NFC North Notes

The newest veteran Bear brought some unwanted baggage with him, the Lions are happy with their defensive-minded draft, and the Packers are happy to have sent Javon Walker packing. Get those stories and a team-by-team draft review from the Vikings' division rivals.

CHICAGO BEARS

The Bears officially procured their nickel cornerback on the Monday before the draft, but he'll arrive in Chicago with some recently acquired and unwanted baggage.

When the Panthers declined to match the $21 million offer sheet the Bears presented to restricted free agent Ricky Manning Jr. eight dyas before the draft, he became theirs. But two days later the 25-year-old Manning was arrested and charged with assault with a deadly weapon following a fight at a Denny's restaurant that left a man unconscious. The victim was allegedly hit in the face by Manning and four or five companions in the Westwood section of Los Angeles. He was also kicked by some of the assailants, which led to the "deadly weapon," charge.

In a conference call with Chicago-area media Manning said he could not talk about the case until it was resolved. But he said he was concerned that he was getting off on the wrong foot with the organization that will pay him $7 million in bonus money this year.

"I was pretty down this morning just because of the situation, period," he said. "But when I found out I was a Chicago Bear, it kind of brought a little light to the day. I can't worry about that, I just have to focus with what is at hand. I can't let something like this let me have a bad off-season or a bad start to a football career in Chicago."

Manning had a good career in Carolina. But the Panthers never seriously considered matching the Bears' offer, since they already have two standout cornerbacks in Ken Lucas and Chris Gamble.

Manning will also be the Bears' No. 3 corner behind starters Nate Vasher and Charles Tillman, but he isn't resigning himself to being a backup.

"I don't plan on staying at nickel for the rest of my career," the 5-foot-8, 185-pound Manning said.. "But I'm glad I had the year I had because it gave me more versatility. I can play inside. It's a whole different world on the inside and I'm glad I had an opportunity to learn that. I think it is only going to help my career."

Manning, who started 23 games from 2003-04, is one of the shorter players in the NFL, but he said that hasn't hindered his play and that he'll fit nicely in the Bears Cover 2 scheme.

"I'm a physical corner," he said. "I love to come up and tackle. I love to come up on receivers and get in their face a reroute them."

Manning has 9 career interceptions in his three-year NFL career, plus 4 more in the 2003 postseason, when he was named NFL defensive player of the week twice.

DRAFT REVIEW

The Bears bestowed their first five draft picks on a defense that allowed the fewest points in the league last season, while ignoring an offense that was No. 29 in yards.

"I'm surprised," a happy defensive coordinator Ron Rivera said. "I hit for the cycle. I got a D-lineman, I got a linebacker, I got a safety, and I got a corner. We're 4-for-4."

On Sunday the Bears added Arizona State linebacker Jamar Williams in the fourth round (120th overall) and then made it 5-for-5 with Alabama defensive end Mark Anderson in the fifth round (159th). They joined second-round defensive backs Danieal Manning and Devin Hester and third-round defensive tackle Dusty Dvoracek.

Not until the 195th pick did the Bears look to offense, adding Oklahoma FB J.D. Runnels and then five picks later taking Penn State guard Tyler Reed.

"Last year we took all offense until the last two picks, so it's the defense's turn," Bears director of college scouting Greg Gabriel said in jest. "No, we're (just) going by the board."

Tight end was considered the biggest team need, and this was one of the deepest groups at that position in the last 10 years, but the Bears were shut out.

"The tight ends are gone," Gabriel said after the fifth round. "You can't create one."

Gabriel didn't regret missing out on the nine tight ends that were grabbed in the first 98 picks.

"You have to go with value," he said. "You're not going to stretch to take a player. If you do, you're making a mistake, and it comes back to haunt you.

"We thought (we'd get a tight end). We hoped we would get one somewhere along the way, but you have to take value. Every time we were drafting, there was better value at another position. And the guys we've gotten so far are all good football players that are going to make this team and help us win."

The Bears will continue seeking tight end help in the off-season after striking out in the draft.

"We had a couple guys in mind," general manager Jerry Angelo said. "Unfortunately it didn't work out. One went about seven or eight picks before we were prepared to take him."

Notre Dame's highly regarded tight end Anthony Fasano went to the Rams 53rd overall, four spots before the Bears took Hester. Colorado tight end Joe Klopfenstein went 46th to the Cardinals, four picks after Manning.

