By John Harris
April 24, 2013
Rush Offense - 106.4 ypg (20th)
Pass Offense - 253.1 ypg (9th)
Total Offense - 359.4 ypg (13th)
Scoring Offense - 27.1 ppg (5th)
Most pressing offensive needs - Running back and solving tackle dilemma
That Aaron Rodgers character is good. He'll be around for a while. The team drafted a project BJ Coleman last year in the seventh round. Don't expect that philosophy for the second straight year. Moving on to more important issues…like running back.
If you need some sort of crash course as to the lack of an alpha dog, No. 1 running back, keep the number 703 in mind. That's the highest rushing total for a Green Bay running back over the past three seasons. Furthermore, the Packers leading rusher has seen his total decline over the past three years as well, from 703 in 2010 to 578 in 2011 to 464 yards last season. 464 yards? That was three weeks of work for Vikings RB Adrian Peterson in 2012.
As such, it's time for the Packers to find a Ryan Grant or an Ahman Green, a true, unquestioned No. 1 running back that can help take some pressure off of Rodgers and the passing game. Running back by committee can work, as long as there's a true standout on the roster. It's about time GM Ted Thompson find that guy.
2nd - Eddie Lacy, Alabama (5-11, 231), Johnathan Franklin, UCLA (5-10, 205)
3rd - Joe Randle, Oklahoma State (6-0, 204), Andre Ellington, Clemson (5-9, 199), Stepfan Taylor, Stanford (5-9, 214), Le'Veon Bell, Michigan State (6-1, 230)
4th - Mike Gillislee, Florida (5-11, 208)
5th - Zac Stacy, Vanderbilt (5-9, 205)
Lacy is unlike any back the Packers have had in recent memory as he's the most powerful back in this class. Can he be a receiver out of the backfield for Rodgers? Good question, but it's one both Franklin and Randle can answer with an emphatic yes.
Franklin has the full complement of skills and he's got the juice to get to the edge as well. Randle is a better receiver out of the backfield, but he doesn't have the long speed that Franklin does. Keep an eye on Taylor in the third for the Packers, a wonderful, B gap-to-B gap, interior back that is also effective in the screen game.
One of the reasons for the Packers running game inadequacies is the brilliance of the Packers passing game and its stellar receiving corps. Well, that corps is minus Greg Jennings who decided to take the Brett Favre route and head to Minnesota.
But, The Packers are confident that Jordy Nelson, James Jones and Randall Cobb can more than make up for Jennings' absence. The team likes Jarrett Boykin as a fourth perimeter receiving option, but they may take a late round flyer on another young project.
4th - Kenny Stills, Oklahoma (6-1, 194)
5th - Rodney Smith, Florida State (6-4, 225), Corey Fuller, Virginia Tech (6-2, 204), Lanear Sampson, Baylor (5-11, 204)
6th - Kenbrell Thompkins, Cincinnati (6-1, 193), Aaron Mellette, Elon (6-2, 216)
7th - Chad Bumphis, Mississippi State (5-10, 202), Charles Johnson, Grand Valley State (6-2, 215)
Stills is California cool and that's not always a good thing. He had a bundle of issues at Oklahoma, but when he's on, he's a second round talent. Smith underachieved at Florida State, but is a height-weight-speed receiver who could develop that physical ability under the Packers excellent coaching staff. Fuller was up and down throughout his career at Virginia Tech, but he has natural pass catching abilities.
The Packers have a strong stable of tight ends, which still includes mercurial Jermichael Finley who was thought to be a potential cap casualty this offseason. With Finley on board, the addition of Matthew Mulligan and a handful of young backups, the Packers don't have to target tight end in the draft. But, with eight selections in the draft, they may take the best one available on day three
5th - Chris Gragg, Arkansas (6-3, 244), Matt Furstenburg, Maryland (6-3, 242)
6th - Ryan Otten, San Jose State (6-5, 230)
Gragg ran 4.5 in the 40, faster than 40% of the receivers at the Combine but didn't always catch the ball consistently at Arkansas. Furstenburg is a combination Y/H-Back option that is fairly dynamic with the ball in his hands. Otten is tough as can be (had a staph infection at the Senior Bowl and continued to practice) and is an excellent pass catcher.
The left tackle position remains a question, but the team may already possess the answer at the tackle position. Marshall Newhouse is not the answer on the left side, but any left tackle options in this draft will be off the board well before the Packers make their first selection.
The Packers selected Derek Sherrod in the first round two years ago to start at one of the tackle positions, but he hasn't been able to stay healthy. If he is healthy, could he be the answer at left tackle? Could he move over to the right side and bump Bryan Bulaga to the left side? Did late season starter Don Barclay show enough for the Packers to consider him full time? How does 2012 late round selection Andrew Datko figure into the mix?
The Packers like his potential, but like Sherrod, he must be 100% healthy heading into the season. The team's current roster options won't keep the Packers from looking for an athletic answer at tackle and/or a center to push Evan Dietrich-Smith.
