NFC North: Samson Satele

David DeCastro and the NFC North

March, 21, 2012
The Green Bay Packers' sudden need at center has led us to consider their options in the 2012 draft class. That will probably be a common theme for the next month, especially after free agent Jeff Saturday scheduled a visit with the Denver Broncos and veteran Samson Satele signed Wednesday with the Indianapolis Colts.

But a quick look at the centers in this class brings us back to our meeting with ESPN draft analyst Todd McShay at the NFL scouting combine. There is only one dominant interior offensive lineman in this draft, and he's not a center. It's Stanford guard David DeCastro, who is "as good an interior lineman as I've ever scouted," McShay said.

McShay considers DeCastro one of the best 15 players in the draft. But because NFL teams rarely value guards that high, McShay projects DeCastro to be drafted anywhere between No. 16 and No. 25 in the first round.

I'm not advocating the Packers draft DeCastro with the idea of moving him to center. But if McShay's projection is accurate, DeCastro could provide an interesting opportunity for two of our other teams -- the Chicago Bears at No. 19 and the Detroit Lions at No. 23.

The Bears haven't addressed their offensive line during an otherwise active opening week in free agency, and they selected a tackle -- Wisconsin's Gabe Carimi -- in the first round of the 2011 draft. But their line is hardly settled enough to ignore a prospect as good as DeCastro in that situation.

The Lions have used the same starting guards for the past two years, Rob Sims and Stephen Peterman. But general manager Martin Mayhew has demonstrated repeatedly that he will draft based on value over the status of his current lineup. That makes DeCastro a possibility for them.

Your next chance to hear about DeCastro will come Thursday when he participates in Stanford's pro day. He won't answer the Packers' question at center, but he could be in play for the NFC North regardless.
We're Black and Blue All Over:

We noted Monday that the Green Bay Packers were on the interest list of veteran free-agent center Jeff Saturday. Jason Wilde of confirms the next step in that process: Saturday actually visited the Packers on Monday, the first business day after incumbent Scott Wells signed with the St. Louis Rams.

Saturday has at least one more visit scheduled, to the Tennessee Titans, and there is wide speculation that he ultimately will join quarterback Peyton Manning with the Denver Broncos. But the Packers rarely go so far as to entertain a notable free agent on a visit, let alone sign one, so we know they are serious about combing every possibility to replace Wells.

Other free-agent possibilities include Dan Koppen and Samson Satele.

Continuing around the NFC North:
We've got our first glimpse of how the Green Bay Packers might move to replace center Scott Wells, who signed Friday with the St. Louis Rams. ESPN's Chris Mortensen and Adam Schefter reported Monday that free agent center Jeff Saturday has visits scheduled with several teams, including the Packers.

It has been widely assumed that Saturday would join forces with longtime teammate Peyton Manning, who plans to play this season for the Denver Broncos. But the Packers' apparent interest in Saturday at least means they haven't ruled out the possibility of signing a veteran to replace Wells. Other options include veteran Dan Koppen, who missed most of last season because of a fractured ankle, and Samson Satele, who spent the past three seasons with the Oakland Raiders.

The Packers haven't dipped their toes into veteran free agency often in recent years, having last done so when signing the immortal Duke Preston in 2009. If they don't sign a veteran, the Packers could either elevate backup Evan Dietrich-Smith or draft a center -- possibly Wisconsin's Peter Konz -- and insert him immediately into the lineup.