Best and worst of NFC North drafts

Earlier this week, we listed how many starters and backups from the past three NFL drafts have contributed to their respective teams around the league. Now it's time for a more in-depth look at the NFC North. Which divisional team has the most starters from the 2006-08 drafts and what were their best and worst picks? How do the Vikings stack up to their divisional rivals in drafting?

CHICAGO BEARS

How the Bears have done in the draft since 2006:
Total picks 28
‘08 Starters 7
‘08 Backups 12
Other teams 2
Out of NFL 5
Injured Reserve/PUP 2


Fortunately for general manager Jerry Angelo and the Bears, their second-day picks in 2007 might make up for some horrible choices earlier in that draft, when they busted with DE Dan Bazuin in the second round and LB Michael Okwo with their second third-round pick. But they got 16-game starters last season in 2007 fourth-round G Josh Beekman and fifth-round S Kevin Payne.

CB Corey Graham, another fifth-rounder form 2007, started nine games. The 2006 draft has produced WR/RS Devin Hester, injury-prone NT Dusty Dvoracek, nickel back Danieal Manning and rookie flash-in-the-pan DE Mark Anderson. In 2008, second-round RB Matt Forte was a godsend, but first-round OT Chris Williams was hurt on the second day of training camp and barely played.

Best pick: RB Matt Forte, 2008 (2nd round, 44th overall): Not only is he a workhorse ball-carrier, Forte is an effective pass catcher and a willing blocker.

Worst pick: DE Dan Bazuin, 2007 (2nd round, 62nd overall): Suffered a knee injury in his first minicamp and then reinjured it early in training camp, spent the year on injured reserve and wasn't much better the next year when he was cut in preseason.

2008 DRAFT PICKS


1 (14) Chris Williams, OT: Got hurt early, had back surgery and played sparingly, but he's being penciled in as the left tackle starter for 2009.

2 (44) Matt Forte, RB: Set the Bears' franchise rookie record with 1,238 yards and led the team with 63 receptions, accounting for an NFL-best 35 percent of his team's yards from scrimmage.

3 (70) Earl Bennett, WR: Flashed briefly in training camp and had a punt-return TD in preseason, but then disappeared and played very briefly in six games without catching a pass.

3 (90) Marcus Harrison, DT: Played in every game, contributed frequently in rotation and appears to be a key player for the future.

4 (120) Craig Steltz, S: Started slowly but came on strong toward the end of the season, also contributing on special teams and is penciled in as the starting free safety for now.

5 (142) Zack Bowman, CB: Started season on practice squad, but had interception and scored a TD on special teams in his first game but also suffered a season-ending torn biceps.

5 (158) Kellen Davis, TE: Flashed in camp but didn't catch a pass as third tight end and played mostly special teams without distinguishing himself.

7 (208) Ervin Baldwin, DE: Started season on practice squad, active for last seven games but did not play.

7 (222) Chester Adams, G: Waived injured in preseason.

7 (243) Joey LaRocque, LB: Started season on practice squad but played in 14 games on special teams and found a niche.

7 (247) Kirk Barton, T: Made the 53-man roster but was cut after one game.

7 (248) Marcus Monk, WR: Waived in preseason.


DETROIT LIONS

How the Lions have done in the draft since 2006:
Total picks 24
‘08 Starters 5
‘08 Backups 9
Other teams 2
Out of NFL 5
Injured reserve/PUP 3


The last three years of the Matt Millen era were a little better than the first five. The Lions didn't strike out with top-10 picks Ernie Sims and Calvin Johnson as they did with Joey Harrington, Charles Rogers and Mike Williams.

But the Lions still struggled from the second round on. The Lions have drafted nine players in the second and third rounds since 2006, and five have contributed little: Brian Calhoun, Drew Stanton, Ikaika Alama-Francis, Jordon Dizon and Andre Fluellen.


Now that coach Rod Marinelli has been fired, some of the players drafted for the Tampa Two defense won't fit anymore. Jim Schwartz wants more size.


Best pick: WR Calvin Johnson, 2007 (1st round, 2nd overall): One of the few picks to live up to the hype. A playmaker and a cornerstone. Even though he tied for 20th in catches last year, he was fifth in receiving yards and tied for first in touchdowns.


Worst pick: QB Drew Stanton, 2007 (2nd round, 43rd overall): Right after Johnson, a deep threat, the Lions drafted a quarterback known for making plays with his legs. Stanton struggled with injuries and changes to his mechanics. He has practiced little and played even less.

2008 DRAFT PICKS


1 (17) Gosder Cherilus, T: After struggling to overtake veteran George Foster, Cherilus eventually claimed the starting job last season. He had problems with penalties, but showed potential with his power and should be a building block.

2 (45) Jordon Dizon, LB: The Lions drafted Dizon to play the middle in the Tampa Two. But the coaches didn't trust him to play the middle, and he was moved to the strong side late in the season.

3 (64) Kevin Smith, RB: He finished 24 yards short of a 1,000-yard rookie season. After failing to reach 63 yards in a game the first half of the season, he surpassed 63 yards in all but one game the second half.

3 (87) Andre Fluellen, DT: He was considered a developmental player as a rookie, playing only eight games. Now the question is how he will fit Jim Schwartz's defense.

3 (92) Cliff Avril, DE: The speed rusher showed some potential, finishing with five sacks. The new coaches speak highly of him and seem to have some ideas about using him creatively, like an outside linebacker in a 3-4.

5 (136) Kenneth Moore, WR: He never made an impact in camp or the preseason. He was claimed off waivers by Carolina.

5 (146) Jerome Felton, FB: The Lions praised his blocking ability, then replaced him with free agent Moran Norris during the season.