1st - T Menelik Watson, Florida State (6-5, 310)
2nd - C Brian Schwenke, Cal (6-3, 314), C/G Travis Frederick, Wisconsin (6-4, 312)
3rd - C Barrett Jones, Alabama (6-3, 305)
4th - T Jordan Mills, La. Tech (6-5, 316)
6th - C Matt Stankiewitch, Penn State (6-3, 302), T Brennan Williams, North Carolina (6-6, 318)
7th - T John Wetzel, Boston College (6-7, 315), C Patrick Lewis, Texas A&M (6-1, 311)
Watson's rise in the draft isn't shocking when you consider the type of athlete he is. The former Division 1 basketball player hung up the Chuck Taylors and turned to football, even though the Englishman only knew futbol before giving it a try. He has the feet of a small forward, is soaking in the nuances of the game and could be an option for the Packers at No. 26.
Schwenke is one of the best interior blockers in this class. He did mix in some time at guard at the Senior Bowl, but he's the best center in this group. He possesses the agility and quickness to get up to the second level in the run game and anchor against heavy defensive tackles on solo blocks.
The highly decorated Jones played all three positions at Alabama and will know the offense as well as his quarterbacks do. However, he's not as agile as Schwenke and wins more by position blocking than driving DTs off the ball. Frederick may be the best mix of the two and perhaps more attractive to the Packers than either other center.
Rush Defense - 118.5 ypg (17th)
Pass Defense - 218.2 ypg (11th)
Total Defense - 336.8 ypg (11th)
Scoring Defense - 21.0 ppg (11th)
Most pressing defensive needs - Defensive line and an athletically aware edge player
Dom Capers' front has bodies, but does it have any impact players? NT BJ Raji is the closest thing to a game changer, but he didn't finish the season playing his best football. Last year's second round selection Jerel Worthy flashed early, but tore his ACL late in the season, which could put his 2013 season in peril.
The team is back to square one, essentially in need of assistance at each defensive line position. Expect the team to look at more athletic options up front starting in round one on Thursday night.
1st - DE Datone Jones, UCLA (6-4, 283)
2nd - DE Margus Hunt, SMU (6-8, 277), NT Sylvester Williams, North Carolina (6-3, 313)
3rd - NT Brandon Williams, Missouri Southern State (6-1, 335), DE Malliciah Goodman, Clemson (6-3, 277)
5th - NT Montori Hughes, Tennessee-Martin (6-4, 329)
Jones is perhaps the best overall athlete in the defensive line, possessing the versatility to play any position up front and the burst to be an effective pass rusher from different areas along the line. Hunt is football's version of Ivan Drago, but it's still difficult to get past the fact that he underachieved greatly during the first part of this season against high level competition. Brandon Williams would be a great complement to Raji, but he has the ability to also push him for playing time.
The linebackers looked lost against San Francisco in the playoff loss, but it's still a strong group if all can stay healthy. OLB Nick Perry showed promise early, but an injury knocked him out midway through the season. Pro Bowler Clay Matthews continues to dominate on the opposite side.
Inside, the team has two experienced veterans, A.J Hawk and Desmond Bishop, and an unrestricted free agent Brad Jones who filled in admirably for Bishop last season. If the team can bring Jones back at a team friendly rate, the Packers may have to decide whether Hawk is too expensive to retain on the roster. Regardless, drafting an inside linebacker shouldn't be a priority on draft weekend, but selecting an athletically aware edge player should be on the to-do list.
3rd - OLB Jamie Collins, Southern Miss (6-4, 250), OLB Sean Porter, Texas A&M (6-1, 229)
4th - OLB DeVonte Holloman, South Carolina (6-1, 243), OLB Chase Thomas, Stanford (6-3, 244)
5th - OLB Lerentee McCray, Florida (6-2, 250)
6th - DE/OLB Mike Catapano, Princeton (6-3, 271)
7th - DE/OLB Brandon Copeland, Penn (6-2, 262)
Collins has gained a ton of traction after a wonderful Combine performance, but he was already on radar screens based on his performance for a dreadful team. Porter played all year as a WLB in the Aggies 4-3, but he spent the three years prior playing 3-4 OLB. Holloman is a converted safety that is still adapting to taking on blockers and playing off of blocks.
Thomas may not blow anyone away with his physical attributes, but he's a complete football player who can do a bit of everything well.
The Charles Woodson era ended in February, but don't weep for the Packers secondary. This is a young, deep group that returns nearly everyone sans Woodson. The only question is, not so much if but, when restricted free agent Sam Shields re-signs.
When that happens, the Packers secondary draft needs should focus solely on the safety position. MD Jennings started ten games last year and will be penciled in as this year's starter, but the Packers have never shied away from adding competition at key spots. Expect the Packers to target safety perhaps as early as the end of day two.
3rd - S Shamarko Thomas, Syracuse (5-9, 213)
4th - S JJ Wilcox, Georgia Southern (6-0, 213)
5th - S Keelan Johnson, Arizona State (6-0, 209), S Robert Lester, Alabama (6-1, 220)
Thomas is reminiscent of a poor man's Bob Sanders, but with speed. Sanders was so gifted and threw his body around, unfortunately to his long term detriment, and Thomas plays the game the same way. The former Syracuse star ran extremely well at the Combine and his tape was solid, so he's attractive late on day two. Keep an eye on Johnson; he's a wiry and physical player who needs to work on wrapping up on contract. But, WOW, he'll strike ball carriers.
