NFC North: Louis Nix III

Bears' Day 2 look ahead

May, 9, 2014
May 9
12:20
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LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- With cornerback addressed in Round 1, the Bears can turn their attention on Friday evening to satisfying their other needs on the defensive side of the ball, particularly defensive tackle.

Even though the Bears missed out on Pittsburgh's Aaron Donald (No. 13 to St. Louis), there is expected to be ample talent at defensive tackle available in the second and third rounds for general manager Phil Emery to consider. Remember, the Bears do have some depth on the interior of their defensive line with veterans Jeremiah Ratliff, Stephen Paea and Nate Collins all under contract next season. The Bears aren't necessarily under the gun to find a defensive tackle on Day 2 of the draft that has to start Week 1 next season. Instead, the Bears need to target a young player capable of jumping into the rotation inside in 2014, but who has the potential to grow into a starting role in the future.

Names to consider in the second and third rounds include: Minnesota's Ra'Shede Hageman, Notre Dame's Louis Nix, Florida State's Timmy Jernigan, Notre Dame's Stephon Tuitt, Penn State's DaQuan Jones, LSU's Ego Ferguson, Arizona State's Will Sutton and Princeton's Caraun Reid.

The outlook appears to be more complicated at safety.

After passing on Louisville's Calvin Pryor (New York Jets, No. 18), Alabama's Ha Ha Clinton-Dix (Green Bay Packers, No. 21), Washington State's Deone Bucannon (Arizona Cardinals, No. 27) and Northern Illinois' Jimmie Ward (San Francisco 49ers, No. 30) in favor of Virginia Tech cornerback Kyle Fuller with the 14th pick, the Bears will find slim pickings at safety on Friday.

Names to monitor are: Florida State's Terrence Brooks, Minnesota's Brock Vereen, Wisconsin's Dezmen Southward, Wyoming's Marqueston Huff, and USC's Dion Bailey.

Or the Bears could look to double-dip at cornerback with the hopes of converting another defensive back to safety.

Lindenwood cornerback Pierre Desir remains on the board after Thursday night. The Bears sent their Director of College Scouting to the 6-foot-1, 198 pound Desir's pro day during the pre-draft process to get a better feel for the Division II standout who intercepted 25 passes during his college career.

Finally, the Bears still need help at inside linebacker where Wisconsin's Chris Borland and Louisville's Preston Brown are possible candidates.
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Let's get this out of the way from the top; we know Green Bay Packers general manager Ted Thompson does not draft for need -- or so he says.

But in the months leading up to this week's draft, Thompson and his scouts have spent hundreds of hours not only discussing the prospects who will be available to them but also their current roster and its strengths and weaknesses.

With that in mind, let's break the 12 position groups that make up the roster into four parts based on the following categories of draft needs.

We will define them this way:
  • Part 1: Negligible -- positions where there is little or no need.
  • Part 2: Non-essential -- positions where there is a need but it is not paramount to fill.
  • Part 3: Secondary -- positions where there is a need but not at the critical level.
  • Part 4: Pressing -- positions where it is imperative that help be found.

First up are the negligible needs.

10. Defensive line: Whether you count recently signed pass-rusher Julius Peppers here or as an outside linebacker, it's still a deep position with the return of nose tackle B.J. Raji (who signed a one-year contract), a pair of draft picks last season in first-rounder Datone Jones and fifth-rounder Josh Boyd, and an emerging star in Mike Daniels. If the Packers need short-term help, they could re-sign veterans Johnny Jolly and Ryan Pickett. That said, Thompson has never been one to pass up a big-bodied player so it wouldn't be a total shock to see him take a defensive lineman high in the draft if the right one fell into his lap.

Possible players of interest: Ra'Shede Hageman, DT, Minnesota; Stephon Tuitt, DE, Notre Dame; Timmy Jernigan, DT, Florida State; Louis Nix III, DT, Notre Dame.

11. Running back: This could be as deep a group as coach Mike McCarthy has had in his nine seasons thanks to reigning offensive rookie of the year Eddie Lacy plus the return of James Starks, DuJuan Harris, Johnathan Franklin and John Kuhn. The only issues here would be if Harris' knee injury that kept him out all of last season and Franklin's neck injury that ended his rookie year in November remain problematic.

Possible players of interest: None.

12. Specialists: The Packers are set at all three spots -- kicker, punter and long-snapper. Mason Crosby's bounce-back year means the Packers may not even bring another kicker to training camp. Crosby is signed through 2015. Punter Tim Masthay is signed through 2016 and snapper Brett Goode through 2015. There are no issues with either one.

Possible players of interest: None.
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- The last time the Green Bay Packers had four picks in the first 100 selections of the NFL draft, they came away with two quality starters and two players who never made an impact.

That was 2008, when they drafted receiver Jordy Nelson (No. 36 overall), quarterback Brian Brohm (No. 56), cornerback Pat Lee (No. 60) and tight end Jermichael Finley (No. 91).

General manager Ted Thompson will take a similar haul into this year's draft. With the addition of a third-round compensatory pick, the Packers have pick Nos. 21, 53, 85 and 98 in the first three rounds.

