Charles from Statham, GA
In the past you have mentioned some differences in the necessary physical skills between, say, a receiver and a defensive back. What differences are there between an offensive lineman and a defensive lineman? Can a player successfully convert from an offensive lineman to a defensive lineman?
Metaphorically speaking, one likes to pitch and the other likes to catch. To be a defensive lineman, you have to want to deliver the blow; to be an offensive lineman, you have to be willing to absorb the blow, which is what pass blocking is all about. I've seen several defensive linemen switch to the other side of the ball. It's usually because they have the feet to play the position. I can't think of too many offensive linemen that moved to defense, though I'm sure there have been plenty. The two guys that immediately come to mind for me are Justin Strzelczyk and Carlton Haselrig. They were defensive linemen that became long-term, accomplished blockers. Haselrig is the most naturally powerful and gifted offensive lineman I have ever covered. He played no college football. He was a six-time NCAA heavyweight wrestling champion, which can never be done again because it's forbidden; it's called the Haselrig rule. His first day in pads as a pro, he dominated the Oklahoma drill as a defensive lineman. He was moved to offense and was feared by opponents. I've never seen anyone pull with his power and grace. If he hadn't been haunted by internal forces that shortened his career, I think he could've become one of the greatest guards ever.
Anthony from Canandaigua, NY
What are the chances the Packers use free agency to get a premier pass rusher, like a Mario Williams or Osi Umenyiora? Do you think it would be a good idea to go after a proven pass rusher?
I don't know the answer to your question, but I'm inclined to believe the chances are slim. I think they can get their pass rusher in the draft.
Brian from Omaha, NE
Now that the combine is over, pro days are coming up. How many pro days does a team usually attend, and will this show us who the Packers are really interested in?
All the teams are represented at all of the pro days in one fashion or another. It's common for teams to send a larger contingent of scouts to a local pro day; I'm sure the Packers will be represented en masse at the Wisconsin pro day, for example. A team doesn't tip its hand at a pro day, but it can tip its hand at a personal workout. That's when you start noticing which teams are present. You don't attend a personal workout unless you're interested in a guy. Sometimes, a team will even request its own personal workout, meaning they have told the player they wanna draft him and they want one more look.
Mark from Winfield, IL
You talked about speed at the combine vs. on the field and how route-running plays a part. I've also heard the term "game speed" used to describe players who were relatively faster than everyone else, once they put their pads on. I seem to recall Deion Sanders having great game speed. Can you comment?
Mark, Sanders had great "sleep speed." You could've awakened him in the middle of the night and run him 40 yards in his pajamas and he would've turned a 4.3. I don't wanna burst your bubble, but "game speed" is a fabrication by those romantics that wanna believe football is a game of intangibles. "Game speed" is knowing how to use angles and body language to lessen your opponent's true speed. Nobody runs faster than they can run because their legs move faster in a game than they do in a practice.
Joe from Minneapolis, MN
I like the idea of the Packers using multiple picks to address the outside linebacker position in the draft. With the 28th pick, I see value in Nick Perry (pictured) and Zach Brown. With the 56th pick, I see value in Bruce Irvin and Shea McClellin. Do you see the Packers taking two outside linebackers with their first two picks?
I think you've worked the picks to the Packers' favor, but I agree with you that there's nothing wrong with making multiple pass-rusher picks. You pick 'em as they fall on your board. Why does the pass rusher have to be an outside linebacker? Why can't you rush the passer with inside linebackers, too? Dom Capers had Levon Kirkland and Chad Brown and they were fantastic pass rushers from the inside. I think fans are pigeon-holing the linebacker positions and that's counter to the whole idea of the 3-4. The 3-4 allows for creativity and flexibility. You want all of your linebackers to be able to rush the passer. That's when you get your jailhouse break. The quarterback doesn't know from where the rush is gonna come. As it stands right now, he knows it's gotta come from Clay Matthews or it ain't comin'. You want three plugs up front and four run-and-hit guys behind them. When you get those four run-and-hit guys, they make everybody better. The 3-4 is about linebackers.
Ben from Gordon, WI
What do you think of David DeCastro from Stanford? Do you believe he is the best interior offensive lineman in the draft?
He did 34 reps at the combine, so the one thing we know about DeCastro is that he's strong. Is he the best interior lineman in the draft? If Cordy Glenn is a tackle, which a lot of draftniks believe he is after an impressive workout at the combine, then DeCastro might be the top guy. Glenn, in my opinion, is a key figure for teams at the bottom of the first round. He's gonna be a lot of football player to pass up. He's not especially enticing in this day of the passing game because he's more of a run-blocker, but let's not forget that Derek Sherrod suffered a broken leg late in the season and Chad Clifton is clearly in the late stages of his career. What if Glenn was on the board at 28? Those big guys are tough to pass up.
Kyle from Halifax, Nova Scotia
I can't seem to grasp the benefit of tagging a player.
