NFC North: Quinton Patton

The Detroit Lions hosted the top receiver prospect in the 2013 draft, West Virginia's receiver Tavon Austin, on a visit Wednesday. But barring some draft-day maneuvering -- a trade down by the Lions or a move up from another NFC North team -- it seems unlikely that Austin will wind up in this division.

Which begs the question: How does the rest of the receiver class stack up for our teams?

That was one of the topics ESPN draft analyst Todd McShay discussed during a conference call last week. McShay ran through six other names, most of whom should be available when the Chicago Bears, Minnesota Vikings and Green Bay Packers choose between No. 20 and No. 26 overall.

[+] EnlargeCordarrelle Patterson
Donald Page/Tennessee Athletics/Collegiate Images/Getty ImagesTennessee receiver Cordarrelle Patterson is expected to be selected in the top 20 next week according to ESPN draft analyst Todd McShay.
I consider this position to have division-wide relevance, given the Lions' clear desire to add an outside receiver opposite Calvin Johnson, the Vikings' depth issues following the trade of Percy Harvin, the Bears' continued push to fortify their passing game, and the Packers' history of relative routine drafting at the position.

The Lions have hosted three of the six names below on visits, in addition to Austin, while the Vikings had at least two in their building this month. The names are listed in order of McShay's evaluation. Note McShay's upside-down thoughts on the pair of Tennessee receivers.

Cordarrelle Patterson
School: Tennessee
McShay: "He scares me coming out of Tennessee, but I see the talent. Everyone I talk to in the league, I think he's gone in the top 20. … Patterson, with the ball in his hands is just freakish, and even though he disappears for 30-40 plays, he'll show up with one or two big plays a game that just kind of blow your mind and leave you wanting more, and I think that's why he's going to be able to go where he's going."

Keenan Allen
School: Cal
McShay: "Keenan Allen is not 100 percent [because of a knee injury]. He ran a 4.7 the other day. It's not a perfect situation. But he's a late-first, early-second round prospect and should play like that. He runs on tape, we estimate him at 4.53, 4.55 range. I think he is going to be a really, really good No. 2 in the league. He would be a good fit. He was catching the ball better than ever this year. He knows how to use his body. He's got size and he's thickly built. He's not a burner, but he's quick and he's athletic and he's got enough speed to challenge you and take advantage of mistakes. Keenan Allen to me would be the highest rated wide receiver when Tavon Austin and Patterson are off the board." [After the conference call, ESPN's Adam Schefter reported that Allen's drug test at the NFL scouting combine had been "red-flagged," requiring a re-test.]

Justin Hunter
School: Tennessee
McShay:
"If you're looking for someone to run vertical routes and stretch the field … a poor man's Randy Moss, that's what Justin Hunter is. … He's a silky-smooth route runner, and he's the guy quite honestly when they needed a throw, when they needed to pick up a first down, when they needed a play at Tennessee, that's where they went. It wasn't to the other guy, Patterson. He's the one who showed up consistently on tape. I think he's a better football player than Cordarelle Patterson."

[+] EnlargeRobert Woods
Stephen Dunn/Getty ImagesUSC receiver Robert Woods had 11 touchdown catches last season.
DeAndre Hopkins
School: Clemson
McShay: "After that group, you start getting into Robert Woods, DeAndre Hopkins, and Quinton Patton. They're all kind of in that same range -- 6-1, 200, 210, 212 pounds -- and they're all in mid-4.5's in terms of speed. Hopkins has the best hands of the three."

Robert Woods
School: USC
McShay: "I think you have to look at the whole picture and what has gone on throughout his career and the ups and downs. It might amount to nothing … The thing so often that's difficult to predict is, in addition, what are guys going to do when they have all this free time on their hands. … He could end up in Atlanta with a guy like Roddy White who will be [on him] all day … and he'll be fine. Or he could go to Detroit, where Calvin Johnson is the greatest guy in the world but he's not going to get on you for making mistakes. He's not that kind of leader. If [Woods] is not going to be around guys that are going to make him accountable, maybe he's not the player he would be if he goes to an Atlanta and plays with Roddy White. That's the tricky part. That's why there is some more risk with him, because he's not necessarily the greatest self-starter."

