Around the NFC North
They also got the self-proclaimed best offensive tackle in the draft when they took Wisconsin's Gabe Carimi with the 29th overall pick Thursday night.
Most NFL teams didn't agree with the 6-7, 314-pound Carimi's assessment, since he was the fifth tackle and the seventh offensive lineman selected.
But the Bears got a four-year starter at left tackle, who faced some of the top defensive ends in the country. They included first-round picks Ryan Kerrigan of Purdue (16th overall), Adrian Clayborn of Iowa (20th overall) and Ohio State's Cameron Heyward (31st overall). He also benefited from going against another first-round pick in practice, teammate J.J. Watt, who was the 11th overall pick Thursday night.
"I know I can play right away," Carimi said at the Scouting Combine. "That's my best asset. I'm a draft-ready tackle. I'm physically stronger and have more career starts and better knowledge of the game than any other tackle out there. That's why I'm the No. 1 tackle out there."
The Bears did extensive work on scouting Carimi, but they had some anxious moments awaiting their pick and hoping he would last.
"We were really fortunate to get a quality lineman like Gabe," general manager Jerry Angelo said. "Being in our backyard, we were able to see him play a lot. We feel like we can know as much as you can know about this player. He really does fit the profile that we were looking for."
Some talent evaluators believe Carimi is better suited to right tackle, but he believes he'll be fine staying on the left side, where he started 49 games for the Badgers.
"I'm a physical, tough player who finishes plays," Carimi said. "I can run block as well as pass block."
One knock against Carimi is that he came across as being too confident, bordering on arrogant, during his postseason and Combine interviews.
"If you look at any of the interviews I did at Wisconsin, I always talked about my teammates," Carimi said. "That (overconfidence rap) was just my own confidence in being able to play my position."
Angelo was asked if he was bothered by Carimi's attitude.
"Nah," he said, "I hope he's right, now."
Carimi said he wasn't disappointed to slip to the No. 29 spot and was looking forward to working with Bears offensive line coach Mike Tice.
"I can't wait," he said. "Left tackle, right tackle, wherever the Bears need me, I'm glad to be able to be plugged in. I can't wait to play for Mike Tice."
Carimi is Jewish, and he was asked at the Combine about playing on Jewish holidays.
Basically what I did (during Yom Kippur last season) was go off Israeli time," he said. "I fasted at 12 o'clock and then had like three hours to IV up and eat. I didn't feel any different. I've already looked out 15 years from now and it doesn't happen on Sunday."
An early run on quarterbacks - four in the first 12 picks - left plenty of defensive line and offensive line talent on the board, areas where the Bears were looking to upgrade. But the available talent on both lines was quickly snapped up starting with Watt at No. 11. Three more O-linemen went from No. 22-25. But, when the next three picks were wide receiver Jonathan Baldwin, cornerback Jimmy Smith and running back Mark Ingram, the Bears were left looking at Carimi to fill their greatest area of need.
The Bears attempted a trade with the Ravens to move up to the No. 25 spot, fearful Carimi would be gone at 29, but Angelo said a procedural glitch on the Bears' part torpedoed that swap, which he apologized for to the Ravens.
"But it worked out," Angelo said. "We got our player and I feel they got their player and we moved on."
How do you like the defensive tackle rotation of Ndamukong Suh, Corey Williams, Sammie Hill and Nick Fairley?
That's how the Lions will line up next year - though not necessarily in that order - after taking Fairley, the SEC defensive player of the year for national-champion Auburn, with the 13th overall pick Thursday.
"The philosophy here was, we drafted to our strength," coach Jim Schwartz said. "We won our last four games last season and I think you could have a quiz show to name our cornerbacks in those games. But we won because we were very good up front.
"He's an impact player at an impact position."
Schwartz doesn't see any problem rotating three defensive tackles.
"We play around 130 defensive tackle snaps a game," he said. "You rotate three guys at 45 snaps a person and you are going to be really fresh. We can keep rolling in waves and waves.
