Black and Blue all over: Competition in the 3-4

Posted by ESPN.com's Kevin Seifert
Bob McGinn of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel provides excellent context for the Packers' switch to a 3-4 defense, noting that up to 12 teams are competing in this draft for players whose body types and skills fit the 3-4 scheme better than a 4-3.

Most notably, the trend puts a high demand on 250-pound college defensive ends that didn't necessarily have a place in the 4-3. Now, everyone is trying to figure out if they can play outside linebacker in the 3-4. McGinn reports there are at least 12 such players in this year's draft, a relatively high number.

But former Cleveland general manager Phil Savage said the competition for these players is going to push them much higher in the draft than they should be.

Savage: "You can always project these guys and all that, but the reality of it is there aren't enough of them to go around. When only four or five teams were running the 3-4, you could still get a guy in the third or fourth round. Now, everybody is trying to get them for that scheme, so ultimately they will go earlier than they probably should."

The Packers didn't sign a linebacker or defensive end in free agency, putting a premium on both their draft performance as well as their efforts to retrofit their own players for the scheme. Time will tell.

Continuing around the NFC North:

  • Tom Silverstein of the Journal Sentinel examines the tendency of Packers general manager Ted Thompson to collect low-round draft picks. Thompson: "Your success ratio is lower, but if you have confidence in your scouting department, you like the challenge of trying to find a guy down there."

  • Anyone who believes Detroit won't draft quarterback Matthew Stafford is in "denial," writes John Niyo of the Detroit News.

  • The News' Bob Wojnowski is hedging on Stafford: "Listen, I wouldn't shriek and declare the Lions forever doomed if they signed Stafford. He clearly has the arm and intelligence to at least be a decent NFL quarterback, in the right situation. I would just wonder if Mayhew and new coach Jim Schwartz want him for the right reasons."

  • Nicholas J. Cotsonika of the Detroit Free Press writes the Lions could take offensive players with both of their first-round picks. (Ha!)

  • Patrick Reusse of the Star Tribune thinks Minnesota owner Zygi Wilf has sealed his wallet this offseason: "... [F]rom here, this looks like an offseason that has been all about business -- about a reaction to a nasty recession, a fall in season-ticket sales and another stadium shutout suffered at the Legislature."

  • Judd Zulgad of the Star Tribune looks at the Vikings' completely failed 2005 draft class, one that included two of the first 18 picks of the draft.

  • Sean Jensen of the St. Paul Pioneer Press writes that the final verdict is still out on Minnesota's 2008 trade for defensive end Jared Allen.

  • David Haugh of the Chicago Tribune names five players whose jobs could be jeopardized based on how the Bears draft, including veteran linebacker Hunter Hillenmeyer.

  • Brad Biggs of the Chicago Sun-Times breaks down every draft choice in the Bears career of general manager Jerry Angelo. Four of them have become Pro Bowl players.