The Packers Armchair Scout's Guide to the 2013 NFL Scouting Combine
There isn't much room for error on the field in Indy or in the interview rooms, and what players do this coming week can vault them into the first round or dump them several rounds back.
Green Bay Packers fans will have a lot to watch, as the team has plenty of holes to fill despite yet another playoff appearance this past season.
I've put together this guide so you too can be your own scout and track what's important as well as what isn't.
First of all, if you don't have NFL Network, you can catch up on all the video of the main drills at NFL.com's Combine page, as well as analysis from the network's analysts and interviews with the prospects.
You'll also want to follow any beat writers who are there on Twitter for live takes as well as press conference news.
How else will you get all of Ted Thompson or Mike McCarthy's dry wit and non-answers?
With so much to watch, It's important to decide ahead of time where to focus your attention. So, let's go over the schedule and what groups of players Packers fans will want to focus on.
Group 1, 2 and 3 Schedule
Group 1 are the kickers, special teams players and half of the offensive line prospects; Group 2 consists of the rest of the offensive linemen, while Group 3 contains the tight ends.
Groups 2 and 3 are the ones that Packers fans will keep an eye on, as the team always needs more offensive linemen, and with the uncertain future of Jermichael Finley, tight end is also a potential need.
The groups arrive Wednesday and do some medical tests, though the bulk of the medical stuff will be dealt with on Thursday. On that day, we'll hear about the measurements as well—official height, weight, arm length, hand measurement—and any questions about lingering injury issues will be checked out (for example, Matt Barkley's separated shoulder).
Friday brings psychological testing, the bench press and the workout for kickers and special teams players.
The bench press will help narrow down offensive line prospects you want to watch on Saturday when these groups do their on-field drills.
This will cover the same drills you've seen many times before—the broad jump, the vertical jump and the fabled 40-yard dash.
Tight ends will, of course, also do some receiving drills, while the offensive line will do various blocking drills.
Group 4, 5 and 6 Schedule
Groups 4 and 5 are comprised of both quarterbacks and wide receivers, while Group 6 is just running backs.
Thompson and McCarthy are always in the market for more wide receivers, and with Greg Jennings all but gone, they will probably be adding more depth there—so that's a group you will want to watch closely.
Quarterback isn't a high priority and this isn't a great class, so you won't spend too much time on those players.
Running back should be a high priority, though you can never tell with Thompson or McCarthy. They're worth watching though, as the Packers have been hit and miss with their draft selections at the position and will likely be looking for someone to enhance their existing backfield.
Arriving on Thursday, these groups will do the same schedule as the previous groups, just one day later. So their full medical is Friday, the bench press and testing is on Saturday and their on-field workouts are on Sunday.
Keeping in mind that nobody is hitting these players, so you can only gain so much from watching the receiving and various passing drills. However, it's useful to have the players on the field at the same time so you can compare some of what they do to each other.
Certainly for the receivers, seeing how theirs hands and breaks look even if they aren't covered is a good exercise.
Drills are important for both receivers and running backs—whether for the basic drills like the broad jump (explosiveness off the line) or the Three Cone Drill shows (change of direction) or position specific drills like the gauntlet for receivers or blocking drills for backs.
For an excellent run down of all the main drills, check out Mike Mayock's explanations at NFL.com.
Packers fans should take a long look at both the receivers and backs, as you will likely see some players the Packers could take in April.
Group 7, 8 and 9 Schedule
Last year the Packers went hard after defense. However, while there was improvement, issues remain.
So, the rest of the groups, while defense focused, are still very critical for fans to watch. Both Group 7 and 8 are defensive linemen, while Group 9 contains all the linebackers.
All three contain players worth watching, though outside linebackers and defensive tackles may be the most critical two groups.
These player groups arrive on Friday, do their full medical Saturday, their testing and bench press on Sunday and their drills on Monday.
Of course, you'll want to note what they do on the bench press Sunday, but the drills will again be the key here for combine watchers.
You'll want to watch the broad and vertical jumps closely for your edge pass-rushers, and a good 40 time won't go awry. Of course, like the receivers and backs, the linebackers and linemen have their own drills.
The individual positional drills will consist of things like a coach having players follow a ball in his hand and reacting to sudden changes in direction, and players showing off their hand motion and strength in battling their way through tackling dummies.
