Lacking the draft firepower of a first- or second-round pick, the Bears did a good job of bringing in competition in the secondary, especially at safety, where they have a lot of bodies but no one who stands out.
They used their top pick, 75th overall, on Florida safety Major Wright and then went back to the secondary in the fifth round for Kansas State cornerback Joshua Moore. Although both are juniors they are expected to contribute immediately.
The Bears' other area of need was offensive line, and they made their usual half-hearted effort at improving that long-ignored area, when they took West Texas A&M's J'Marcus Webb with the 218th pick.
Defensive end Corey Wootton — Had he not torn his knee up in Northwestern's Alamo Bowl loss to Missouri after the 2008 regular season, Wootton likely would have entered the draft a year ago and been a late-first- or early-second-round choice according to the NFL's Advisory Committee. As a junior he had 16 tackles for loss and 10 sacks, which is why they were thrilled when he was still on the board at 109.
Offensive tackle J'Marcus Webb — The seventh-round pick (218th overall) could be a diamond in the rough. A Parade All-American in high school, he was heavily recruited and enrolled at Texas but left after a year because of academic problems. He wound up at Division-II West Texas A&M but flashed good enough athleticism at 6-8 and 335 pounds in the postseason to draw interest.
A closer look at the Bears' picks
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Round 4/109 — Corey Wootton, DE, 6-6, 270 Northwestern: Started 35 games at right end in his final three years after starting 12 games at left end as a freshman in 2006. Was a potential first-round pick after a junior season in which he had 16 tackles for loss and 10 sacks but suffered a torn ACL in the Alamo Bowl and struggled after coming back from January '09 surgery. If he regains his junior-season form, he'll be a steal.
Round 5/141 — Josh Moore, CB, 5-11, 188 Kansas State: Junior who started five games as a true freshman, academically ineligible in '07 but came back strong in '08, and started the next 24 games with 140 tackles, 23 pass break-ups and five interceptions. Lacks bulk and is physically weak. Doesn't have great speed (4.52 in the 40) but has enough quickness, ball skills, soft hands, instincts and reactions to be an effective cover corner.
Round 6/181 — Dan LeFevour, QB, 6-3, 230, Central Michigan: Four-year starter was tremendously productive as a passer and runner. Only player in NCAA history with 12,000 career passing yards and 2,500 career rushing yards. Will have time to make transition from shotgun QB to taking snaps from under center.
Round 7/218 — J'Marcus Webb, OT, 6-8, 325 West Texas A&M: A high school Parade All-American originally enrolled at the University of Texas but played there just one season before transferring to Navarro Junior College where he was a NJCAA All-American and then to D-II WTAMU.
As the third round commenced Friday night the Bears had their sights focused on four defensive backs.
But by the time they were on the clock for their first pick — 11th in the round and No. 75 overall — only one of their targeted defensive backs was left, which made general manager Jerry Angelo's selection of Florida safety Major Wright a no-brainer.
"I felt pretty good at the start of the third round, (but) they just started peeling off," Angelo said. I really thought there would be two, maybe as many as three, (but Wright) was the last one there."
The first two picks in the round were South Florida's Jerome Murphy and Iowa's Amari Spievey, college cornerbacks who may be better at free safety in the NFL. Both of them, especially Murphy, were believed to be on the Bears' list. On the eighth pick of the round, the Packers selected Georgia Tech safety Morgan Burnett, another player who fit the Bears' profile.
But Bears coach Lovie Smith was more than pleased to come away with Wright, a three-year starter who left school with a year of eligibility remaining.
"(He) was one of the players we liked from the start," Smith said. "He's a high-character guy. He's going to bring a lot of energy to our defense. (He's a) big hitter and has good skills as far as coverages are concerned. We're going to put him at free safety and see what he can do."
Wright, who received high marks from scouts for his leadership qualities, instincts, speed, toughness and football smarts, said he was thrilled to get the call from the Bears, who recently sent defensive backs coach Jon Hoke down to Gainesville to work him out on the field and in the classroom.
