Saturday, February 21, 2009

What's up with the Pack at the NFL Combine?

As any football fan knows, this is the time of year when we start dreaming. About young football players who can help transform our team. Especially if our team has a Top 10 draft pick. Which our team -- the Packers -- does. Number 9 to be exact. (For those of you old enough to remember, or enough of a music fan to get the reference, let's just say that, finally, Ringo Starr's prophetic statement came true: "number nine...number nine...").

So, with the NFL Combine going on in Indianapolis this weekend, what are the Packers up to? As you might well imagine, evaluating talent. Sitting at number 9 gives the Pack lots of options. According to some of the pundits, the top of this draft is deep on offensive possibilities, particularly offensive tackles. With LT Chad Clifton showing signs of wear and tear, and RT Mark Tauscher rehabbing from his season-ending knee injury, a tackle might be on the top of the Packers' list of needs. Although according to an article in today's Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, "The top three left tackles in the National Football League draft won't be available for the Green Bay Packers to take with the No. 9 selection based on a Journal Sentinel poll of executives representing 25% of the league." That doesn't mean a good tackle isn't available, of course. Nor does it mean that's the way the Pack would go anyway. "Best available athlete" is usually the standard operating procedure.

So what other needs could be met? Obviously, with the Pack's move to the 3-4 defensive scheme, nose tackles and linebackers become positions of interest. Some believe the pickings are a bit slim in terms of nose tackle talent. As for linebackers, again, not a lot there at the top of the draft.

Would the Packers take a running back at number 9? Not with the seeming commitment they have to Ryan Grant. A back or two farther down the draft certainly is likely.

A few of the mock drafts out there still have the Pack selecting DB Malcolm Jenkins from Ohio State. Mel Kiper said on ESPN the other day, without specific reference to the Packers, that Jenkins' draft position will depend upon his time in the 40-yard dash. A good 40 time would assure Jenkins of going in the top 10. (If you want to hear an interesting discussion of this issue, with specific mention of Jenkins and some others, check out Kiper's comments on ESPN radio here.)

So what will Packers GM Ted Thompson do with his pick? There's about nine weeks to go before the tuned. But in the meantime, you can read a lot of what's going on in this Combine blog from the Journal-Sentinel's Greg Bedard. Check out Mike McCarthy's comments especially for his thoughts related to personnel, the change in defensive scheme, etc.