NFC North News, Notes and Quotes

A second-round trade was the key to Chicago's draft, what the Lions did after the second round leaves some concern in Detroit, and the Packers' draft has fans (and probably Brett Favre) a bit puzzled. Get news, notes and quotes from the Vikings' rivals explaining their draft decisions.

CHICAGO BEARS

In looking back at the draft as a whole, Angelo said getting talented tight end Greg Olsen with the 31st selection and getting four picks in exchange for trading down 25 places with the Chargers in the second round were the keys. In addition to getting a third-rounder from San Diego next year, the Bears got DE Dan Bazuin (62nd overall), third-round running back Garrett Wolfe (93rd) and Payne (167th) in return for giving up the 37th overall pick.

"The trade was big for us because it created the flexibility and the opportunity we needed to get additional picks," Angelo said. "We felt that these players were going to be there in these rounds, and we really like these players.
"Who knows? In time we will find out if we did the best thing. We made the call. We feel good about the direction we went in and hopefully we will get a little luck and it comes to fruition."

DRAFT REVIEW

Although the popular assumption was that Greg Olsen might be long gone by the end of the first round, Miami's talented tight end fell into the Bears' laps with the 31st overall pick in Saturday's draft.

Olsen seems like exactly the kind of player Bears general manager Jerry Angelo loves to draft — one who is passionate about the game.

"He eats, drinks and sleeps (football)," Angelo said. "We feel very, very good about him in that regard. You hear me talk about that football character; we felt like he was exemplary in that area."

Olsen said he's the kind of player the Bears will be glad they drafted.
"I think they are getting a guy who really cares about the game of football, (and) who is going to do everything he can to do whatever he is asked of to contribute to the team," Olsen said. "I feel like they're getting a talented guy who can make a lot of plays and really be a good player on the field and a good teammate and a good player off the field."

The Panthers, drafting 14th, were thought to covet Olsen, especially after he ran a blazing 4.51-second 40-yard dash at February's scouting combine, the fastest time of all the tight ends. But the Panthers traded down to No. 25 and then opted for Olsen's Miami teammate, linebacker Jon Beason instead.
Although veteran Desmond Clark is coming off his most productive season with the Bears (45 catches, 626 yards, 6 touchdowns), he's 30 years old and a possession receiver, while backup John Gilmore is almost exclusively a blocker in two-tight end situations.

Olsen's forte is catching the ball and making something happen after the catch. He had 71 receptions for 940 yards for a 13.2-yard average and was the unanimous best tight end in the draft. His blocking is good enough.

"He's not a great blocker, nor will he ever be a great blocker," Angelo said. "He'll be an efficient blocker in the framework of what we want to do. John Gilmore does a lot of the dirty work in that area. So, square peg in a square hole; that's what we're looking for. He fit what we wanted at the position, and he complements the other guys."

Olsen didn't express any disappointment at falling to near the end of the first round.

"You heard all along that different projections had me going to different scenarios, but as we all know the draft is a funny thing," he said. "Things happen for a reason, and I feel very fortunate that I was there for the Bears to take."

Olsen comes from a football family. He played for his father, Chris, at Wayne Hills (N.J.) High School, where his older brother Christian also played.

"(He has the) things you look for at the tight end position," Bears coach Lovie Smith said. "He has great size, coach's son and a smart player. We talked about adding speed at all positions, and we definitely were able to do that. We think he'll be able to stretch the field, make the tough catch with his size. I'd say it's a good day for us. We definitely added another piece to the puzzle for our offense."

At 254 pounds, Olsen isn't considered a strong blocker, but at 6-foot-6, he's got a big enough frame to easily add 10-20 pounds.

"I think I'm going to be a very good run blocker in the NFL," he said. "I feel I have already made tremendous gains in strength and technique, and that's something I'm conscious of and need to work and improve on."

As a receiver, Olsen is expected to battle Clark for the starting job almost immediately.

