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Leonard Hankerson feels he’s living up to The U’s standard

02.25.11 at 12:06 pm ET
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INDIANAPOLIS — Everyone knows that “The U” sends quality receivers to the NFL. Leonard Hankerson just hopes he’s the next one.

From guys in the past like Michael Irvine, to current NFL players like Andre Johnson, Devin Hester, and Reggie Wayne, Hankerson has a lot to live up to. For a guy who broke Irvin’s single-season touchdown record last season, he feels he’s doing the job thus far.

“Being able to have my name mentioned with the great receivers that came out of the University of Miami, comes from working hard, doing what you’ve got to do off the field, and on the field, in the weight room, film room,” he said Friday. “I feel like I’m living up to that dream.”

Hankerson isn’t the quickest guy, but he has decent size and very good hands. His favorite Miami receiver is Johnson, who has become one of the best receivers in the NFL since the Texans chose him third overall in 2003.

“Big receiver, big physical receiver, fast,” Hankerson said. “I love his game.”

For more of a look at Hankerson, check out our entry on him in the “Potential Patriots” series.

Read More: 2011 NFL Draft, Leonard Hankerson, NFL Combine,

Packers GM Ted Thompson has a pleasant problem

02.25.11 at 11:49 am ET
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INDIANAPOLIS ‘€” Green Bay GM Ted Thompson has the sort of problem that 31 other general managers would love to have.

Thompson and the Packers are getting a later start on offseason prep work because of their win over the Steelers in Super Bowl XLVI. Logistical work, scouting and long-term planning are all offseason priorities, and Green Bay is getting a later start than the rest of their brethren because they went later into the season than any team other than Pittsburgh.

But as Thompson said Friday morning at the NFL scouting combine, that’s a “good complication.”

“We won’t change anything ‘€” we kind of go about our business the way we do it,” Thompson said when asked about changes to offseason priorities because of the lack of time off. “It makes it a little more complicated, because we have some catching up to do, because normally we start [offseason] preparations even before the Super Bowl game. It’s a good complication to have. We’ll muddle through somehow.

“Winning comes with some complications ‘€” we’ll see how we handle success. We’ll see how we handle the fact that we are the reigning world champions. It won’t be an easy task ‘€” the NFL is a very hard business, as I’ve said over and over. It doesn’t make us any more hungry. We’re anxious to take on this challenge.”

Green Bay’s team-building approach the last couple of seasons has been to put the focus on the draft, and use free agency as an almost ancillary part of the routine ‘€” in Super Bowl XLVI, all of the Packers’ starting offensive players were drafted by Green Bay, while seven of the Packers’ starting defensive players either were drafted by the Packers or signed by the team out of college as undrafted free agents.

Thompson, who learned at the foot of former Packers GM Ron Wolf, is confident that things won’t change.

“He believed in that you build the core of your team around the draft,” Thompson said. “Certainly, free agency is another avenue, but I think you do that a little bit more selectively. That’s just the way we were taught.”

Read More: NFL scouting combine, Packers, Ron Wolf, Ted Thompson

Greg Little: Agent’s party ‘will haunt me forever’

02.25.11 at 11:43 am ET
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INDIANAPOLIS — We just finished up talking to receiver Greg Little, though he’s probably known more for being in the improper benefits scandal at UNC than for his play off to field. Spend one minute — let alone 10 — with him and there’s only one thought that comes to mind.

This kid got in trouble?

Little attended the party in South Beach that set off a major investigation into UNC and led to suspensions for multiple players and the resignation of defensive line coach John Blake. The party took place at agent Gary Wichard‘s house, and Little, as well as a group that included teammates Robert Quinn and Marvin Austin, all faced NCAA discipline. Little, who along with  was suspended for the entire season, yet Friday, he came off unmistakably as a high-character player.

Rather than playing the “it’s in the past” card ,Little, who put pictures online from the party, was very sincere and remorseful.

“It was tough to know that essentially that I started the whole investigation, and that was one of the things that was very bearing and vey hard to deal with,” he said. “It was something that will haunt me forever, to know that my team could have won a national championship if I played along with them.”

Little, who played behind Brandon Tate early in his UNC career, spent the season training at a high school in Durham, N.C, with MMA fighter Wayne Huner.

“It was the most unorthodox training I’ve ever done,” Little said, “but it also put me in the best shape of my life.”

That bring Little to Indianapolis and the NFL combine. The 6-foot-2 4/8, 231-pounder former running back said he doesn’t feel extra pressure to perform at the combine, but if he is as honest with teams as he was with the media, he’ll go a long ways at wiping away the “character issues” red flag. He was asked point blank whether he knew that what he was doing was wrong, and he had no problem confirming it and lamenting his thinking that he might not get in trouble.

“I know what I was doing was wrong,” he said. “For me to be that naiive or ignorant about was stupid on my part.

“Without saying this the wrong way, I think it was one of the best thing that every happened to me in my life. It was a very pivotal point, and a defining moment in my life, where I said, ‘hey, this is not who you are. This is something you’ve done. You’ve made a mistake and have to move on.’ That’s what I’m doing.”