Rush Offense - 100.8 ypg (23rd)
Pass Offense - 307.9 ypg (2nd)
Total Offense - 408.8 ypg (3rd)
Scoring Offense - 23.2 ppg (17th)
Most pressing offensive needs - Tight end, dynamic weapon (RB or WR) and interior line depth
Since drafting Matt Stafford to open the 2009 Draft, the Lions have not drafted a single quarterback. Not in any round. None. Zip. Nada. Considering the holes on this roster and the presence of both Shaun Hill and Kellen Moore, it's a safe bet that the Lions will pass on quarterback again during draft weekend.
There's no question averaging just over 100 ypg rushing was a concern. So, the Lions courted and signed dual threat weapon Reggie Bush to give the offense a jump start. He can be used in a number of different ways on the field, so he could play together with Mikel LeShoure or Joique Bell. LeShoure defined inconsistency throughout what amounted to his rookie season, but the Lions expect him to break out in 2013.
Backup Joique Bell is a perfect complement to LeShoure, having averaged 5.0 ypc last season. Former first rounder Jahvid Best hasn't been cleared to return to the game after a myriad of concussion issues and there's no way to count on him heading into this season. That said, the trio of Bush, LeShoure and Bell should afford the Lions the luxury of passing on running backs in the draft and allow them to highlight other more glaring weaknesses.
One receiver had the greatest single season in the history of the game. One receiver played only six games. One receiver coming off of a torn ACL tore his ACL again. One receiver was booted out of town for his singular focus on himself. Just another ho-hum season for the Lions receivers, right?
All-World Calvin Johnson is back to replicate his record setting season and that's where the comfort ends. After restructuring his contract, Nate Burleson, who suffered a season ending injury last season, is due to return by OTAs. But, it's not out of line to ask what does he have left? Ryan Broyles will be a question mark heading into the season after tearing his ACL for the second consecutive season.
Narcissistic Titus Young has already been kicked to the curb for being, well, Titus Young. In a utopian situation, the Lions could find a complementary receiver to Johnson early in this draft, but this isn't that year. As such, expect the Lions to draft a receiver on day three.
4th - Tavarres King, Georgia (6-0, 192)
5th - Connor Vernon, Duke (6-0, 196), Corey Fuller, Virginia Tech (6-2, 204), Aaron Mellette, Elon (6-2, 217)
6th - Rodney Smith, Florida State (6-4, 225), Jasper Collins, Mount Union (5-10, 184)
7th - Darius Johnson, SMU (5-9, 179)
Getting open, wide open is Vernon's hallmark. The record setting Duke star has the best package of receiving skills, but he struggles a bit against physical press corners but he can find a way to get open whether from a perimeter spot or in the slot.
Smith sure looks the part, but he never had more than 38 receptions in his career. Collins was highly productive in Division III and he didn't look out of place at the Shrine Bowl. He's not blazing fast but possesses the quickness to be effective from the slot.
Brandon Pettigrew hasn't lived up to expectations and he's entering the final year of his initial rookie contract. That said, he and Tony Scheffler form a solid duo if they're both on the same page. They both need to catch the ball more consistently, considering the fact that the Lions like to play the two on the field at the same time.
Given the needs at other positions, the Lions won't address tight end until day three, but this is a deep class of tight ends with options on Saturday.
4th - Gavin Escobar, San Diego State (6-5, 254)
5th - Nick Kasa, Colorado (6-6, 269), Levine Toilolo, Stanford (6-8, 260)
6th - Joseph Fauria, UCLA (6-8, 259), Lucas Reed, New Mexico (6-6, 247)
7th - Ryan Otten, San Jose State (6-5, 230), Luke Willson, Rice (6-6, 251)
Escobar didn't have a great combine, but his game tape more than makes up for his lack of long speed. Kasa is a former defensive end, which should get the attention of head coach Jim Schwartz, but he's not a natural receiver.
That said, he's physical at the point of attack, but needs work on his blocking technique. Reed, brother of Houston Texans OLB Brooks Reed, has been a workout warrior this offseason and is catching teams' eyes with his athleticism.
The Lions drafted T Riley Reiff last year, knowing that Jeff Backus had a limited time remaining with the team. Looking back, that was a fortuitous decision as Backus retired in March, but made even more so because RT Gosder Cherilus signed a free agent deal with the Indianapolis Colts.
Reiff went from swing tackle to left tackle in a matter of days, which is not quite how the team envisioned that happening. Either way, the loss of both starting tackles has opened the competition at right tackle for certain.
C Dominic Raiola has already restructured his deal to remain with the team but G Stephen Peterman was cut in a cap casualty move. Suffice to say, the Lions have offensive line questions that the draft won't completely answer, but they have to address as many issues as possible, starting at tackle
1st - LT Eric Fisher, Central Michigan (6-7, 305), LT Lane Johnson, Oklahoma (6-7, 303)
2nd - G Larry Warford, Kentucky (6-3, 332)
3rd - C/G Brian Schwenke, Cal (6-3, 314), G/C Travis Frederick, Wisconsin (6-4, 312), G/T Brian Winters, Kent State (6-4, 320)
4th - G/T Dallas Thomas, Tennessee (6-5, 306)
5th - G Jeff Baca, UCLA (6-3, 302), T Oday Aboushi, Virginia (6-5, 310)
6th - G Eric Herman, Ohio (6-4, 320)
If Fisher is still on the board at No. 5, the Lions may jump on the Michigan homeboy and push Reiff back over the right side. Fisher and Reiff would be the bookend tackles for the next eight years. If the Lions draft Warford, the run game can only improve. Warford is a hammer and will rock defensive linemen of all different sizes at the point of attack. He stonewalled Florida's Sharrif Floyd, who is thought to be a lock in the top five of this draft.
