NFC North: 2011 NFL Draft

EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- It's not often when an NFL coach introduces a draft pick "as our starter" for "many, many years to come." Usually you at least see a charade of making the rookie "win" the job.

Kalil
Kalil
But the Minnesota Vikings have too many immediate plans for Matt Kalil, and so that's how coach Leslie Frazier described Kalil on Friday, in the process giving us a clear picture of how the Vikings plan to stack their rebuilt offensive line in 2012.

As suspected, Frazier said Kalil's arrival will push 2011 left tackle Charlie Johnson to left guard. (In fact, offensive line coach Jeff Davidson told reporters he discussed that likelihood with Johnson early last season.) Frazier said there will be a "battle" between veteran newcomer Geoff Schwartz, 2011 draft pick Brandon Fusco at right guard and possibly others.

That leaves center John Sullivan and right tackle Phil Loadholt, who is entering the final year of his contract, as the only holdovers from the group expected to start for the Vikings when training camp opened in 2011.

The key, of course, was getting Kalil in place to begin the process.

"It gives us more flexibility on the offensive line now," Frazier said, "because once you solidify that spot, it's a little bit easier to try and move other people around."
Accepting that pre-draft mocks and post-draft grades are all in good fun makes both easier to digest. With that caveat, let's sift through Mel Kiper's grades Insider and then take a Sunday breather. I think it will be good for us to have some quiet time here for a bit.

Chicago Bears
Mel's grade:
B
Seifert comment: The Bears filled needs with their first two picks, Wisconsin offensive tackle Gabe Carimi and Oregon State defensive tackle Stephen Paea, without reaching. I agree with Kiper that Paea doesn't resemble the classic penetrating "three-technique" tackle as much as he does a space-filling nose tackle, but the Bears had needs for both. You could argue that a team with five picks and an established starting quarterback didn't need to take on a developmental quarterback like Idaho's Nathan Enderle. But that decision speaks to the underrated power offensive coordinator Mike Martz now wields in the organization. He wanted a project and got one.

Detroit Lions
Mel's grade:
A-
Seifert comment: Most everyone is viewing the fall of Auburn defensive tackle Nick Fairley as a gift the Lions smartly capitalized on. I can't argue. Nor, as I wrote over the weekend, can I suggest that receiver Titus Young and running back Mikel Leshoure will be anything other than enhancements to the offense. Kiper and I are on the same page with the one caveat to this draft, and he put it more succinctly than me: "[T]he question is whether the Lions did enough to help the talent level in a way that can further conceal weaknesses." The Lions can answer that with an aggressive run through free agency and/or the trade market.

Green Bay Packers
Mel's grade:
B+
Seifert comment: Kiper's only concern was a failure to address the pass rush in a meaningful way. But I think the Packers have confidence in some of the players they drafted last year, defensive ends Mike Neal and C.J. Wilson. And Saturday, defensive coordinator Dom Capers expressed faith in linebacker Frank Zombo. Otherwise, the Packers added two more weapons to their offense (Kentucky receiver Randall Cobb and Hawaii running back Alex Green) and fortified their transition plan at offensive tackle with Mississippi State's Derek Sherrod.

Minnesota Vikings
Mel's grade: C+
Seifert comment: Like many commentators, Kiper thinks the No. 12 spot was too high for Florida State quarterback Christian Ponder. To Kiper and others, the fact that TCU quarterback Andy Dalton lasted another 23 spots provides evidence that the Vikings could have traded down, or traded up from the second round, and still drafted Ponder. I don't think we can say that. How do we know that a team passing on Dalton wouldn't have taken Ponder? Regardless, quarterback is one position where value is less critical. There aren't many legitimate quarterback prospects in any draft, and if you have an opportunity to draft one that you think can be a long-term starter, who cares if he is taken at No. 12 or No. 25? (Especially with a rookie wage scale on the horizon.) Do you think anyone cares now that the New York Jets traded a bounty in 2009 to move up to the No. 5 overall spot and "reach" for quarterback Mark Sanchez?

