NFC North: Urban Meyer
Green Bay general manager Ted Thompson executed a significant trade upwards for the third consecutive year, perhaps permanently altering his reputation as a conservative collector of surplus picks. "I know," Thompson joked to Wisconsin reporters. "I'm going to have to stop this."
This year, Thompson moved up in the third round to select Georgia Tech safety Morgan Burnett, a playmaker who had 14 interceptions in three seasons with the Yellow Jackets. The Packers don't have an immediate need at safety, but at the very least Burnett gives them an option should starter Nick Collins or Atari Bigby suffer an injury. It also gives the Packers flexibility as Bigby's unrestricted free agent year approaches.
"I think he's got all of the ingredients we look for to play safety," Thompson said. "I think he has the ability to be a dual guy and be the kind of guy that you are looking for that is athletic enough to cover down and can still come up and make tackles."
In this report , Scouts Inc. suggests Burnett has above-average ball skills but marginal run-support ability.
Chicago also nabbed a third-round safety that could be playing a prominent role within the next year. In fact, coach Lovie Smith told Chicago reporters "it is safe to say" that Florida's Major Wright will be in the mix for a starting job at free safety in 2010.
"Being our first pick, I would say that he assumes he is going to come in and play quick," Smith said. "There is a long ways to go before you put a rookie in the starting lineup. We feel good about some of our players that we have here right now, but we don't have the depth here that we need."
Smith suggested that Wright could eventually provide the back-end leadership once supplied by former Bears safety Mike Brown.
"Tim Tebow did an awful lot for Florida on the offensive side of the ball," Smith said, "and I think [Florida coach] Urban Meyer would talk about Major doing some of those same things as far as being the fighter, the guy that is vocal, the guy that players look to for a bit of that leadership. That's what we are looking for a little bit, we are looking for a guy -- we have had a great guy in the past in Mike Brown, a big hitter, played the pass well and was a quarterback back there -- Major has done some of those things."
How happy is Wright to be with the Bears, a team where he could play almost right away? Check out what he told Chicago reporters: "I literally ran down the street and just lay in the middle of the road and started crying."
Detroit addressed arguably its more glaring need with the No. 66 overall pick, selecting Iowa cornerback Amari Spievey. As of now, Spievey conceivably has a chance to start right away. That could change if the Lions sign veteran Adam "Pacman" Jones, but to this point Chris Houston is the only surefire starter Detroit has at cornerback.
General manager Martin Mayhew said the Lions were attracted mostly to Spievey's toughness and sound tackling skills.
"It's hard nowadays to find corners who are really solid tacklers, who are really physical players and this guy plays the game that way," Mayhew said. "I think he'll fit into our defense very well. He'll come in, I think, from day one and be a good player on special teams and compete for a chance to get a lot of playing time."
The Packers project Purdue defensive lineman Michael Neal as an end in their 3-4 scheme, based on what line coach Mike Trgovac told Wisconsin reporters. Neal gives the Packers some flexibility as they wait out Johnny Jolly's much-delayed trial on federal drug possession charges in Houston, but he'll also be an upgrade from the end rotation the Packers used last year.
New Minnesota cornerback Chris Cook was suspended from school in 2008 because of poor grades. He spent the year working at a Sears warehouse, he said, "putting refrigerators and stoves and washing machines and dryers on the back of trucks and unloading trucks, taking trash out to the dump and everything."
Virginia allowed him back in school last year, and he was determined not to let the opportunity pass by.
"It killed me that I had to sit out for a year," he said. "I won't say it benefited me, but I feel like it made me a smarter person and a stronger person, having to deal with that situation."
EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- So what is it about Florida receiver Percy Harvin? What makes him attractive enough that Minnesota would consider making him a first-round draft pick two months after he reportedly produced a positive drug test at the NFL scouting combine?
Harvin was an all-purpose star for the Gators last season, rushing for 659 yards (on only 70 carries) and catching 40 passes for another 644 yards. He accounted for 17 touchdowns and runs a 4.41 in the 40-yard dash.
You could make a compelling argument for Harvin making a big impact in the Vikings' short passing attack, turning quick throws into big gainers. Here's how Scouts Inc. evaluated his open-field ability:
"Shifts into another gear when he gets a seam and has rare breakaway speed. Makes crisp cuts in space and can make multiple defenders miss. Above-average balance and flashes ability to bounce off arm tackles but isn't a powerful runner that can bulldoze defensive backs in the open field. Can let the football get away from his frame when trying to make defenders miss in space."
Harvin is a bit on the short side at 5-foot-11, but he could play all over the field in the Vikings' offense -- forcing defenses to account for him when they are normally focused on tailback Adrian Peterson. And in the short term, the Vikings believe Harvin could help them as a kickoff and punt returner as well.
Here's what Scott Studwell, the Vikings director of college scouting, said Thursday on the latter issue:
"His ball skills are exceptional. There may be an adjustment period as far as judging punts moreso than kickoffs. But there is a little projection there, from the standpoint of has he done it. No, he hasn't done it. Do we think he has the ability to do it? Yes. Just because he's a tremendous athlete. But you could say the same for a lot of these players that don't do it, but you project they have the skill set to do it and we think he's one of them."
The other side of the story: Harvin not only reportedly failed a drug test, but his résumé is tainted by numerous character questions. Part of it could be immaturity; Harvin doesn't turn 21 until next month. But check out this review from Scouts Inc.:
"Extremely competitive when motivated, but there are major concerns regarding his ability to consistently self-motivate and his overall character in general. According to multiple NFL scouts... there are concerns regarding his 'trust issues,' 'lack of leadership qualities' and that he lives in 'Percy-World'."
(For the record, I'd love to have one dateline from Percy World. Just to see what it's like.)
Even Florida coach Urban Meyer recognizes that Harvin will need some maintenance on the NFL level.
Meyer: "He's got to be in the right place. ... I think he'll be a great NFL football player. I just hope he goes to a good team with good coaches."
If nothing else, this story will be a fun sideshow as we wait a few hours Saturday afternoon to find out what happens at No. 22.