NFC North draft review

Winning the NFC North Division this season will be a much tougher this season for the Green Bay Packers. All three of their division opponents used the recent NFL Draft to re-inforce defenses in an attempt to stop Green Bay's mighty offense.<p>

Here's a draft review for each team, beginning with the Chicago Bears:

For a team desperate for help on the defensive line, the first round of the draft couldn't have gone any better for the Bears, who got Oklahoma's 6-foot-2 1/2-inch, 295-pound junior tackle Tommie Harris.

"We got a little luck," Bears GM Jerry Angelo said. "It just fell our way."

All of the top four defensive linemen were still on the board when the Bears' first pick rolled around at No. 14, and they chose Harris over Miami tackle Vince Wilfork and a pair of defensive ends, Southern Cal's Kenechi Udeze and Ohio State's Will Smith.

"Tommie was a guy that we had (rated) as our top defensive lineman," Bears coach Lovie Smith said. "With that 14th pick, you were keeping your fingers crossed and doing a lot of praying, and we were able to get the guy that we really wanted."

The Bears went back to defensive tackle in the second round to get Washington's Terry "Tank" Johnson (No. 47 overall), gambling that he will utilize his considerable talents more fully in the NFL than he did in college, where he was considered an underachiever by some scouts.

In the third round, the Bears picked Fresno State's speedy, big-play wide receiver and return specialist Bernard Berrian with the 78th overall selection.

"If the players aren't the players we think they are," Angelo said, "that's on me. We got the guys we wanted."

On the second day of the draft the Bears continued what they began on Day One: seeking to become faster, quicker and more mobile on defense.

Last year the Bears were dead last in sacks, 22nd in points allowed and 21st in interceptions. Coach Lovie Smith believes increased speed will improve all those areas of weakness.

"That's what Lovie wants," Bears director of college scouting Greg Gabriel said. "Lovie wants speed."

He got it on Sunday, but he had to wait a little while. The Bears traded down six spots from No. 104 when the speed-rushing, undersized defensive ends they had earmarked - Auburn's Reggie Torbor and Purdue's Shaun Phillips - went with the first two picks at 97 and 98. But they claimed Texas cornerback Nathan Vasher at 110 and Maryland linebacker Leon Joe two picks later with the extra choice they acquired from dealing down with the 49ers.

Both players are significantly smaller than NFL prototypes, but they're also faster. So is 252-pound defensive end Claude Harriott, the Bears' first fifth-round pick who had 9.5 sacks in 2002 but wasn't nearly as productive last season. His role will be as a situational pass rusher.

"We have a different look to our defense now, especially our defensive line," Smith said. "Those three (Harriott, Tommie Harris and Tank Johnson) are exactly what we're looking for."

One pick after Harriott, at No. 148, the Bears added Ohio State quarterback Craig Krenzel, who has the smarts to learn the offense with limited reps as the No. 3 guy. Seventh-round Miami CB Alfonso Marshall (215th overall) is an extra DB with man-to-man cover ability.

BEST PICK: Oklahoma DT Tommie Harris was not expected to be there when the Bears picked at 14. It was assumed by most that they would have to settle for Miami DT Vince Wilfork, who did not fit the team's scheme nearly as well. While Harris did not put up tremendous stats last season at Oklahoma, he was frequently double-teamed and he won the Lombardi Award as the top interior lineman in the nation. He was a starter for the Sooners from the beginning of his freshman season without redshirting.

Detroit Lions

Lions president Matt Millen, who has taken his share of criticism and more in his first three years on the job, has received positive reviews for the Lions draft. And deservedly so.

The Lions went into the draft in need of speed and Millen maximized his six picks to deliver coach Steve Mariucci the speed and offensive playmakers the Lions have lacked in recent seasons.

Millen made two trades and ended up with the two players he wanted - wide receiver Roy Williams and running back Kevin Jones - in the first round of the draft.

In those two players, the Lions got the offensive weapons they needed to give third-year quarterback Joey Harrington a chance to elevate the Lions from 32d in offensive production.

It's too early to proclaim the Lions contenders but, assuming Williams and Jones are healthy and come close to supporting the team's expectations, the Lions will have a running game to keep opposing defenses honest and a pair of young receivers - Williams and last year's first-round pick Charles Rogers - to spread the field for the running games.

The Lions stuck to their speed theme in their four remaining picks of the draft and at least one of them - linebacker Teddy Lehman - should join Williams and Jones in providing immediate help to the Lions.

