NFC North: Tyson Jackson
We here at the ESPN Blog Network decided to have some fun and conduct our own mock draft. Its intrinsic value rates somewhere below the efforts of actual experts Mel Kiper and Todd McShay, but it was fun nonetheless.
I'll expand my explanations for the NFC North picks below, including one highly controversial choice for which I'm certain to absorb an unmerciful flogging. Onward...
No. 1 overall
Detroit Lions: Quarterback Matthew Stafford
Why: I think it's pretty clear the Lions have targeted Stafford over Wake Forest linebacker Aaron Curry. Otherwise, Curry probably would be signed by now. Baylor offensive tackle Jason Smith is also a candidate, but in the end it seems the Lions want to open their new era with a blue-chip building block at the game's most important position.
No. 9 overall
Green Bay Packers: Andre Smith
Why: AFC South colleague Paul Kuharsky made this choice a bit easier by taking Boston College nose tackle B.J. Raji off the board one pick earlier. Some of the defensive names previously connected to the Packers were still available, including Penn State defensive end Aaron Maybin and LSU defensive end Tyson Jackson. But in this scenario I think Packers general manager Ted Thompson would select the best player available. It just so happens Green Bay has a need at the position as well.
No. 20 overall
Lions: Running back Knowshon Moreno
Why: Ah, yes. I will accept virtual pummeling via the mailbag. I know the Lions have more pressing needs than at running back. And I'm well aware they have a good young tailback in Kevin Smith and signed veteran Maurice Morris in free agency. I guess I'm just taking coach Jim Schwartz at his word that the Lions won't allow need to trump talent in this draft. When I looked at the players left on the board at this spot, I thought Moreno was clearly the best value. The Lions aren't necessarily targeting Moreno, but I think they will seek out the best value -- regardless of position -- at every spot in this draft.
No. 22 overall
Minnesota Vikings: Offensive tackle Eben Britton
Why: I went with the best offensive tackle available even with all of the draft's second-tier receivers still available (Darrius Heyward-Bey, Percy Harvin, Kenny Britt and Hakeem Nicks among them). This might be a few spots too high to take Britton, but in the end I'm not totally convinced the Vikings are targeting a first-round receiver. And that was before news surfaced that they worked out West Virginia quarterback/receiver Pat White.
Three of the NFC North's top personnel men, two of its coaches and at least one offensive coordinator were in attendance Wednesday at USC's pro day, an event highlighted by the presence of quarterback Mark Sanchez.
According to this roll call from NFL.com, Detroit general manager Martin Mayhew, Packers general manager Ted Thompson and Minnesota vice president Rick Spielman were all there. So were Lions coach Jim Schwartz, Vikings coach Brad Childress and Lions offensive coordinator Scott Linehan.
While Sanchez was the headline performer, the event also included three linebackers who could be top-25 picks in the April 25-26 draft.
I'll focus on Sanchez here for two reasons. One, Schwartz said last week the Lions were hoping to get some extra work with him at the conclusion of the throwing session. Two, Childress has been known to frequent pro days in the past, but more often than not it's to see a big-time quarterback.
ESPN draft analyst Todd McShay was in attendance and shared his notes with the Black and Blue blog. According to McShay, Sanchez had a superb workout and threw harder than he ever has before. His accuracy was spot-on, even when required to move out of the pocket and re-set his feet before throwing.
You can expect to see McShay's full report Wednesday night on SportsCenter and later on ESPN.com.
It will be interesting to see how high Sanchez can push himself in this draft. I don't think he's a realistic possibility for the Lions' No. 1 overall pick, but he could certainly enter their picture if they trade down from No. 1.
But they might not want to move too far. According to multiple reports, Seattle (No. 4 overall) and Jacksonville (No. 8) have been all over Sanchez the past two days. The Seahawks had five members of their organization at Wednesday's workout.
At No. 22 overall, the Vikings have almost no chance of grabbing Sanchez unless they trade up. But there is a strong chance that at least one of the Trojans' linebacker trio will be sitting there. Maybe Spielman and Childress had linebackers on their minds.