Breaking down the NFC North

This is the seventh in a series about the NFL Draft, which will be held April 26 and 27.<BR><br><b>Today: The NFC North</b>

Chicago Bears
If there's a division in football where former Steelers quarterback Kordell Stewart can revive his career, it's the awful NFC North. It's no coincidence that three teams in this division own top-10 picks in this year's draft. It was that bad last season.

Maybe the Bears had that in mind when they signed Stewart to be their starting QB after he was released by the Steelers.

By signing Stewart, the Bears can now afford to fill some of their other needs, which is to land a stud defensive lineman and cornerback.

With DE/OLB Rosevelt Colvin signing with New England, the Bears have a big need for someone to rush the passer. And defensive tackles Ted Washington (35) and Keith Traylor (33) are on the wrong side of 30, so there is a need on the inside also.

At cornerback, R.W. McQuarters and Jerry Azumah don't put the fear of God in any quarterback.

The Bears could also go for a QB since they only signed Stewart to a two-year contract.

With the fourth-overall pick in the draft, the Bears may be the key to how the rest of the first round plays out.

If the first three picks are quarterback Carson Palmer and wide receivers Charles Rogers and Andre Johnson as expected, the Bears will have their choice of Kentucky defensive tackle Dewayne Robertson, Arizona State defensive end Terrell Suggs or Kansas State cornerback Terence Newman. The Bears could also send everyone scrambling by taking Marshall quarterback Byron Leftwich or trading out of the spot with someone who covets one of those players.

Detroit Lions
Where do you start with this team?

In two seasons, general manager Matt Millen has gutted a team that was 9-7 and has not a lot to show for it.

Quarterback Joey Harrington showed promise as a rookie last season and should benefit from playing for new head coach Steve Mariucci, if he survives without any true weapons.

They overpaid to get Dre' Bly as a free agent from the Rams, but at least he's a starting-caliber cornerback, which is more than the Lions can say about any of the other corners on the team.

Linebacker is also problem area as middle linebacker Chris Claiborne signed with division rival Minnesota.

But the immediate need for the Lions is to put some talent on offense around Harrington.

With the second pick in the draft, there is little doubt the Lions have targeted Michigan State wide receiver Charles Rogers as their pick. Not only will they keep the talented wideout in the state of Michigan, they'll get perhaps the best offensive playmaker in this draft.

Cornerback and linebacker will be priorities in later rounds.

Green Bay Packers
The Packers have lost quite a bit this off season but should still be the class of the division as long as Brett Favre continues to pull the trigger to the offense.

Starting outside linebacker Nate Wayne was released as was starting cornerback Tyrone Williams. Safety Matt Bowen signed with Washington, while defensive end Vonnie Holliday is now in Kansas City. The team traded a second-round pick to get Al Harris from Philadelphia to replace Williams, but the depth is weak, Farve has also begun to hint at retirement, leaving quarterback a possible priority position for the Packers.

With the 29th-overall pick in the draft, the Packers would love for one of the young QBs to fall to them because having already dealt this year's second-round pick for Harris, they likely won't have the ammunition to move up this year to grab one of the top four - Carson Palmer, Byron Leftwich, Rex Grossman or Kyle Boller.

If the Packers have to stay at 29 and the top QBs are gone, grabbing a linebacker or defensive tackle - to replace fat and aging Gilbert Brown - would be the next biggest need.

Maryland's E.J. Henderson is one possibility at linebacker if he's still on the board. If not, the Packers will probably pick up defensive tackle like Kenny Peterson, Jonathan Sullivan or William Joseph.

Minnesota Vikings
The Vikings added cornerbacks Denard Walker and Ken Irvin, linebacker Chris Claiborne and defensive tackle Bill Lyon, none of whom are stars. But they should help make the defense a little less porous.

Getting another defensive tackle to match with underrated Chris Hovan is a must, as Lyon is just a backup-type player.

Another cornerback, a defensive end and a receiving threat to pair with Randy Moss would also be a big help.

With the seventh-overall selection, cornerback Marcus Trufant would be a solid selection and immediate impact player. If they decide to go for a defensive tackle, Penn State's Jimmy Kennedy will probably be the pick after they missed out on Ryan Simms last season after the Kansas City-Dallas draft-day fiasco.

Previous Breakdowns: NFC South | AFC South | NFC East | AFC East | NFC West | AFC West

Dale Lolley

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