"It's good," Thompson said during his pre-draft news conference this week. "If we could, we'd have more. More is better. It gives you better odds. It wouldn't be any different if it were this year or last year or the year before or that sort of thing."

Can Thompson do better in the top 100 than he did in 2008? Nelson and Finley became major contributors while Brohm flamed out and Lee was only a short-term backup.

On Thursday night, ESPN draft analysts Mel Kiper Jr. and Todd McShay went through the top 100, selecting players for teams as if they were in charge of the draft rooms.

For the Packers, they came away with this:
Kiper and McShay alternated picks, so it worked out that McShay made the Packers' first three selections, while Kiper picked their fourth.

Looking at the first round, the top two safeties were both off the board before the No. 21. Kiper had Louisville's Calvin Pryor at No. 14 to the Chicago Bears and Alabama's Ha Ha Clinton-Dix gone two picks later to the Dallas Cowboys.

In picking Mosley, McShay said he had Mosley rated as the 12th-best player on his board and called him a relentless, tough playmaker. What isn't known is how the Packers feel about Mosley from a medical standpoint. There are concerns about a knee injury, which kept him from running at the combine, and other injuries during his college career.

If the Packers don't feel comfortable with Mosley's medical history but still want a linebacker at that spot, they could go with Ohio State's Ryan Shazier. McShay had Shazier at No. 31 to the Denver Broncos.

Nix has been described as a perfect 3-4 nose tackle.

"This is a value pick, as Nix merits late first-round consideration," McShay said. "Between first-rounder C.J. Mosley and Nix, we've now drafted the No. 12 and No. 30 players on my board, respectively, at No. 21 and No. 53."

Vereen and Fiedorowicz would fill clear holes at safety and tight end, respectively. However, waiting until late in the third round to address safety seems a little late considering that might be the Packers' greatest need in this draft.

Kiper's Mock 3.0: Packers

March, 13, 2014
Mar 13
10:30
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With a defense that slipped to No. 25 in the overall rankings last season, Green Bay Packers general manager Ted Thompson will no doubt go into the draft thinking defense.

He did that in 2012, and he used his first six picks on that side of the ball.

Those picks were supposed to be the core of the defense, but last year only one of them -- fourth-round defensive tackle Mike Daniels -- made a major impact.

So where does that leave the Packers when it comes to the 21st pick in the draft?

They could conceivably address any level of their defense. They could use some run-stopping muscle on the interior of the defensive line, another pass-rusher off the edge to complement outside linebacker Clay Matthews, a playmaking inside linebacker and a ball-hawking safety.

There's a chance the top-two safeties, Ha Ha Clinton-Dix of Alabama and Calvin Pryor of Louisville, will be off the board before the Packers pick. But if either one was available, Thompson might have a hard time ignoring that spot.

On the defensive line, Louis Nix III of Notre Dame would be an option at nose tackle, while Minnesota's Ra'Shede Hageman could be a viable pick as a 3-4 end. There's a good chance both could be there at 21.

The top outside linebackers almost certainly will be gone by the time the Packers pick, but inside linebacker C.J. Mosley of Alabama could be available.

And if Thompson decides to go with an offensive player, he might strongly consider North Carolina tight end Eric Ebron, if he's still there.

Check out ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper's Mock Draft 3.0 Insider to see which players he thinks the Packers should target with their first pick.

McShay Mock 3.0 reax: Packers

March, 6, 2014
Mar 6
2:00
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If North Carolina tight end Eric Ebron is available when the Green Bay Packers pick at No. 21, they would have a tough time passing on him.

Ebron
In what looks like a strong -- or perhaps more apropos -- an athletic class of tight ends, Ebron is the standout. That is why ESPN's Todd McShay has Ebron as the top tight end in his latest mock draft Insider, version 3.0, which went live on Thursday.

Despite the Packers' needs on defense, McShay thinks Ebron would be a perfect fit for their offense. Although he has Ebon going to Green Bay, McShay seems to have doubts about whether he will be available when the Packers pick at No. 21.

McShay wrote: "Aaron Rodgers would love to have this guy on his team."

Much of that could depend on what the Packers decide to do with Jermichael Finley, their ultra-talented tight end who is coming off a neck injury and was in the final year of his contract.

One thing seems clear, McShay does not believe the Packers will be in position to draft either of the top-two safeties. He projects the St. Louis Rams will take Calvin Pryor of Louisville at No. 13 and the Pittsburgh Steelers will take Ha Ha Clinton-Dix of Alabama two spots later.

According to the latest mock draft, the Packers would have the option to take either Notre Dame nose tackle Louis Nix III or Minnesota defensive tackle Ra'Shede Hageman. He has both going in the first round, but after the Packers pick at 21.

Countdown to combine: Packers part 2

February, 18, 2014
Feb 18
1:00
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GREEN BAY, Wis. -- As we head toward the NFL scouting combine, which starts Wednesday in Indianapolis, it’s a good time to look at the Green Bay Packers' greatest needs this offseason and which prospects general manager Ted Thompson might be taking a closer look at during workouts and interviews this week.

