While all that is going on, the Packers are looking toward the NFL Draft in April. The scouts and staff are getting ready to head to the NFL Combine in Indy in February and then blanket the country, working out draft-eligible players. The coaches will begin to look at college tape and add their own opinions on these guys. Shortly before the draft, all of these folks will enter a room with Ted Thompson and Mike McCarthy and hammer out their plan.
More than likely one side of the room will have a board with every draft eligible player at their position ranked from highest to lowest by position. I call that the position board. On another wall will be the players ranked regardless of position. We used to call that the 150 board. It had the top 150 players on it in order. With 32 teams and seven rounds, it was our goal to have every name come off the 150 board by the end of the fifth round. If a name or two remained on the 150 board for the whole draft, we were concerned. In other words, if we thought a player was worth drafting in the first five rounds and not one other team in the league took him in seven rounds, then odds were we were wrong about him.
One other thing that may exist in the draft room is actually kind of funny. We actually had a box painted black with the words "THE COFFIN" written on it. In that box, we put any player who we would never contemplate drafting. That way there was never a chance to even talk about him. They were out of sight, out of mind. There were numerous reasons to stick a guy in the coffin, most of which I cannot discuss. More times than not, we had to dig a guy out of the coffin when someone else drafted him.
Before the draft and right up to go time, everyone will be tracking down any and all rumors concerning trades and preferences of every team. Calls will be made to feel out those picking before you to see if they are open to a trade or to see where they are leaning. Each draft pick is weighted and each team has a value attached to their picks. They know what they will trade it for, so they can make a split-second decision. Much of it is based on history and some is based upon need.
When the Packers' turn comes up, they will have to make a couple of decisions. They will more than likely get some trade offers and will have to choose what to do. If they keep the pick, they will have one fundamental choice: Do they draft for need or do they take the best player available? That is the choice. If they draft for need, they will take the top player remaining on the positional board at the need position. If they take the best available, they will take the highest guy on the 150 board. It is done this way to avoid conflict and indecision. By draft day, all arguments and disagreements should be solved and the confidence should be high. Things, of course, do not always happen that way and some folks panic and make rash decisions.
The biggest mistakes teams make is hoping that a player will be there when they are set to pick and when he is not, they make a bad move. They get so fixated on getting their dream pick that when the plan falls through, they react poorly. As much as teams prepare, the unforeseen can happen and ruin all their planning. That is why the boards are so important and the long hours spent to get them right are invaluable. A team needs to prepare for the inevitable and the unknown so when it happens, and it will, they can adjust.
So come late April, the Packers will be on the clock and they will have a chance to improve the team with some young new talent. Ted Thompson has done a masterful job of accumulating draft picks over the last two years and should be congratulated for that. It remains to be seen if he can do that again this year.
The final question: Who will the Packers take? No one knows at this moment, but it is fun to speculate. Tune in next week as we begin to analyze positions and evaluate draft-eligible players. Maybe we can determine where they need to go come draft day.
Editor's note: John Lombardi is the grandson of legendary coach Vince Lombardi. His football experience includes stints with two teams in the World League (now NFL Europe); in the scouting departments of the Cleveland Browns and Tennessee Titans; and graduate assistant coach and director of football operations at Vanderbilt. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.