NFC North draft analysis

April, 30, 2011
4/30/11
6:30
PM ET
Normally the end of the draft provides an opportunity to reassess the NFC North teams and start assessing the division race. The task of roster building is largely complete. For the most part, we'll know which teams are stacked, which ones have big holes and who should be favored to win the title.

This year's lockout has turned that convention upside down. Draft weekend is a first step, not the last, in building rosters for the 2011 season. At some point, teams will have an opportunity to sign veteran free agents and collect a class of undrafted rookies. So we'll hold off on any prognosticating for now.

Instead, we'll just take this moment to pull some highlights -- and lowlights -- from the past three days:

BEST MOVE

The Minnesota Vikings had their choice of talented, game-changing players available to them when the No. 12 overall pick arrived. Nose tackle Nick Fairley, defensive end Robert Quinn and offensive lineman Anthony Castonzo all would have stepped in as immediate starters at positions where the Vikings needed help.

But in the NFL of 2011, no team is any better than its quarterback. And at that moment, the Vikings didn't have one. After an early run took the top three quarterbacks off the board, the Vikings -- based on their own evaluation -- were left to choose between Florida State's Christian Ponder or the likely prospect of leaving this draft without a quarterback they could build their future around.

They chose the former, a decision that one way or the other will define the tenures of personnel man Rick Spielman and coach Leslie Frazier. There is widespread debate about Ponder's aptitude for future success, but in my view the Vikings are better off moving forward with him than sitting on their hands and hoping that a better option would present itself next month or next year or in 2013.

With Ponder in place, the Vikings can tailor their long-term offensive scheme and personnel to a tangible set of skills. And they have to trust their new coaching staff, including offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave and quarterbacks coach Craig Johnson, to finish the job by developing and refining Ponder's game.

It wasn't an easy choice, and there are plenty of knowledgeable football people who considered it a reach or worse. But I credit the Vikings for recognizing that the "when" in this equation was just as important as the "who."

RISKIEST MOVE

No one can argue the value that Fairley, receiver Titus Young and running back Mikel Leshoure will bring the Detroit Lions. But the Lions wrapped up an otherwise successful draft with the same roster holes they started it in. They didn't draft a cornerback and selected only one linebacker, Syracuse's Douglas Hogue, a converted running back, with the No. 157 overall pick.

General manager Martin Mayhew and coach Jim Schwartz have both preached patience, saying their only goal in the draft was to enhance the talent of their roster. "There's a lot of time between now and when the season begins to worry about our needs," Schwartz told Detroit-area reporters.

The Lions made three great picks at the top of the draft. The risk, however, is that in doing so they considerably narrowed their options to fill their other needs. They'll now have to recruit another team's discards through free agency and/or a trade, or they'll have to hope one of the players on their roster makes a significant jump during a lockout that has thus far canceled all team-sponsored offseason programs.

MOST SURPRISING MOVE

[+] EnlargeGabe Carimi
Patrick Green/Icon SMIDespite botching a trade with Baltimore, Chicago was still able to draft Gabe Carimi in the first round.
We spent plenty of time discussing the Chicago Bears good fortune Thursday night, when they were able to draft Wisconsin offensive lineman Gabe Carimi with the No. 29 overall pick even after botching a trade designed to secure him three picks earlier. But the episode revealed a mistake perhaps bigger than the Bears' failure to report the deal.

The trade wasn't necessary in the first place.

The Bears' "glitch," as general manager Jerry Angelo later referred to it, saved them from wasting a fourth-round pick. It saved them from themselves.

Why were the Bears trying to acquire the Baltimore Ravens' No. 26 overall pick? They were convinced that the Kansas City Chiefs planned to draft Carimi at No. 27. But as we saw, the Chiefs had no such plans. With Carimi on the board, the Chiefs surprised most everyone -- including the Bears -- by leap-frogging the Ravens to draft ... Pittsburgh receiver Jonathan Baldwin.

The Ravens followed by drafting Colorado cornerback Jimmy Smith and the New Orleans Saints traded up to select Alabama running back Mark Ingram at No. 28. That left Carimi for the Bears at No. 29.

