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Saturday, March 26, 2011
NFC North weekend mailbag

By Kevin Seifert

The NFL labor strife regrettably has fallen victim to the lowest of public stances: Accusations of lying and half-truths from both sides. If this thing continues to devolve, we might have to start up a recurring post that cuts through the rhetoric and finds the truth of an issue.

(First up, theoretically: NFL commissioner Roger Goodell's explanation for why 31 teams are requiring season-ticket payments during a lockout: "We're getting prepared to play for the 2011 season.")

Until then, let's remember it was Vince Lombardi who said: "Morally, the life of the organization must be of exemplary nature. This is one phase where the organization must not have criticism."

The mailbag, Facebook and Twitter remain open for business. On with it ...

Lorenzo Booker
Lorenzo Booker was impressive during his time as the Vikings' kick returner last season.
Paul of Clearwater, Fla., is one of many readers who were upset all week that I didn't mention the Minnesota Vikings' Percy Harvin as one of the elite NFC North kick returners who could be affected by the NFL's re-written kickoff rules: Just because people give you crap about reporting on the Vikings too much doesn't mean you should leave the biggest threat outside of Devin Hester out of the topic. Yes the Vikings voted in favor, but they could be shooting themselves in the foot. You're hanging by a thread dude, seriously.

Kevin Seifert: Well, that's a seriously strong thread if I'm still hanging by it, right?

Seriously, there is no doubt that Harvin would be hurt by this rule -- if he were going to return kickoffs next season. I'm not sure that's going to be the case, however. More on that in a bit.

Just to satisfy everyone, Harvin has the eighth-best kickoff return average since the start of the 2009 season among players with at least 50 returns, according to pro-football-reference.com. His three touchdown returns over that span are tied for an NFL high. Harvin has been as explosive as they come.

But Paul, surely you noticed what happened when Leslie Frazier took over as interim coach last season: He gave newcomer Lorenzo Booker a long look as his kickoff returner. Booker returned 18 kicks for a 23.9-yard average, including three of more than 40 yards.

And as Tom Pelissero of 1500ESPN.com points out, Frazier is giving every indication that Booker will be his primary returner in 2011. Frazier told Harvin late last season that he wants him to focus on making "big plays for us as a wide receiver" and added: "If you have a guy like a Lorenzo who gives you something, you don't always have to put Percy back there."

That doesn't mean Harvin has returned his last kickoff for the Vikings. But when I think of the NFC North's primary return men, he doesn't come to mind. I'm thinking Frazier is going to pick and choose his spots for Harvin, which minimizes the impact of the new rules on him.




In what is obviously a coincidence, Von of Texas wants to know what it would take for the Green Bay Packers to trade up in the draft to secure Texas A&M linebacker Von Miller if he is still available at the No. 7 or No. 8 overall pick.

Kevin Seifert: I'm not convinced that scenario could happen. Scouts Inc., for one, rates Miller as the No. 2 prospect in the entire draft. But for argument's sake, let's say it does. The Packers would have three obstacles to overcome.

First, you would have the steep price it would take to move 24 or 25 spots up in the draft from No. 32 overall. If you go by the old draft value chart, at least, you see that the No. 32 pick is worth 590 points. The No. 7 pick is worth 1,500 points, and No. 8 is worth 1,400. That means the Packers would need to "make up" at least 810 points to make the deal work based on the chart.

How steep is that? The remainder of the Packers' draft -- their assigned picks in rounds 2-7 -- wouldn't be enough. In the end, a team that isn't desperate to trade down might require the Packers to give up their first-round pick in 2012 in addition to this year's first- and second-round pick.

Would you give up at least three high picks for Von Miller? He better be one heck of a future Hall of Fame linebacker.

The second obstacle is the very real possibility that teams will be less motivated than ever to trade down. If the NFL lockout is not overturned in federal court, these drafted players won't get contracts until after a new collective bargaining agreement is reached. And the new CBA is almost certain to include a rookie pay scale that will dramatically cut back the contracts that teams with top 10 picks will have to dole out. In the past, those figures have represented one of the biggest incentives to trade back.

