Posted April 04, 2013

Safe or Surprise Draft: NFC North

Chicago Bears, Detroit Lions, Green Bay Packers, Minnesota Vikings, NFL Draft, Safe Or Surprise
Could Chance Warmack end up in the NFC North? (John Williamson/AP)

Is Chance Warmack headed to the NFC North? Only if one of the division’s teams goes against the grain at the draft. (John Williamson/AP)

As the 2013 NFL Draft approaches, we’re laying out both the safest and riskiest route that teams might take with their first selection. Read them all.

Chicago Bears

First pick: Round 1, No. 20 overall

The Safe Route: Arthur Brown, LB, Kansas State or Alec Ogletree, LB, Georgia

Theoretically, the Bears could head a number of directions in Round 1 — receiver, offensive line, secondary. But with Brian Urlacher, Nick Roach and Geno Hayes moving on, Chicago’s most in flux at linebacker.

The Bears attempted to stem the tide by signing James Anderson and D.J. Williams in free agency, with the latter expected to plug in for Urlacher up the middle. Both players, though, inked just one-year deals, indicating that the Bears are still figuring out exactly what they have.

Neither Brown nor Ogletree really fits the mold of a prototypical 4-3 middle linebacker, as compared to guys like Kevin Minter or Manti Te’o. Still, their athletic gifts would give the Bears a lot more flexibility at that position, plus help ease the pain of losing (a rapidly aging) Urlacher.

The Surprise: Keenan Allen, WR, Cal

Again, wide receiver is a spot where the Bears could stand to get better. The presence of Brandon Marshall and 2012 second-rounder Alshon Jeffery, plus Earl Bennett and Devin Hester, make it less of a need than other areas, however.

Of course, new coach Marc Trestman has indicated already that Hester will be relegated to the return game, and that Bennett’s contract exceeds his production. So, a versatile player like Allen, who can play outside or in the slot, could be a fit.

Detroit Lions

First pick: Round 1, No. 5 overall

The Safe Route: Eric Fisher, OT, Central Michigan

This one is almost too easy. The Lions lost LT Jeff Backus (retirement) and RT Gosder Cherulis (free agency), so nabbing Fisher to add to 2012 first-rounder Riley Reiff on the line would make Matthew Stafford’s life a lot easier.

Argue, if you will, that the Lions could use CB Dee Milliner more. Given how the team is currently built, Milliner should be further down Detroit’s pecking order than Fisher.

The Surprise: Chance Warmack, G, Alabama

Not straying far from the “safe” pick here, but the very notion of taking a guard this high is nearly unheard of — the last top-10 guard was Chris Naeole, at No. 10 overall, in 1997.

Warmack may break the mold. He’s an elite talent at his position, in a draft lacking for obvious top-10 picks. The Lions might have an even bigger need at guard than at tackle, too, with Bill Nagy, who missed all of 2012 with an injury, currently penciled in as one of the starters.

Green Bay Packers

First pick: Round 1, No. 26 overall

The Safe Route: Datone Jones, DE, UCLA

Somewhere along the line in this draft, the Packers need to add some depth up front on D. Last year’s second-round pick, DE Jerel Worthy, tore his ACL in late December and may not be ready to go in 2013, leaving the Packers thin behind their three starters (Ryan Pickett, B.J. Raji, C.J. Wilson).

Not only would Jones represent terrific value at No. 26, but also the versatile former UCLA Bruin could plug in just about anywhere the Packers wanted. Solid both as a run-stopper and pass-rusher, Jones would add the pop Green Bay needs.

The Surprise: Giovani Bernard, RB, North Carolina

Green Bay’s leading rusher in 2012, Alex Green, finished with 464 yards; No. 2 on the list was QB Aaron Rodgers at 259. Even if the Packers are counting on one of Green, James Starks, DuJuan Harris or Brandon Saine to emerge this offseason, there is room for another playmaker.

Bernard might be the missing piece. Carrying some injury concerns, Bernard has taken a back seat to Alabama’s Eddie Lacy throughout most of the draft process, but he may wind up in the more productive role. That’s especially true if he finds his way to a place like Green Bay, where a wide-open offense can take advantage of his quickness and ability to catch passes out of the backfield.

This would be a luxury pick more than a need-based one, but the Packers are close enough to Super Bowl contention to be able to roll the dice like that.