"Sometimes it goes that way," Angelo said. "But we have the off-season. We'll continue to look."


A closer look at the Bears' picks:

Round 2/42 — Danieal Manning, S-RS, 5-10 3/4, 202, Abilene Christian

Ran 4.46 at the Scouting Combine and did 17 reps in the 225-pound bench press. Had a 39-inch vertical jump and 10-3 broad jump. Has very good size-speed combination and might be able to play CB in NFL although he was a SS in college.

Is still raw in many areas of technique, especially reading routes and decision making, but he showed at the East-West Shrine Game he could cover Division-I players and was not intimidated by the big-name receivers. Has solid man coverage skills and the closing burst. Also a top-notch return man who averaged over 30 yards on kickoffs for his career and 22 yards on punt returns in 2004.

Round 2/57 — Devin Hester, CB-RS, 5-10 3/4, 190, Miami

Ran 4.36 40 at pro day and was one of the most electrifying return men in college. Never established himself at a true position but played tailback, cornerback, nickel back and some wide receiver. A threat to score every time he touches the ball. Intercepted 5 passes despite little playing time and practice at cornerback. One of the fastest and quickest players in the draft but isn't a quick study and could require a lot of practice reps. Might struggle to contribute as a defensive back but will be an immediate-impact return man. Would have benefited greatly by returning for his senior season and refining his technique but wanted to help family out financially.

Round 3/73 — Dusty Dvoracek, DT, 6-2 3/4, 306, Oklahoma

Overcame alcohol-related problems resulting in a suspension during 2004 to come back and play well in ‘05 despite suffering a torn biceps muscle in the spring. Extremely strong, hard working and intelligent. Had one of the highest Wonderlic score at the Scouting Combine. A powerful player who plays hurt and will battle every down. Ran a 5.06 40 and had an impressive 34-inch vertical. Very competitive but played in a rotation so may not have great endurance or be able to play every down. Played two seasons at Oklahoma with Bears DT Tommie Harris.

Round 4/120 — Jamar Williams, LB, 6-0 1/2, 236, Arizona State

Three-year starter with 8 career interceptions and 25 tackles for loss. Has played on the strong side and weak side. Jack of all trades, master of none. Has intelligence, intangibles, instincts and a 4.64 40-time.

Round 5/159 — Mark Anderson, DE, 6-4 1/4, 254, Alabama

Starter for 2 1/2 years who shows some pass-rush ability and had 7 1/2 sacks last season and 25 tackles for loss over past two seasons. Great testing athlete with a 4.65 40 and 42-inch vertical jump. Situational pass rusher who isn't big enough to play every down.

Round 6/195 — J.D. Runnels, FB, 5-11, 240, Oklahoma

Decent blocker who is more of a finesse fullback rather than a bruiser who can take on linebackers, but he has soft hands and is a reliable pass catcher, which makes him a good fit on the Bears' offense. Has not been used as a ball carrier.

Round 6/200 — Tyler Reed, OG, 6-4, 307, Penn State

Three-year starter at right guard with decent size and strength but limited mobility. Started 29 games. Tough, hard-nosed player who is better as a run blocker than a pass protector.


DETROIT LIONS

The Lions traded the glitz of recent drafts for the opportunity to fill specific needs, and they feel they accomplished their mission.

Linebacker Ernie Sims, the first-round pick, is likely to be lining up as the starting weak-side linebacker when the Lions open the season September 10 against NFC champion Seattle, and there is a good chance second-round pick Daniel Bullocks will be the starting free safety.

In addition, they landed two offensive linemen — Jonathan Scott of Texas and Fred Matua of Southern California — who will get a chance to compete for the left guard job, and they fortified their secondary by taking Alton (Dee) McCann in the sixth round.

Lions president Matt Millen also drafted running back Brian Calhoun in the third round. He is expected to compete with Artose Pinner for the final running back spot on the roster. With their supplemental pick in the seventh round, the Lions landed inside linebacker Anthony Cannon, giving them another body at linebacker and a special teams candidate.

The focus on defensive players with the first two picks was a major change from recent years, when Millen spent his first-round picks on offensive playmakers, including quarterback Joey Harrington, running back Kevin Jones and three wide receivers — Roy Williams, Charles Rogers and Mike Williams.

There was little doubt the direction the Lions would take in this year's draft. They have put the offensive playmakers in the hands of offensive coordinator Mike Martz and turned their attention to drafting players who could make an immediate contribution to coach Rod Marinelli's defense.