I'm sure it wouldn't have been the first time a team traded up, and surrendered a second pick, on the false premise of another team's interest. But in the chaos of the moment, I'm sure the Bears were as surprised as anyone that Carimi was available at No. 29.

FILE IT AWAY

Some considered outside linebacker the Green Bay Packers' biggest need entering the draft, but they didn't draft a linebacker of any type until selecting Appalachian State's D.J. Smith near the end of the sixth round (No. 186 overall). The Packers drafted Arizona linebacker Ricky Elmore 11 spots later, but I'm not sure we can project either as a possible starter.

We all know it's unlikely that general manager Ted Thompson will seek a starter via free agency, so the Packers most likely will need to find a starting right outside linebacker from an internal list of candidates. Speaking to Wisconsin reporters Saturday, defensive coordinator Dom Capers spoke highly of incumbent Frank Zombo.

"Frank Zombo played close to 600 snaps for us," Capers said, via the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. "We have an awful lot more confidence in Frank than we did a year ago. He's another guy that got better as the season went on. I think he'll be head and shoulders where he was a year ago. I think we'll have good competition."
EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- Unlike every draft I've ever covered, the 2011 version won't be followed by the rapid-fire work of college free agency, when each team jumps into an open market to sign the players that weren't drafted. The lockout prevents that, just like all other player movement other than the draft.

So I thought it was interesting when Green Bay Packers general manager Ted Thompson made three trades Saturday that in the end allowed him to load up on low-round draft picks. Watching it happen here in the Minnesota Vikings' media room, 1500ESPN.com cousin Tom Pelissero suggested Thompson was strategically positioning himself to draft at least some of the players he would have otherwise been pursuing as college free agents.

It sounded like a good theory to me. So with that, let's look at how many selections each NFC North team had in the sixth and seventh rounds combined Saturday.
A few days ago, we suggested that the Minnesota Vikings had targeted Idaho quarterback Nathan Enderle as a back-up plan of sorts if they weren't able to secure a quarterback earlier in the draft. The Vikings had put Enderle through an extended private workout and considered him a developmental prospect who might be ready to start in a year or so.

As it turns out, the Vikings weren't the only NFC North team who felt they had uncovered a gem from the WAC. Chicago Bears offensive coordinator Mike Martz also put Enderle through a private workout, and with Martz's endorsement, the Bears drafted him Saturday in the fifth round with the No. 160 overall pick.

There's little chance of Enderle getting on the field any time soon, with Jay Cutler and Caleb Hanie seemingly locked in as the Bears No. 1 and No. 2 quarterbacks, respectively. But Martz likes having a developmental quarterback on the roster, and it's the second consecutive year they have found a way to draft one. Last year's effort went for naught, however, when they lost Dan LeFevour on waivers to the Cincinnati Bengals while trying to sneak him onto the practice squad.

Enderle is a classically-built pocket quarterback and 6-foot-6 and 240 pounds, and the Bears are hoping Martz can work the same magic he did with Kurt Warner and Marc Bulger when he was with the St. Louis Rams.

"Martz has a real strong conviction on him," Bears vice president of player personnel Tim Ruskell told Chicago-area reporters.
One option would be to write a few paragraphs on the skills of Arkansas tight end D.J. Williams, whom the Green Bay Packers selected in Saturday's fifth round of the NFL draft.

Here's a better one: Check out this moving profile produced by ESPN's E:60 on Williams' troubled childhood with his abusive and bi-polar father. At age 11, Williams considered suicide when his father handed him a gun to guard their car. The profile includes a jailhouse interview with David Williams, who is serving a 25-year sentence for attempted murder.

Trust me. It's worth 10 minutes of your time.

video
EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- Based purely on his skills and production, you could make an argument that Iowa defensive tackle Christian Ballard had second-round value in the NFL draft. Scouts Inc., for example, ranked him as the eighth-best defensive tackle in a deep draft class and predicted he would be selected no later than the third round.

