Thursday, April 21, 2011
Draft Watch: NFC North
By Kevin Seifert
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Each Thursday leading up to the NFL draft (April 28-30), the ESPN.com NFL blog network will take a division-by-division look at key aspects of the draft. Today's topic: Dream scenario/Plan B.
Dream scenario: There is no doubt the Bears' top draft priority is to elevate their offensive line personnel, and typically tackles are valued more than guards or centers. Typically, most blue-chip tackles are off the board by the No. 29 overall pick. So the Bears can only hope that one of the draft's five or so first-round tackles drop to the bottom of the first round. They would be more than pleased to get Wisconsin's Gabe Carimi, Colorado's Nate Solder or even Mississippi State's Derek Sherrod. If nothing else, a first-round tackle would give the Bears more flexibility in determining the best positions for 2010 starters Chris Williams, Frank Omiyale and J'Marcus Webb.
Plan B: If all five tackles are off the board, the next step would be to identify the top guard available. The Bears' offensive line needs are equal across the board. That guard could be Danny Watkins of Baylor. But don't rule out general manager Jerry Angelo pushing hard to trade down and out of the first round if none of the tackles are available.
Dream scenario: I don't think there's any question here. The Lions should be thrilled if Nebraska cornerback Prince Amukamara is available at their No. 13 overall slot. He has elite speed, good cover skills, none of the baggage of Colorado cornerback Jimmy Smith and fills a huge need. The Lions really don't have a surefire starting cornerback under contract at the moment.
Plan B: If Amukamara is off the board, the Lions will need to make a character decision on Smith. They brought him in for a pre-draft visit at the facility last month and presumably have a handle on what type of person he is. If they're comfortable, Smith fills the same need as Amukamara. If not, the Lions are in a position to take the best offensive or defensive lineman available.
Green Bay Packers
Dream scenario: We've noted that it would be surprising for a blue-chip offensive tackle to be available at No. 29. The likelihood drops accordingly at No. 32. But truth be told, drafting a high-caliber offensive tackle might be the Packers' best-case scenario. Bryan Bulaga, their top pick in 2010, is already entrenched at right tackle. But at some point they'll have to replace left tackle Chad Clifton as well. It's doubtful a high-caliber left tackle will drop to No. 32, but we can dream, right?
Plan B: There would be nothing wrong with drafting an outside linebacker here, especially if a prospect like UCLA's Akeem Ayers is available.
Dream scenario: Honestly, the dreamiest scenario is one of the top two quarterbacks dropping unexpectedly. It's so dreamy that I don't know if I can even consider it dream-scenario worthy. In all likelihood, Auburn's Cam Newton and Missouri's Blaine Gabbert will be long gone by No. 12. But if one of them drops, the Vikings would be stunned and thrilled. Even if, say, Gabbert falls past the Arizona Cardinals at No. 5, the Vikings would have to consider it a blessing and should gladly pay the price it would take to move up.
Plan B: In all likelihood, Newton and Gabbert will be off the board. You could argue that a quarterback is so important that the Vikings should just target the next man on their list at No. 12. But given the Vikings' need, the next-best scenario would be to draft the best offensive or defensive linemen available at No. 12 and then find a way to trade back into the first round to select a quarterback somewhere below No. 20.