Nobody was happier about the decision to draft four defenders than defensive coordinator Donnie Henderson.

"When the head coach is an offensive guy, they usually bring in offensive players," Henderson said. "When the head coach is a defensive guy, we bring in defensive players. It depends on who the guy is.

"Our value right now, we've got a defensive staff, a defensive head coach (and) we'd like to bring in some defensive players."


A closer look at the Lions' picks:

Round 1/9 — Ernie Sims, LB, 5-111/2, 221, Florida State

Coach Rod Marinelli compares Sims' style to that of Tampa Bay OLB Derrick Brooks — tough, physical and extremely aggressive. A natural leader. With his ability to cover ground and deliver a blow, it would be a surprise if he's not the starting weak side linebacker when the Lions open the season Sept. 10. A little short but not undersized. Has to learn to play under control and won't be able to freelance as he did occasionally in college. Has great bloodlines — his father played football at FSU and his mother was an All-America sprinter at FSU.

Round 2/40 — Daniel Bullocks, FS, 6-01/2, 212, Nebraska

Twin brother of Josh, who came out a year ago and was drafted by New Orleans. Can play both FS and SS but the Lions will break him in at FS, where he is expected to compete with Terrence Holt for a starting job. Considered an instinctive player, aggressive but still disciplined, he will sacrifice his body to make plays. Tough and physical, always around the ball though he does not have natural hands and will miss some interception opportunities. A good special teams player and the Lions say he is a sure tackler.

Round 3/74 — Brian Calhoun, RB, 5-91/4, 194, Wisconsin

Came out after a productive junior season in which he gained 1,636 yards and scored 22 touchdowns, despite tailing off down the stretch. He averaged roughly 3 yards per carry against Purdue, 2 yards against Penn State and 1 yard against Iowa. Not great size but runs hard, has good vision and has an extra gear to get outside and go the distance. Good hands and runs good routes, which makes him a multipurpose threat. Started his career at Colorado, playing in 26 games in his first two seasons before transferring to Wisconsin and sitting out the 2004 season.

Round 5/141 — Jonathan Scott, T, 6-6 3/8, 315, Texas

Gifted athlete who apparently has not come close to living up to his potential. Must get stronger and tougher, and must improve his technique. Does not play with power and can get hammered in the hole. Nevertheless, the Lions feel he has a definite upside. Has good natural athletic ability, moves well in space and has excellent feet. Played primarily at left tackle at Texas and will probably work there initially with the Lions, but they're hoping to test him inside, probably at left guard where they need help.

Round 6/179 — Alton (Dee) McCann, CB, 5-111/4, 197, West Virginia

A strong, physical cornerback who can knock receivers around and punish them after the catch. Has enough speed to cover deep throws and has good hands (four interceptions last season). Tough, plays with the aggressive attitude Lions coach Rod Marinelli wants. A good leaper but at times will mistime his jumps. A willing hitter on run support.

Round 7/217 — Fred Matua, G-C, 6-2 3/8, 306, USC

A guard who has played center. Has the intangibles coach Rod Marinelli likes — he's tough, nasty and will play hurt — and offensive line coach Larry Beightol believes he can develop. Emotional player who enjoys the game and has strong hands. Able to pull and trap, can slide in pass protection and has a quick first step. Has short arms, is not terrific athletically and is a waist-bender. Will have to firm up a soft body and learn to sink his hips. Uncles Titus and Navy Tuiasosopo both played in the NFL as offensive linemen.

Round 7/247 — Anthony Cannon, ILB, 5-11, 220, Tulane

Considered a high-motor player, willing to work. Had good range in a 3-4 defense, effective in pursuit, was disciplined in coverage and got to the ball well. Was not strong at the point of attack, however, and could be swallowed up by blocks. Too often was out of control going to the ball but could contribute on special teams in the NFL.


GREEN BAY PACKERS

Once quarterback Brett Favre informed general manager Ted Thompson and coach Mike McCarthy, "I'm in," it was only a matter of time before the Packers parted with Pro Bowl wide receiver Javon Walker.

Green Bay granted the disgruntled Walker his wish of playing for another team when it traded him to Denver during the first day of the NFL draft on Saturday. The Packers received a second-round pick, which, in turn, they dealt to Atlanta for a selection later in the second round and a third-round choice, which was swapped in another trade for second-day picks.