"Oh my God," Wright said when asked about his reaction. "I literally ran down the street and just ran in the (house, to the) middle of the floor and started crying."
The Bears' recent turnover at safety has made them want to cry often.
They've made a total of 40 lineup changes at the free safety and strong safety positions since Smith became head coach in 2004. Stability in the secondary was Job One, especially at free safety, which has become more important with the league-wide emphasis on throwing the ball.
Wright is expected, at the very least, to be active on game days, but neither Angelo nor Smith went so far as to say they expected him to start right away.
"I would say he assumes he is going to come in and play fairly quick," Smith said. "There is a long way to go before you put a rookie in a starting lineup. We feel good about some of our players that we have here right now. But we don't have the depth at the position we need."
The Bears have focused on improving at free safety since about five minutes after the 2009 season ended with all of their safeties having combined for a total of one interception.
"The secondary is what we targeted as our primary need," Angelo said. "The safety position and the corner position was really a coin toss in our minds, so whoever the best player was, we were going to take."
Draft quick hits
—Even though defensive end isn't considered an area of need for the Bears, they couldn't pass on Northwestern's Corey Wootton, who had 16 tackles for loss and 10 sacks as a junior. They see him as a left end, although he spent the past three seasons on the right side, although he played left end as a freshman.
"This is a value pick for us," said Bears director of college scouting Greg Gabriel. "We had him going into the year as a very highly rated player. I don't think he played as well (as in 2008), but he's coming off knee surgery he had in January of 2009. He wasn't 100 percent when he played this year. He fell because of the injury, but he's a good player."
—It seems like Dan LeFevour has been overlooked for most of his football career, which is odd considering he's a 6-foot-3, 230-pound athletic quarterback who can run and is tough, smart and hard-working.
In four years as the starter at Central Michigan he became the only player in NCAA history with 12,000 passing yards and 2,500 rushing yards. Despite all that, he plummeted to the sixth round of the draft, where the Bears stopped his free fall with the 181st overall pick.
"It's a little bit aggravating at times, and it tries your patience a little bit," said LeFevour, who had been projected by some as high as the second round. "But you've got to realize that it's all going to work out and someone's going to give me a chance to play at the next level, and they're going to give me a chance because they like the way I play. It might not have happened in the round that I liked, but it's definitely to the right team and I'm very excited to be here."
—Since 2003, with his 64 selections, Bears general manager Jerry Angelo has drafted just nine offensive linemen, six of whom were taken in the seventh round. They have used just one pick in the first three rounds on an offensive lineman since 2003.
Since arriving in Detroit in January 2009, in the wake of the NFL's first 0-16 season, coach Jim Schwartz has said the Lions' No. 1 need is talent. The Lions added two more blue-chippers in the first round of this year's NFL draft, taking Nebraska defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh (No. 2 overall) and trading up for California running back Jahvid Best (30). They took only four more players after that, and none was nearly as sexy. But general manager Martin Mayhew also used picks from this draft in trade packages for cornerback Chris Houston, safety Ko Simpson, guard Rob Sims and defensive tackle Corey Williams, all of whom could be starters this season.
Defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh — The Lions found their franchise quarterback last year in Matthew Stafford, the No. 1 overall pick. They found the lynchpin of their defense this year in Suh, the No. 2 overall pick. After years of making poor picks in the top 10, the Lions seem to have nailed it for the second straight draft, landing the most dominant player in college football. With two other new acquisitions — Williams and end Kyle Vanden Bosch — Suh turns the defensive line from a weakness into a strength.
Cornerback Amari Spievey — He doesn't have elite speed. But Spievey could make an immediate impact for the Lions because they are thin at cornerback and are focused on improving special teams. Spievey's strength is his physical play. He also intercepted six passes in 26 games Iowa, so he has some ball skills. Unless the Lions sign a veteran — perhaps Adam (Pacman) Jones — Spievey could compete with Eric King, who is coming off an injury, and new arrivals Houston, Jonathan Wade and Dante Wesley.