[+] EnlargeChristian Ballard
AP Photo/Darron CummingsChristian Ballard reportedly tested positive for marijuana at the scouting combine.
Ballard, however, was available Saturday when the Minnesota Vikings made the ninth pick of the fourth round (No. 106 overall). The most likely reason: A recent FoxSports.com report that he tested positive for marijuana at the February scouting combine.

Asked during a conference call if the report was accurate, Ballard paused for several moments before saying: "That's confidential. I'm just not willing to speak on that right now."

Ballard did admit to making "mistakes in the past." He added: "I'm only looking to the future. I'm a Viking now. Whatever happened in the past is behind me, and the only thing that's on my mind is making the Vikings a Super Bowl team."

Obviously Ballard has his reasons for not confirming the report. But I can't think of a reason to clam up if it was wrong. After all, it wouldn't be the first time the Vikings have drafted a player who reportedly failed a combine drug test; the same thing happened with receiver Percy Harvin in 2009.

I've always felt the most important red flag about a failed test at the combine is that the test is previously scheduled. Let's be realistic: Halting recreational drug use is just as important to combine preparation as is speed and weight work. Among many penalties, a player who tests positive at the combine opens his NFL career in the league's drug program, making him one step closer to a suspension than the rest of his class.

If he can stay clean, Ballard will provide important depth at a position the Vikings are re-tooling. Nose tackle Pat Williams has said he plans to sign elsewhere when free agency begins, and Pro Bowler Kevin Williams is subject to a four-game suspension to open the season.
If there was any doubt about how angry the Baltimore Ravens are after Thursday's botched trade with the Chicago Bears, I think Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti has cleared it all up.

In the genteel world of NFL ownership, rarely do you see ownership disputes spill out in public. But after the Bears turned down the league's request to compensate the Ravens for missing their No. 26 overall pick, here's what Bisciotti told Jamison Hemsley of the Baltimore Sun: "I'm disappointed in the Bears and the McCaskeys. It is in my opinion a deviation from their great legacy. They concluded that their heartfelt and admirable apology was sufficient for our loss. All of us at the Ravens strongly disagree ... probably end of story."

The NFL can't strip the Bears of the fourth-round pick they originally committed to the trade; the Bears never reported the deal to the league, so nothing official occurred. But in the interest of fair play, commissioner Roger Goodell suggested the Bears send it to the Ravens anyway.

Bears general manager Jerry Angelo took responsibility for the trade falling through but has referred to it as a "glitch." But he clearly had no interest in parting with one of the two picks he has remaining in this draft.

"The only thing I'm gonna say [is] they have rules when you do something wrong, not when you make mistakes," Angelo said Friday. "A mistake was made. No rule was broken."

The Ravens' point is that the Bears verbally agreed to the deal, after which the Ravens allowed their time to expire. But in the end, the Ravens can claim one small victory: Their eventual contract with cornerback Jimmy Smith will reflect the salary slot of the No. 27 overall pick rather than No. 26.
While we were grinding away on other topics Friday night, the Super Bowl champions quietly added two fascinating prospects who are equipped to add new dimensions to their already explosive offense. I'm guessing few teams around the NFL would enjoy reading that sentence about the Green Bay Packers, but it's true.

[+] EnlargeRandall Cobb
Marvin Gentry/US PresswireRandall Cobb was used as a receiver, running back and quarterback at times by Kentucky.
Kentucky's Randall Cobb is officially listed as a receiver, but in reality he was an all-purpose running back-receiver-returner in the fast-paced SEC who could play all over the field for the Packers. And running back Alex Green's experience in Hawaii's run-and-shoot offense all but guarantees he will be a reliable and bruising receiver out of the backfield. Packers running back Brandon Jackson caught 43 passes last season, but his return as a pending free agent is questionable at best.

Cobb was one of 25 players the NFL hosted at the draft at New York City's Radio City Music Hall, and in case you haven't heard of him, here's one statistic that should make you sit up straight: He set an SEC record last season with 2,396 all-purpose yards. Given that conference's long history of dynamic playmakers, it was quite an accomplishment.

