Positioning McClellin, Perry and Reiff
April, 27, 2012
By Kevin Seifert | ESPN.com
EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- Thanks to everyone for bearing with me during a fast-paced and surprising first round of the NFL draft. I told you ahead of time that my focus would be on the Minnesota Vikings, given their spot at No. 3 overall, but that I would account for each of the NFC North's first-round picks in a substantive way.
I did that as best I could as the first round sped on. We have months to pull apart and dissect this draft, but for now it occurs to me that there might be some question about what position three of our five first-round picks will play when training camp begins this summer.
Let's work through that issue for Shea McClellin and the Chicago Bears, Riley Reiff and the Detroit Lions, and Nick Perry and the Green Bay Packers before calling it a night (or early morning).
McClellin played defensive end and middle linebacker at Boise State and was projected by many teams as an ideal 3-4 outside linebacker. The Bears run a 4-3, of course, and general manager Phil Emery said he will begin his career at left defensive end, opposite of right end Julius Peppers.
"We like him at D-end," Emery told reporters in Chicago. "He has versatility, if we were to have a string of injuries, to play 'Sam' [linebacker], but we like who he is as a football player better as an end than at linebacker for us."
While McClellin seemed destined to play outside linebacker for a 3-4 team, it was assumed Perry would land with a 4-3 team so he could play defensive end. That was his position at USC, and he'll need to make a significant adjustment with the Packers.
General manager Ted Thompson told reporters that Perry's athletic ability should smooth the transition.
"He's played with his hand on the ground," Thompson said, "and we're convinced he's athletic enough to play standing up and do some of the things that we do."
Packers defensive coordinator Dom Capers told reporters that the "top priority" for outside linebackers is to "have that explosive ability to come off the edge."
Capers added: "Some of the coverage stuff we'll be doing with him will be a learning process, but that isn't uncommon with these guys."
Finally, pre-draft discussion centered around whether Reiff projected as left or right tackle in the NFL. Lions general manager Martin Mayhew told reporters that Reiff could play up to four positions, but coach Jim Schwartz said: "Riley is a left tackle."
Schwartz added: "He fits the criteria for that position."
That makes Reiff the heir apparent to incumbent Jeff Backus, but the succession might not occur until 2013 or even 2014.
Now that we know McClellin will play defensive end, Perry projects as an outside linebacker and Reiff as a left tackle, we can close up shop for Thursday night/Friday morning. Back with you a bit later on Friday morning. Peace out.