Which position is the greatest need could be debated, but there’s no arguing that it’s on the defensive side of the ball. Before things get underway at Lucas Oil Stadium, we’ll look at three areas on defense where the Packers need help.

Monday was dedicated to the safety position.

Now, we look at the defensive linemen.

Why the Packers need help: All three of the preferred starters – Johnny Jolly, Ryan Pickett and B.J. Raji – are scheduled to become free agents next month unless the Packers work out new deals. Even if some or all of them return, the Packers need more from their front, especially in terms of a pass rush. That trio combined for just one sack (by Jolly) last season. To be sure, they don’t get many third-down pass-rushing opportunities, but they haven’t cashed in on many of their rushes of late. Raji hasn’t had a sack since 2011, while Pickett has been sackless since 2010.

The Packers have a couple of promising, young defensive linemen in Mike Daniels (6.5 sacks last season) and Datone Jones, their 2013 first-round pick, but Jerel Worthy (second round in 2012) hasn’t produced yet.

Dom Capers will always need a sturdy nose tackle in his 3-4 scheme, but considering how little base defense he plays, there may be a greater need for smaller, athletic linemen.

Defensive linemen the Packers should be watching:

Louis Nix III, Notre Dame: It’s a thin defensive tackle class, so it’s possible the 6-foot-3, 340-pounder from Notre Dame could go in the top half of the first round, and he might be the third-best defensive line prospect behind South Carolina’s Jadeveon Clowney and Florida State’s Timmy Jernigan. Clowney could go No. 1 overall and Jernigan is better suited for a 4-3 scheme. Nix is an ideal 3-4 nose tackle and could replace either Raji or Pickett.

Stephon Tuitt, Notre Dame: Nix’s teammate is a versatile lineman who could play either end or tackle in the Packers’ scheme. A high-motor player who gives maximum effort, something not all 6-6, 303 pounders can do.

Ra'Shede Hageman, Minnesota: Viewed as better pass-rusher than run-stopper who has rare athleticism for a 6-6, 318 pounder. Also has shown flexibility to play multiple positions on the defensive line, something Capers likes.

Countdown to Combine: Bears

February, 17, 2014
Feb 17
9:00
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With the NFL combine starting Feb. 22, here's a look at the Chicago Bears' positions of need and which prospects the team might be looking taking a closer look at in Indianapolis. Positions of need are listed in order of importance.

Position of need: Defensive tackle

The Bears lost two defensive tackles in franchise player Henry Melton and his reserve, Nate Collins, over a span of 15 days last season, leading to a domino effect that would collapse the entire defense into ineffectiveness, not to mention failure of historic proportions.

The Bears gave up the most points (478) and total yards (6,313) in franchise history, and in the process surrendered 10 100-yard rushing performances, in addition to a 211-yard outing by Minnesota's Adrian Peterson. Bears general manager Phil Emery took responsibility for the Bears not having a successful contingency plan up front to counteract all the losses.

"It starts with me," Emery said at the end of the season. "We had injuries. They are not an excuse. So for me, I have to look at did we have enough depth to win football games? The answer is no. From a personnel perspective, from my perspective, I had not done enough to provide enough depth. We were at least one defensive lineman short. At the tackle position going into the season, for that fourth tackle, we felt like we had a tackle signed in Sedrick Ellis; that didn't work out (because he retired on the eve of training camp. That's on me. The fact that we couldn't replace Sedrick, that's on me. We didn't have enough pass rush from the outside or the inside. We needed one more."

Look for the Bears to try to fulfill that need in May during the NFL draft.

Melton and Collins are free agents, as are Jeremiah Ratliff and versatile end/tackle Corey Wootton, who is recovering from offseason hip surgery, and Stephen Paea is entering the final year of his original rookie deal.

Three players the Bears might be targeting

Timmy Jernigan, Florida State: Projected as a penetrating one-gap defensive tackle, Jernigan fits Chicago's scheme, provided it decides to continue to operate out of a 4-3 front in 2014. Jernigan appears to have more upside than Melton in terms of his ability to disrupt running plays in the backfield. At the very least, Jernigan could come in and become a part of the team's defensive line rotation as a rookie if he doesn't outright win a starting job.

Louis Nix III, Notre Dame: Probably not an ideal fit for a one-gap scheme, but has ideal size to produce as a two-gapping 3-4 nose. The question is whether the Bears plan to transition over to that front. If so, Nix might be the perfect foundation for that construction project. Based on the team's current personnel, it might not be ready just yet to make the 3-4 transition, which means Nix might not be Chicago's man at No. 14.

Aaron Donald, Pittsburgh: Not as tall as Melton, but similar in terms of weight (288 pounds, but he could easily get up to 300) and skillset. Like Melton, Donald is probably most disruptive as an interior pass-rusher, but some scouts think he might be capable of holding the point consistently as a run defender. Donald fits what the Bears do defensively, but again, the caveat is whether the team decides to continue running the current scheme in 2014.

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