UNC will let him participate in their Pro Day on March 30.

Read More: 2011 NFL Draft, Greg Little, NFL Combine, Robert Quinn

Up today: QB, RB, WR

02.25.11 at 10:29 am ET
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INDIANAPOLIS — We’re back here at Lucas Oil Stadium, where Friday promises to flash a little more pizzazz than the interesting (albeit lineman-laden) first day. Quarterbacks (Cam Newton!), running backs (Mark Ingram!), and wide receivers will talk today. We’ll also keep you filled in on what the coaches and executives around the league are saying.

Read More: 2011 NFL Draft, Cam Newton, Mark Ingram,

Report: Agent calls Pats’ treatment of Mankins a ‘travesty’

02.24.11 at 10:12 pm ET
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INDIANAPOLIS — Frank Bauer, the agent for Patriots guard Logan Mankins, told the Boston Globe Thursday that he is unhappy with the current state of affairs between his client and the team. The Pats recently franchised Mankins, who has been a three-time Pro Bowl selection and two-time All-Pro.

“One of the best players on your football team, that the coaching staff respects ‘€“ it’€™s a travesty what they’€™ve done with this player,’€ Bauer said. “(A new deal) should have been done a long time ago. It could have been done a long time ago. But it got stopped. And right now we’€™re not talking. And they tagged him.’€

The Pats chose Mankins with the 32nd overall pick of the 2005 draft. He sat out the first eight games of last season before signing his tender as a restricted free agent on Nov. 2.

Read More: Logan Mankins,

Raw (and giant) Nate Solder still developing at tackle

02.24.11 at 6:21 pm ET
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INDIANAPOLIS — Colorado’s Nate Solder was the latest tackle to be given the opportunity to dispute Gabe Carimi‘s claim that Carimi is the No. 1 tackle in this draft, and he handled it with the same calm, decaf demeanor with which he conducted his entire press conference.

“Good,” he said with a laugh when told of Carimi’s declaration.

Solder is another guy who — perhaps more so than Carimi — stands a chance at being the first tackle off the board when all is said and done. The former tight end is coveted for his size (his measurements Thursday had him at 6-foot-8 and 319 pounds) and athleticism, but he’s a raw prospect.

Solder’s technique is something he admittedly needs to work on in both pass and run-blocking.

“I’ve been playing tackle for three years now, which isn’t a whole lot of time, so there’s things I need to refine with in my technique constantly,” he said. “I take some of that with a grain of salt, but people who know what they’re talking about and that I listen to [say] I need to refine some of that stuff, yeah.”

After playing tight end as a freshman — and actually having three catches for 50 yards — the giant Solder has stuck at left tackle and been one of the draft’s bigger risk/reward prospects.

“Some things came naturally,” Solder said of the transition. “It takes a lot of athleticism to be a left tackle, same as at tight end, but some things aren’t so natural. Knee bend and using your hands, those sort of things.”

Despite issues with technique, it’s hard to see how Solder wouldn’t at least go in the first round.

Read More: 2011 NFL Draft, Nate Solder,

Former firefighter Danny Watkins an old man among boys

02.24.11 at 5:44 pm ET
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INDIANAPOLIS — If Baylor offensive lineman Danny Watkins has his way, he will convince teams here at Lucas Oil Stadium that he’s just capable of preventing sacks as he is of preventing fires.

Now 26 years old, Watkins’ football career was never supposed to happen. A former high school hockey player-turned-fire-fighter in British Columbia, Watkins went to Butte College (the JUCO at which Aaron Rodgers played) to pursue a fire sciences degree. It was there that coaches suggested he give football a shot, and having always been involved in sports, Watkins was willing.

Two years of playing tackle at Butte led to calls from D-1 schools. He chose Baylor and played two more seasons, and now, at 26 years of age, here he is. The Kelowna, British Columbia is considered a second-round pick who could potentially go even higher.

“It’s just kind of taken off,” Watkins said, later adding that when it came to learning a new sport, he “picked it up pretty quick.”

Watkins’ is one of the drafts more interesting stories, as he said hockey and rugby were “the sports to play.”

“I never personally cared to watch football,” he said. “I grew up watching the Canucks, and that was it.”

A reporter asked Watkins whether he watched the CFL as a child. Watkins said he did, but his clarification further drove home that he was able about hockey.

“I mean, the CFL highlights were usually right around after the Canucks’ games. I’d always stay tuned and see who won.”

Watkins is a far superior prospect than Nick Kaczur, another Canadian prospect and one who was 25 when he was drafted. Furthermore, the Baylor product doesn’t seem overly concerned with his lack of experience or his older age. Neither, he said, are the teams he’s spoken to.

“All positive,” he said. “I haven’t heard one negative about being 26.”

Watkins still keeps in very close contact with his friends from his fire-fighting days, saying he had heard from one of them earlier today.

“I miss the guys, but I get that same satisfaction from working with those guys that I do with football,” Watkins said. “It’s a give and take. You’re with the same guys day in and day out, through good and bad.”

Read More: 2011 NFL Draft, Danny Watkins,
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