William from Jacksonville, FL
Why do they call it the combine?
Because all of the league's teams combine their scouting resources to conduct the workouts and medical examinations, and that information is shared among the teams.
Greg from Bellevue, WA
Wouldn't clocking an offensive lineman over his 10-20 yards be more important than his 40-yard time? Isn't quickness off the line more valued than picking up a head of steam halfway through the 40-yard dash?
Teams that pull their offensive linemen wanna see if they have the speed to get out in front of the back and lead him downfield. Yeah, 10-20 yards will tell you what you need to know about a lineman's mobility. Where that distance is especially important is in judging pass rushers. When a prospect runs the 40, he's clocked at a 10-yard split, and that time is as important or more important than the 40 time.
Ric from Waterloo, IA
I'm intrigued by the number of big corners in this draft. That said, does the combine offer some type of drill to see how well the cornerbacks/safeties stay with receivers, where only the receiver knows where he is going and the defender has to make corresponding adjustments in coverage?
The scouts wanna see the defensive backs turn their hips. That's the single-most important drill for defensive backs. Are they fluid in the hips? The answer to that question is provided in backpedal drills. If a defensive back can flip his hips, he can make the adjustments in coverage he needs to make. You're describing a technique known as "mirroring," and nobody does it better than Darrelle Revis.
Martin from Brookfield, IL
After seeing Bruce Irvin's lightning-fast 40 time, I still haven't heard much chatter about him. To me, he looks like the high impact player we're looking for. Do you think he will fall in our laps come draft time and will he make a good fit opposite Clay?
Just keep your ears open; you're gonna hear lots of chatter now. In fact, I doubt Irvin will "stand" on his combine time, which was later changed yesterday to an official time of 4.50. I think he'll run at West Virginia's pro day, where he's certain to be on a fast track. He might break 4.50 at his pro day. Irvin made a lot of money on Monday when he ran that blazing 40 time. He was a third-round guy going into the day, and he's on his way up.
Hawken from Clemson, SC
How is it determined which players are invited to participate in the NFL combine?
There's a board or committee of personnel people who select the invitees. It's very intense, right down to requests by members of the committee for a re-vote on a guy they don't want.
Ray from Bakersfield, CA
First, second and fourth in 2011 and first and fourth-round picks in 2012, that's the price Atlanta paid to Cleveland to move up and draft Julio Jones. I thought it was desperate and foolish then, and even more so now. What's your take on this whole situation?
The Falcons made the trade because they ascribe to a needs-picking philosophy, and if they hadn't made the trade to pick Jones, their pick would've been an offensive tackle with whom they were not in love. The Falcons perceived their greatest needs to be for a wide receiver – Roddy White is 31 – and an offensive tackle. Their opinion of Jones was so much higher than their opinion of the highest-rated offensive tackle available that they considered the cost of the trade to be worthwhile.
Otis from Pearland, TX
Vic, I have heard the Steelers are restructuring the contracts of many of their players in order to give themselves some salary cap space. I don't think any of the actual details have been announced, but how does this usually work?
They are selecting their premium players, the guys they believe will be on their roster for the next several years, and converting their 2012 salaries to signing bonus. They'll take, for example, a $5 million salary in 2012, pay all but the minimum wage part of it now in signing bonus, and then divide that signing bonus evenly over the life of the contract. In other words, they're moving a significant portion of that player's salary onto future caps. I think it's a dangerous strategy, but teams are doing it because a new TV deal is expected to drive future salary caps considerably higher.
Nathanael from North Prairie, WI
When you were listing teams that live by the draft, you mentioned the Patriots. Haven't they been signing a lot of vet free agents in recent years? Ochocinco springs to mind, as do many other players.
Acquiring Chad Ochocinco was a good move? How about the Albert Haynesworth trade? Ouch! Getting Wes Welker was a good trade; it only cost the Patriots second- and seventh-round picks. The Patriots haven't been big players in expensive free agency. In one of their few big swings, they got burned badly on Adalius Thomas. The nucleus of the Patriots' team has come to them through the draft: Brady, Wilfork, Gronkowski, Mayo, etc. The Pats have done a good job of using "cheap" free agency to patch holes in their roster, which I believe is how free agency should be used; build through the draft, patch in "cheap" free agency. The bottom line is that whatever mistakes the Patriots have made, Tom Brady has made them disappear.
Stefan from Vienna, Austria
How do you see the chance my Packers can get a real good pass rusher to help Clay and push forward the team?
Stefan, baby, I'll be surprised if they DON'T get a good pass rusher to help Clay Matthews and push forward the team.
Ivan from Zagreb, Croatia
I also like Ingram a lot. Do you think Packers could draft Ingram? Will he still be available when Packers pick and, if not, will they maybe move up to get him?
Off what he ran yesterday, I have to believe the Packers would almost certainly have to trade up to get Ingram. He's not going to make it past the army of 3-4 teams ahead of them. Here's my question: Why trade up? There are enough rush-backer prospects in this draft to sit and pick.