Among others, it bettered the totals racked up by former Florida scatback Percy Harvin, who was used in a similar manner and is now with the Minnesota Vikings. Cobb is about 15 pounds lighter than Harvin, and I'm guessing his slighter stature had something to do with his availability at the No. 64 overall pick. But Packers coach Mike McCarthy is one of the more creative offensive minds in the game, and I have no doubt he'll find plenty of ways to use Cobb in a Harvin-like fashion.

Speaking to Wisconsin reporters, Cobb embraced the comparison.

"He's able to do a lot of different things on the field and he's a very active football player and really understands the game and has a lot of great talent," Cobb said. "And I believe I can really fit in that mode, too."

As Jason Wilde of ESPNMilwaukee.com points out, that list could include punt and kickoff returns and even the Wildcat, a formation the Packers have never really embraced under McCarthy.

Said receivers coach Edgar Bennett: "I'm going to defer that to Coach Mike, but certainly this kid (having) had some background as a quarterback, it just opens up additional opportunities," Bennett said. "We're talking about a guy that's versatile. We're not game-planning right now, but I'm pretty sure we'll take full advantage of what this kid is capable of doing."

[+] EnlargeAlex Green
Kirby Lee/Image of Sport/US PresswireAlex Green caught 27 passes out of the backfield for Hawaii last season.
Green, on the other hand, might not get as much immediate playing time as long as incumbents Ryan Grant and James Starks are rotating in the backfield. But neither are built like the 6-foot, 230-pound Green, and I'm guessing the Packers will find a way to use his receiving skills at some point during the season. He averaged 13.4 yards on 27 receptions last season, and I would be curious to see how he would fare in the fourth quarter of games when his legs are fresh and defenders are growing tired.

Like the Detroit Lions, the Packers have remained true to their draft board and refused to deviate to find a potential starting right outside linebacker. Perhaps they could find a candidate Saturday among their six picks in the final four rounds. Regardless, the Packers' haul to this point has been intriguing to say the least.
Titus YoungAP Photo/Dave MartinThe Lions bypassed other needs to select wide receiver Titus Young in the second round.
I have no problem if the Detroit Lions, three years removed from the worst season in NFL history, continue drafting without regard for position. In the long run, it's the best approach for re-stocking a once-barren roster.

In the short term, however, I'll say this: There better be more on the way.

The Lions' first three draft choices this week -- defensive tackle Nick Fairley, receiver Titus Young and running back Mikel Leshoure -- are all well-regarded players. They also play positions the Lions had already stocked well.

With the bulk of their draft complete, the Lions have not addressed their secondary or linebacker positions -- where six of their eight combined starting roles essentially remain unfilled. They have only two picks remaining Saturday, low spots in the fifth and seventh rounds, and now must turn to free agency or the trade market to fill what continue to be the most glaring needs on their roster.

"We'll maintain a long-term approach," coach Jim Schwartz told Detroit-area reporters. "There's a lot of time between now and when the season begins to worry about our needs. Let's worry right now about talent, let's worry about what works for us. We'll draft to our strengths."

To be sure, I don't think there's any doubt that Fairley, Young and Leshoure will work for the Lions.

We've discussed the luxury the Lions will now have to rotate Fairley with defensive tackles Ndamukong Suh and Corey Williams. Young was a player the Lions have targeted for some time, according to Schwartz, and he will give the Lions a more explosive option in their three-receiver sets than veteran Bryant Johnson did when paired with Calvin Johnson and Nate Burleson.

And Leshoure no doubt will serve as a nice 227-pound complement to speedster Jahvid Best. General manager Martin Mayhew called the Leshoure pick a "definite need" because "in this business, you have to have two good running backs."

But is a second running back more important than a No. 1 or No. 2 cornerback? Is a third receiver more important than a starting linebacker? Mayhew didn't attempt to make that argument. Instead, he portrayed the draft as a starting point for assembling the 2011 team.

"The draft is not the finish line for us as far as our personnel department," he said. "We have a lot of work to do. ... We have a lot of areas where we can definitely improve and we'll continue to work at those things."

More than anything, these decisions reflect Mayhew's commitment to, in essence, taking what the draft gives. On two occasions he's traded up after targeting a specific player -- Best in 2010 and Leshoure this year. But for the most part, I think we can agree that this is one general manager who follows his board religiously and regardless of the current composition of his roster.

"[Reporters] are obviously looking for corners, for linebackers and that kind of thing," Mayhew said. "We trust our grades on these guys. We think our fans are really going to like these players when they see these players play."

It's possible that Mayhew has more confidence in the linebackers and cornerbacks on his roster than we realize. Friday, he said: "If I thought we didn't have any linebackers or corners, I'd be trying to acquire linebackers and corners." But I can only assume he will address those positions aggressively whenever the lockout ends (permanently) and the free-agent market opens.

"We're going to draft the best players that we can find," he said. "We feel like we've done a good job, especially last year after the draft process. We think we'll do the same thing this year. There will be some opportunities to fill some gaps later on."

Indeed, at one point during the second round, a Lions fan we'll refer to as Chris G. emailed this conspiracy theory: "Clearly they have an under-the-table agreement with Nnamdi Asomugha," the soon-to-be free-agent cornerback currently on the Oakland Raiders' roster. I'm not ready to start that campaign just yet, but to me it's pretty clear the Lions aren't equipped to fill multiple cornerback and linebacker positions in-house unless they want to enter the season with a sorely imbalanced roster.

As long as we're midway through the roster process, I would say the Lions have had a strong draft. We can only assume that more is on the way.

Bears decline to compensate Ravens

April, 29, 2011
4/29/11
10:30
PM ET
We can now close the book to a bizarre draft episode with an odd conclusion.

As you might have seen, ESPN's Adam Schefter has reported that NFL commissioner Roger Goodell "encouraged" the Chicago Bears to compensate the Baltimore Ravens for botching a trade that caused the Ravens to miss their turn in the first round of the draft Friday night. The Bears declined, however.

And that's that.

Bears general manager Jerry Angelo has apologized for failing to report the trade to the NFL, the result of what he called a "glitch." Clearly, Goodell didn't have the authority to compel the Bears to pay up.

If I were the Bears, I'm not sure if I would give up a draft pick if I didn't have to. You could make the argument that even a minor gesture would have repaired Angelo's relationship with a clearly irritated Ravens organization, but I'm not sure how important that is, either.

In the end, Angelo will have to live with the embarrassment and the Ravens will have to accept that they still drafted the player -- cornerback Jimmy Smith -- that they wanted all along.

Injuries didn't concern Vikings

April, 29, 2011
4/29/11
9:17
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Kyle RudolphAP Photo/Darron CummingsKyle Rudolph was the top tight end in this class, but injuries cost him nine games the past two years.
EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- Be it the truth or a wives tale, there is an adage about assessing the injury history of NFL prospects: Players with a high frequency of injuries in college often mirror that rate at the professional level.

Put more bluntly: Injury-prone is injury-prone, no matter where you're playing.

Clearly, the Minnesota Vikings are hoping the top of their draft proves the exception. Thursday night, we discussed the impact of shoulder and arm injuries on Florida State quarterback Christian Ponder. (ESPN analyst Trent Dilfer, for one, is skeptical that Ponder will have any better luck in the NFL.)

In the second round Friday night, the Vikings drafted Notre Dame tight end Kyle Rudolph -- a top prospect who missed portions of the past two seasons because of shoulder and hamstring injuries, respectively. Both injuries required surgery.

The Vikings, however, gave Rudolph a clean bill of health, have no concerns about his future and considered him a first-round talent worthy of selection despite a more-than-competent trio of incumbents at the position.

"We had no issues with him medically after he was cleared by our doctors," vice president of player personnel Rick Spielman said. "When he fell to us, he was too good of a player for us to pass up. He has some unique skills as a tight end, and we're going to stay true to our board. Normally, if he hadn't had that hamstring injury, I don't think we have a shot to get him. We feel we got great value where we got Kyle."