"I hope the message is clear, because that's a situation that was created some time ago, and it needed to end. And it ended (Saturday)," McCarthy said. "We got fair market value for the young man. Best of luck to him as he goes on to Denver. But those types of situations cannot occur."

Walker vowed earlier in the off-season that he would retire before playing for the Packers again. His animosity toward the team that made him its first-round draft choice in 2002 mostly stemmed from its unwillingness to renegotiate his original contract, which expires after next season. Walker lobbied for an extension last off-season, and when rebuffed by the team, he held out the entire off-season before showing up for the start of training camp.

Favre was outspoken last summer about Walker's holdout, which caused a rift between the two standouts that came to light in caustic comments made by the receiver's stepfather in March.

Favre called Thompson and McCarthy on April 25 to put an end to the big mystery of this off-season, saying he would return for another season. The Packers then gave Walker permission to seek a trade suitor.

Walker, who missed all but the first game of last season with a knee injury, reportedly underwent physical examinations with Denver, New Orleans and Philadelphia in the days leading up to the draft. New England also had interest.

The Packers originally tried to get a first-round pick for Walker, but accepted the second-rounder from Denver.

"Obviously, the Packers got a draft pick, and Javon got peace of mind by having a fresh start," agent Kennard McGuire said. "Javon is very excited to have a fresh opportunity. We created an environment in which it was a win-win for everybody."

The Broncos and Walker, who was scheduled to draw a base salary of $1.125 million, agreed to parameters for a six-year contract extension.

Meanwhile, Donald Driver, the Packers' top returning receiver, refuted during the draft a national report from a week earlier that portrayed him as being unhappy about his contract and angling for a trade if the team didn't give him an extension.

Driver said while appearing at a celebrity pool tournament in Milwaukee that he intended to honor the last two years of his contract and will report for the Packers' first mini-camp, May 5-7.

"I want to be a Green Bay Packer," Driver said. "I never said anything. I'm showing up for practice. Whoever said that story, they don't know anything because they never talked to me."

Driver added he has had recent discussions with the team about a contract extension. He's due to make $1.36 million and $1.84 million in base salary the next two seasons.

DRAFT REVIEW

General manager Ted Thompson outdid himself in his second go-around calling the shots in the Packers' draft room.

A year after wheeling and dealing come up with 11 picks, Thompson initiated five trades to amass 12 prospects for the youth movement that's clearly afoot in Green Bay. Yet before he finally dumped disgruntled receiver Javon Walker on Denver, Thompson resisted the temptation to slide out of the highly coveted No. 5 spot in Round 1.

Thompson more than once during the buildup to the draft said he wouldn't pull a Portland Trail Blazers and pass on Michael Jordan. The initials are slightly different, but Thompson was ready to call it a successful draft after getting what he feels is the M.J. of this year's football pool — Ohio State linebacker A.J. Hawk.

"Quite frankly, I had my heart set on this guy. I wanted to take him. I didn't want to risk losing him," Thompson said. "I had to do a lot of praying (the previous night) to get to that point. So I wasn't going to mess that up."

Not only did Hawk fit Thompson's criterion of best player available, the athletic linebacker filled the team's No. 1 draft need. The Packers have two bona fide playmakers in the heart of the defense with middle linebacker Nick Barnett and Hawk, both of whom figure to never get off the field as the new coaching staff ponders going with a 4-2 front in dime situations.

Thompson continued on his need-based mission the rest of the first day. The second- and third-round selections of Boise State's Daryn Colledge and Louisville's Jason Spitz bolster a depth-deficient interior of the offensive line. Colledge is an intriguing prospect who will move inside from left tackle and has a solid chance to win the starting job at left guard.

Those picks sandwiched the selections of Western Michigan receiver Greg Jennings and Iowa linebacker Abdul Hodge in rounds 2 and 3, respectively.

The highly productive but smallish Jennings could crack the top four in the receiver rotation now that the team has moved on without Walker and the injured Terrence Murphy.

The arrival of Hodge, a tackling demon at middle linebacker, will give the defensive staff pause about whether to move Barnett outside.

"We trusted our board. We peeled them right off," Mike McCarthy said of the start to his first draft as coach.

McCarthy and Co. may have unearthed a mid-round gem in TCU return specialist Cory Rodgers.

The net result of booting Walker were four picks: Colledge, Boston College cornerback/receiver Will Blackmon, Texas A&M defensive tackle Johnny Jolly and Fresno State safety Tyrone Culver.