The Lions must like Schwenke after coaching him at the Senior Bowl in January.
Rush Defense - 118.1 ypg (16th)
Pass Defense - 223.1 ypg (14th)
Total Defense - 341.1 ypg (13th)
Scoring Defense - 27.3 ppg (27th)
Most pressing defensive needs - Cornerback, pass rusher and outside linebacker
DE Cliff Avril finally got his long term deal. In Seattle. So he's gone, as is Kyle VandenBosch who was released back in February. The Lions struggled rushing the passer from the edge as it was and now those two starters are gone. The Lions will be relying heavily on last year's fourth round selection Ronnell Lewis and recently signed Jason Jones.
Lewis has the physical requirements to be a strong edge rusher, but Jones is more power end than he is capable pass rusher. Consequently, the Lions can't go into a season in the NFC North without pressure players on the edge. Even if Lewis becomes a solid starter and Jones plays well, the Lions need more speed, err, more help.
1st - DE Ziggy Ansah, BYU (6-5, 271)
2nd - DE Tank Carradine, Florida State (6-4, 276)
3rd - DE Corey Lemonier, Auburn (6-3, 255)
Could Ansah go as high as No. 5? No way, right? Well, he absolutely could. Can the Lions find this type of athlete to rush the edge in later rounds? Not like him. He's more athlete right now than football player, but he's only been playing for a couple of years, so his best football is ahead of him.
The Lions coaching staff got to coach him at the Senior Bowl too, so they have first hand knowledge. For some reason, Lemonier has struck me as a Lion for a while. If nothing else, he's got great burst off the ball, playing with his hand on the ground.
The Lions had two unrestricted free agents heading into the offseason and was only able to keep one of them. DeAndre Levy signed a deal to stay in Detroit, but Justin Durant bolted for Dallas, leaving a hole at outside linebacker. Last year, the team drafted Tahir Whitehead who showed some promise, and former Oklahoma star Travis Lewis. But, neither one has started an NFL game.
At least MLB Stephen Tulloch is slated to return alongside Levy. Now that Levy has returned, along with Whitehead and Lewis, the need isn't quite as overwhelming, but it's still a priority item later on draft weekend.
3rd - OLB/ILB Sio Moore, U Conn (6-1, 245), OLB Jelani Jenkins, Florida (6-0, 243)
4th - OLB Kevin Reddick, North Carolina (6-1, 243), OLB Gerald Hodges, Penn State (6-1, 243)
6th - OLB Brandon Magee, Arizona State (5-11, 223)
Moore has scheme versatility and can play nearly every linebacker position. He'd fit well at either sam or will in this defense, wherever the need is most severe. Jenkins struggled through injuries this season, so it set him back as his play suffered.
But, he's an excellent athlete who could be a starter in due time. Hodges played tight all season at Penn State, but he can play all three downs at outside linebacker. Magee is small in stature, but he has great instincts and could play WLB in this scheme.
What seemed like a catastrophe waiting to happen in the secondary at the start of the new league year may actually turn out better than expected. Going into the offseason, the prevailing thought was that the Lions would lose both Chris Houston and Louis Delmas.
Fortunately for them, not only did they not lose either, they added versatile Glover Quin along side Delmas. Quin's ability to drop into the box in sub packages or cover slot receivers in man coverage will be effective assets for this Lions defense. That said, the cornerback spot opposite Houston is far from settled.
2012 third round selection Bill Bentley was a disappointment, even though 2012 sixth rounder Jonte Green showed a hint of promise. Unfortunately, relying on those two to start at cornerback is foolhardy. The secondary rebuild must start on draft weekend, but it's imperative that the draft yields a starter at both positions.
1st - CB Dee Milliner, Alabama (6-1, 200)
2nd - CB DJ Hayden, Houston (5-11, 191), CB Desmond Trufant, Washington (6-0, 190)
3rd - CB Jordan Poyer, Oregon State (6-0, 191), CB Darius Slay, Mississippi State (6-0, 192)
It's not the end of the world if the Lions pass on Milliner or if the former Alabama star is off the board at No. 5. But, if he's there, it'll be hard to pass on an all-around cornerback who can play off man, press man or zone with his versatility, size and speed. Hayden continues to defy the odds attempting to return after nearly passing away on the field in practice in November 2012. But, he's a complete player at cornerback like Milliner but with better overall ball skills. Trufant might end up being a better lockdown cover corner than either those two in the long run but not a better overall player.