7 (216) Landon Cohen, DT: Like Fluellen, Cohen was considered a developmental player as a rookie.

7 (218) Caleb Campbell, DB: West Point product never got a chance because of Army policy change prohibiting his participation.


GREEN BAY PACKERS

How the Packers have done in the draft since 2006:
Total picks 32
‘08 Starters 7
‘08 Backups 16
Other Teams 6
Out of NFL 2
Injured Reserve/PUP 1


Not counting the dividends realized last season with QB Aaron Rodgers and Pro Bowl S Nick Collins - the top two picks from his inaugural 2005 draft class - general manager Ted Thompson can be credited with only one surefire player in the last three drafts: WR Greg Jennings.

The jury still is out on LB A.J. Hawk, the 2006 first-round choice who will move inside in the team's new 3-4 defensive scheme; WR James Jones; and OL Daryn Colledge and Jason Spitz.


Best pick: WR Greg Jennings, 2006 (2nd round, 52nd overall): The unheralded college player from Western Michigan has quickly blossomed into an elite NFL wideout and is a high priority for the Packers to award a long-term deal before his contract expires after next season. Jennings supplanted Donald Driver as the team's No. 1 receiver in 2008 with 80 catches for 1,292 yards and nine touchdowns.


Worst pick: DT Justin Harrell, 2007 (1st round, 16th overall): Thompson's questionable top pick of Harrell two years ago is teetering on becoming an unequivocal bust. Various injuries have conspired to keep Harrell off the field for 19 of 32 regular-season games, and he has made only two starts.

2008 DRAFT PICKS


2 (36) Jordy Nelson, WR: As the No. 3 receiver for most of the season, Nelson was the most productive of Green Bay's draft class, ranking fourth on the team with 33 catches and third with 366 receiving yards.

2 (56) Brian Brohm, QB: Highly touted prospect was a huge disappointment in the preseason (19-for-42 accuracy) and lost his hold on the No. 2 job behind Aaron Rodgers.

2 (60) Pat Lee, CB: Played sparingly until suffering a knee injury that sidelined him the final five games. He will need the offseason to hone his coverage skills and get back in the mix to contend for playing time.

3 (91) Jermichael Finley, TE: The light finally came on for the athletic Finley at the close of the season after he was prone to route-running and pass-catching gaffes. He should be pushing for the starting job next season.

4 (102) Jeremy Thompson, DE: He was riddled by injuries the final couple months and didn't make an impact. Thompson is being moved to outside linebacker in the team's new 3-4 scheme.

4 (135) Josh Sitton, G: Projects to be starting at right guard on opening day after a preseason knee injury set him back in 2008.

5 (150) Breno Giacomini, T: Although he was on the field for only one snap as a rookie, Giacomini could have the inside track to taking over at right tackle if free agent Mark Tauscher isn't re-signed.

7 (209) Matt Flynn, QB: Flynn's performance in the preseason was 180 degrees separated from Brohm's and, consequently, emerged as Rodgers' backup.

7 (217) Brett Swain, WR: Spent the season on the practice squad.


MINNESOTA VIKINGS

How the Vikings have done in the draft since 2006:
Total picks 19
‘08 Starters 6
‘08 Backups 8
Other teams 4
Out of NFL 1
Injured reserve/PUP 0


The Vikings did not get much immediate return from the 2008 draft if you look at their five selections. However, the fact the Vikings used three picks (a first- and two third-rounders) to obtain Pro Bowl DE Jared Allen from Kansas City has to be considered.

Allen finished fifth in the NFL with 14.5 sacks, providing the type of pass-rushing presence the Vikings needed. The Vikings' two previous first-round selections have panned out nicely with LB Chad Greenway and RB Adrian Peterson assuming key roles.

The 2006 draft has produced five starters but that is a bit misleading given that RT Ryan Cook and QB Tarvaris Jackson have been extremely up-and-down in their play.


Best pick: RB Adrian Peterson, 2007 (1st round, 7th overall): After slipping to Minnesota, mainly because teams were worried about his injury history, Peterson has established himself as one of the NFL's best running backs. He led the league in rushing this past season.


Worst pick: CB Marcus McCauley, 2007 (3rd round, 72nd overall): Played regularly as a rookie, but rarely got on the field last season and it's unclear if he fits into the team's plans. If McCauley does not establish himself in 2009, this will be a bad miss.

2008 DRAFT PICKS

2 (43) Tyrell Johnson, S: Started the first seven games in place of the injured Madieu Williams in 2008. Did not stand out but received valuable learning experience. He will be the favorite to replace free agent Darren Sharper when training camp opens in July.

5 (137) John David Booty, QB: Vikings traded up in the fifth round to get the former Southern Cal starter. Booty spent the season as the No. 3 quarterback and will be expected to remain in that role in 2009.

5. (152) Letroy Guion, DT: Saw action in only two games but the Vikings like his potential and he could move up the depth chart into a primary backup position behind under tackle Kevin Williams this coming season. One question about Guion coming out of Florida State was his maturity level, but a year being able to learn behind Pro Bowl tackles Kevin and Pat Williams certainly had to help.

6 (187) John Sullivan, C: Played on special teams as a rookie but is expected to play a much bigger role in his second season. Sullivan, who played at Notre Dame, will be the favorite to replace Matt Birk as the starting center in 2009. Birk signed as a free agent with the Baltimore Ravens in early March.

6 (193) Jaymar Johnson, WR: The product of Jackson State spent the season on the practice squad but is expected to compete for a roster spot this spring and summer. Johnson's ability to serve as a return man is the biggest plus that he has going for him. The Vikings are looking for help at both the kick- and punt-return spots.



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