NFC North Draft Report

The Bears feel they added speed, the Lions feel they are primed for a much better season and the Packers are receiving heavy criticism for their offseason moves. Welcome to the post-draft version of Monday Morning Quarterback.


Because of a late-season slump, quarterback Kyle Orton expected he'd slip on most draft boards, but not all the way to the second day, when the Bears finally took him fifth in the fourth round, 106th overall.

"I thought I would slide maybe to the third round at the latest, and I really thought I would go somewhere in the second," said Orton, who threw for 8,232 yards the past three seasons. "I'm really not too worried about it. I love the fact that I'm playing for the Bears, and I have known (offensive coordinator) Ron Turner for a while, since he coached at Illinois."

Orton was asked what he did Saturday night after failing to hear his name called.

"Went to bed," he said.

And he said he slept OK.

"Throughout this entire process, I didn't really worry what round I was going to go in," he said. "I just wanted to get with the right team and get a locker and get a football number and go play some football. That's what happened finally."

The 6-foot-4, 233-pound Orton has a much stronger arm than the Bears' fifth-round pick a year ago, Craig Krenzel. He becomes a long shot to make the roster this season, especially after choosing not to get some game experience by playing in NFL Europe.

"I'm not going to say for sure that's going to happen," Turner said. "We'll see how it unfolds, but I know that Kyle's got a lot of talent. I know the adjustments he can make, and I know the plays he can make and I know how it was trying to prepare for him."

DRAFT REVIEW — It will be months if not years before the Bears can say if they became a better team through this year's draft, but they definitely became faster.

And that was one of their goals.

G.M. Jerry Angelo used the fourth overall pick on Cedric Benson to immediately upgrade the run game, which was the immediate goal.

But the Bears got a couple other players who can fly in hopes of upgrading a grounded air attack. They might not make the immediate impact that the Bears expect from Benson, but it's clear the Bears want to become a team that can make big plays on offense.

"We didn't have people who, going into this draft, that we felt scared (opponents)," Bears director of college scouting Greg Gabriel said.

But with wide receivers Mark Bradley (second-round) and Airese Currie (fifth round), the Bears have enough speed to frighten most defenses if Benson can't run through them.

"With Mark Bradley, with Benson, with (Currie), we've got people who are adding an element of speed," Gabriel said.

Last season that dimension was missing from the Bears' offense, a major reason why it was the least productive unit in the NFL. The Bears were last in the NFL in passing yards, total yards and points. Only rookie wide receiver Bernard Berrian was much of a threat to stretch the field, but he caught just 15 passes.

Bradley's size-speed combination is unique to the Bears. He runs a 4.43 40, but Currie may be even more of a deep threat. He was an all-America track athlete at Clemson, and he was also the Tigers' go-to target last season with 61 receptions for 868 yards.

"We're trying to get fast; we're trying to get playmakers," Gabriel said. "He made plays at Clemson. When you put on the tape, you see the speed, and that's the important thing for us."

It was especially important on offense, which was the Bears' focus throughout the weekend. Even though they've got a glut of young quarterbacks in different stages of development currently under contract, the Bears added Purdue's Kyle Orton to the mix. Orton began last season as one of the leading Heisman Trophy candidates, but he and the Boilermakers slumped badly, especially in an Oct. 30 loss to Northwestern.

"Going into the fall, a lot of people were saying, ‘Heisman Trophy candidate, first-round draft choice, maybe worst-case scenario a second,' and then he's there in the fourth round," Gabriel said. "You have to take him. He was too good; he was too productive. He was just too good to leave go."

The Bears finally looked at defense in the final hours Sunday, adding safety Chris Harris from Louisiana-Monroe in the sixth round and linebacker Rodriques Wilson in the seventh round. Neither player is expected to do much more this year than help on special teams, but defensive coordinator Ron Rivera said his unit will be helped by Benson's presence.

"When I was at Philadelphia, they did a study, and they found that if the offense runs the ball four or five more times that accounts for about 2 1/2 more minutes that the defense (isn't) on the field," Rivera said. "When you've got a ground-control offense, they're grinding the ball out, they're crushing the other team, and it keeps the defense off the field. It keeps them fresh."

