NFC North: 2014 NFL Nation mock

GREEN BAY, Wis. -- One by one, many of the players the Green Bay Packers likely covet in the first round of this year's draft came off the board in our NFL Nation mock draft on Tuesday.

The top-two safeties -- Alabama's Ha Ha Clinton-Dix and Louisville's Calvin Pryor -- were both gone, taken by NFC North teams no less.

The top-two inside linebackers -- Alabama's C.J. Mosley and Ohio State's Ryan Shazier -- were both gone, with Shazier lasting until the pick right before the Packers.

The top tight end -- North Carolina's Eric Ebron -- was long gone.

Four receivers also were gone.

If that happens on Thursday when things are for real, who knows what Packers general manager Ted Thompson will do?

After fielding two trade offers -- including one from a quarterback-needy team within the division and one from a familiar NFC team that is a possible postseason opponent -- I decided to stick at No. 21 and make the pick.

The primary reason was that Oklahoma State cornerback Justin Gilbert was still available even though cornerback is not among the Packers' top needs, although it could be in 2015 if Tramon Williams, who is in the last year of his contract, is done and if Micah Hyde's move to safety becomes full time.

Gilbert also has kick return ability. He had six career kickoff returns for touchdowns in four seasons at Oklahoma State, and the Packers have a need at the return spot.

ESPN draft analyst Todd McShay, in his latest mock draft, has Gilbert moving up the board more than any other player, having jumped from No. 22 to No. 11 in the last week.

Picking at No. 21 is a tough spot, especially if things unfold anywhere near how they did in Tuesday’s mock. As one NFL scout said on Tuesday when presented with the Packers' scenario in the ESPN NFL Nation mock, there are probably only 17 or 18 real first-round picks, and Gilbert is one of them.
EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- Well, our ESPN NFL Nation mock draft has concluded, and for a third consecutive year, the Minnesota Vikings have traded back into the first round. Acting as the GM for the Vikings, I gave up my second-round pick (No. 40 overall), my fourth-rounder (No. 108) and the sixth-rounder I acquired from Houston (No. 177) to acquire the Denver Broncos' first-rounder and take Fresno State quarterback Derek Carr.

I was in trade talks to move up to No. 29 for the third year in a row, trading with the New England Patriots for the second straight year, until the Jacksonville Jaguars came up to grab Louisville quarterback Teddy Bridgewater. The price turned out to be better at No. 31, and I got to hang onto both of the Vikings' third-round picks.

Now, for Carr: There are some concerns about how he handles pressure, as ESPN NFL scout Matt Williamson said both in our mock draft today and in our look at Carr last week. But he'll be playing behind a solid offensive line in Minnesota, he's got the arm to make all the throws required in Norv Turner's offense and he's shown a strong command of an offense. And by taking him in the first round instead of the second, the Vikings would have the benefit of the fifth-year option that's automatically tagged onto each first-round pick's contract. For a player taken in 2011, that option would only pay $9.686 million in 2015, which is well below market value for a quarterback playing well enough to earn the option and keep himself in a team's long-term plans.

Yes, it's a risk, but so are many of the quarterbacks in this year's draft. In the Vikings' offense, I thought Carr was a good enough fit to be worth a shot at No. 31.

"He's going to want a guy who can hit those 15-, 20-, 25-yard dig routes, the deep post, the go route, the deep comeback on the outside -- which is really the hardest throw to make in the NFL," ESPN NFL analyst Louis Riddick said earlier this week. "To me, the one guy who can really do that, if you look at some of his older film when he was running a pro-style offense in college, is Derek Carr. Now, is Derek Carr supposed to go that high? Is he supposed to be a top-10 pick in the draft? No, he's not. But he is the guy who can really do it."