NFC North draft analysis

A pick-by-pick look at who was selected by the Vikings' NFC North rivals during draft weekend. The North got good reviews all around; now found out more about the competition's new blood.


BEST PICK: CB D.J. Moore. The Bears were able to get a seasoned SEC veteran cornerback in the middle of the fourth round (No. 119 overall). Moore lacks some size at 192 pounds and a fraction under 5-foot-9, but he makes up for it with other attributes. He's an excellent ball athlete who had 13 career interceptions and has started since early in his freshman season. He also returned punts and kickoffs for the Commodores and caught seven passes for 143 yards (20.4-yard average) last season and carried the ball nine times for 76 yards (8.4-yard average).

COULD SURPRISE: Small-school WR Johnny Knox might be easy to identify on the field — he's the fast one. He ran a 4.34 40 at the Combine and put up huge numbers at Division-II Abilene Christian, where, in just two seasons, he caught 118 passes for 2,227 yards and 30 touchdowns. He also showed soft hands at the Combine and looked like he belonged with the big boys.

A closer look at the Bears' picks:

Round 3/68 — Jarron Gilbert, DL, 6-5, 288, San Jose State

Moved from end to tackle as a senior and had by far his best season, leading the nation with 22 tackles for loss and also added 9.5 sacks. WAC's co-defensive player of the year in 2008. Started 12 games as a junior with 7.5 tackles for loss and four sacks. Had 7.5 tackles for loss and five sacks as a sophomore. Became a starter as a redshirt freshman. Has a frame to get bigger. Possesses excellent athleticism and his 4.82 40-time was the best among defensive linemen at the Scouting Combine. Also tied for the best vertical jump with a 35 1/2-inch leap. Father Daren was an offensive lineman who played four years for the Saints (1985-88) after being a second-round draft pick (38th overall).

Round 3/99 — Juaquin Iglesias, WR, 6-1, 210, Oklahoma

A three-year starter who improved every year, Iglesias caught 74 passes for 1,150 yards and 10 touchdowns as a senior after catching 68 passes for 907 yards as a junior. Started 11 games as a sophomore with 41 catches for 514 yards. Effective kickoff returner throughout career, averaging 26.4 yards. Has only average speed (4.53 in the 40) but shows good quickness in route running and picking up yardage after the catch. Ideal slot receiver willing to do the tough jobs that come with working the underneath areas between the hash marks.

Round 4/105 — Henry Melton, DE, 6-3, 280, Texas

A project who could take some time to develop because of his limited experience at end. Backup running back in his first two seasons. Carried 132 times for 625 yards (4.7-yard average) and 16 touchdowns. Didn't become a starter until senior season and even then didn't post great numbers (29 tackles, 10 tackles for loss and 4 sacks) but showed fine athleticism for the position. Has great physical tools, runs well and has excellent agility. Arrested for DUI in 2007 and served a three-game suspension.

Round 4/119 — D.J. Moore, CB, 5-9, 192, Vanderbilt

Came out early with one year of eligibility remaining. Undersized player who has marginal speed for the position (4.59 in the 40), but makes up for those shortcomings with excellent instincts and ball skills. Lacks the size and speed to be a No. 1 corner but could be effective very soon as a No. 2 corner or a nickel CB covering the slot receiver. Had 13 career interceptions. Has been a starter since early in his freshman season, starting 34 games in just three years. Versatile and athletic, returned punts and kickoffs for the Commodores and caught seven passes for 143 yards (20.4-yard average) last season and carried the ball nine times for 76 yards (8.4-yard average).

Round 5/140 — Johnny Knox, WR, 5-11, 186, Abilene Christian

The Div. II product caught everyone's eye during pre-draft workouts when he ran the 40 in 4.29 and 4.34. Knox caught 118 passes during his two years at Abilene for 2,227 yards and 30 touchdowns. He was the biggest threat of a high-flying spread offense that averaged 52.3 points per game in 2008. The Houston native had to play junior-college ball and Div. II due to grade issues. Including his juco seasons, Knox averaged 19.9 yards per catch and one touchdown for every 3.8 receptions.

Round 5/154 — Marcus Freeman, LB, 6-1, 239, Ohio State

A three-year starter for the three-time Big Ten champs, Freeman produced his best in the biggest games. He stacked up 15 tackles in the 2007 BCS title game against Florida, then produced 14 stops in the 2008 BCS title game against LSU. Scouts liked the 4.51 40 that he ran on OSU's Pro Day, but his strength (he benched 225 pounds 30 times at the NFL Combine) supposedly doesn't translate when taking on blockers. The Bears see him as a weak-side backer who can play all three LB spots.

Round 6/190 — Al Afalava, SS, 5-11, 215, Oregon State

The three-year starter didn't receive an invite to the NFL Combine, but he impressed the Bears in a private workout. He uses his 4.48 speed to max effect when hitting people, particularly in the running game, but his coverage skills are uncertain. He posted 36 tackles in 11 games during his senior year with two interceptions, eight pass breakups and two tackles for loss.

