Print and Go Back ESPN.com: NFL Nation [Print without images]

Thursday, April 23, 2009
Black and Blue all over: Competition in the 3-4


Posted by ESPN.com's Kevin Seifert

Bob McGinn of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel provides excellent context for the Packers' switch to a 3-4 defense, noting that up to 12 teams are competing in this draft for players whose body types and skills fit the 3-4 scheme better than a 4-3.

Most notably, the trend puts a high demand on 250-pound college defensive ends that didn't necessarily have a place in the 4-3. Now, everyone is trying to figure out if they can play outside linebacker in the 3-4. McGinn reports there are at least 12 such players in this year's draft, a relatively high number.

But former Cleveland general manager Phil Savage said the competition for these players is going to push them much higher in the draft than they should be.

Savage: "You can always project these guys and all that, but the reality of it is there aren't enough of them to go around. When only four or five teams were running the 3-4, you could still get a guy in the third or fourth round. Now, everybody is trying to get them for that scheme, so ultimately they will go earlier than they probably should."

The Packers didn't sign a linebacker or defensive end in free agency, putting a premium on both their draft performance as well as their efforts to retrofit their own players for the scheme. Time will tell.

Continuing around the NFC North: