NFC North: 2014 Mel Kiper Mock 1.0

Kiper mock 1.0 reaction: Packers

January, 15, 2014
Jan 15
3:00
PM ET
In last year’s draft, there were two safeties off the board when it came time for the Green Bay Packers to pick at No. 26 in the first round.

So instead of taking Florida safety Matt Elam, who would end up going six picks later to the Baltimore Ravens, Packers general manager Ted Thompson opted for UCLA defensive end Datone Jones.

Thompson’s decision not to address the safety position at all in the draft or free agency turned out to be a mistake that would end up costing the 2013 team. Poor safety play hampered a defense that slipped to No. 25 in total yards allowed.

So it makes sense that in Mel Kiper’s first mock draft Insider of 2014, he has the Packers taking a safety. And this year, according to Kiper, only one safety will be gone when Thompson is on the clock with the 21st overall pick.

While Kiper expects Alabama’s Ha Ha Clinton-Dix to be selected before the Packers pick, he has them taking Louisville safety Calvin Pryor.

Pryor has good size (6-foot-2, 208 pounds) and declared for the draft last month after a successful junior season in which he had three interceptions and 5.5 tackles for loss in 12 games.

He has a reputation as a physical, hard-hitting safety – something the Packers have lacked in recent years. Pryor sat out one game last season because he was suspended for an unspecified violation of team rules.

Kiper mock 1.0 reaction: Vikings

January, 15, 2014
Jan 15
3:00
PM ET
In his first mock draft, ESPN NFL draft Insider Mel Kiper delivers a pick Insider for the Vikings that fans -- and the team -- would likely love: Louisville quarterback Teddy Bridgewater. The 21-year-old quarterback, who has been mentioned as a possible No. 1 pick, will go to the Vikings at No. 8, Kiper predicts. He has Bridgewater as the third quarterback taken in the draft, behind Texas A&M's Johnny Manziel and Central Florida's Blake Bortles.

If the Vikings are sitting with a chance to take Bridgewater at No. 8 in May, it'd be hard to see them passing that up. Bridgewater would give the Vikings a mobile, athletic and assertive quarterback whom they could develop if Matt Cassel comes back or look to start right away if he's good enough to do so. The question will be whether he slips far enough in the draft for the Vikings to have a shot at him, but as Kiper points out, some of the teams drafting in front of the Vikings who also need a quarterback -- such as Jacksonville and Tampa Bay -- also could opt for defensive players; Kiper has the Jaguars taking South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney at No. 3, and the Buccaneers grabbing Buffalo linebacker Khalil Mack at No. 7.

Either of those players could make sense for the Vikings, and in a year with so many bad teams that have interchangeable needs -- the Vikings' five wins were just the eighth-fewest in the league -- the draft could break any number of ways. But if Bridgewater were available for the Vikings at No. 8, they could have an easy choice.

Kiper mock 1.0 reaction: Lions

January, 15, 2014
Jan 15
3:00
PM ET
There are two areas of major need for the Detroit Lions entering the 2014 draft -- wide receiver and cornerback -- and the team will have to take care of remedying one of those issues in the first round this May.

Colleague Mel Kiper Jr. has the Lions Insider taking Oklahoma State cornerback Justin Gilbert with the No. 10 pick in his first mock draft of the year, potentially solving at least one of Detroit’s issues.

Receiver Sammy Watkins from Clemson would be the obvious choice for Detroit, but the chances of him still lingering at the No. 10 pick -- especially when he might be the most talented player in the draft, period -- is unlikely. So after Watkins, the Lions need to weigh draft depth and who might be available to them in the second round as much as the first.

And that’s where taking a cornerback would be the potential smart choice here, especially if there is no corner in free agency that they are able to land. That could be difficult considering the Lions are in a tough salary cap spot right now.

So Kiper has the Lions taking Gilbert in the hopes that he’ll be a good cornerback to pair with last year’s second-round selection, Darius Slay, in the future.

“Has put together a great season after a subpar 2012,” Kiper wrote in his initial analysis of Gilbert. “Has short-area quickness to adjust to routes and the open-field speed to run with (or past) any receiver. Has the size to jam at the line and can then flip his hips and run; he rarely allows much separation. Good ball skills and hands, evident both in coverage and the return game. Squarely back into the mid-first-round mix.”

Gilbert had 42 tackles and seven interceptions last season. He’s also a 6-foot corner and weighs 200 pounds, which is decent size on the outside.

He would be brought in to try to improve a defense -- likely with a new defensive coordinator -- that was 23rd against the pass last season (246.88 yards per game) and 19th in yards per pass attempt (6.91).

Should Detroit draft Gilbert, the question is: What happens to the rest of the Lions cornerbacks? Chris Houston signed a five-year deal before last season, but had a very inconsistent 2013 and ended up being the Lions’ second cornerback instead of the No. 1 corner they had hoped.

Detroit’s top corner last season, Rashean Mathis, is an unrestricted free agent and made 47 tackles last season. He is 33 years old, but told ESPN.com he intends to try to play for one or two more seasons after he showed he was healthy this year.

The Lions also have a plethora of other young cornerbacks besides Slay: nickel Bill Bentley and reserves Jonte Green and Chris Greenwood. All have shown potential but none have shown they could be a consistent starter.

So if the Lions do select a cornerback in the first round, it could mean one or two of the cornerbacks from last season could be playing somewhere else in 2014.

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