"I thought Suh played too much last year. Not that he wore down but it was too many snaps. You are taking on 700 pounds of man every time you take on a double team."
"I don't think you can have too many pass rushers, defensive tackles, defensive ends," he said. "We all saw late in the year the impact our pass rush had. It allowed us to win games."
Early on, Fairley was being touted as a top-three pick. But there were lingering questions about his attitude and work ethic, and when four quarterbacks were taken in the top 12, Fairley was available.
"I don't really know why he fell, I am just really glad he did," Mayhew said.
Still on the board were defensive ends Da'Quan Bowers and Robert Quinn, as well as defensive back Prince Amukamara. Both Bowers and Quinn had health issues and Amukamara slipped to the Giants at No. 19.
"Suffice it to say, we had Nick rated higher than those other players," Schwartz said.
Mayhew said he was worried that Minnesota would take Fairley at 12 and was prepared to trade down if that happened. But neither Mayhew nor Schwartz had any worries about Fairley's character.
"He's a defensive lineman," Schwartz cracked. "Those things might fall into bonus categories when you are talking about defensive linemen being grumpy and mean. Those are good things."
The Lions brought Fairley in last week.
"He was outstanding," Mayhew said. "He will do great with us. I played with his defensive line coach (at Washington) - Tracy Rocker - and spoke very highly of the young man. I spent a lot of time with him here in our building. He's a good player and a good person. He will fit in well here."
Several scouts and coaches in evaluating Fairley said he would need to be in an environment with strong coaches and veteran leaders. The Lions feel like they can provide that with position coach Kris Kocurek, defensive coordinator Gunther Cunningham and veterans like Kyle Vanden Bosch, Cliff Avril, Corey Williams, Turk McBride and Lawrence Jackson.
"I am a hard worker," Fairley said in a short telephone interview Thursday. "I am willing to come in, work my tail off and earn everything I get."
He said he wasn't bitter or bothered by slipping to 13.
"You never know what's going to happen on draft day," he said. "For Detroit to pick me, I mean, it's a blessing. I can't wait to get to town and get this thing started."
--The Lions might not have accomplished what their fan base expected them to, but they exceeded their own hopes.
"I think we had the discipline to stick with what we intended to do, which was stay with the talent on the board," coach Jim Schwartz said. "We combined talent on the board with a plan for those players and fit in our scheme.
"We didn't end up with a lot of players but I like the quality with what we came away with. We came away with players that can make an impact on our team."
The Lions believe they got a gift when Auburn defensive tackle Nick Fairley, considered a top-five talent, fell to them at No. 13 Thursday. They added two young skill players in the second round Friday - Boise State wide receiver Titus Young and Illinois running back Mikel Leshoure, whom they traded up to get.
On Saturday they selected two developmental players - Syracuse linebacker Doug Hogue in the fifth round and South Carolina State offensive lineman Johnny Culbreath in the seventh.
"You start on Thursday feeling one way about your team and to be here now feeling even better, that's really exciting," said general manager Martin Mayhew. "I feel really great about our draft this year."
Mayhew reiterated that he had no regrets about not filling two of the team's primary needs - cornerback and outside linebacker.
"It wasn't hard for me at all," he said. "Our plan was to stick to the board and look for value. The draft is about value. I didn't feel any pressure to do anything else."
Martin said he believed the Lions would be able to upgrade the cornerback and linebacker positions either through trades or free agency, once the league settles the labor dispute.
Green Bay Packers
General manager Ted Thompson said late Thursday night he felt comfortable having the Packers end the first round of this year's draft and, thus, serve as the NFL's lead-in to the ballyhooed royal wedding in England a few hours later.
Somewhere - presumably far, far away from Westminster Abbey - Aaron Rodgers had to be feeling like a pampered prince.
