The troubled-player debate in Green Bay

April, 20, 2009
4/20/09
3:35
PM ET
Posted by ESPN.com's Kevin Seifert

NFC North front offices are taking a few minutes out of their draft preparation this week to meet with local reporters. Don't expect anything earth-shattering to come from these interviews, but we'll check in with each nonetheless -- beginning with Green Bay general manager Ted Thompson.

(Detroit and Chicago are hosting their news conferences Tuesday. Minnesota's has not been finalized.)

I did think there was an interesting point near the end of Thompson's Q&A session. (A full transcript is available here.) Thompson laid out the thought process for evaluating a troubled but talented prospect. The obvious overtone was Alabama left tackle Andre Smith, but Thompson did not speak about the player specifically. Here's how he described the scenario in general terms:

"I think at the end of the day what we do is we try to make a decision, and maybe it is a judgment call, but at some point, it is my call, is this a good guy or a bad guy? I think everybody makes mistakes. I think there is going to be guys that you are going to read about coming through this draft, and you maybe already have, that have done things in their past and it doesn't look great, but at the end of the day we think he is more of a good guy than a bad guy. There are other people that quite frankly if we think he is a bad guy then we are not going to mess with him."

Smith was once projected as the top player in the 2009 draft, but his stock began to slip even before the end of the college football season. He recently fired agent Alvin Keels, and his lack of conditioning during pre-draft workouts has also been a concern. As a result, it seems likely Smith could be available for the Packers to consider at No. 9 overall. He would be an attractive target given the state of the Packers' tackle position; Chad Clifton is coming off a sub-par year and Mark Tauscher remains unsigned while he rehabilitates his knee.

You won't find many scouts who will knock Smith's on-field skills. The question is whether his conditioning issues are indicative of a general lack of discipline, or if Smith is simply a young kid who has been slow to get his act together. Thompson wouldn't say if the Packers had removed any players from their draft board, but it will be fascinating to see what they do if Smith is indeed available at No. 9.

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