Rush Offense - 123.1 ypg (10th)
Pass Offense - 187.4 ypg (29th)
Total Offense - 310.6 ypg (28th)
Scoring Offense - 23.4 ppg (16th)
Most pressing offensive needs - Offensive line and tight end
When Jay Cutler is healthy, the Bears offensive attack is layered and explosive. Unfortunately, he's not played all 16 games in a season since his first year in Chicago (2009). Because he has missed time, it was imperative that Bears held on to Josh McCown as they lost former backup Jason Campbell to Cleveland. New head coach Marc Trestman has done great work with quarterbacks at all levels in the past and he has his hands full with Cutler. But, Trestman's crew should add a young guy later in the draft to develop.
5th - Zac Dysert, Miami (OH) (6-3, 231)
6th - Colby Cameron, La. Tech (6-2, 212)
7th - Sean Renfree, Duke (6-3, 219)
Each of the three on this board present different strengths and, of course, liabilities. Dysert is an athletic gunslinger who is reminiscent of the Bears starter. He doesn't always make the right decision nor does he look the part at times.
But, when things gets tough, there are few quarterbacks that coaches can trust more than Dysert. Renfree shouldn't be a seventh rounder, but an injury in his last game set him back and caused his stock to fall a bit.
Matt Forte didn't have his best season last year, but there are few backs in the league that have the combination running/receiving skills that he possesses. Michael Bush is the consummate complementary back although he averaged only 3.6 yards per carry last year. These two play well off one another, but it wouldn't be surprising in the slightest to see the Bears look for a dynamic play maker that could take some carries at RB in certain situations and WR in some others.
5th - Denard Robinson, Michigan (5-11, 193), Chris Thompson, Florida State (5-7, 192), Robbie Rouse, Fresno State (5-6, 190)
6th - Theo Riddick, Notre Dame (5-10, 201)
7th - DJ Harper, Boise State (5-9, 211)
Simply put, teams want to just get the ball in Robinson's hands, no matter whether it's at receiver or running back. Thompson is coming off of an ACL tear, but he's as tough as can be with unmatched speed. Rouse doesn't have that speed, but he's quick as a hiccup and extremely difficult to tackle. Riddick can play as a slot WR or as a RB, although he won't blow you away with speed like Harper will.
The Bears wide receiver corps may be as strong as it's been in decades. Brandon Marshall is the star and lived up to all of the billing in his first year in Chicago. He finished the season with 118 receptions, 1,508 yards and 11 touchdowns, earning his fourth Pro Bowl berth.
Alshon Jeffery flashed his enormous potential, but his production waned due to nagging injuries that kept him off the field for stretches at a time. But, in his second year, he should be ready to break out as an effective complement to Marshall.
Earl Bennett is dependable, if nothing else, and Devin Hester is still wearing Bears colors. Put it all together and there should be no reason to add a receiver to the mix, unless the team targets a RB/WR combo as noted above.
The Bears' perimeter skill positions are stocked with talent and depth, but the tight end position paled in comparison. Kellen Davis had a ton of trouble catching the ball consistently and he was released. The same thing happened to Matt Spaeth. But, those cuts are a positive for a team attempting to put as much pressure on defenses, in as many ways as possible. Davis and Spaeth couldn't do that. Martellus Bennett can.
So, the Bears signed the former Giant after a brilliant season in New York resurrecting his career. The Bears are hoping for even more. But, Bennett needs some company. Unfortunately, the Bears don't have a third round pick currently, so they could miss out on a couple of versatile options at the tight end position if they don't take one early in the draft.
1st - Tyler Eifert, Notre Dame (6-5, 250)
2nd - Zach Ertz, Stanford (6-5, 249)
4th - Gavin Escobar, San Diego State (6-5, 254)
5th - Chris Gragg, Arkansas (6-3, 244), Matt Furstenburg, Maryland (6-3, 242)
6th - Jake Stoneburner, Ohio State (6-3, 252)
Cutler to Eifert has a nice ring to it, but it only happens if the Bears jump on Eifert in the first round. Drafting the former Notre Dame star to team with Bennett will make a serious offensive statement. Finding Escobar in the fourth round would be a coup for Trestman and the Bears offense. He didn't burn up the track at the Combine, but he plays much faster than his time and is a natural receiver.
Gragg can fly and is more of a beefed up receiver than he is tight end, but tight end, schmight end, who cares? Trestman knows how to exploit matchup mismatches and Gragg presents a massive mismatch due to his size and speed.
The Bears offensive line woes have been well documented and it's clear that Trestman and Bears management knew that it couldn't head into 2013 status quo. The Bears added three free agents in the offensive line, including LT Jermon Bushrod. J'Marcus Webb can now move over to the right side and strengthen that position.
Gabe Carimi bumps inside to guard and the move strengthens that position. The Bushrod signing kicked over some dominoes that could make this quintet that much more improved in 2013. That said, if the RIGHT offensive lineman is available at No. 20, the Bears may bite. Worst case, the Bears can add depth options throughout the offensive line during draft weekend.
