Ah, the combine.
I am stuck in a fairly posh room within Lucas Oil Stadium with a legitimate throng of other media. It's a feeding frenzy of digital recorders and talking over one another. The room is set up of many long tables where the media sets up their laptops and coffee. Getting one of these spots is a premium, otherwise you'd have to haul your stuff around with you all day.
Within the room are a few round tables where various players address the media. There are also three press-conference stages where coaches and general managers expertly skirt around questions regarding player personnel.
So far, most of the questions pertain to the suddenly premium nose tackle position in 3-4 schemes. With more teams using the scheme, a fat run-plugger is what everyone is after. Buffalo Bills coach Chan Gailey said because most college teams don't use a 3-4, there simply aren't many guys that fit the bill. With that said, expect the big defensive tackles to be selected higher than in they might be in other years.
Franchise tags have already been slapped on nose tackles, Aubrayo Franklin of San Fransisco, and Ryan Pickett of Green Bay, and Casey Hampton resigned with Pittsburgh to a $21 million contract over the next three years. Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert said it was important to get Hampton signed because having a solid defensive front specifically helps the defensive backs.
Colbert also elaborated on how the outside linebacker position in a 3-4 scheme is changing thanks to players like Elvis Dumervil. Before, teams valued taller linebackers that played defensive end in college, but Dumervil and other shorter players are showing how immense offensive tackles have trouble bending down to stop speed rushers. Colbert also said he doesn't want force players into a particular physical prototype and that there is still a lot of guess work when converting college ends into pro outside linebackers, but based on his statements at his press conference, it would not be surprising if more 3-4 defenses acquired shorter linebackers. Colbert also said that this year's draft has is the best crop of defensive linemen he's seen in decades.
Local writer, Geoff Hobson asked Colbert about the challenges of finding positions like tight end since so many college offenses run spread formations that use multiple receivers in place of a tight end. Colbert said that both fullbacks and tight ends have become more rare due to the pervasive spread offenses, but that as a result, the league is seeing larger receivers and running backs.
As for Steelers running back Willie Parker returning next year to the team, Colbert said he would wait to see how free-agency unfolds after Friday before he decides Parker's future. Reading between the lines, I would say that Colbert sounded lukewarm about Fast Willie and it leads me to think that Pittsburgh might be interested in the likes of LaDanian Tomlinson as a change-of-pace back to Rashad Mendenhall.
Both Colbert and Miami Dolphins GM, Jeff Ireland, explained that trading up their spot in the draft isn't always a smart move. Each explained that it's typically more advantageous to trade down and acquire more picks rather than trading up for a specific player.
Ireland did not show much enthusiasm when the topic of Joey Porter was raised. He did say that Porter's comments about wanting a new team did not factor into the Dolphins effort to release the veteran linebacker, though he did say that the team needs to get younger at that position.