If the Bears' offense isn't crushing opponents this season, it hopes to have the ability to fly past them.

BEST PICK: Cedric Benson should be the Bears' featured ball carrier by opening day, even though coach Lovie Smith said incumbent Thomas Jones is currently the starter. Jones rushed for a team-best 948 yards last season and caught a team-high 56 passes, but if Jones isn't soon playing behind Benson as the third-down back and change-of-pace guy, then the Bears made a bad draft choice. Benson is the workhorse, between-the-tackles, move-the-chains type of runner that Ron Turner's offense needs. G.M. Jerry Angelo thought enough of him to use the fourth overall pick on him, even though Jones was a productive player last season.

COULD SURPRISE: Airese Currie. The fifth-round pick from Clemson is not a track guy playing football. He was in the Tigers' program all four years and emerged last season as their go-to receiver with 671 catches for 868 yards. The Bears desperately want to become a team capable of quick-strike scores from anywhere on the field, and Curie is an all-America sprinter who has run under 10.3 in the 100 meters several times. He has inconsistent hands, but if he can get on the field, he'll benefit from the attention that opponents are expected to put on veteran Muhsin Muhammad.

A closer look at the Bears' picks:

Round 1/4 — Cedric Benson, RB, 5-10 1/2, 223, Texas

Of the top three college runners, Benson is the best fit for new offensive coordinator Ron Turner's scheme, which values toughness and productivity between the tackles. Powerful, tackle-breaking runner whose 5,540 rushing yards at Texas are sixth most in NCAA history. His 64 rushing touchdowns are third most in NCAA history. Bears don't believe two misdemeanor arrests are indicative of his character. Should be the Bears' featured ball carrier soon. Workhorse carried the ball 1,112 times at Texas. Rushed for 1,053 yards on 228 carries as a freshman, 1,293 yards on 305 carries as a sophomore, 1,360 yards on 258 carries as a junior and 1,834 yards on 326 carries last season. Drafted in the 12th round by the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2001 and played two summers as an outfielder in the low minors.

Round 2/39 — Mark Bradley, WR, 6-1 1/2, 201, Oklahoma

Tremendous athlete who high-jumped 7 feet, 4 inches in high school and long jumped 24 feet, 7 1/2 inches. Runs a 4.43 40-yard dash and is a legitimate deep threat and can turn a short pass into a long TD. Transferred after playing two years at Arkansas-Pine Bluff, where he suffered a torn ACL in the fifth game. Moved to cornerback when he transferred to Oklahoma but sat out 2002 season because of transfer rules. Moved back to wide receiver but didn't see much playing time until last season, when he caught 23 passes for 491 yards, 7 touchdowns and 21.3 yards per catch. Outstanding special-teams player in kick coverage and as a return man. Averaged 35.3 yards on 7 kickoff returns as a junior. Will make an impact immediately on special teams but is a project at wide receiver where he is not a quick study and has had limited production despite rare athletic ability.

Round 4/106 — Kyle Orton, QB, 6-4, 233, Purdue

Put up prolific numbers last season, completing 236 of 389 passes for 3,009 yards and 31 touchdowns with just 5 interceptions. But also had some injuries and bad games, including vs. Northwestern, when he was benched. Had one of the strongest arms at the Combine and studies film but doesn't do much work in the weight room. Played in wide-open shotgun offense, which inflated his numbers and may delay his transition to the NFL, where he'll be taking snaps from under center. Has very good size but may lack mental toughness and leadership qualities.

Round 5/140 — Airese Currie, WR, 5-10 1/2, 186, Clemson

Blazing speed. High school state camp at 200 and 400 meters. Has run 100 meters in under 10.3 seconds. All-America track performer and all-ACC at 60 meters, 100, 200 and 4X100. Had foot surgery on March 22 for a stress fracture but should be ready to play several weeks before the start of training camp in late July. Lacks great hands but was Clemson's go-to receiver last year and caught 61 passes for 868 yards, although he had just 2 TDs. Caught 43 passes for 560 yards and 4 TDs in ‘03. Is not just a track guy playing football, having done both all four years in college.