Quinton Patton
School: Louisiana Tech
McShay: "He doesn't like going over the middle, but he's very athletic, he has great hands and ball skills 90 percent of the time, but he'll have some focus drops. He's a wild-card to me. If he plays to his potential, he could be the third- or fourth-best receiver of this group in the NFL."

Note: The Lions hosted Patterson, Hunter and Woods, according to the team's web site. The Vikings, according to 1500ESPN.com's Tom Pelissero, hosted at least Allen and Hopkins.

Vikings: WR in free agency and draft?

February, 28, 2013
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This ESPN Insider piece Insider on the Minnesota Vikings' offseason crystallized a plan we've discussed in abstract terms. Former NFL scout Gary Horton figures the Vikings like only two of their returning receivers, and because Percy Harvin and Jarius Wright are both best-suited to play the slot position, there is probably an offseason need for "two quality edge receivers with some speed," Horton writes.

In that scenario, the Vikings could seek one of those receivers in free agency and another in the draft. To that end, Insider reporter Field Yates recommends pending free agent Mike Wallace, and not Greg Jennings, as the free agent the Vikings should target.

Yates: "Wallace possesses rare speed, and though his production tapered off in 2012 compared to his previous two seasons, he remains one of the most dangerous downfield threats in the league. For an offense that is centered around pounding the football with [Adrian] Peterson, adding an explosive edge receiver in Wallace would effectively take the top off of defenses and create further lanes for Peterson to run."

Wallace ran a 4.33 in the 40 during his combine test in 2009 and would be an obvious downfield upgrade over Michael Jenkins, who could be released, and Jerome Simpson, a pending free agent. The question is whether the Vikings will want to get involved in negotiations that probably will use as a benchmark the five-year, $55 million contract that Vincent Jackson received last spring from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

As for the draft, let me pass along Mel Kiper's top five receivers Insider, a list he updated after last week's combine:
  1. West Virginia's Tavon Austin
  2. Tennessee's Cordarrelle Patterson
  3. Cal's Keenan Allen
  4. Tennessee's Justin Hunter
  5. Louisiana Tech's Quinton Patton.

Austin has elite speed and playmaking ability, but at 5-foot-9 and 174 pounds, he projects at the same position as Harvin and Wright. Patterson (6-foot-3), Allen (6-3), Hunter (6-4) and Patton (6-2) are built more like edge receivers.

Patterson ran a 4.42 in the 40 at the combine, Hunter a 4.44 and Patton a 4.53. Allen did not run.

NFC North links: Driver likely to retire

January, 25, 2013
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Chicago Bears
Defensive tackle Henry Melton topped ESPNChicago.com's Jeff Dickerson's list of the top five Bears with expiring contracts.

The Chicago Bears named Pat Meyer their assistant offensive line coach, the team announced on Thursday. Meyer was the offensive coordinator/offensive line coach of the Montreal Alouettes last season, Dickerson reports. Meyer was the offensive coordinator/offensive line coach with the CFL's Montreal Alouettes last season.

The Bears are looking to add a deep-receiving threat through the draft to complement Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffrey, writes the Chicago Tribune's Brad Biggs.

Detroit Lions
Wide receiver Titus Young took to Twitter to ask for his release: "Oh I'm not done, if y'all going to cut me let me go. I'm tired of the threats."

Ten Senior Bowl players that the Lions could target in this year's draft, from Josh Katzenstein of the Detroit News.

Is Oregon's Kenjon Barner a good fit for the Lions? Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press explores.

Green Bay Packers
Wide receiver Donald Driver, who has spent his entire 14-season career in Green Bay, will likely retire, according to a USA Today report.

Linebacker Clay Matthews will join CBS as an analyst for their pregame Super Bowl coverage.

The Packers, who may be in the market for receivers with Driver likely retiring and Greg Jennings a free agent, met with Louisiana Tech receiver Quinton Patton this week during Senior Bowl practices, reports Tyler Dunne of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

Minnesota Vikings
Running back Adrian Peterson isn't going to dial it down when he plays in Sunday's Pro Bowl, writes the AP's Dave Campbell. "When you play down, you put yourself in jeopardy of getting hurt going through the motions. So I won't be playing down," Peterson said earlier this month. "I'm going to play hard."

Mike Wobschall of the team's website tries to put the Senior Bowl into perspective when evaluating prospects for the NFL draft.

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