1st - G Chance Warmack, Alabama (6-2, 317), G Jonathan Cooper, North Carolina (6-2, 311)
2nd - G/T Kyle Long, Oregon (6-6, 313), T Terron Armstead, Arkansas Pine-Bluff (6-5, 306), G Larry Warford, Kentucky (6-3, 332)
3rd - G/T Brian Winters, Kent State (6-4, 320)
4th - T Jordan Mills, La. Tech (6-5, 316)
5th - G Eric Herman, Ohio (6-4, 320), T Reid Fragel, Ohio State (6-8, 308)
6th - T Chris Faulk, LSU (6-5, 331), G Garrett Gilkey, Chadron State (6-6, 318)
7th - T Luke Marquardt, Azusa Pacific (6-9, 315)
It's hard to imagine Warmack or Cooper being on the board at No. 20, but it's hard to imagine the Bears passing on either. But, if the Bears miss out on those two, Warford is a perfect fit in this offense and a find in the second round. He's not the prettiest looking athlete, but as a guard, who cares? The former Kentucky star strikes hard at the point of attack, pulls to get to the edge and has relatively nimble feet for a 332 pounder.
Armstead could actually have a career one day at left tackle but if the Bears nab him, he could compete at right tackle with J'Marcus Webb.
Rush Defense - 101.7 ypg (8th)
Pass Defense - 213.9 ypg (8th)
Total Defense - 315.6 ypg (5th)
Scoring Defense - 17.3 ppg (3rd)
Most pressing defensive needs - Linebacker, both inside and outside
The Bears defensive line is in solid shape heading into the offseason with only a few tweaks needed, especially from a depth standpoint. Star DT Henry Melton signed his franchise tender to remain with the team so he can continue to wreck havoc in the NFC North.
But, DE Israel Idonije remains unsigned at this point, but the team is still two deep at both defensive end spots with Julius Peppers, Corey Wootton, last year's first round selection Shea McClellin and recently signed DE Turk McBride. If anything else, the team will add young, aggressive interior depth options in the draft late in the draft.
4th - DT Jordan Hill, Penn State (6-1, 303)
5th - DT Everett Dawkins, Florida State (6-2, 292)
6th - DT Abry Jones, Georgia (6-3, 313)
7th - DT Chris Jones, Bowling Green (6-2, 302)
Hill is one of the most underrated defensive tackles in this draft and he'll fit well in the Bears defense. His motor never stops and he's relentless in his pursuit of the quarterback. Dawkins' inconsistent play has pushed him down draft boards, but in a rotational defensive tackle role, he'll have an impact, even as a first year player. Chris Jones is disruptive inside and has gained weight in the off-season to withstand the NFL's interior punishment.
The linebacking corps has been set in stone for years in Chicago. Brian Urlacher and Lance Briggs have been mainstays in the lineup since 2003 and while Briggs will return, Urlacher will not. As a result, the Bears signed James Anderson and DJ Williams to potentially start at outside and inside linebacker, respectively.
But, it absolutely does not mean that the Bears won't address both linebacker positions in the draft to compete with either or both free agent signees.
1st - ILB/OLB Arthur Brown, Kansas State (6-0, 241)
2nd - ILB/OLB Khaseem Greene, Rutgers (6-1, 241)
4th - OLB Jelani Jenkins, Florida (6-0, 243)
5th - ILB Nico Johnson, Alabama (6-2, 248)
6th - OLB Jake Knott, Iowa State (6-2, 243)
7th - OLB Michael Mauti, Penn State (6-2, 243)
Brown is a blur. He can play either in the middle or outside, but he'll excel at either position. He tackles everything and runs sideline to sideline to make plays. Greene can play any linebacker position on the field in a 4-3 or a 3-4 and as a former safety, he has the burst to close on ballcarriers as well as any linebacker in this class. He's instinctive and tough, but he also has a high football IQ, which will impress all that he meets during the months leading up to the draft.
Jenkins has the athleticism to play the sam spot, but he hasn't tapped into his enormous potential yet. Keep an eye on Mauti if he's healthy.
The Bears put a premium on finding secondary players in previous drafts and that's paid off in a big way. Outside of Tim Jennings (free agent) and Sherrick McManis (trade), the Bears secondary is home grown, including Pro Bowler Charles Tillman. There was some question as to whether Kelvin Hayden would return, but he signed to be the team's slot corner. As such, it's a deep secondaryIf the team chooses to address the secondary in the draft, it may take a late round risk and hope for a significant reward.
4th - CB/S Tyrann Mathieu, LSU (5-9, 178)
7th - CB/PR Greg Reid, Florida State/Valdosta State (5-8, 190)
Mathieu's off the field issues are well documented, but if Hayden leaves, Mathieu would be a perfect fit to play in the slot. He won't be a lock down perimeter cover corner but in the slot, he's a bona fide playmaker. Reid's had a multitude of issues, but taking a flyer on him in the seventh may provide decent return in the future.
Rush Offense - 164.6 ypg (2nd)
Pass Offense - 171.9 ypg (31st)
Total Offense - 336.6 ypg (20th)
Scoring Offense - 23.7 ppg (14th)
Most pressing offensive needs - Wide receiver and guard
The Vikings have cast their lot with Christian Ponder; perhaps that belief was strengthened in his absence. When the Vikings took the field without Ponder on Wild Card weekend, it confirmed his standing as the future as the Vikings' offense ground to a halt in Green Bay. It proved how much the Vikings did miss him.
Sure, he's not a top five NFL quarterback, but he's grown, slowly but surely, into the Vikings leader. The Vikings wouldn't have made the playoffs without his performance on week 17 against the Packers. The Vikings signed Matt Cassel to be the No. 2 QB on the roster, moving Joe Webb to the No. 3 spot. With those three quarterbacks, the team can concentrate its draft efforts on other positions.