Round 6/181 — Chris Harris, S, 6-1 1/2, 214, Louisiana-Monroe

Four-year starter and team captain last season. Physical player with good size but mediocre speed. Played free and strong safety and made all the coverage calls in the secondary. Had 14 career interceptions, including 7 last season. Much better playing close to the line of scrimmage because of his hitting ability. Not as effective in coverage but physical style could make him a factor on special teams.

Round 7/220 — Rodriques Wilson, OLB-FS, 6-2, 230, South Carolina

Enrolled as a quarterback and switched to wide receiver, which he played as a freshman. Moved to defense in ‘02 and played outside linebacker and safety. Was a starter at safety in ‘03 but missed four games with cracked ribs and a sprained ankle. Started all 11 games last season at linebacker and had 68 tackles and 3 sacks. Has enough size to project to LB in the NFL, but is still young at the position and will need a lot of reps. Should contribute on special teams until then.


Through five drafts, Lions president Matt Millen has been working to put together a younger, faster team and it appears he has finally succeeded.

The Lions might not be ready for 12-4 but it will be surprising if they are not at least respectable and — they would prefer — competitive in the NFC North.

Wide receiver Mike Williams, the first-round pick, is expected to line up as the third receiver behind Charles Rogers and Roy Williams.

Defensive tackle Shaun Cody, the second-round pick, is expected to play a significant role in the defensive line rotation, probably as an inside rusher on passing downs.

After seasons of 2-14, 3-13, 5-11 and 6-10, the Lions might finally be ready to win more games than they lose.

DRAFT REVIEW — The Lions didn't have the flash of the 2004 draft - when they landed wide receiver Roy Williams and running back Kevin Jones in the first round — but president Matt Millen might have applied the finishing touches to a team capable of competing in the NFC North.

The idea going into the draft was to upgrade the defense, preferably with an edge pass rusher, a cornerback and depth.

What Millen got was a starting caliber wide receiver (Mike Williams of USC), a defensive tackle with inside pass rush ability (Shaun Cody of USC), a third-round cornerback with speed (Stanley Wilson), a developmental quarterback (Dan Orlovsky of Connecticut) and a couple of players he believes will bring special skills to the defense (pass rushing defensive end Bill Swancutt of Oregon State and outside linebacker/defensive end Johnathan Goddard of Marshall).

Despite the lack of glitz, the Lions feel they improved in two days of drafting.

Williams, the USC receiver who sat out the 2004 season after he and Ohio State running back Maurice Clarett were shut out of the draft a year ago, was the Lions' surprise pick of the draft.

Millen and coach Steve Mariucci had their sights set on a pass rusher with the No. 10 pick in the draft but when Williams was still there on their draft board, they felt they simply couldn't afford to let him slip by.

"We've been talking about helping out our defense," Mariucci said. "Well, a guy that can score points certainly helps your defense in many ways. Thirty touchdowns (at USC) is very, very productive."

Millen believes the 6-foot-5, 229-pound Williams — playing in the slot between Roy Williams and Charles Rogers — will create major problems for opposing defenses and give Lions quarterback Joey Harrington yet another sure-handed receiver.

The Lions got to their true defensive player by trading up four slots in the second round to get Cody. Although they say they see him as capable of playing both tackle and end, Cody spent the majority of his USC career playing inside and that's where he feels most comfortable.

It is likely Cody will join the Lions defensive line rotation, working primarily inside where he stands to benefit from the double teams applied to Pro Bowl defensive tackle Shaun Rogers.

Wilson, who was timed at 4.38 in the 40, will get a chance to compete for the nickel back position in the Lions defensive secondary.

With just two quarterbacks — Harrington and Jeff Garcia — on the roster, the Lions were looking for a player they could develop for future value. Orlovsky doesn't fit the mold of a mobile West Coast offense quarterback but he showed them enough to convince Millen to give up a fourth-round pick in 2006 to New England to get him in the fifth round.

BEST PICK: Wide receiver wasn't the Lions' most pressing need but Mike Williams of USC was just too good to pass when he was still available at No. 10 in the first round. With Mike Williams joining Roy Williams and Charles Rogers in the three-wide offense, the Lions have potentially one of the NFL's most dangerous sets of receivers.