I think every team views the franchise tag as something it doesn't wanna use. It wants to reach a contract agreement with the player, but when a player reaches the expiration point of his contract, he often wants to force the team's hand. He becomes unreceptive to contract talks. He's basically saying, "Tag me or let me go." If his team is up against the cap, as Mario Williams has the Texans, then the player has leverage. It's always about leverage. The benefits of the franchise tag for teams are, in my opinion: 1.) It allows a team to retain the rights to a player for the purpose of promoting negotiations that might lead to a contract. 2.) If it's at an affordable position, it allows the team to send a show-me-what-you-can-do message. In other words, the player is in a "contract year," and that tends to be very motivational.
Dylan from Arcata, CA
Seeing as how Donald Driver is in the tail end of his (amazing) career, I was curious as to what you think of his achievements and consistency. How do you think he ranks on the all-time list of Packers receivers, and do you think he will ever be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame?
Anyone whose read this column for any length of time knows how I feel about the "old pros." I'm very respectful of them; I have affection for them. I love to see a guy cap a great career, go out on his terms and with the first buck he ever made tucked away in a portfolio that'll allow him and his family to spend the rest of their lives in financial security. I have a feeling that's how Driver is gonna go out. Where does he rank among Packers receivers? High. Will he be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame? That's gonna be tough; I think we saw evidence of that this year when the committee turned its back on the wide receiver position. The emphasis on the passing game is driving numbers through the roof. Look at Wes Welker's numbers. Can you honestly say he's a Hall of Fame receiver?
Andy from Fort McMurray, AB
I was looking through some of the players that graded out big and who might be around the 28th spot in the draft. I'll throw out some defensive line names and you let me know if any of them stand out as favorites for you: Jared Crick, Bruce Irvin and Devon Still.
Crick is likely a down-the-line guy. He missed most of the season and that'll probably drop him. Irvin's stock is shooting up and it'll likely shoot higher following his pro day and personal workouts. If he's available at 28, you have to consider him because he offers impact potential for a 3-4 team. Still really passes the eye test. I had no idea he's as impressive physically as he is until I saw him at the combine. He's got great bloodlines: Art Still and Levon Kirkland, I've been told. Most people see him as a 4-3 tackle because he's more of a penetration guy than he is a two-gapper, but when you see how he matched up physically against Alabama's linemen last fall, you have to believe he can hold the point as a 3-4 end, and give you a little chase, too.
Josh from Lombard, IL
If you could add any drill to the combine, what would you add and why?
There's nothing more I wanna see at the combine. I wanna see more of what I saw at the Senior Bowl. Those were great practices, the best practices I've seen in a long time.
Kris from Marinette, WI
I believe in BAP and what Ted Thompson is doing. My question is if you have an offensive player ranked 28th and a defensive player ranked 29th, is there really that much difference between them that you wouldn't take the one you thought you needed the most, if they are both still there when your pick comes up?
First of all, the board isn't likely to fall that way. Every team's board is different. It's more likely the gap would be between, say, the 18th-ranked guy on your board and the 25th-ranked guy. Even at that gap, the difference might be minute. It's all a matter of where you draw the line. Some GMs throw out the hundredths of a point in a player grades and lump all players that are in the same tenths. I think that's sensible because I don't think you can trust a grade down to a hundredth of a point. If you've got three guys tied at the same tenth of a grade, then pick need.
Bryce from Iron Mountain, MI
The thing I love most about the Packers is that they all seem to be really great guys off the field as well as on. Do you think there's a possibility the Packers would take someone with less talent but a better personality over a talented punk?
Define punk. If you mean a guy who does bad things, yeah, I think the Packers would avoid picking him. If you mean a guy who's not a problem off the field but has a sour personality, then I would hope the Packers would draft the talented punk. I can't help but remember a T-shirt worn by a certain surly linebacker Dom Capers coached. It said something about not being hired for his disposition. He had other T-shirts, too, but decorum won't allow me to tell you what they said. He was one of the most miserable human beings I've ever covered, but he was really good. Just win, baby.
Rene from La Habra, CA
Are there any Charles Woodson type cornerbacks in this year's draft?
The easy answer is no, because you could say no every year for 10 years and be right nine times. Woodson-type cornerbacks only come along at the rate of one every 10 years. If you're asking about the quality of this year's cornerback crop, I will tell you that it looks strong. Given what Patrick Peterson did last year, I think Morris Claiborne has to be considered as capable. Brandon Boykin of Georgia is a top guy. Stephon Gilmore of South Carolina is a big, good-looking corner; remember his name. I wrote a feature at the combine on Montana's Trumaine Johnson. He's a giant-sized corner for a team that wants to play some zone or sees him playing a kind of corner/safety hybrid. Dwight Bentley of Louisiana-Lafayette was dynamite at the Senior Bowl, and that's the best platform for judging a corner, in my opinion, because they are run through two solid days of one-on-one coverage drills against top receivers. Janoris Jenkins of North Alabama is loaded with talent. The only thing knocking him down is having been suspended by Florida.