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NFL: Packers ready to scout undrafted players

It's the seven rounds in the National Football League draft this weekend that most everyone cares about, but for the league's 32 teams, the draft doesn't end after the last pick Sunday.

It's the seven rounds in the National Football League draft this weekend that most everyone cares about, but for the league's 32 teams, the draft doesn't end after the last pick Sunday.

In fact, it shifts into a phase that the Green Bay Packers seem to think is almost as important as the one that precedes it.

Ever since former general manager Ron Wolf established the process in which college talent is evaluated and acquired in Green Bay, the Packers have put considerable emphasis on finding players that have slipped through the draft's many layers.

General manager Ted Thompson, college scouting director John Dorsey, personnel analyst John Schneider and pro personnel director Reggie McKenzie all grew up in the business under Wolf and understand the importance of scouring the country for hidden gems.

Minutes after the draft ends, the Packers are on the phone trying to attract the top undrafted players.

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"I think Green Bay is one of the most thorough teams in the league in finding hidden talent," said agent Brett Tessler, who has a potential gem the Packers have their eye on in Truman State offensive lineman Patrick Murray. "People like John Dorsey do a very thorough job of finding the Patrick Murrays of the world."

Thompson uses his 30 allotted pre-draft visits almost entirely on players he thinks won't be drafted. Instead of doubling up on interviews conducted with the top-ranked players at the scouting combine, he uses the visits to speak to the long shots, figuring that those who visit will find comfort in Green Bay and choose the Packers when they decide to sign free agent deals.

As one agent said, you can tell the Packers consider your client worthy of being drafted if they decline to bring him in for a visit.

Murray is one of those players who did come in for a visit. There isn't a huge market for players from Truman State, but the 6-3, 315-pound tackle/guard is a physical specimen who Tessler said benches 500 pounds and squats more than 700. If Murray isn't drafted, the Packers are hoping his visit will remain fresh in his memory when he picks a team.

"He really enjoyed his visit," Tessler said. "He'll be comfortable in the event they want him."

Another lesser-known talent who visited was Wake Forest offensive lineman Steve Vallos, a 6-3, 305-pounder who can play guard and center. He will be someone the Packers will keep their eye on as the draft reaches its end.

The Packers did bring in some top talent -- California running back Marshawn Lynch, UNLV cornerback Eric Wright and Fresno State cornerback Marcus McCauley, for instance -- but those visits were aimed strictly at examining potential character or injury flaws.

The undrafted market is where the majority of the Packers' visits are aimed.

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Last year, defensive end Jason Hunter, tight end Zac Alcorn and wide receiver Chris Francies all spent time on the 53-man roster after going undrafted. In addition, Thompson acquired three other undrafted rookies -- cornerback Jarrett Bush, receiver Shaun Bodiford and running back P.J. Pope -- during the season.

Three who didn't make the team but remain solidly in the team's plans are running back Arliss Beach, tackle Josh Bourke and receiver Carlton Brewster, who leads NFL Europa in receptions and receiving yards.

Agent Josh Wright represents Bourke and Brewster, as well as veteran wide receiver Ruvell Martin, who also entered the league as an undrafted free agent, and said the Packers don't skimp when it comes to scouting out-of-the-way talent. They have shown considerable interest in Nevada tight end Anthony Pudewell, another Wright client, although they'll probably have to use a draft pick to assure he makes it to Green Bay.

"There's been a ton of interest from Dallas, Kansas City and New England," Wright said. "But they've been on the phone with him extensively."

The Packers have also conducted private workouts outside of Green Bay for East Central (Okla.) University punter Curtis Lilly and Virginia running back Jason Snelling and have shown interest in Virginia Tech long snapper Nick Leeson. There are many others the Packers are eyeing as post-draft free agents, although after signing 14 undrafted rookies last year they probably won't deal in as much volume this year.

Still, it is an important phase of the draft.

The Super Bowl champion Indianapolis Colts, for instance, had 12 players last year who came into the league without being drafted. The Packers, who had 19 on the roster at one time or another last season, hope to continue working that field again this year.

Work begins Sunday night.

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-- Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services

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