What more is there to say about Adrian Peterson that hasn't been said? Not much, other than the man needs a break. He's not about to take one now, but even with Toby Gerhart as his capable backup, the team may want to find fresh legs with some juice.
The one thing this team doesn't have now that Percy Harvin is gone is speed and perhaps, with two fourth round and two sixth round selections, the Vikings will look to add some speed and/or quickness at running back.
5th - Kenjon Barner, Oregon (5-9, 196)
6th - Ray Graham, Pitt (5-9. 199), Zac Stacy, Vanderbilt (5-8, 216)
7th - Onterrio McCalebb, Auburn (5-11, 168), D.J Monroe, Texas (5-8, 175)
Barner is quicker than he is fast, but in small space, he can make defenders miss. He's an excellent receiver in the screen game and could actually line up with Peterson in the gun to give defenses some concern. Graham is similar to Barner, but lost a bit of his quickness after tearing his ACL in 2011. Keep an eye on Monroe as he was rarely used at Texas, but has sprinter's speed to be utilized somewhere on offense and everywhere on special teams.
The Vikings have needed receivers for a while. That was WITH Percy Harvin on the roster. That was WITH Michael Jenkins on the roster. When Jenkins was cut and Harvin was traded, it was clear that the Vikings had reached Mach 5 crisis stage.
But, with a decent amount of money under the cap to spend, the Vikings sold Greg Jennings on the idea of leaving hated Green Bay and wearing purple and white for the foreseeable future. Even with Jennings on board, the team must add another receiver in the draft, maybe two, so don't be surprised to see the Vikings be a major player moving up the draft board to target the best one in this draft. Yes, the smallest one.
1st - Tavon Austin, West Virginia (5-9, 174), Cordarrelle Patterson, Tennessee (6-2, 216), Quinton Patton, La. Tech (6-0, 204)
2nd - Justin Hunter, Tennessee (6-4, 196), Markus Wheaton, Oregon State (5-11, 189)
3rd - Stedman Bailey, West Virginia (5-10, 193), Aaron Dobson, Marshall (6-3, 210)
4th - Chris Harper, Kansas State (6-1, 229), Josh Boyce, TCU (5-11, 206)
5th - Lanear Sampson, Baylor (5-11, 204)
6th - Rodney Smith, Florida State (6-4, 225)
7th - Russell Shepard, LSU (6-1, 198)
Now, it's not as if the Vikings have no holes to address, but this is team with plenty of draft ammunition to make a move into the top ten to draft Austin. He's a smaller, quicker and less volatile than Harvin and a player that gives dimension to the team's offense immediately. I'll be thoroughly surprised if the Vikings don't make a move on Thurdsday night.
But, if they don't, they could have their shot at every other pass catcher on the board. Patterson has the highest ceiling of any receiver, but he may also have the lowest floor. It's clear that he's explosive with the ball in his hands, but can he get open to catch it and can he catch it? In other words, route running, scheme understanding and hands are concerns for the team that selects him.
His dynamic abilities would complement Jennings in the passing game and open up the field for Peterson in the run game too. Austin's teammate Bailey will be a steal in the third round and he may be the most complete receiver on this receiver draft board.
As long as John Carlson returns in full health, the tight end crew is solid. Kyle Rudolph, Carlson and Rhett Ellison comprise that trio and this group gives GM Rick Spielman the opportunity to avoid having to sign or draft a tight end this offseason.
Drafting LT Matt Kalil with the fourth pick of last year's draft seemed to be a no-brainer at the time, but it paid off even more than expected. The former USC star will hold down that position for the next dozen years.
The guard spots? Well, that's a completely different story. Charlie Johnson and Brandon Fusco were adequate last year, but the spot can still use an upgrade. At a minimum, looking for cheap labor in the draft to give that position some competition and depth makes a ton of sense.
1st - G Chance Warmack, Alabama (6-2, 317), G Jonathan Cooper, North Carolina (6-2, 311)
2nd - G Larry Warford, Kentucky (6-3, 332)
3rd - G Hugh Thornton, Illinois (6-3, 320),
4th - G Dallas Thomas, Tennessee (6-5, 306)
5th - G Eric Herman, Ohio (6-4, 320)
6th - G Garrett Gilkey, Chadron State (6-6, 318)
7th - G Patrick Omameh, Michigan (6-4, 303)
More than likely, Cooper and Warmack are off the board in the first, but if either one is there, the team is going to have fight the urge to add a receiver just to fill a need as opposed to drafting best available on its board. More than likely, they'll be off the board to keep the Vikings from having to make that decision. But, Warford would be a coup in the second round, filling in nicely next to Phil Loadholt or Kalil. Thornton is a nasty, road grader who may need a year to fully develop. Herman, as a fifth round selection, is a hammer who loves contact.
Rush Defense - 105.8 ypg (11th)
Pass Defense - 244.2 ypg (24th)
Total Defense - 350.0 ypg (16th)
Scoring Defense - 21.8 ppg (15th)
Most pressing defensive needs - Middle help - defensive tackle depth, middle linebacker and safety
Given the $8M cap figure that DT Kevin Williams carries into the 2013 season, there was scuttlebutt that Williams could be cut. That didn't happen and his return is key for the middle of this Vikings defensive line.