Finally, some of you have suggested the Packers should sacrifice their usual emphasis on quantity of draft picks if they identify a unique opportunity. This week, I asked Packers general manager Ted Thompson about that line of thought, the kind that would compel him to give up three high draft picks for one player.

"I don't necessarily agree with that," Thompson said. "We had a pretty good team going into last year's draft, and we had four college free agents make our team and contribute to us winning the Super Bowl. I think the more picks the better, no matter what shape your team is in."

Thompson noted that the Packers have made moves in recent years to trade up for linebacker Clay Matthews and safety Morgan Burnett. But those deals aren't close to what it would take to draft Miller. I don't see it happening.




My AFC South colleague Paul Kuharsky, clearly feeling the heat of a lockout, posed this question: Who would be the first pick in a draft of zoo animals?

Kevin Seifert: That's an easy one. A lion is the king of the jungle! Roooooooooooooar!




Jesse of Chicago was going to be mad if the preceding was the only Detroit Lions-related question I was going to address: Gotta be honest, I was a little tweaked that Ndamukong Suh wasn't even on the list of nominees for most-dominant pass rusher. Maybe he's not a "pass rusher" by some narrow definitions (a D-end or a 3-4 OLB), but he certainly applies pressure and racks up sacks.

Kevin Seifert: The Power Rankings for pass-rushers was difficult enough when we (subconsciously) limited it to defensive ends and outside linebackers. Suh probably was the only defensive tackle who merited a significant thought in this vote, based at least on sack totals. He tied for 17th in the NFL last season with 10 sacks, but he was the only interior lineman among the top 32 sack men in the league last year.

I can only speak for myself, but everyone on my list finished last season with more sacks than Suh. Obviously we're not comparing apples to apples here, but although I thought he was a deserving All-Pro this season for the havoc he wreaked, I wouldn't (yet) consider him one of the top 10 pure pass-rushers in the league.




Carl of Bisbee, Ariz., asks: I am from Chicago and ... I was wondering what do you do on an average day at work? I know you are working hard in New Orleans right now. But on an average work day, what do you do?

Kevin Seifert: Sorry. I couldn't help but think of the efficiency consultants from "Office Space:"
Bob Slydell: You see, what we're actually trying to do here is, we're trying to get a feel for how people spend their day at work... so, if you would, would you walk us through a typical day, for you?

Peter Gibbons: Yeah.

Bob Slydell: Great.

Peter Gibbons: Well, I generally come in at least fifteen minutes late, ah, I use the side door -- that way Lumbergh can't see me, heh heh -- and, uh, after that I just sorta space out for about an hour.

Bob Porter: Da-uh? Space out?

Peter Gibbons: Yeah, I just stare at my desk; but it looks like I'm working. I do that for probably another hour after lunch, too. I'd say in a given week I probably only do about fifteen minutes of real, actual, work.

Actually, I do at least 16 minutes of real, actual work every week. Short of boring you with the details, I spend various amounts of time each day coming up with content for the blog -- reaching out to contacts, conducting interviews, reviewing the statistics we get and then actually writing. I try to get that done around whatever family schedule I have for the day, so I couldn't really give you an hour-by-hour breakdown.

My work schedule isn't that interesting. The truth is, I chose your question mostly so we could revisit one of my favorite movies.




Commenting on the possibility that the Chicago Bears will seek a "big" receiver this offseason to complement their current roster, melliott74 writes: I remember a few years ago the Steelers were looking for a bigger receiver, and they drafted a "steal" in the 2nd round named Limas Sweed. You're welcome to take him.

Kevin Seifert: Well, to be fair, Sweed's career has been derailed for reasons other than being a big receiver who didn't play that way. Most notably, he ruptured an Achilles tendon last spring.

But I understand what you're saying. As they prepare for the draft and free agency, I don't think the Bears should over-prioritize height for receivers. All I'm saying is that coach Lovie Smith is right to note that he doesn't have a big receiving threat.

Tight end Greg Olsen could fill that role sometimes, but it's not the same as having a speed-based threat who can "go up and get it."