Packers talk to top tackle at NFL Combine

With Chad Clifton and free agent Mark Tauscher not getting any younger, the Packers need a talented offensive tackle. Which top prospect did they talk to on Tuesday?

Best-case scenario is the Green Bay Packers have two aging starting offensive tackles. Worst-case scenario if one of those, Mark Tauscher, will bolt in free agency and Chad Clifton's cranky knees will continue being an issue.

So, the Packers are doing their homework at the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis. Scout.com draft expert Chris Steuber was told by Baylor offensive tackle Jason Smith on Tuesday that he had interviewed with the Packers.

The interview might just be the Packers doing their due diligence on one of the top prospects in the draft. Smith is rated as the top offensive tackle in some circles, a ranking amplified when Alabama's Andre Smith went AWOL at the Combine on Saturday.

Teams are allotted 60 formal interviews, and it seems unlikely the Packers would waste one of them on a senior prospect they know plenty about, unless the interest is real.

Moving from No. 9 into the top three in the draft would cost a king's ransom in terms of money and draft picks. However, according to a draft value chart, a fair deal for moving from ninth to fourth would be the Packers' second-round pick.

Smith is a big-time athlete, even at 6-foot-5 and 309 pounds. He arrived at Baylor as a tight end, catching six passes for 70 yards as a redshirt freshman. He started 12 games at right tackle as a sophomore, seven at left tackle as a junior (he was slowed by a sprained MCL) and was an all-American left tackle as a senior.

"The transition was different, but it was easy," Smith told reporters on Thursday. "It was coming from a three-point stance, running routes and being a decoy all the time, to actually having a dominant role where you're protecting the most valuable player on the field."

Drafting a top tackle like Smith would not necessarily mean the end for Clifton or Tauscher. Even in the first round, general manager Ted Thompson said he would not rule out drafting a player who could sit and learn behind a veteran, like Aaron Rodgers watching Brett Favre. So, Smith could be groomed by Clifton, or he could go to right tackle with Tauscher sliding to guard.

At the Combine, Smith showed the type of personality that could make him a face of the franchise, assuming he blossoms into an elite pro. He flashed huge grins while talking about deer hunting, bass fishing and his team roping experience. He also smiled when talking about blocking.

"When I'm on the field, I take a lot of pride in physically assaulting somebody," Smith said. "As far as finishing them off, that's just a part of the block, so you don't really think too much of it because that's what you go on the field to do. So, it's just something I practice real hard at, and I practice real hard at practicing, and when it's game time it just happens natural."

Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at packwriter2002@yahoo.com, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Lambeau Level forum.


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