A good set of positional drills will solidify a prospect's ranking or send scouts (and analysts) running back to their game film to double-check a guy.
Group 10 and 11 Schedule
Both of these groups are defensive backs, usually split into corner and safety groups. They have the same schedule as everyone else, just pushed another day back. They arrive Saturday and do their medical exams on Sunday, their regular testing and the bench press on Monday and drill on Tuesday (the final day of the combine).
There are some players Packers fans will want to track in both these groups. While Morgan Burnett locks it down at safety and both M.D. Jennings and Jerron McMillian show lots of promise, Tramon Williams has struggled the last few seasons, and the way the Packers run out their defensive schemes, you can never have too many defensive backs.
It's not a high priority, but the Packers have found value in the mid-to-late rounds for players in the secondary, so a careful eye will give you an idea of who might don a Packers jersey come April.
All throughout the week, these players will be meeting with teams so team staffs can get the measure of a player one-on-one. They'll chat about anything from how they'd react to a situation on the field to how they would deal with something off of it, to even things like what they listen to, read, watch on television and more.
Nothing is off topic, and their reaction to a question can be as important as the answer they give.
These interviews, while done away from prying eyes, are more important than almost any drill for many players and could boost a player's stock or remove him from a team's board.
You'll hear more about the interviews the day after players leave and all of next week, and it's worth listening to how players did, especially ones who have question marks.
Players to Watch
There are always players in just about any group worth watching, but who has the time?
Instead, let's narrow our focus down to a few at each of the most critical positions.
While the offensive line can get excused a little because of injuries, the reality is that it lacks a solid left tackle as well as overall depth.
D.J. Fluker from Alabama is a tough and physical player—especially in the run game. Adding him would be a huge upgrade at left tackle, though a good enough combine could take him off the board before the Packers' 26th pick.
Ditto Lance Johnson of Oklahoma, though barring a huge, run one of the two should be there.
Louisiana Tech's Jordan Mills and Xavier Nixon out of Florida are intriguing midround guys who could be good depth picks with upside.
There are a ton of running backs to take a look at, starting with Eddie Lacy. The Alabama running back will not be running drills in Indy due to an injury, but it will be interesting to see what his official weight and height come in at.
As far as backs who will run drills, North Carolina's Giovani Bernard and Oklahoma State's Joseph Randle should be able to use Lacy's absence to move up the boards, while Montee Ball can try and rebound his slipping stock.
Stanford's Stepfan Taylor is a guy who the Packers can grab on the second day, and I was terribly impressed with him in Mobile for the Senior Bowl. He can do everything well and I think could be a great compliment to DuJuan Harris.
South Carolina's Marcus Lattimore, Florida's Mike Gillislee and Oregon's Kenjon Barner all have flaws, but could be good parts of a running back by committee.
With the middle of the field needing to be beefed up, keep an eye on the defensive tackles like Alabama tackle Jessee Williams and Ohio States's Johnathan Hankins, both of whom weigh in at 320 pounds
Hankins in particular will help the run defense, though he isn't much of a pass-rusher.
That's fine, as both you and the Packers can take a closer look at Texas A&M's Sean Porter or UConn's Sio Moore, both of whom could be nice additions at outside linebacker.
Moore's speed is the key for his value, as his edge rushing skills will be what attracts a team to him, while Porter is a better all-around athlete who I have seen compared to Nick Barnett.
Back on the defensive line, it's hard to say who will drop to the Packers in the first if they want to invest in another end. Bjoern Werner (Florida State), Damontre Moore (Texas A&M), Barkevious Mingo (LSU) and Ezekiel Ansah (BYU) are all first-round talents—it's a matter of how early in it they go. All are worth watching.
Other ends worth a look at are Alex Okafor (Texas), Margus Hunt (SMU) Malliciah Goodman (Clemson).
The key to getting full value from the combine is to remember that this is only part of a long process. You shouldn't get too high on a player—nor too low on him—based on what he does in shorts.
Whether someone flashes or stumbles, you should always go back to the game tape.
All too often, teams and analysts get caught up in a great combine and forget the tape.
Ultimately, if it's not on tape, they probably won't do it on Sundays. There are exceptions of course, but for the most part, it's true.
Take another look, sure. But don't get to high or too low after the combine.
After all, it's just one step in the process.
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