Lehman is expected to compete with second-round linebacker James Davis for the weakside linebacker opening left when Barrett Green was signed by the New York Giants. He will also get a chance to play on special teams.

Cornerback Keith Smith of McNeese State (third round) has size and speed but will have to make an adjustment from Division I-AA; linebacker Alex Lewis (fifth round) has speed to run with backs and tight ends but isn't considered a big hitter; and tackle Kelly Butler (sixth round) is a 6-foot-7, 320-pound mauler projected by some draft analysts as a mid-round pick.

BEST PICK: WR Roy Williams of Texas in the first round. Not only did the Lions get the much-needed big-play receiver, by dropping one slot in the first round - from sixth to seventh overall - Lions president Matt Millen landed an additional second round pick that enabled him to move back into the first round for RB Kevin Jones.

Minnesota Vikings

The mood at Winter Park on draft day couldn't have been more different this year than it was a year ago.

In 2003, Vikings coach Mike Tice was booed heartily while addressing thousands of fans at a draft day party at team headquarters. The Vikings, in an attempt at a last-minute trade with Baltimore, had allowed their allotted time to run out. They dropped two spots, from No. 7 to No. 9, before finally selecting defensive tackles Kevin Williams.

It was the second year in a row the Vikings let the clock run out and were jumped in the first round.

So you can understand why Tice was given a standing ovation Saturday when he stepped to the podium to announce the team had filled its biggest need with (right defensive end Kenechi Udeze of Southern Cal) while trading down one spot (to No. 20) and picking up an extra fourth-round pick. And they made the pick with more than 10 minutes left on their clock.

"Well, that's a lot better than last year," Tice said over the roaring crowd. "What we didn't show you in the draft room is we had about 30 clocks in there."

Although drafts are hard to grade until years later, the Vikings appear to get a passing grade.

On Day 1, they added an immediate starter (Udeze) at a key need in the first round, a soon-to-be starter (Auburn weak-side linebacker Dontarrious Thomas) at their biggest position of need in the second round and versatile depth on the defensive line (Ohio State's Darrion Scott) in the third round.

"Build that defense," said smiling defensive coordinator Ted Cottrell. "We don't need any more Randy Mosses."

The Vikings are pretty much set on offense. On Day 2, they addressed their lack of depth on the offensive line by adding 6-7, 323-pound Nat Dorsey, a junior from Georgia Tech.

Then, for the most part, it was back to building a defense that collapsed down the stretch after a 6-0 start in 2003. Southern Mississippi middle linebacker Rod Davis (fifth round) provides much-needed depth behind E.J. Henderson, while South Carolina's Deandre' Eiland (sixth round) can play nickel back, safety and help out on special teams.

The Vikings strayed from their plan not to take a running back. Using the fourth-round pick they acquired in the first-round trade with Miami, the Vikings selected Tulane's Mewelde Moore, the most productive pass-catching receiver available.

The Vikings stuck to their philosophy of taking only highly-productive college players. Udeze had 16.5 sacks for the co-national champions last season; Thomas ranks eighth in Auburn history with 350 tackles; Scott had 8.5 sacks during Ohio State's 2002 national championship season; Moore is one of only two players in NCAA Division I-A history with 4,000 yards rushing and 2,000 receiving; and Davis led the nation in total tackles and solo tackles last season.

The biggest concerns about the Vikings' draft are the shoulder injuries Udeze and Scott suffered last season. Udeze had a sprained rotator cuff and Scott a torn labrum.

Neither missed any playing time because of the injury. They insist they're 100 percent, and the Vikings' medical staff cleared them.

But the injury concerns did drop Udeze from a projected top-10 selection to No. 20, while Scott fell from a second-round projection into the third round.

If the Vikings are right and the injuries aren't serious, then maybe coach Mike Tice was right about the draft when he said, "I don't see how it could have gone any better for us."

BEST PICK: That's simple. The first one, Southern California defensive end Kenechi Udeze. One of the Vikings' biggest weakness last season was the lack of an outside pass rush. Chuck Wiley, a forgettable backup, finished the year as the starter at right end. Linebacker Nick Rogers was moved in as the projected starter after the season just in case the Vikings couldn't find a starter. Vikings coach Mike Tice already has announced Udeze as the starter and every-down player. Udeze had 16.5 sacks for the co-national champions last season. Not only did the Vikings get Udeze, they also were able add a fourth-round pick by trading down one spot with Miami.

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