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February 25, 4:30 PM ET
Chat with Gary Horton

Gary Horton
  (4:32 PM)

We are right in the middle of the offseason already, with the combine and free agency. Things will stay really busy for the next few months. But if you like the NFL, it's a great time.

corey (san jose)

Gary just now getting over a tough l! My question is there any pride in being nfc champs? Is that something to be happy about at this time or is it just second place?

Gary Horton
  (4:33 PM)

No, I think there is obviously some pride in getting to the Super Bowl. You were only one of two teams remaining. But I don't think anyone would say that's their goal - just to get to the game. The overwhelming goal is to get to the game. But with a team like the 49ers, they would probably look at it and in their minds it's a game they think they probably should have won. They come back the next season with a very aggressive mindset, knowing you're not that far away from the ultimate goal.

Harry (Babylon, NY)

Gary - with the multitude of diverse, high powered offenses most teams seem to face week to week is there a defensive coordinator out there who is in the midst of developing a hybrid high powered D that can match up with the variety out there?

Gary Horton
  (4:36 PM)

I think that's a really good point. This game is all about matchups. I think where some of these hybrid offenses right now are getting success against matchups they know they can exploit. From a defensive standpoint, they have to see how they matchup athletically. And in the offseason, you'll find defensive coordinators and really study these option games and really teach their guys assignment football and better discipline. From all of the film that I've watched, the mistakes made when giving up big plays are assignment things that can be corrected. But like every other trend, these coaches are so smart, once they have time to really evaluate new offensive wrinkles, they'll figure ways to combat it. It seems like just a short time ago, we all thought the Wildcat was here to stay.

Mike (Anchorage, AK)

Gary, always enjoy reading your chat responses. The term "reach" is used all the time involving NFL draft picks. I think it's only a "reach" if it doesn't work out. How do you define a "reach" in the draft?

Gary Horton
  (4:38 PM)

You define reaches as a team filling a need and maybe going after a player that doesn't quite merit where you're picking him. It's always a battle philosophically if a team is going to take the best available player on the board or draft according to need. As I said, I think most of those reaches and mistakes come when a guy doesn't merit the pick when you really need him. One reason you put together a document called stacking the board is you put all of these players in categories and when you're in the drama of the draft and you can look at the board. You can say I need a OL but you can see that a WR is a better player. Do I want to bypass a better football player to fill a need? Having the board with you helps teams stay disciplined.

Michael [via mobile]

What's the difference in combine workouts and pro day results? Why would a LB such as Jarvis Jones decide not to workout? The chance to separate yourself from not only this class, but previous athletes has to be appealing.

Gary Horton
  (4:41 PM)

I've always felt a player should workout at the combine if you can. Keep in mind everything is filmed, which means every NFL coach and front office guy in the league has that film. You're able to be judged in a fair setting versus your peers. Having said that, depending on the position, a lot of guys are more comfortable being on their own campus, especially at a position like QB, where you're throwing to your own WRs. I think there is enough time after the season until the combine that you can be physically and mentally ready. One other thing to keep in mind is that whatever happens at Indy, you have time to correct at your pro day and you know what you need to work on. That's a lot better than throwing all of your eggs in one basket of your pro day.

Ethan (MD) [via mobile]

Hi Gary, I love your work! How would you prioritize the Ravens free agents besides Flacco. Also, if Flacco does not receive the franchise tag, who else should the Ravens consider, if anyone. Thank You in advance, keep up the good work!

Gary Horton
  (4:43 PM)

Three players really come to mind for me. ILB Ellerbe, OLB Paul Kruger, FS Ed Reed. Those three are critical to them maintaining a good defense. What will be interesting is will the Ravens allow these three guys to test their value on the open market and then come back to them and try to strike a deal? Or will they try to tie them up before they even hit free agency.

Mark (Pittsburgh) [via mobile]

Gary, if the NFL is truly concerned about player safety why is an 18-game schedule still being discussed or is money the only thing that matters?

Gary Horton
  (4:45 PM)

I think it's losing some of its steam because I just don't think the players like it. I can see from the league standpoint they are sympathetic to the fans who have to endure a lackluster four game preseason. I'm sure they would like to add revenue by changing two of those games. But I think people are becoming more and more aware of the physical toll this takes on your body. Two more games is significant.