A closer look at the Lions' picks
Round 1/2 — Ndamukong Suh, DT, 6-4, 307, Nebraska: Widely considered the best player in the draft, Suh can stop the run and rush the passer. The Lions added a difference-maker in the middle of a defense that has ranked last three years in a row.
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Round 3/66 — Amari Spievey, CB, 5-11, 195, Iowa: Though Spievey wasn't the fastest cornerback left on the board, he fit the Lions' profile because he is physical and a sure tackler.
Round 4/128 - Jason Fox, OT, 6-6, 314, Miami (Fla.): Fox figures to be the Lions' third tackle, rotating at left and right behind Jeff Backus and Gosder Cherilus. He could develop to be the eventual replacement for Backus, who turns 33 in September.
Round 7/213 — Willie Young, DE, 6-5, 251, North Carolina State: Young is athletic, but there were questions about his consistency, toughness and durability in college. He will be a 25-year-old rookie.
Round 7/255 — Tim Toone, WR, 5-10, 175, Weber State: Toone said he has been compared to Wes Welker. He's a speedy, hard-working receiver who also had 95- and 90-yard punt returns for touchdowns in college. He's 25, having done a two-year Mormon mission to West Africa.
The Lions' Best move
The first pick was expected. The second? Not so much. At least not by the guy who got picked.
The Lions drafted dominant Nebraska defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh with the No. 2 overall pick in the NFL draft Thursday night, as many mock drafts had predicted.
Then they traded up to No. 30 overall to land California running back Jahvid Best. Many thought Best was on the Lions' wish list because he had the explosive skill set they wanted, but Best didn't think the Lions were interested.
The reason Suh fell to the Lions was the quarterback factor. The Rams needed a franchise quarterback and drafted Oklahoma's Sam Bradford No. 1 overall. Many analysts considered Suh to be the best player in the draft, and they weren't alone.
"Every step along the way, he was the best player on our draft board," coach Jim Schwartz said. "He has a little bit of the 'it' factor. Everybody has watched a game and seen him on TV. When you turn the game on, when he's in the game, you saw him dominate the game."
Schwartz made his name as the Titans' defensive coordinator when he had a dominant tackle, Albert Haynesworth, working with an outstanding end, Kyle Vanden Bosch. Schwartz brought Vanden Bosch to Detroit as a free agent this offseason. Now he has a new Haynesworth — a rare player who can stop the run and rush the passer.
"I don't have a problem being compared to him, but I like to be my own player, my own person," Suh said. "I'm not ashamed by any means to learn from somebody else as great as Albert Haynesworth. But I like to be my own player and take bits and pieces from other players, other great players."
Suh is certainly his own man. He's smaller than Haynesworth, at 307 pounds, but has a higher motor. Smart, strong, multidimensional and productive, he fits Schwartz's profile, and he's excited to work with Vanden Bosch, who also went to Nebraska.
"I think the pieces are all there; obviously, now it's just putting the puzzle together," Suh said. "From what I know being there on my visit, I think it's going to be a pretty smooth transition."
Best didn't think the Lions would draft him. He hadn't made a pre-draft visit to Detroit. He hadn't talked to the Lions at all since the NFL Scouting Combine in February.
"Honestly, I was surprised," Best said. "I had a great conversation with them at the combine, but after the combine, it kind of just stopped."
But the Lions apparently were only playing their cards close to the vest. Schwartz wanted more explosiveness in his running game last season, and that was even before running back Kevin Smith suffered a torn ACL.
Best brings home-run ability. He can run the 40-yard dash in 4.36 seconds. He said he can run with another California product: the Eagles' big-play wide receiver, Desean Jackson. He said he could contribute as a returner and an every-down back.
One question about Best is his history of concussions. But he said he was fine.
"Definitely," Best said. "I've seen so many doctors, and they've all said the same thing. I definitely think I'm past that."