"I feel like I can come in right away and bring a dynamic to the offense to help them out," Olsen said. "That's the mindset I have coming in, and that's my expectation."


BEST PICK: If he's everything they believe, tight end Greg Olsen gives the Bears something they haven't had since Mike Ditka played the position. Olsen is a talented receiver with soft hands and the speed to stretch a defense vertically and create mismatches with linebackers and safeties, since he's taller than all of them (6-foot-6) and faster than most of them (4.51).

Coach Lovie Smith said Olsen's presence should help the development of quarterback Rex Grossman by providing another dangerous option in the passing game.

"It'll do something for Rex," Smith said. "It should also help open up some of the options at the wide receiver position. It's not like the cupboard's bare (at tight end). We really like what Dez Clark did last year. We like what John Gilmore does being more of a blocking tight end. Now we feel like we have that guy with the speed that we didn't have before. He'll open up a lot of options for us right now."


COULD SURPRISE: Louisiana-Monroe's Kevin Payne spent his first two college seasons at running back and rushed for 976 yards as a freshman while also catching 41 passes for 488 yards. The 6-foot, 220-pounder became an immediate starter on the other side of the ball in his junior season and distinguished himself with athleticism and toughness.
"He's a big, strong safety that was physical in the box and a good special teams player," Bears general manager Jerry Angelo said. "We don't really have anyone like him, and Lovie (Smith) and the staff really liked him and what they saw, and we wanted to get a bigger player at that position."

NOTES

  • The Bears traded down 25 spots in the second round — from 37th to 62nd — but still came away with a player they believe is an excellent fit for their system in Central Michigan defensive end Dan Bazuin.

    In the swap with the Chargers, who used the 37th pick on Utah safety Eric Weddle, the Bears picked up an additional third-round pick (93rd overall), an extra fifth (167th) and a third-round pick next year.

    With starters Wale Ogunleye at left end and Alex Brown at right end, plus Mark Anderson, who had 12 sacks as a rookie last season, and Israel Idonije, the Bears are already strong at defensive end. Bazuin (rhymes with design) is a 6-foot-3, 266-pounder who specialized in making big plays behind the line of scrimmage throughout his four years as a starter. He had 63 1/2 tackles for loss in four years as a starter and 35 1/2 sacks.

    "Obviously, the production on third down as a pass-rusher speaks for itself," Bears G.M. Jerry Angelo said. "Hopefully, he's a very good combination player and a good three-down player. We felt the value of that pick was the reason that we made it. We didn't really see it as a need. We more relied on the value and we all felt good about that."

    Bazuin said he wasn't shocked to end up with the Bears, who see him adding depth and competing for playing time at left end.

    "I think the Bears are looking for a certain type of defensive player who is going to work hard and who's going to play hard each and every down and comes to practice ready and is prepared to give it there, and that's what I've got to offer," Bazuin said. "I think that's what they see in me."

  • The Bears got NIU's record-setting running back Garrett Wolfe 93rd overall with one of the three picks they accumulated by trading down in the second round.

    Not many teams had the 5-foot-7 Holy Cross High School graduate rated nearly that high because of his lack of size, but the Bears were focused on him.

    "It was his all-around game," said Bears director of college scouting Greg Gabriel. "He's a change-of pace back for us. We were looking for that. We did a lot of work on a lot of guys at the running back position because we only have two on the roster. He was the guy we really aimed at, and we were just hoping he'd be there for because that's what we had planned to do."

    Wolfe led the nation with 1,928 rushing yards on 309 carries last season and finished fourth in NCAA Division-I with 156.5 rushing yards per game. He ran a 4.39-second 40-yard dash at NIU's pro day.

    "He's got huge production, and he's done well against a lot of the big schools," Gabriel said. "We had him in here a couple weeks ago for a workout, he had an outstanding workout, he caught everything. The ball never touched the ground."

    Wolfe was the workhorse at NIU but he's not concerned that he'll be a complementary player in the NFL.