But, Williams will be 33 in August so the team will look to add depth at that key position. The good news is that it won't need to investigate late round options at defensive end until day three, if at all.
2nd - DT Sylvester Williams, North Carolina (6-3, 313)
3rd - DT Akeem Spence, Illinois (6-1, 307)
4th - DT Jordan Hill, Penn State (6-1, 303), DT Bennie Logan, LSU (6-2, 309)
5th - DE Mike Catapano, Princeton (6-3, 271), DT Everett Dawkins, Florida State (6-2, 292)
6th - DE Tourek Williams, FIU (6-3, 260)
7th - DE Stansly Maponga, TCU (6-2, 256)
Williams plays with good leverage for a taller defensive tackle and has the ability to play either defensive tackle spot in Minnesota. Spence has the ability, but it comes and goes in spurts, as evidenced by his play against Penn State (bad) and against Wisconsin (better). Hill is active and relentless, while Logan has a great work ethic and plays hard.
Catapano has gotten plenty of attention and is a better athlete than people expect. He was a 215 pound running back when he arrived at Princeton, but he's leaving as a 270 pound NFL defensive end/outside linebacker prospect.
Erin Henderson and Jasper Brinkley were both unrestricted free agents heading into the offeseason and there was a small chance that both were coming back. But, one chose to re-sign in Minnesota and it was a bit of a surprise. Not, in a bad way, but given Henderson's feelings going into the season and the off-season, I'd have put money on him not coming back.
Yet, he re-signed with the Vikings while Jasper Brinkley moved on to Arizona. That said, there's a gaping hole in the middle of this defense with Brinkley now gone. If the Vikings stand pat with picks No. 23 and No. 25, they need to nab their future leader in the middle with one of those picks.
1st - ILB/OLB Arthur Brown, Kansas State (6-0, 241), ILB Kevin Minter, LSU (6-1, 241), ILB Manti Te'o, Notre Dame (6-1, 241)
2nd - ILB/OLB Khaseem Greene, Rutgers (6-1, 241),
3rd - ILB Jon Bostic, Florida (6-1, 245)
4th - ILB/OLB AJ Klein, Iowa State (6-1, 250), OLB Kevin Reddick, North Carolina (6-1, 243), OLB Gerald Hodges, Penn State (6-1, 243)
6th - ILB Steve Beauharnais, Rutgers (6-1, 240)
7th - ILB Tom Wort, Oklahoma (6-0, 235), ILB/FB Zach Boren, Ohio State (6-0, 246)
Brown is an undersized enigma, but on the field, he can fly sideline to sideline, while playing ILB or OLB. The Vikings need someone to take over the middle and they'll have both Minter and Te'o on the board. Some scouts think Greene is more a product of his Rutgers defense than he is true playmaker.
However, Greene has more innate football skills and intelligence than many in this linebacker class. Bostic has a ton of athletic ability but he's a bit slow to read and decipher what offenses are doing. Boren played both LB and FB and will be a valued member of special teams.
Longtime CB Antoine Winfield was released to open up room for Josh Robinson at the cornerback spot opposite Chris Cook. Winfield was such a fixture in this defense that there's no telling how the Vikings will adjust without him. Cook is a physical specimen but he's also been a China Doll, unable to stay healthy for a full 16 games. As such, the Vikings could use some help at cornerback, eyeing depth options if nothing else.
At safety, Harrison Smith was even better than his first round draft value. He played well above his draft spot and will be the fixture in the secondary for next eight to ten years. But, does Mistral Raymod or Robert Blanton make you feel good about the safety spot next to Smith? Not really. Expect a safety to make his way to Minneapolis after draft weekend.
2nd - CB Dwayne Gratz, U Conn (5-11, 201)
3rd - S Shamarko Thomas, Syracuse (5-9, 213), CB Robert Alford, SELA (5-10, 188)
4th - CB Leon McFadden, San Diego State (5-10, 193), S J.J Wilcox, Georgia Southern (6-0, 213), S Tony Jefferson, Oklahoma (5-11, 213), CB B.W Webb, William & Mary (5-10, 184), CB Blidi Wreh-Wilson, U Conn (6-1, 195)
5th - CB Nickell Robey, USC (5-7, 169)
6th - S Cody Davis, Texas Tech (6-2, 204), S Keelan Johnson, Arizona State (6-0, 209), S Duke Williams, Nevada (6-0, 190)
7th - CB Kayvon Webster, USF (5-11, 195), CB Branden Smith, Georgia (5-11, 172), CB Nigel Malone, Kansas State (5-10, 184)
Thomas would be an intriguing addition next to Smith at safety. He wore #21 at Syracuse and at his size, there's no denying a comparison to former Indianapolis Colt Bob Sanders. He's much faster than Sanders, but he doesn't have quite the football IQ Sanders did. No one did, actually.
That said, Thomas runs well, tackles impressively and even covers slot receivers. Jefferson can't do all of that, but he was productive, more so the closer he played to the line of scrimmage. Williams is a heat seeking missile and could be an effective find on day three.