The league's rising star, not three months after leading Green Bay to victory in Super Bowl XLV and earning game MVP honors to boot, stands to be well protected for the next several years. With no glaring need to address, Thompson, for a change, held his ground with the No. 32 pick and selected Mississippi State offensive tackle Derek Sherrod.
"You like to keep him safe. You certainly do," Thompson said of Rodgers, who overcame two concussions sustained in the regular season to engineer the Packers' stunning championship run in the postseason as the NFC's No. 6 seed.
The addition of Sherrod comes one year and one week after Thompson gladly took Iowa tackle Bryan Bulaga at No. 23 on the opening night of the draft.
Green Bay last picked offensive tackles in Round 1 two straight years in the midst of its back-to-back Super Bowl appearances in 1996 (John Michels) and '97 (Ross Verba). Michels' impact was brief because of recurring knee problems, and Verba didn't last much longer in Titletown.
This Packers regime, led by Thompson and head coach Mike McCarthy, is hopeful of getting significant mileage out of Bulaga and Sherrod as likely bookend tackles.
"Whoever lines up there, we've been fortunate, we've had a lot of good offensive linemen here in the past," offensive coordinator Joe Philbin said. "But, we never take it lightly. I don't know that we ever sit around and think that we've got no worries. It doesn't matter who's lining up. We'll see how it goes. The blitz and the protecting of the quarterback, I don't know that anybody ever sleeps too comfortably about that."
Green Bay moved past the insufficient dividends brought by Michels and Verba by hitting the jackpot with 2000 draft picks Chad Clifton (second round, No. 44) and Mark Tauscher (seventh round, No. 224). Clifton on the left side and Tauscher on the right side formed one of the league's elite tackle duos the better part of a decade, keeping franchise quarterback Brett Favre and successor Rodgers out of harm's way more often than not.
Bulaga's arrival last year all but signaled the changing of the guard on the outside of the offensive line. Bulaga was propped up as the heir to Clifton, who seemingly was on his last legs because of chronic knee problems to go with his advanced age.
Clifton, though, held up for the entire 2010 season as the starter at his customary spot and earned a second Pro Bowl nod. It took a season-ending shoulder injury sustained by Tauscher in Week 4 for Bulaga to crack the lineup, and he held down the spot at right tackle the rest of the way.
While both Clifton and Tauscher are under contract for next season, the likely scenario is Clifton at age 35 gets one last hurrah at his position and the soon-to-be 34-year-old Tauscher accepts a backup role or is out the door.
The 6-5, 321-pound Sherrod, the seventh offensive tackle taken in the first round Thursday, projects to be the Packers' future left tackle and will be given an opportunity to unseat Clifton. Sherrod started at left tackle his last three years at Mississippi State.
"He plays with good balance, good base. He's hardly ever off his feet," Thompson said. "He has the ability to run block, and he's also a very good pass setter. We think he has a chance to be a complete player. And, he's played against good competition (in the SEC) for three or four years."
However, Philbin cautioned that Sherrod may not be as starter-ready for the NFL as some had forecasted before the draft. The run-heavy system in which he played in college is a far cry from the Packers' pass-heavy attack that demands an able bodyguard for Rodgers' blind side.
"We can't wait to get our hands on him," Philbin said. "But, I think he certainly shows the athletic ability to be able to compete."
As long as Clifton is fine physically for another season, the Packers should be able to let Sherrod sit back and develop for a season. Of course, that would be predicated on Bulaga remaining at right tackle, a scenario to which Philbin didn't commit.
For his part, Sherrod, whose sharp mind is underscored by a 3.54 grade-point average and business degree he earned before his senior season, already knew moments after hearing his name called as the last pick of the draft's opening night what is expected of him.
"I'm definitely looking forward to meeting Aaron Rodgers," Sherrod said. "I'm basically there to protect him. That's what I do. I go in and work hard, make sure that nobody hits the quarterback and blow the defender off the ball when it's a run play."
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