football year after year. We make the playoffs year after year. Is making the playoffs good enough?

In my mind, making the playoffs is the goal, until you make them, and then the Super Bowl becomes the goal. I believe in that philosophy because you can't win the Super Bowl if you don't make the playoffs, and the more often you make the playoffs, the more often you'll win it all.

Zachary from Racine, WI

I feel like we have a ton of talent on this team. I think the next two drafts we need to stock up on the big boys in the trenches. Maybe sprinkle in a solid skill player or two and some pass rushers and we can win a couple of Super Bowls before Rodgers hangs 'em up. Thoughts?

Drafting big guys, solid skill players and pass rushers is a good plan, but sometimes you have to take what the draft gives you. Draft good football players regardless of position and fate will take care of the rest.

Greg from Cuenca, Ecuador

Vic, I, too, watched Super Bowl I and was struck by how often Jim Simpson announced the colleges from which the players graduated. Was this an NFL thing, designed to get the public to relate to the players, or merely Jim Simpson's broadcast style?

It was Simpson's style, but it was common among older broadcasters because football was the college game. Pro football was trying to cut into the football market. Players back then were more identifiable for their college careers, largely because nearly all of them were college stars. Paul Hornung was the "Golden Boy" before he joined the Packers. Even today, NFL players are identified by the colleges that produced them. Football has always held a fraternal feeling for me. I love every aspect of it. We're all part of the fraternity of football and, for me, that especially includes the people that read this column.

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