COULD SURPRISE: Cornerback Stanley Wilson was best known for his speed coming into the draft. Scouts feel his 4.38-second time in the 40 translates into excellent playing time and he is rated a solid cover corner in man defenses. Although Wilson was rated well below the top three of Antrel Rolle, Adam Jones and Carlos Rogers, he improved noticeably in his senior season at Stanford and the Lions feel he could continue his improvement in their nickel defense.

A closer look at the Lions' picks:

Round 1/10 — Mike Williams, WR, 6-5, 229, USC

Has been compared by some NFL scouts to Cris Carter. Sure-handed, very good in the red zone, where the Lions did not fare well last season. Caught 30 touchdown passes in 15 starts at Southern Cal and the Lions don't feel he lost anything by sitting out the 2004 season after getting caught up in the Maurice Clarett snafu. Has excellent hands and uses his body well to ward off defenders. Only thing he lacks is great speed but he's not a slug. Great size and strength should make him a terror lining up in the slot, with Charles Rogers and Roy Williams outside.

Round 2/37 — Shaun Cody, DT/E, 6-4, 293, USC

Although he played defensive tackle for virtually his entire career at USC and says he feels most comfortable playing inside, the Lions see him as a capable of playing outside also. Got scouts' attention with a strong showing at the Senior Bowl and Lions went after him when he slid to the second round. Is considered quick and explosive, gets through the gaps well. Good inside rusher that might benefit from the double teams that Lions Pro Bowl DT Shaun Rogers will get playing beside him in passing downs. Is quick off the ball and pursues well. Doesn't give the Lions the speed coming off the edge they might have hoped for and doesn't overpower double teams.

Round 3/72 — Stanley Wilson, CB, 6-0, 185, Stanford

Has speed to burn. Ran the 100 meters in 10.46 seconds and the 200 meters in 21.4 seconds as personal bests during four years of track at Stanford. Ran the 40 in 4.38 seconds and scouts say his speed translates into good playing speed. Has natural athletic ability, good hips and will stay on a receiver's hip. Played his best football as a senior and will continue to improve. Still has to develop coverage awareness and route recognition, should play run support more aggressively and improve tackling. Son of former Cincinnati Bengals fullback Stanley Wilson, who was scratched from the lineup in Super Bowl XXIII with drug problems.

Round 5/145 — Dan Orlovsky, QB, 6-5, 225, Connecticut.

Old-fashioned, pro-style quarterback who doesn't have the mobility generally associated with West Coast offense quarterbacks but the Lions see him as a player who can be developed at No. 3 behind Joey Harrington and Jeff Garcia. Size is an asset. Adequate arm with good short-range accuracy. Very poised and competitive, good leadership qualities and prepares meticulously. Threw two touchdown passes against Toledo in Connecticut's Motor City Bowl victory but hurt himself with erratic play at the Senior Bowl and the combine.

Round 6/184 — Bill Swancutt, DE, 6-4, 270, Oregon State.

A natural pass rusher who had 11 1/2 sacks in his final season at Oregon State but scouts apparently question whether a college-level overachiever can be as effective in the NFL. A dedicated worker with a non-stop motor. Has long arms, locates the ball quickly and fights to get there. Has good playing speed, long arms and big hands. Impressed in the Senior Bowl against solid competition. Lacks initial quickness and is not naturally athletic. Doesn't have the bulk to hold his ground at the point of attack against the run.

Round 6/206 — Johnathan Goddard, OLB/DE, 6-0, 238 pounds, Marshall

Although Goddard is considered a tweener by many, the Lions like his speed and his feel for the game. Led the nation as a senior last fall with 16 quarterback sacks and 28 1/2 stops behind the line of scrimmage. Does not have great playing strength or leverage but makes up for it with a great motor. Plays with effort and runs plays down with a good first step.


Most general managers and coaches in the NFL of today are under so much pressure to win right now that they use the draft to plug needs and let someone else worry about tomorrow.

er to fire coach Mike Sherman, who is i
Thus, Thompson was able to think more about the future than the present with his three premium draft choices.