While the Packers may have found another heir apparent for Favre in Furman's Ingle Martin, they didn't take a running back. That leaves them with no depth to speak of behind Ahman Green and Najeh Davenport, both returning from serious leg injuries, and Samkon Gado.


A closer look at the Packers' picks:

Round 1/5 — A.J. Hawk, OLB, 6-1, 245, Ohio State

The Packers quickly resolved their most pressing of many needs when they held firm with their lofty position in the first round and landed a player many NFL personnel types feel is the defensive newcomer destined to provide the greatest impact right away. Hawk already has been given jersey No. 50 and handed the starting job on the weak side. An ordinary defense has the makings of becoming a fearsome unit with the athletic combination of Hawk and Nick Barnett fortifying the linebacker position.

Round 2/47 — Daryn Colledge, T/G, 6-4, 299, Boise State

Durability as much as flexibility sold the Packers on this viable starting prospect. Colledge started 52 straight games at left tackle. Green Bay will initially try him at left guard, where it has a spot to fill, and figures Colledge can be effective because of his quickness and explosiveness in the new zone-blocking scheme in which he's been trained.

Round 2/52 — Greg Jennings, WR, 5-11, 197, Western Michigan

His lack of size doesn't jibe with the new coaching regime's desire for bigger receivers. Yet his production for the mid-major program was off the charts — he's only the 11th player in NCAA history with three 1,000-yard seasons. Jennings' strength is run-after-the-catch proficiency.

Round 3/67 — Abdul Hodge, MLB, 6-0, 236, Iowa

Every-down player lacks the prototypical dimensions of a middle linebacker, where he will initially work despite the presence of Barnett. Hodge, though, can play all three positions in a 4-3 scheme. He plays with a mean streak and sheds blockers with a strong lower body.

Round 3/75 — Jason Spitz, C/G, 6-4, 313, Louisville

The Packers further addressed concerns on the interior of the line with another swing lineman. Spitz's expertise is at guard on both sides, but he will start out at center as an understudy to Scott Wells. Green Bay ranked Spitz at the head of the lineman draft class for his hands.

Round 4/104 — Cory Rodgers, WR, 6-1, 197, TCU

Converted quarterback isn't a complete product as a receiver, where he's not experienced in downfield route-running. The Packers, though, drafted him more for need as an exceptional returner. Rodgers finished in the top 10 in the country for kickoff (30.3 yards) and punt return (15.3) averages.

Round 4/115 — Will Blackmon, CB/WR, 6-0, 191, Boston College

Blackmon moved to split end in a full-time role last season but is nothing more than a developmental prospect at receiver. The Packers will start with him at cornerback. He has ideal size and athleticism for the team's bump-and-run coverage. Also will be a candidate on returns.

Round 5/148 — Ingle Martin, QB, 6-2, 224, Furman

Notable pedigree puts Martin in position to take over No. 3 job vacated by departure of free agent Craig Nall. Martin backed up Rex Grossman at Florida in 2002, then was the Gators' starter at the outset of 2003 before a concussion cost him the job and led him to a record-breaking stint in pro-style offense at Furman the last two years. Also a strong-legged punter.

Round 5/165 — Tony Moll, T, 6-4, 300, Nevada

Packers general manager Ted Thompson calls Moll "a very interesting prospect." The converted tight end played only one season at tackle, on both sides, but established himself as an athletic pass-blocker. The Packers want Moll to get bigger and will consider shifting him inside to guard.

Round 6/183 — Johnny Jolly, DT, 6-3, 310, Texas A&M

Jolly was a college teammate of defensive end Michael Montgomery, whom the Packers selected in the sixth round last year. Jolly started for three years and excelled as a run stopper at nose tackle. He has the versatility to play the three-technique spot and move outside but is slow.

Round 6/185 — Tyrone Culver, S, 6-1, 205, Fresno State

Culver played mostly center field the last two years at Fresno State, which capitalized on his quickness and range. He also was used in one-on-one coverage. Admittedly slow to react at times. Will have to make his mark on special teams to earn a roster spot.

Round 7/253 — Dave Tollefson, DE, 6-1, 260, Northwest Missouri State

An underdeveloped prospect out of the Division II ranks. The converted linebacker was sidetracked for three years because of injury after he played two years at the junior-college level. Tollefson resurrected his career the last two years at Northwest Missouri State, where he put on more than 50 pounds and dominated off the edge with a school-record 12 1/2 sacks last season.


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