Top priorities for NFC North teams

Our experts reveal the top needs for each team in the NFC North as free agency and the draft loom.

Here is a look at the top three offseason needs for the Green Bay Packers and their NFC North rivals. The NFC Scouting Combine begins Feb. 18, free agency starts on Feb. 27 and the draft is April 25-26.

Packers (9th pick)

1. Defensive tackle: In light of the commitment made this offseason to change the base front from a 4-3 to a 3-4, the Packers will need a stout nose tackle to line up over center and occupy multiple blockers. Ryan Pickett gets the nod for now, but the new role could be too big for him.

2. Defensive end: The switch to the 3-4 means top pass rusher Aaron Kampman will be moving to outside linebacker. That leaves a void at one of the two end positions in the new scheme, and the other spot isn't foolproof with Cullen Jenkins' coming back from a torn pectoral muscle.

3. Tight end: Jermichael Finley, who came on at the end of his rookie season, probably will be cast in the starter's role for next season. Considering a drop in production from starter Donald Lee last season and little impact from Tory Humphrey, reinforcements could be warranted.

Bears (18th pick)

1. Wide receiver: The Bears don't have a No. 1, and it's a stretch to call Devin Hester even a No. 2. There also isn't any quality depth. Bigger receivers like Hakeem Nicks and Darius Heyward-Bey make more sense than a little, injury-prone guy like Florida's Percy Harvin.

2. Offensive tackle: Last year's No. 1, Chris Williams, should start after missing much of last season with a back injury and barely playing. But RT John Tait is 34 and considering retirement, and last year's left tackle, John St. Clair, will be 32 in July and is an unrestricted free agent.

3. Pass-rushing DE: Nobody on the team had more than six sacks, and if the Bears can't get pressure with the front four, the defense struggles, as it did much of last season.

Lions (1st and 20th picks)

1. Quarterback: The Lions don't have a quarterback for the future, and they have the No. 1 pick in the draft. Most mock drafts have them taking Georgia QB Matt Stafford. He could sit behind Daunte Culpepper for a year.

2. Linebacker: The defense has holes all over, but Ernie Sims is the Lions' only linebacker with playmaking potential.

3. Defensive back: Only one Lions defensive back intercepted a pass in 2008, Leigh Bodden, and the Lions just released him.

Vikings (22nd pick)

1. Quarterback: Tarvaris Jackson began and ended the season in this role but spent a large portion of the year on the bench as veteran Gus Frerotte ran the offense. The Vikings continue to look for stability at this spot and clearly are examining all options.

2. Right offensive tackle: Ryan Cook was the primary starter but found himself benched because of inconsistent play and penalties. Artis Hicks served as Cook's replacement but a triceps injury sidelined him. It's unlikely Cook or Hicks will be the starter in 2009. The versatile Hicks is considered more valuable as a backup.

3. Cornerback: The Vikings clearly would like to add some depth at this spot. Antoine Winfield will be entering his 11th season and the jury remains out on Cedric Griffin as a starter.


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