Quarterback Aaron Rodgers of California will apprentice behind Brett Favre in 2005 and for who knows how many more years.

Safety Nick Collins, the first of two second-round choices, hails from the Division I-AA ranks at Bethune-Cookman and no doubt will have a hard time getting on the field as a rookie because of his mental shortcomings.

And wide receiver Terrence Murphy of Texas A&M, the other second-round selection, enters as No. 4 behind Javon Walker, Donald Driver and Robert Ferguson.

The Packers traded their third-round pick (No. 89) to Carolina for two fourth-round choices (Nos. 115 and 126). Using the trade value chart, Green Bay got the short end of the deal because the Panthers received 145 points compared to 110 for the Packers.

Sherman was asked how the three choices will help the Packers win next season.

"I do think we helped our safety position, helped our dime package and helped our return game," he said.

OK. But the Packers' primary rival, the Minnesota Vikings, have added wide receivers Troy Williamson and Travis Taylor, guard Marcus Johnson, defensive end Erasmus James, nose tackle Pat Williams, linebackers Napoleon Harris and Sam Cowart, cornerback-safety Dustin Fox, cornerback Fred Smoot and safety Darren Sharper during the offseason. They also get back from injured reserve tight end Jim Kleinsasser and right tackle Mike Rosenthal.

The balance of power in the NFC North might be tilting 270 miles west of Green Bay.

For his part, Thompson indicated that the selection of Rodgers was automatic, but Sherman surely didn't.

"I wouldn't say it was a no-brainer," he said. "The philosophy going in was to take the best player for the value. He was the player with value at that time so that was the pick."

With overwhelming needs in the defensive line and at linebacker, why did the Packers deem it necessary to take a wide receiver-kickoff returner who has returned just one punt in his career?

"It's pretty much the Ron Wolf philosophy," Sherman replied. "We had him rated as the highest player. He had a particular grade that warranted taking him at that point."

The Packers haven't had a losing season since 1991, the year before Wolf and Brett Favre arrived. After the decisions Saturday, they are far better prepared to handle the retirement of Favre but face a struggle to remain a contender next season.

Rodgers, 6-2 and 223, appeared to be a top-5 pick based mainly on the value of the position but when running backs and wide receivers dominated early no team thought enough of him to take him or trade up for him.

"I really liked the way he played the game," Thompson said. "It really comes down to something almost as simple as that. He knows what's going on around him. He has a really good feel in the pocket."

Thompson labeled Rodgers' arm strength as average, said his tough and accuracy were very good and suggested that his ability to make plays on the move was adequate.

Rodgers comes highly prepared after spending the last two seasons under Golden Bears coach Jeff Tedford. However, most of Tedford's quarterbacks, including Akili Smith, Joey Harrington, Trent Dilfer and Kyle Boller, have been disappointments in the NFL.

"I think it's coincidence or something," Thompson said. "We actually asked Aaron at (the combine) about that. He said he's better than all those guys. I don't think that should necessarily be a burden that Aaron Rodgers has to carry."

What Rodgers will have to deal with is the palpable pressure of being ordained No. 4's heir apparent.

"I think we shouldn't call him that," Thompson said. "He'll have a chance to be the quarterback that plays after Brett Favre. There is no Brett Favre heir apparent. He has to be Aaron Rodgers and play quarterback for the Packers when his time comes."

Collins, 5-11 and 201, started one season at free safety and one season at strong safety in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference but then caught the attention of the Packers with his man-to-man coverage ability playing cornerback at the Senior Bowl.

"He could actually play corner or in the dime," Sherman said. "He has excellent skills in coverage, which separates him from a lot of the other safeties. He's also packed pretty solid and lays a heavy punch."

Some other teams rated Collins as a second-day selection primarily due to concerns about his mental aptitude. The Packers dispatched new secondary coach Joe Baker to determine if Collins could learn.

"Joe felt he could learn our defense and get on the field," Sherman said.

Still, is it possible that a raw athlete with scores of just 10 and 14 on the Wonderlic intelligence test could start as a rookie on a team desperate for not one but two starting safeties?

"It will be a challenge for him learning the defense," Sherman said. "There will be challenges from a mental standpoint. He's got speed. He's got a vertical jump (40 inches). He has good hands. He has good downhill range."

