NFC North News and Notes: Apr. 9

How does the Donovan McNabb trade affect Detroit in the NFL Draft? Is Jermichael Finley ready to be a Pro Bowler in Green Bay? Will Minnesota inevitably select a cornerback in the first round?

Detroit Lions

Recent events make it seem even more likely the Lions will take a defensive tackle No. 2 overall in the NFL draft April 22: Nebraska's Ndamukong Suh or Oklahoma's Gerald McCoy.


DT Gerald McCoy
Getty Images: Doug Pensinger

Still, you can't rule out offensive tackle: Oklahoma State's Russell Okung or Oklahoma's Trent Williams.

The draft started to take shape when the Rams released quarterback Marc Bulger and the Redskins acquired quarterback Donovan McNabb. That means the Rams need a QB, and most expect them to take Oklahoma's Sam Bradford first overall. The Redskins don't need a QB anymore, making it seem less likely they would be willing to trade up to No. 2 to get one.

Meanwhile, the Lions solidified their left guard spot by acquiring Rob Sims. That means they likely won't move Jeff Backus to left guard, which they likely would do if they draft a left tackle.

Defensive lineman Anthony Hargrove also signed his offer sheet with the Saints. He had visited the Lions, who strongly considered signing him to an offer sheet.

All of this seems to add up to Suh or McCoy. It looks like both will be on the board when the Lions pick, the Lions won't be able to trade down and they will pick one of them.

The Lions need a difference maker in the middle of a defense that has ranked last in the NFL the past three years. Suh is the kind of smart, multidimensional, productive player coach Jim Schwartz covets. Some think McCoy is even better – more athletic and a superior penetrator.

"Both guys are big, they're fast, have high character, and both are productive at a high level of competition," coach Jim Schwartz said last month at the NFL annual meeting. "There's a lot to like with both of them."

But there's a lot to like about drafting a left tackle, too.

The Lions were pleased with Backus' performance last season. Schwartz said Backus deserved votes for the Pro Bowl. But Backus is 32, and general manager Martin Mayhew has said he will draft not just for this season, but for future seasons.

Okung has not generated the buzz Suh and McCoy have. But teams generally are more comfortable paying a premium for a left tackle than they are for a defensive tackle. And at the NFL annual meeting, Mayhew said Okung was a "tremendous talent" and it was "very possible" he has been underrated by the media.

Then he added this when asked if Okung clearly was the best left tackle in the draft: "I think, big picture, overall, taking everything into account, there are probably two guys that are the best two out there." Mayhew declined to elaborate.

At that time, the Lions had confirmed visits to team headquarters by Okung, McCoy and Suh, in that order, by posting stories on their Web site after the visits. Mayhew was asked: They wouldn't do that and then, say, draft Trent Williams, would they?

"You never know what we might do," Mayhew said. "That's one of the smart things about it."

Williams visited the Lions on April 6. They posted a story on their Web site.

Green Bay Packers

No matter what team they play – the NFL should be releasing the 2010 regular-season schedule within the week – expect the Packers to come out swinging at the start of the season.


TE Jermichael Finley
Getty Images: Jamie Squire

Maybe literally.

New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady isn't the only NFL player who has been sparring with padded gloves this offseason. Packers tight end Jermichael Finley took up boxing as a conditioning diversion and has attracted disciples in teammates such as linebackers Nick Barnett and Brandon Chillar.

The physical demands of stepping into the ring and trading punches with another has left the players feeling KO'd at times.

"I promise you, boxing is a different story," Finley told the team's official Web site. "It's an intense workout. I was dying out there."

Finley began training with pro boxer Brian Vera in Austin, where Finley played college football for Texas.

After a breakthrough second pro season in which he had 55 catches for 676 yards and five touchdowns, Finley continues to supplement boxing with the football workouts in the Packers' offseason program this spring.

"I think we got a chance that we may have an All-Pro type," coach Mike McCarthy said.

Barnett and Chillar, meanwhile, have been accompanying Finley to a Green Bay gym for boxing workouts a few nights a week.

"It's a whole different type of shape you've got to get into," Barnett told Packers.com. "Boxing shape and football shape are two different things, and to have your arms up throwing punches, it's very draining.

"It's very good for us linebackers, though, because we do a lot of ... not punching, but punching in the essence of pushing guys off of us."

Minnesota Vikings

There have been no solid indications of which way the Vikings might be leaning with the 30th pick of this month's NFL Draft, but it was interesting that Minnesota had at least five cornerbacks in for a visit this week.


CB Patrick Robinson
Getty Images: Jonathan Daniel

The Vikings like to bring in almost all of their draft-eligible prospects at the same time for visits.

Among the corners believed to be at Winter Park were Indiana (Pa.) product Akwasi Owusu-Ansah, Wake Forest's Brandon Ghee, Vanderbilt's Myron Lewis, South Florida's Jerome Murphy and Florida State's Patrick Robinson.

It would make sense the Vikings would be intrigued by this deep corner class given that Antoine Winfield battled a broken foot for much of last season and Cedric Griffin tore his ACL on the opening kickoff of the NFC title game. Griffin might not be ready for the start of the season.

The Vikings like Asher Allen, a third-round pick last year, and they re-signed Benny Sapp, who has proven capable as an emergency starter and is the regular nickel back. But there is no question the Vikings could stand to add depth.

Winfield will be entering his 12th season, and even if he returns healthy, there is going to come a time when he might need to be shifted into the nickel role or even consider a move to safety.

Although it wasn't known if he was on the Vikings' invite list, one cornerback who might make sense with the 30th pick is Rutgers' Devin McCourty.

McCourty appears to be a good fit for the Vikings' base Tampa-2 defense and also is an outstanding special-teams player. His talent in the latter area is something on which the Vikings put a premium and would mean he could be active as a rookie, even if he doesn't play a ton at corner.


Agree? Disagree? Let your voice be heard on our message board RIGHT HERE.

Bear Report: The only publication exclusively dedicated to your Chicago Bears.


Bear Report Top Stories