    "When I came into college I was a complementary player," he said. "Coach (Joe) Novak wasn't too confident about me being able to carry the ball 30 times a game."

  • G.M. Jerry Angelo said he did not receive any calls inquiring about unhappy linebacker Lance Briggs, the Bears franchise player, who wants to be traded or given a long-term contract instead of the one-year $7.2 million he'd make in 2007.

    "I have a theory, but I really don't want to get into that," Angelo said of the lack of interest in Briggs. We did have one team call us, Washington, it never materialized. I don't know what more to say."

    That doesn't mean that a deal can't get done after the draft.

    "I'm not going to rule that out totally," Angelo said, "irrelevant of what we do

    QUOTE TO NOTE: "Just looking at his ability, I didn't see how he could be around." — Bears coach Lovie Smith when asked about the pre-draft chance of getting Miami TE Greg Olsen.

    DETROIT LIONS

    The big question entering the NFL draft - assuming Oakland took quarterback JaMarcus Russell first overall - was what the Lions would do with wide receiver Calvin Johnson. Would they take him second overall? Keep him? Trade him?

    In the end, president Matt Millen said, it was easy. Although several teams coveted Johnson, widely considered the best player in the draft, there were no serious trade discussions. So the Lions took a wide receiver in the top 10 for the fourth time in five years with no regrets.

    "We couldn't be more thrilled with the choice of Calvin Johnson," Millen said. "Calvin Johnson's going to be a big part of getting us to where we want to go."



    DRAFT REVIEW

    No one quibbles with the selection of wide receiver Calvin Johnson second overall.

    Johnson is a special player. He was widely considered the best player in the draft. So what if this is the fourth time in five years the Lions have taken a wide receiver in the top 10? This time they got it right. He will be a weapon in Mike Martz's offense.

    The questions are about the rest of the draft.

    Johnson is the only immediate starter the Lions got, and this is a team that went 3-13 last year, has gone 24-72 over the last six years and doesn't have a strong history of developing draft picks.

    The Lions' next pick was Drew Stanton, a quarterback to develop for the future. They also traded backup quarterback Josh McCown. So now if Jon Kitna gets hurt, the Lions will be down to Stanton and Dan Orlovsky, who has thrown only 17 NFL passes.

    Millen and offensive coordinator Mike Martz admitted it was a concern. But they think the short-term risk is worth the long-term potential of Stanton and Orlovsky, and they point out McCown was in the last year of his contract.

    "Josh isn't going to be here next year," Martz said. "To do this organization justice, to get something for him and have the ability to bring in another young quarterback, allow Danny to grow and see what he is, it just all kind of fit at the same time."

    Give Millen credit for being active. He traded down once, moved up three times and made another trade that added a pick. He ended up with three second-round picks. Not bad. After Stanton, Millen picked defensive end Ikaika Alama-Francis and safety Gerald Alexander in the second round.

    "Did we fill our needs? Yeah, we filled our needs," Millen said. "As well as we would like? No.

    "That's not to say you're disappointed with the players you took. Those are good football players. But that fact that people don't know who Ikaika Alama-Francis is, they'll find out. Same with Gerald Alexander. Gerald Alexander's a good player. That's a good football player."


    BEST PICK: When the Lions took wide receiver Calvin Johnson second overall, they might have made the best pick of the draft. Johnson was widely considered the best player in the draft. If you believe the hype, he has the body of Terrell Owens, the speed of Randy Moss, the attitude of Marvin Harrison and the hands of Spiderman. He makes the Lions better immediately.



    COULD SURPRISE: Ikaika Alama-Francis didn't start playing football until he walked on at Hawaii in 2003. He's raw and inexperienced. But he's a 6-foot-5, 280-pound athlete. He's tough, physical and can play end or tackle. Coach Rod Marinelli compared him to a young Cory Redding, and Redding is the Lions' franchise player.