The Lions held the second pick of the second round, No. 34 overall. But looking to land an explosive running back, they didn't want to wait for Best. They sent their second-round pick (No. 34), a fourth-rounder (100) and a seventh-rounder (214) to the Vikings for the No. 30 pick and a fourth-rounder (128).
"Everybody came on the phone," Best said. "They just told me when they got the green light to pick me that the room just erupted. Everybody was excited about it."
Draft quick hits
—Defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh, the No. 2 overall pick, was the popular choice among Lions fans. At a meet-and-greet with season-ticket holders Monday night at Ford Field, the fans yelled "Suuuuh!" Coach Jim Schwartz said they wouldn't be disappointed. Suh heard about it and echoed his new coach moments after he was drafted. "They've got some great fans," Suh said. "As you can see, they were vying for me to come there, and obviously they got their wish, and I'm not going to disappoint them at all."
—Suh rode to Radio City Music Hall in New York with Oklahoma defensive tackle Gerald McCoy and Hall of Fame linebacker Lawrence Taylor, one of the game's all-time great pass rushers and personalities. "LT was being LT," said McCoy, who went No. 3 overall to the Buccaneers. "Everything you all know, he was just being it to the fifth power because the cameras weren't on him. LT being LT is a lot of fun." No one would reveal what they talked about, but Suh said Taylor was "very fiery" and he "learned a lot from him in a short amount of time." Suh and McCoy walked down the red carpet in front of Radio City, wearing dark sunglasses.
—Many have pointed out that Schwartz succeeded as the Titans' defensive coordinator with another dominant tackle: Albert Haynesworth. "I don't have a problem being compared to him, but I like to be my own player, my own person," Suh said. "I'm not ashamed by any means to learn from somebody else as great as Albert Haynesworth. But I like to be my own player and take bits and pieces from other players, other great players."
—Running back Jahvid Best thought he would slip into the second round. Then the phone rang with the Vikings scheduled to pick at No. 30. "They were like, 'It's the Lions,'" Best said. "And I was like, 'Why are the Lions calling me when it's not their turn?' And then they told me they were going to trade, so I just got really excited. I was just so excited. I can't even have words for this moment right now." The Lions held the second pick of the second round, No. 34 overall. But they didn't want to wait for Best. They sent their second-round pick (No. 34), a fourth-rounder (100) and a seventh-rounder (214) to the Vikings for the No. 30 pick and a fourth-rounder (128). "Everybody came on the phone," Best said. "They just told me when they got the green light to pick me that the room just erupted. Everybody was excited about it."
—Cornerback Amari Spievey, a third-round pick, ran the 40-yard dash in only 4.53 seconds at his pro day. "I think I'm going to get faster," Spievey said. "I never really ran track or anything. This past off-season's the first time I ever really trained for a 40 in my life and I got so much faster."
—The Hawkeyes kicked Spievey off the team after his freshman season because of his academics. "I came in unprepared mentally," Spievey said. "I wasn't really ready. It was my first time being away from home, and they switched me to defense. I didn't really want to play defense. I played running back all my life. I had a staph infection. So I just started off on the wrong foot. But being dismissed really opened my eyes, let me appreciate my opportunities at Iowa." Spievey said he received some advice from defensive coordinator Norm Parker. "He told me before I left, 'Men do what they've got to do; boys do what they want to do,'" Spievey said. "I knew I had to grow up mentally to do what I wanted to do." Spievey spent 2007 at Iowa Central Community College, then returned to Iowa for the next two seasons. He intercepted six passes in 26 career games for the Hawkeyes and was first-team All-Big Ten last season.
—Offensive tackle Jason Fox, a fourth-round pick, is coming off clean-up knee surgery. "Our trainers will look at him and determine what he can and can't do, and we'll get a plan and stick to it," offensive line coach George Yarno said. "He can learn a lot and lift and do all those things through the OTAs if he can't participate all the way. That's OK, too. This is a long haul here. We're not expecting him to come in and be the guy from Day 1."