Minnesota Vikings

First pick: Round 1, No. 23 overall (Minnesota also holds the No. 25 overall selection)

The Safe Route: DeAndre Hopkins, WR, Clemson and Sylvester Williams, DT, Missouri

The Vikings might opt to use one of their two first-round picks on either a linebacker or a cornerback, depending on how the board falls. My money is on them getting the receiver they need to complement Greg Jennings and some help for their veteran D-line.

Hopkins (or Keenan Allen or Justin Hunter) would get a shot to start right away — Jerome Simpson and Jairus Wright hardly pose as irreplaceable threats. He’s a reliable pass-catcher with a penchant for big plays, plus he found the end zone 18 times last season at Clemson.

And Williams … well … can the Vikings really pass on a defensive lineman with that last name? Nomenclature aside, Williams could aid the Vikings’ depth chart at multiple D-line positions, and they’re in set up well enough to allow the somewhat-raw prospect to hone his techniques.

The Surprise: Matt Barkley, QB

We close with the most off-the-wall NFC North draft scenario. It does not make a great deal of sense to use a first-round pick on a quarterback when you still have your 2011 first-rounder under center (Christian Ponder) and just signed a big-name backup (Matt Cassel).

Stay with me, though.

Even though the Vikings made the playoffs last season, this is a critical, make-or-break year for Ponder. Should he not show any signs of taking steps forward, Minnesota will have no choice but to look for a Plan B heading into 2014.

Maybe that’s Cassel. But if it’s not (and his play in K.C. would indicate such a conclusion), then the Vikings could opt to cut him loose rather than pay out nearly $4 million next season, leaving them again with Ponder and no real competition. Barkley’s arrival could change the outlook going forward, especially if he proves a disappointing 2012 was a fluke.

The odds of this actually happening? Very slim — which is sort of the idea here.


Green Bay does not need another injured running back, we need a solid running back and until ted thompson get's off his arse and goes out and gets one we will not be going back to the super bowl. We have the greatest QB in the league who can not be our leading rusher year in and year out


if austin is there at 20 bears grab the speedy slot reciever , for trestmans offense ... suprise - suprise


Barkley to Vikings? 0.001% chance.  Why not Barkley to Jets?  Create real competition for Sanchez.  Now, 2 former USC QBs battling it out for QB1, even Tebow news can't compete with that.


Pretty sure Sylvester Williams went to UNC and not Mizzou


Running back and OL are the Packers' biggest needs.


Calling the chances of the Vikings drafting Barkley in the first round "very slim" is generous; file the chance of this happening under "will not happen".  Considering how many other areas of greater need there are for Minnesota, even if the desired players, such as Allen or Williams, were gone, the Vikings would choose the best player on the board and that is NOT Barkley.


"Argue, if you will, that the Lions could use CB Dee Milliner more."


Matt Stafford is the most valuable player on the Lions. No Stafford and Calvin Johnson doesn't catch nearly 1,964 yards worth of passes.


The left tackle protects the right-handed quarterback like Stafford. The Lions lack a viable left tackle. Eric Fisher is a left tackle.


Ergo, the Lions need Fisher - sans perhaps another left tackle, Luke Joeckel, more than any other player in the draft. Not a cornerback. Not even if that cornerback were a combination of Night Train Lane and Deion Sanders.


Wise up. Fisher's the pick.


 @OK No you wise up ! all last year what did the secondary do nothing they could not cover my grandma! so we get one free agent and sign delmas and so we have pulled two players back from last year and the three we drafted only one might compete so what have we done got one player and window dressing for the rest wow that oppress the crying need  we have in the secondary and we fill it! with window dressing! Wise up Milliner the pick!


@OK You make a good argument, but I don't think Fisher will be there at #5. Would they be happy with Lane Johnson? As an Eagle fan, my reading of the tea leaves is that they take the OT that KC doesn't- Joeckel or Fisher. And either Arizona or SD could try to get up to 2 or 3 as well to take him ahead of both the Eagles and Lions. Lions could, and probably would have to, move up to get him.


 @ianlinross Take the big men first; the Pack needs OL tackles,left especially, then defense for 3-4 end.  The rest later with TT choosing best player!


 @Dustin Madlung  



Let's keep your mother out of this discussion and your further posts.


 @Solomon  In which case Warmack would not be a totally worthless idea. With the rookie contracts the way they are nowadays, it's no longer prohibitive to pick a guard that high up in the draft.


 @Solomon  @OK 

I agree that Fisher is gone to Eagles at the latest.  Lions don't have firepower to jump them.  Why not take Millner at #5 and send the 2nd round pick to the Cheifs for LT Brandon Albert.