Kit from Minocqua, WI
I am a firm believer in building through the draft and love Thompson's approach. My concern is the only true free agent pickups under the Thompson era are Woodson and Pickett. Why not go after a pass rusher in the draft and in free agency?
Just before free agency begins on March 13, take a look at the pass rushers available. Watch them disappear between now and then.
David from Peoria, IL
Whenever a player at the combine isn't injured but decides not to participate in certain events, the "experts" always seem to say the player hurt himself. Why would healthy players choose not to participate in certain events at the combine?
Draft prospects prefer to run at home because they know the track on which they're going to run at their pro day is gonna be as fast as their college program can make it. Agents devise a combine strategy for their clients. The agents make decisions that'll maximize their clients' potential to be drafted as high as possible. They watch what the competition has run. If a guy like Zach Brown runs fast, which he did on Monday, then it might be better for, say, Courtney Upshaw to decline to run, which he did. Why? Because Upshaw is likely to run faster at his pro day than he would at the combine, and that'll help close the gap between himself and a guy such as Brown. I don't think a guy hurts himself by not running at the combine. I think the only time a guy hurts himself is when he runs slow. Don't run slow because running slow is the worst. Don't run, break your leg, pretend you're sick, anything to avoid running slow. Running slow is like throwing money out a window.
Tommy from Milwaukee, WI
Who are some offensive players you've seen that fit the Packers value board at the 28th pick?
I used to think Cordy Glenn fit there, and I was gonna use him as a BAP tester because I can't imagine there are 28 better football players in this draft class than Glenn. Based on his workout on Saturday, on the heels of that killer performance he put on in Mobile, Glenn won't make it down to 28. The only shot for him to make it down that far was if he worked out poorly enough at the combine to limit him to guard. When he worked out as he did on Saturday, he put himself into the tackle category, too, and that shot him up above the Packers. I'm sure there are offensive players that fit where the Packers are scheduled to pick, but all I can see are defensive players in and around that spot. I see loads of defensive linemen, rush backers and defensive backs. I think Tony Pauline's Mark Barron suggestion is strong. I look at what Dontari Poe did on Monday and I can't help but wonder who he's pushed down to the Packers. Poe turned in a Jason Pierre-Paul type of performance on Monday, and what it means to the Packers is that a player that WASN'T likely to be available when it was their turn to pick, WILL be available when they pick.
Ben from Dallas, TX
You were high on Vinny Curry during the Senior Bowl. How do you think his 4.98 40 will affect his draft stock? Do you think he's a player the Packers should still consider drafting?
I think he defined himself on Monday as a 4-3 end. I mentioned in this column recently that a scout for a 4-3 team late in the draft order expressed to me at the Senior Bowl strong interest in Curry; he loved what he saw of him in Mobile. I suggested to the scout that Curry might be a rush backer in a 3-4. The scout wrinkled his nose at that suggestion because he didn't think Curry had enough sustained speed to play outside linebacker. Well, the scout was right. Based on Curry's 40 time, which NFL Network had as 4.85, Curry is a shade too slow for outside linebacker. You run the risk of him getting beat down the seam if he has to drop into coverage, and all linebackers can be schemed into some form of coverage. Curry had a top workout on Monday, for a 4-3 end.
Chadd from Antigo, WI
Do scouts and coaches/general managers put as much emphasis on the 40-yard dash as the media does? To me, I think the shuttle runs and cone drills are more telling than a 40-yard track sprint.
Coaches and personnel people are looking for speed. It doesn't matter if it's the 40 or a cone drill, they're looking for guys that turn in fast times. Speed, speed, speed; you are what you run. Nobody is looking for slow. Once all of the fast guys are gone, then the coaches and scouts look for the guys that have a particular talent or skill that allows them to overcome their lack of speed. It might be instincts or a kind of football clairvoyance that allows them superior anticipation and the ability to move earlier than the players that run fast. Or maybe it's a dominant size and strength that allows them to engage speed and make it stop. There's an old adage: Size defeats speed. I know that's going to surprise a lot of fans, but what it means is that when size gets its hands on speed, size tends to gobble up speed. A 6-7, 320-pound offensive tackle, for example, will swallow a tweener, if the tackle gets his hands on the tweener. That's why the tweener has to be really, really fast. I'm not sold on Courtney Upshaw, and it's because I don't know if he's quick enough and fast enough to be an undersized pass rusher. Power is his game, but he's never seen power like he's gonna see in this league. This is a speed game. Find the guys that can run and you'll win.
Andy from Fort McMurray, AB
I remember you mentioning a while back that it's always smart to pick up the big guys in the first rounds. Still true in this draft class?
It's true in any draft class. It's George Young's "Planet Theory." There are only so many men on the planet "that big," and when you have a chance to pick one, you better do it.