Murphy, 6-1 and 202, is a former high-school quarterback who started for three seasons at a school that produced Ferguson and once had Sherman on its staff. In 45 games, including 29 starts, he caught a school-record 172 passes for a 15.1-yard average and just 10 touchdowns.

"He's a fourth receiver that can also return kickoffs and possibly punts," Sherman said. "He has excellent speed and explosion. He had a couple fumbles this year. We need to work on that."

BEST PICK: Quarterback Aaron Rodgers gives the Packers a chance to remain competitive when Brett Favre retires. He can apprentice under Favre for however many years it takes and then take over, if he's capable. Rodgers is an extremely hard worker. He has an average to slightly above arm. He is accurate and throws with good touch. Before the selection, the Packers had Craig Nall and J.T. O'Sullivan. It was a grim situation. Some scouts question Rodgers' delivery and how more he can improve. Is he maxed out? It's a good question. He has given his all on a circuitous journey from a junior college. But there's nothing in Rodgers' physical or mental makeup to think that he can't be an effective starter.

COULD SURPRISE: Linebacker Brady Poppinga is an up the field pass rusher that the Packers hope to pair with Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila on passing downs. Last year, they tried and failed with R-Kal Truluck. Two years ago, it was Chukie Nwokorie down the stretch. Neither did much. Poppinga runs 4.6 and gives great effort. He will be used at strong-side linebacker in the base defense but figures to be a project there. The Packers would have drafted edge rushers such as Erasmus James, Demarcus Ware, Shawne Merriman and even Marcus Spears in the first. Failing that, they didn't have another end in the first. Poppinga was the first edge rusher that was selected and will get a very good look.

A closer look at the Packers' picks:

Round 1/24 — Aaron Rodgers, QB, 6-2, 223, California

Not many people in the NFL could believe it when Rodgers fell out of the top five, then the top 10 and finally the top 20. Would his free-fall take him in the second round? The Packers stopped his slide, selecting their first round in the first round since Rich Campbell in 1981. Oops. The Packers better hope he doesn't turn out like Campbell, who never advanced past third string in four seasons. Rodgers will take his time learning under Brett Favre. When Favre retires, Rodgers will have the task of replacing him.

Round 2/51 — Nick Collins, S, 5-11, 201, Bethune-Cookman

The Packers made a big-time reach into the ranks of Division I-AA for a player from Bethune-Cookman that they hope develops like another BCC second-round pick, cornerback Rashean Mathis of Jacksonville. GM Ted Thompson says Collins was the best player on their board at the time of the pick. He is a strong athlete with a 4.37 clocking in the 40 but scored just 10 and later 14 on the Wonderlic and might struggle picking up an NFL system.

Round 2/58 — Terrence Murphy, WR, 6-1, 202, Texas A&M

Murphy was the 10th receiver selected. The Packers took him over Vincent Jackson and Courtney Roby. He is a size-speed prospect that dropped too many and scored merely 10 touchdowns in four seasons. He averaged 24.6 on kickoff returns but returned just one punt in his career. The Packers are trying to get rid of return specialist Antonio Chatman and view Murphy as a strong candidate to handle all the returning. For the time being, he is the No. 4 receiver behind Javon Walker, Donald Driver and Robert Ferguson.

Round 4/115 — Marviel Underwood, S, 5-10 1 /2, 205, San Diego State

A three-year starter who could compete for playing time immediately with Collins. He runs the 40 in 4.47. On third down, he covered receivers out of the slot. On the short side but the Packers say he's physical.

Round 4/125 — Brady Poppinga, LB, 6-3, 259, Brigham Young

Poppinga played outside linebacker as a senior after having been a D-end earlier in his career. His forte is rushing the passer. A relentless player with 4.60 speed. The Packers need a speed rusher opposite Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila and Poppinga will get a long look along with R-Kal Truluck.

Round 5/143 — Junius Coston, G, 6-3 1 /2, 310, North Carolina A&T

Coston played center and guard at the Division I-AA school but will start out at guard in Green Bay. The Packers regard him as a terrific athlete with speed and quic

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