    NOTES

  • Wide receiver Mike Williams, the 10th pick of the 2005, was happy the Lions traded him to Oakland. He said he asked out of Detroit as long ago as August and asked for a trade in March. "I was like, ‘I don't want to be here. This is not for me. I don't see this in my future,'" Williams said. "You're third year's a big year. ... It's kind of your make-or-break year in this league, and I just wanted to give myself a fair shot at being the player I'm supposed to be and I know I am. I had to change venues, change cities." Williams reunites with Raiders coach Lane Kiffin, his position coach in 2002-03 when he was dominant at USC.

  • Offensive coordinator Mike Martz thinks president Matt Millen and coach Rod Marinelli have had a heck of an off-season. "I think what Coach Marinelli and what Matt Millen have done in the off-season and the draft - and I really mean this - is truly remarkable, the way they've attacked the situation and answered all the issues and addressed it in a real timely fashion," Martz said. "The needs from what we talked about when we got done with the season, they've addressed every one of those and answered everything in really outstanding fashion."

  • After he was introduced at a news conference, second overall pick Calvin Johnson threw out the first pitch at a Tigers game. He fired a high, hard one. It was so high and so hard, it skipped off the glove of Tigers first base coach Andy Van Slyke and sailed to the backstop. But that's OK. Johnson isn't in Detroit to throw. He's there to catch. The fans gave him a warm ovation. "Great fans out here," Johnson said. "I hear the fans are great, and they showed it."

    QUOTE TO NOTE: "Definitely I set high expectations for myself. I expect to go out there and have a great year, try to achieve rookie of the year." — WR Calvin Johnson, after the Lions drafted him second overall.


    GREEN BAY PACKERS

    Brett Favre couldn't have been doing cartwheels off his tractor at his Hattiesburg, Miss., estate during draft weekend.

    What seemingly was brewing to be a receiver windfall for the veteran quarterback, who made an early commitment to play next season, instead yielded little to speak of as the team's focus now shifts to its May minicamps. The Packers didn't acquire Randy Moss, nor did they inherit any of the big-ticket wideouts from a deep class in the draft.

    The Packers were widely speculated to be the leading candidate to land the mercurial, yet talented Moss in a draft-weekend trade with Oakland. Yet, moments before the start of the second day of the proceedings April 29, the news had reached Green Bay general manager Ted Thompson that New England landed Moss for all of a fourth-round draft pick this year.

    Thompson admitted after the draft that he left team headquarters late the previous evening optimistic that the club could pull the trigger on the deal.

    As for why the trade never materialized, Thompson declined to elaborate.

    "I couldn't tell you," he said. "I'm not going to talk too much on that because we talked to 50 different teams (during the draft) about different trades, different players, different draft choices, things like that. I don't think it's appropriate to get into specifics."

    There were rumblings leading up to the draft that Favre was certain that Moss, a onetime rival with the Vikings, would be a teammate in no time. The two have a lot of respect for one another and have shared the same agent, Bus Cook. Favre presumably figured Moss, who was out of place for two seasons in Oakland, would be the missing deep-threat piece for the offense and be an impetus for a final title run for the 37-year-old quarterback.

    Thompson's confession that he was hopeful of getting the trade done April 29 explains why he didn't address a fallback need at receiver on the first day of the draft. The first-round selection of defensive tackle Justin Harrell raised eyebrows, as did subsequent choices of running back Brandon Jackson in the second round after trading down 16 spots and unheralded receiver James Jones early in the third round.

    The only other receiver the Packers picked up in the draft was David Clowney in the fifth round, and he's more of a sprinter than a receiver.

    So, Favre apparently will have to make do again with Donald Driver, Greg Jennings and a lot of question marks after that, especially with Koren Robinson in the midst of serving a one-year league suspension that won't be up until September.

    At draft's end, Thompson defended his approach of not making noise in free agency - Giants cornerback Frank Walker has been the only acquisition - followed by what many will perceive to be a ho-hum draft.