—Fox missed one game with an irregular heartbeat in college but said it was no longer an issue. "It was just a fluke thing," Fox said. "I've been totally cleared. I've been back for several stress tests. They just said it was a one-day thing and I passed all the tests with flying colors and was told it will never happen again."
—The Lions entered the draft with four seventh-round picks. They used one (No. 214) to help them move up for Best. They traded another (No. 220, acquired from Denver with tight end Tony Scheffler in the trade that sent linebacker Ernie Sims to Philadelphia) to the Eagles for a 2011 sixth-round pick.
—Defensive end Willie Young might have been a seventh-round pick. But asked about his strengths and weaknesses, he said: "Honestly, I don't think I have a weakness, at all. I mean, there are always things that I can always get better at. Things that I'm good at now I can get better at. Like, my first step is great. Quickness is great. I might have run a 4.82, but if you look at my game speed, I'm making plays that maybe a 4.4 guy might make or he may not be making."
—The Lions made Weber State wide receiver Tim Toone Mr. Irrelevant, the 255th and final pick of the draft. Schwartz thinks Toone could be as popular as the colorful, intense linebacker the Lions picked in the seventh round (235th overall) last year.
"Zack Follett's going to have some competition for new favorite player, new cult hero in Detroit," Schwartz said, pointing out Toone not only had a lot of big numbers and honors from college, but was a "white guy with dreadlocks." Toone, 5-feet-10, 185 pounds, is 25 years old, having served a two-year Mormon mission in West Africa. He's speedy. He had 95- and 90-yard punt returns for touchdowns in college. "A lot of people tell me I'm like Wes Welker," Toone said. "Having him in the league has helped me out a lot because he's not the biggest guy, but he's a hard-worker, he runs great routes, he's quick. That's why people compare me to him, because I work hard. I try to find open holes and do everything I can to help the team win."
Last season, the Vikings had only five picks in the draft and all five players ended up not only making the roster but starting at least one game. The same isn't going to happen this time around.
One reason is because the Vikings had eight selections and six came on the third and final day of the draft. While the top four picks — Virginia cornerback Chris Cook, Stanford running back Toby Gerhart, Southern Cal defensive end Everson Griffen and Wake Forest offensive lineman Chris DeGeare — look like locks to stick, after that it's going to be difficult to make the 53-man unit.
The Vikings clearly used their lower picks on projects and potential special-teams players. Considering all 22 starters are expected back, if quarterback Brett Favre returns, there isn't much room for players to make a huge impression.
Running back Toby Gerhart — The Vikings are confident Gerhart will be able to help fill the role that Chester Taylor played as Adrian Peterson's backup and also provide a bruising presence out of the backfield.
Defensive end Everson Griffen — Griffen has a world of talent but did not always apply himself at Southern Cal. The Vikings feel that line coach Karl Dunbar and veterans such as Jared Allen and tackles Kevin and Pat Williams will help Griffen achieve that potential.
A closer look at the Vikings' picks
Round 2/34 — Chris Cook, CB, 6-2, 212, Virginia: Cook becomes the biggest defensive back on the Vikings' roster. He will be expected to make an immediate contribution on special teams.
Ezra Shaw/Getty Images
Round 4/100 — Everson Griffen, DE, 6-3, 273, USC: Griffen had a career-high eight sacks last season despite battling turf toe. Vikings feel he can play either end or move inside to the 3-technique on passing downs.
Round 5/161 — Chris DeGeare, OL, 6-3, 325 pounds, Wake Forest: DeGeare spent three years at guard before moving to left tackle during his final season. His versatility attracted the Vikings, who lost guard and tackle backup Artis Hicks to Washington in free agency.
Round 5/167 — Nate Triplett, LB, 6-3, 250 pounds, Minnesota: Triplett was drafted more for his abilities on special teams than anything. He will have to fight to make the 53-man roster.
Round 6/199 — Joe Webb, WR, 6-3, 226 pounds, UAB: A quarterback last season at UAB, he will be moved to wide receiver by the Vikings. He does have experience at that position.
