Senior writer jclombardi reviews headlines leading to draft day.
NFL Draft Is Deep At Running Back: This isn’t the first draft in which people have compared a prospect to the great Emmitt Smith. It happens every so often when a running back is of Smith’s modest physical dimensions and speed while at the same time demonstrating some of Smith’s instinct, heart and production at the collegiate level. No one ever quite measures up, which is perfectly understandable. Given the ever-more-forward-pass face of pro football, Smith’s career rushing record of 18,355 yards might never be toppled. The latest is Alabama’s Mark Ingram, easily the best performer in a corps of running backs that is thin at the top but is chock-full of interesting players from Round 2 on.
Packers Worry About White House Visit: After Green Bay disposed of Chicago in last season’s NFC Championship game, Packers cornerback Charles Woodson addressed his teammates in the boisterous locker room. “Check this: The president don’t want to come watch us to the Super Bowl?” said Woodson, making a quick reference to President Obama siding with his hometown Bears in the game. “Guess what? Guess what? We’re gonna see him. Let’s get a ‘White House’ on three. One, two three, White House!”
Wisconsin’s Carimi May Go High In NFL Draft: Wisconsin’s Gabe Carimi was the Outland Trophy winner, consensus All-American, Big Ten offensive lineman of the year and academic all-Big Ten. In February, Carimi proclaimed himself the No. 1 tackle in the draft, saying, “I’m physically stronger and have more career starts and better knowledge of the game than any other tackle out there.” But with the National Football League draft less than a week away, the consensus of teams is Carimi ranks No. 4 on the list of tackles and won’t have a successful career if he remains at the left-tackle position that he manned the past four seasons for the Badgers. That isn’t to suggest personnel people don’t think Carimi will be a good player.”
Amid Lockout, Upcoming Draft Is Packers GM Thompson’s Main Focus: Ted Thompson never liked to leave his seat in the war room when the NFL draft ended. The Green Bay Packers general manager preferred to watch his personnel staff work the phones and sign undrafted free agents. That won’t be the case this year. When the draft ends a week from Saturday night, the Packers’ room will be silent. The lockout means that once the 254 players are drafted, teams cannot sign undrafted rookies. The Packers typically do well in that area. Of the college free agents signed in the hours and days after last year’s draft, three made the team coming out of training camp, and two, linebacker Frank Zombo and cornerback Sam Shields, started in Super Bowl XLV.
Packers’ Jolly Gets Probation On Drug Charge: Green Bay defensive lineman Johnny Jolly pleaded guilty to one narcotics charge and agreed to enter a drug treatment facility in exchange for five years of probation. The 28-year-old Jolly, whose off-season home is in Houston, appeared in Texas state court there Thursday and pleaded guilty to his 2008 arrest for codeine possession; his second charge from March was dropped. As a result, District Judge Denise Bradley sentenced Jolly to five years of deferred adjudication, a form of probation. If Jolly follows the rules of the probation, he could have his record sealed, meaning it would only be visible to law enforcement. “It is not a conviction,” said assistant Harris County District.
Thompson Tight-Lipped On Packers’ Draft Plans: Fictional agent and strong arm twister Jack Bauer wouldn’t have been able to pry information out of Green Bay general manager Ted Thompson, so you can imagine what it was like for the Packers beat reporters Thursday at Thompson’s pre-draft news conference in Lambeau. Basic, logical questions. Kindly, nonspecific responses. The draft is where the seventh-year GM has built the foundation for the Super Bowl champions, scooping up Aaron Rodgers, uncovering Nick Collins, discovering Greg Jennings and nabbing Clay Matthews. Thompson’s reputation for protecting his draft strategy is now legendary – just as the draft’s popularity has exploded in the media with mock drafts, grades and speculation.
Packers Have Good Shot At Acquiring Needed DL In First Round Of Draft: For NFL teams that play a 3-4 defense, this is one of the most promising drafts in years to get a lineman in the first round. Defensive end also happens to be one of the Green Bay Packers’ greatest needs, and with perhaps as many as 10 or 11 defensive linemen carrying a first-round grade for at least some teams, there’s a decent chance the draft board will have one worth considering when the Packers select with the last pick in the first round, No. 32 overall. Most likely, a run on the linemen will wipe the top seven 3-4 linemen, including the University of Wisconsin’s J.J. Watt.