    "I have sizzle. (But) I don't show it very often," Thompson said. "Everything in our power, we try to help to make this team as good as it can be. You have to take a lot of things into consideration. Sometimes, it's an aggressive move. Sometimes, that aggressive move is not the appropriate time."

    DRAFT REVIEW

    Those weren't cheers that greeted general manager Ted Thompson when he came out to speak to fans during a draft party at Lambeau Field after the team's first selection was made April 28.

    The boo birds were out in full force in response to Thompson's taking Tennessee defensive tackle Justin Harrell with the 16th overall pick. The choice came as a shock to many because Harrell wasn't projected to go that high in Round 1 and of the team's needs, defensive tackle ranked far down the list.

    "I think it's great because that's what the Green Bay Packers are all about, is fans like that that have passion and they care," Thompson said. "We are doing everything we can to make this the best team possible. If they disagree with our decisions, that's OK. It's just as long as we believe we're doing the right thing, then we can take a few shots."

    Harrell was only the fourth defensive tackle taken by the Packers in the first round since 1970 — Vonnie Holliday was the last in 1998. Harrell will have to be more than serviceable for the Green Bay supporters to change their tune on Thompson's approach to his third draft with the team.

    The timing of the selection was puzzling because the Packers seemingly were set with Ryan Pickett and Corey Williams as the returning starting tackles and have a couple emerging prospects in Colin Cole and Johnny Jolly. Plus, they re-signed Cullen Jenkins, a productive hybrid end-tackle, to a hefty four-year contract before the start of free agency.

    Yet, the club was high on Harrell, never mind his injury history, and is convinced the imposing run stopper can be a front-line contributor.

    "We're going to build this football team strong with the offensive and defensive lines," head coach Mike McCarthy said. "You just cannot have enough big guys."

    That rationale prompted the Packers to pass on one of the top receivers still on the board (Tennessee's Robert Meachem or LSU's Dwayne Bowe), Florida safety Reggie Nelson, Michigan cornerback Leon Hall, Miami tight end Greg Olsen, even Notre Dame quarterback Brady Quinn. Any one of most of those players would have satisfied a great need - and appeased the fans.

    "We don't draft based on needs, and I know that's boring ... but we don't think that's the best policy," Thompson said. "We think really and truly that the more good football players, regardless of position, that you can add to your team, the better off you are as an organization and as a team."

    True to his track record of trading down to accumulate more players, Thompson swung two draft-weekend deals to turn nine picks into 11. The marquee pick of Harrell notwithstanding, offense was the emphasis, with seven players targeted to play on that side.

    Second-round pick Brandon Jackson has untapped potential as a West Coast running back, but it will be asking a lot of him to assume the full-time role vacated by Ahman Green's free-agent signing with Houston. The Packers' chance to get Cal standout Marshawn Lynch fell by the wayside when Buffalo took him at No. 12.

    Meanwhile, the jury is out on whether third-round safety Aaron Rouse can displace Marquand Manuel as a starter and what impact, if any, James Jones (third round) and David Clowney (fifth) can make for a receiving group that is without Randy Moss. Long the subject of trade rumors involving Green Bay, Moss was traded from Oakland to New England on the second day of the draft for a fourth-round pick this year.

    The team's best value selection of the entire process might have come at the back end of three straight picks midway through the sixth round with strong-legged kicker Mason Crosby, who will challenge incumbent Dave Rayner.

    "I hope that, in time, they would think this is a good draft," Thompson said of the fans.


    BEST PICK: GM Ted Thompson again resorted to some wheeling and dealing throughout the draft to stockpile picks, turning nine into 11. The quality of those selections doesn't jump out as a blue-chipper ensemble, especially at the team's positions of needs. In fact, rather than land a top-line player at running back, receiver, safety and tight end, Thompson surprisingly chose to first bolster the depth on the defensive line. Tennessee tackle Justin Harrell, though, can't be written off so easily as the No. 16 overall pick. If not for a season-ending arm injury sustained in the second game last season, Harrell probably would have been out of reach in the middle of Round 1 for Green Bay, which has drawn criticism for reaching for him. Yes, Harrell is injury prone. If he can find a way to stay healthy for an extended period, however, Harrell's natural abilities suggest he will become the Packers' best interior lineman before long. Harrell, an uncanny run stopper who gets off the ball well, and Ryan Pickett give the defense a formidable tackle duo on early downs. Harrell is raw as a pass rusher, but the team can get by in the interim with Corey Williams, who held down a starting job most of last season.