Rudolph is a 6-foot-5, 266-pounder who runs the 40-yard dash in 4.6 seconds. He caught 90 passes in 29 games over three seasons for Notre Dame. Typically a tight end with those measurables would be a surefire first-round pick. But Rudolph didn't just have a hamstring injury last season. It tore completely from the bone in October, three months after he originally pulled it. He missed the final seven games of last season and soon had surgery.

That episode was enough to drop Rudolph from the first round. Friday night, Rudolph insisted he's 100 percent healthy but admitted the injury was an issue for some teams.

"The hamstring checked out completely 100 percent," he said. "It was something that I got it fixed over six months ago. By the time my pro day came around, I was 100 percent. The MRI showed it is 100 percent healed. All the doctors dug and prodded on it and they couldn't find anything."

I don't doubt that to be the case, but when a player misses nine games over two seasons, it's fair to at least inspect his history further. The Vikings have done that and have no long-term questions.

Incumbents Visanthe Shiancoe, Jim Kleinsasser and Jeff Dugan are all under contract for 2011, but it's worth noting each is entering the final year of his deal. Rudolph could prove a fortunate turn of events for the Vikings, providing he can stay on the field.

"I know we'll sort it all out as we get there," Spielman said. "We just wanted to stay true to our board, and he was by far the highest player on our board at that time."

Can Illinois running back Mikel Leshoure double as a cornerback? Or possibly an outside linebacker?

That was my first (semi-serious) question when the Detroit Lions traded back into the second round to select Leshoure. I have no doubt that Leshoure, a 227-pound bruiser, will prove to be a strong complement to speedster Jahvid Best. But unless the Lions have a long-term concern about Best's recovery from turf toe, Leshoure is now part of a luxurious draft that has left the Lions further stocked at three previous strengths and still glaringly weak at cornerback and linebacker.

I'll address this issue in more detail later Friday. But barring another trade, the Lions will have finished the first two days of the draft without addressing either of those positions. The Lions have two picks left in the draft, the Seahawks' original picks in the fifth and seventh rounds. More later.
I’ll say this much: The Chicago Bears have addressed their top two needs in the first two rounds of the NFL draft.

Thursday night, they selected Wisconsin offensive tackle Gabe Carimi. Friday night, they moved up nine spots in the second round to select Oregon State defensive tackle Stephen Paea. Known nationally for his record of 49 bench press repetitions at the scouting combine, Paea is now a leading candidate to replace defensive tackle Tommie Harris.

We’ll save the they-actually-got-the-deal-done cheap shot for later. For the record, the Bears swapped second-round positions with the Washington Redskins and also surrendered their fourth-round pick (No. 127 overall). That’s a lot to pay for a defensive tackle in the second round, but it came one spot after the New York Giants selected North Carolina defensive tackle Marvin Austin, another prospect the Bears apparently coveted.

The Bears have openly discussed the possibility of moving defensive end Henry Melton to the three-technique position, but it’s a role too important to entrust solely to an inexperienced player making that kind of transition. The Bears needed another option there, and had they not secured Paea, I’m not sure there many other viable candidates to choose from.
We’ve had back-to-back interesting picks here in the NFC North.

The Minnesota Vikings were the first team to draft a tight end, Notre Dame’s Kyle Rudolph, with the No. 43 overall pick. The Detroit Lions followed by selecting Boise State receiver Titus Young.

The Vikings have been pretty set with starting tight end Visanthe Shiancoe, but it’s possible that new offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave wants to run a two tight-end offense. The Vikings’ backup tight ends are Jim Kleinsasser and Jeff Dugan, both of whom are known mostly for their blocking.

Meanwhile, the Lions followed through on their plan to add depth at receiver with Young, a 174-pound receiver who could also return kicks. NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock referred to him as a “poor man’s DeSean Jackson.” Last season, receivers not named Calvin Johnson or Nate Burleson totaled 21 receptions for the Lions.

That the Lions passed on Miami cornerback Brandon Harris is curious but defensible. We’ll wait to hear from their decision makers before making a full judgment. But it is a face that the Lions still haven’t addressed two significant needs: cornerback or linebacker. More in a bit.

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NFC NORTH SCOREBOARD

Thursday, 9/4
Sunday, 9/7
Monday, 9/8