Round 7/214 — Mickey Shuler Jr., TE, 6-4, 247 pounds, Penn State: The son of the former NFL tight end by the same name, Shuler does posses receiving ability but it's not going to be easy to crack this roster.
Round 7/237 — Ryan D'Imperio, FB, 6-3, 240 pounds, Rutgers: A linebacker in college, the Vikings are going to move him to the offensive side of the ball.
Just say no to Clausen
The Vikings were rumored to be interested in Notre Dame quarterback Jimmy Clausen with No. 30 overall pick. And when they traded that pick to Detroit to move down four spots, draft analysts conjectured that Minnesota would surely be interested in Clausen then.
In the end, the Vikings passed on Clausen twice, choosing instead to address a significant area of need with Chris Cook, a 6-foot-2, 212-pound cornerback who plays the physical style Minnesota covets.
Cook will be expected to contribute early as Cedric Griffin is recovering from ACL surgery and aging Antoine Winfield battled a foot injury much of last season. Carr could step in as the nickel back with Winfield and Bennie Sapp likely the begin the season as starters. The biggest issue for Carr is proving he's ready to handle the on- and off-field rigors of the NFL after dealing with injuries and academic issues at the University of Virginia.
The bigger splash came 17 spots later, when the Vikings traded with Houston for the ability to snag Heisman runner up Toby Gerhart. The Stanford running back isn't as fast or flashy as C.J. Spiller or Jahvid Best, but he fills an immediate need for Minnesota.
A centerfielder for the Cardinal baseball team, Gerhart is a better athlete than most give him credit for. He runs in the 4.5s, and will provide many of the attributes the team lost when Chester Taylor bolted for division-rival Chicago as a free agent.
Gerhart runs tough and can immediately step in as Adrian Peterson's primary backup. And there's a good chance he'll assume some short-yardage and red-zone duties to help protect the Vikings from Peterson's propensity to put the ball on the ground.
"I'm not exactly sure what my role will be, but it's there to complement the best running back in the league, Adrian Peterson," said Gerhart. "Whether it's to give him a blow or line up in the backfield with him, I'm not exactly sure, but I'm looking forward to finding out and contributing any way I can and doing whatever is asked of me."
In an ironic twist, the Vikings' running backs coach is Eric Bieniemy, who recruited Gerhart out of high school. Bieniemy, a coach for UCLA at the time, left for Minnesota two days before national signing day, and Gerhart wound up going to Stanford.
"That was the running joke at the combine," said Gerhart. "He was like, 'I have to know, were you going to go to UCLA if I didn't leave?' I said, 'Yeah, there was a good chance I was,' and he said, 'Oh, I don't want to hear that.' We were laughing about it. He's a great coach, and I'm looking forward to working with him."
Draft quick hits
—The Vikings agreed to terms with 10 undrafted players on Saturday. The list includes quarterback R.J. Archer, William & Mary; OG Thomas Austin, Clemson; OT Matt Hanson, Midwestern State; C Tommy Hernandez, UC-Davis; WR Aaron Rhea, Stephen F. Austin; SS Terrell Skinner, Maryland; WR Ray Small, Ohio State; WR Kelton Tindal, Newberry; CB Angelo Williams, Ferris State; and OT Marlon Winn, Texas Tech.
—Vikings coach Brad Childress said he exchanged a couple of text messages with Brett Favre during the draft but it does not appear the quarterback is close to saying whether he will return in 2010.
—The Vikings will hold a three-day rookie minicamp this coming weekend at Winter Park for their draft picks and unsigned free agents.
—Asked about the new three-day draft format, Vikings vice president of player personnel Rick Spielman said: "It seemed like a long process. I think the TV ratings were extremely high, and I know they put a pretty good show on. I pretty much can adapt to whatever they throw at you. It didn't affect us one bit on our preparation or how we drafted at all."
Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at email@example.com, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/packerreport and Facebook under Bill Huber.