    COULD SURPRISE: Brandon Jackson was pegged to be a second-day draftee, but the Packers thought otherwise and grabbed the somewhat obscure Nebraska running back after trading down to the back end of Round 2. Jackson started only a third of the games he played in three years, but team officials deem him a suitable fit for the zone-blocking run scheme. Jackson and holdover Vernand Morency are shaped in the same mold, as shifty backs who can make the requisite cuts and slip defenders. Both will likely share the load at the outset as the offense goes forward without franchise back Ahman Green, who signed with the Texans in free agency. The hard-nosed Jackson, though, has considerable upside as an underused rusher in college. He is a multi-faceted player with solid receiving skills and is comfortable in the West Coast offense. If injury problems with both shoulders are behind him, Jackson might have the type of impact receiver Greg Jennings, another under-the-radar prospect taken in the second round, had as a rookie last season.

    NOTES

  • There are only about 10,000 residents in the city of Martin, Tenn., but its populace can boast that it's home to a pair of Green Bay Packers.

    Seven years after taking offensive tackle Chad Clifton in the second round of the draft, the Packers made defensive tackle Justin Harrell their first-round pick this year. Clifton and Harrell are graduates of Westview High School in Martin, as well as products of the University of Tennessee.

    "When I was talking to him (on the phone) right prior to the (16th overall) pick, he said, ‘Yeah, I'm ready. You've got my homeboy, Chad Clifton, up there,'" Packers general manager Ted Thompson said.

    Harrell was to be feted in Martin with a banquet hosted by his parents the evening of April 29. The prior commitment kept Harrell from going to Green Bay to meet team officials and the media during draft weekend.

    Harrell is expected to report to the team May 3, on the eve of the start of the team's first minicamp. The three-day camp will be an orientation for rookies and select first-year players.

    The full squad will assemble for a minicamp May 18 to 20, at which time Harrell won't feel too lost as a newcomer because of having left tackle Clifton lined up on the other side.

    "He's always been somebody that has given me advice. So, I know I've got somebody in Green Bay that can kind of show me the ropes when I first get up there," Harrell said.

  • Harrell has another connection to the Packers. He's the last player who wore No. 92 at Tennessee. The school retired the number that once was adorned by the late Reggie White, the Pro Football Hall of Famer who anchored Green Bay's defense for six years in the 1990s.

    "I guess I'm following in his footsteps a little bit because now I'm a Green Bay Packer," Harrell said. "He had a lot of years up there as a great player for the Packers. It was just an honor (to wear the same jersey number). I got a chance to meet him a couple times at Tennessee when he came and spoke to the team. He was a great man and somebody that you wanted to pattern your game after."

    The Packers retired White's No. 92 in 2005. Harrell will wear No. 91.

  • As long as quarterback Brett Favre still is playing football, his charity softball game will carry on another year.

    The eighth annual event will be held June 17 in Grand Chute, Wis., which is about 25 miles south of Green Bay. Favre rounds up several of his teammates to play in the game.

    The Brett Favre Fourward Foundation uses all proceeds to help disadvantaged and disabled children in Wisconsin and Favre's home state of Mississippi.

    QUOTE TO NOTE: "Hopefully, when I get there and just show ‘em what I can do and they start accepting me, they will turn those boos into cheers. I'm just looking for the opportunity. I'm blessed right now, and I just can't wait to get up there." — Justin Harrell, when informed that Packers fans booed general manager Ted Thompson for selecting the defensive tackle from Tennessee in the first round of the NFL Draft.

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