Rich (New Jersey)

Hi Gary, Will the K.C. Chiefs sign Alex Smith and are there other clubs still looking to sign the 49ers QB? And will the Browns, who have alot of room under the salary cap, sign anyone to fill their needs, such as a wide receiver, cornerback or someone on the defensive line?

Gary Horton
  (4:47 PM)

I think the Chiefs are probably the front runner right now. Obviously, the 49ers want to get something done so they know where they can go with their free agent situation. Even though the NFL is a business, I think there is a feeling that Alex Smith has been a special guy on this team and I think there is really a feeling that they would like to put him in a situation where he could succeed. We know college crop of QBs is not very good, so it makes Smith a very desirable guy. I think everybody that's looking for a QB would be interested. I think he will line up in KC, because I don't think the 49ers would want to trade him to Arizona who is in the same division.

JC (Atlanta)

Gary, when a team stacks the board, do they tend to push guys up that tend to fill a need?

Gary Horton
  (4:49 PM)

No, because when you stack your board, you're doing it in a relaxed environment. You're saying before we're in the pressure of the draft, we're saying this is exactly how we rank a guy. You put them up according to grade. You're saying to yourself when we weren't in the middle of something, this is how we felt. But it's easier said than done to stay true to your board on draft day. You just always hope that the need and the grade are close enough so it doesn't matter a lot.

Richard A. Queens N.Y. [via mobile]

with all this talk of the Jets trying to restructure Santonio Holmes's contract, do see a possibility of holmes heading to another team. If so what team would you think could take him.

Gary Horton
  (4:50 PM)

I think they'll restructure it and get it done. But the Jets are already in a terrible situation at a lot of positions. They can't afford to let their most explosive player on offense leave. They have a lot of cap problems. But I think they get it done.

Harry (Babylon, NY)

Gary - Bill Belichick developed his reputation as a defensive genius early in his career and then was able to become quite the offensive genius over the past few years. During that time the Pats D has become mediocre at best and has probably cost them more than any unit come the playoffs. Any insights into why Coach Belichick has seemed to lose his touch on D?

Gary Horton
  (4:52 PM)

I think the schemes are solid. I think he really knows how to coach a defense. But what it comes down to is they haven't made the right personnel selections. Some of their draft picks haven't turned out. Some of their free agent pick ups haven't panned out. I think it's more of a personnel situation right now. I think they're closer to getting back to being close to an elite defense, if they can keep Aquib Talib. That gives them a lot of flexibility in the secondary. They have some young players coming along. I love their LB group. If they lose Talib, then I think that really could be a problem.

Anthony (VA)

Manti Te'o has now ran a 4.8 in the combine! Is it safe to say his stock is dropping with the rise of the scandal as well?

Gary Horton
  (4:56 PM)

I think it certainly raises a concern. It doesn't cause a panic. Everyone leaves Indy knowing what has to be done between now and the draft. That's why you leave knowing what you need to do at the pro day. As a scout before the spring, you make a list of all of the things that these guys need to answer. I always tried to not find holes in guys, but to find things I really liked about them. You get a clear idea. A guy like Te'o, you now know that he's got to run a better 40. His jumps were not great, which means he's not quite as explosive as you'd like. In a case like his, you're worried about can he play on third down? Can he be exploited in the passing game? If his time doesn't get better, those are the questions, regardless of his film. If a LB is not a three down player, then his value goes down. There isn't panic, but there are questions to be answered.

desmond (akron )

Gary do you think the bengals regret taking dalton over kapernick ?

Gary Horton
  (4:57 PM)

Well, they'd probably say no. They like Dalton. At the time, that seemed like a better pick than Kaepernick. Teams don't necessarily look back. If they did, they would all be wondering why they didn't draft Tom Brady. But I'm sure they're happy with Dalton.

Michael [via mobile]

Odds Tom Brady sees all 27 million of that new extension? Is that a limb too thin to wander out?

Gary Horton
  (4:59 PM)

I think the odds are excellent that he plays out that deal. He loves to play. As long as he doesn't get hit too much, I believe he's a guy that can play at a high level close to his 40th birthday. I don't think he's anywhere close to being finished.

Gary Horton
  (4:59 PM)

Thanks for the questions.