Round 7/246 — Lance Louis, TE, 6-3, 303, San Diego State

Started 11 games at right tackle during his senior year, but his uncommon blend of size and speed (4.8 40) has the Bears planning to move him back to his original college position. The Louisiana native caught 14 passes for 195 yards and one TD in his two seasons before shifting to right guard in 2007. He then bumped out to right tackle during 2008 fall camp.

Round 7/251 — Derek Kinder, WR, 6-1, 210, Pittsburgh

This fifth-year senior flanker would have been more prized had he been in the 2007 draft. Kinder was a Biletnikoff Award semifinalist in the fall of 2006 when he caught 57 passes for 847 yards and six TDs, but he missed the 2007 season after tearing the ACL in his right knee. He recovered to post 36 catches for 422 yards and three scores last fall.


BEST PICK: When the Lions picked Pettigrew, fans at the Ford Field draft party booed louder than they did when the Lions picked Stafford. The fans would have preferred Southern Cal linebacker Rey Maualuga or Ole Miss left tackle Michael Oher. But both of those players had issues and dropped in the draft, while Pettigrew was a top-10 pick on some teams' draft boards. Until they took Pettigrew, the Lions didn't have the kind of complete tight end that is important in offensive coordinator Scott Linehan's system.

COULD SURPRISE: Stillman defensive tackle Sammie Lee Hill is raw. Coming from a small college program, he needs to learn technique and make the adjustment to the NFL. But at 6-foot-4, 330 pounds, he has the size the Lions want as they try to bulk up their defense, and he can learn behind veteran behemoth Grady Jackson.

A closer look at the Lions' picks:

Round 1/1 — Matthew Stafford, QB, 6-2, 225, Georgia

The Lions have been looking for their next great quarterback since trading Bobby Layne to Pittsburgh in 1958, and now here comes Stafford, who went to the same high school Layne did. Stafford has a big arm that can get the ball downfield to wide receiver Calvin Johnson, and coach Jim Schwartz said he was the consensus No. 1 player at Lions headquarters. The Lions don't have to rush him because they have a rejuvenated Daunte Culpepper on a one-year deal.

Round 1/20 — Brandon Pettigrew, TE, 6-5, 263, Oklahoma State

General manager Martin Mayhew said the Lions would take talent over need, and Pettigrew appeared to fit that profile at No. 20. He was rated in the top 10 on some teams' boards. But Pettigrew also fits a need for the Lions. Tight end is an important position in offensive coordinator Scott Linehan's system, and the Lions did not have a complete tight end like Pettigrew on the roster. He is an excellent run blocker and can break tackles after the catch.

Round 2/33 — Louis Delmas, S, 5-11, 202, Western Michigan

The Lions already had two second-round safeties. But Daniel Bullocks (2006) missed the ‘07 season with a torn ACL, and Gerald Alexander (2007) missed much of the ‘08 season with a fractured vertebra. So they added a second-round safety for the third time in four years. Delmas is small. But Mayhew pointed out Ed Reed and Troy Polamalu were about his size when drafted. Schwartz lauded Delmas' versatility, aggressiveness and passion, calling him a "guided missile."

Round 3/76 — DeAndre Levy, LB, 6-1, 236, Wisconsin

Levy played on the outside at Wisconsin, but he said the Lions had talked to him about playing the middle, where they have a gaping hole. He said he ended up with some similar assignments to the middle linebacker in certain situations in college. He was visiting New Orleans when the Lions scrambled to get him on a plane to Detroit for the last day prospects could visit teams, and he took that as a good sign. He's athletic but might need to get stronger.

Round 3/82 — Derrick Williams, WR/KR, 5-11, 194, Penn State

Williams said he had the flu during the Combine and participated against the advice of his agent. He called it a bad idea. He ran the 40-yard dash in 4.65 seconds and struggled to catch the ball. But he said he ran the 40 in 4.37 at his pro day. The Lions envision him filling two holes: slot receiver and return man. He returned three punts and two kickoffs for touchdowns in college. One of his mentors is Lions wide receiver Bryant Johnson, a fellow Penn State product.

Round 4/115 — Sammie Lee Hill, DT, 6-4, 330, Stillman

Hill is huge and athletic, but raw. He went to a small high school and didn't receive scholarship offers from major colleges. He didn't receive much teaching at Stillman and mostly got by because of his size. He wasn't invited to the Combine, but the Lions got a good look at him when defensive line coach Bob Karmelowicz worked him out at his pro day. His build fits the Lions' vision of a bigger, stronger defensive front.

Round 6/192 — Aaron Brown, RB, 6-1, 196, Texas Christian

Brown could be a change-of-pace back, a kickoff returner and a slot receiver. He's athletic and quick, but not big or known as a blocker. He was not invited to the Combine, but he visited the Lions and spent time with running backs coach Sam Gash. He said he felt more welcome in Detroit than he did elsewhere and was not surprised when the Lions drafted him.

Round 7/228 — Lydon Murtha, OT, 6-7, 306, Nebraska

Murtha stood out at the Combine. He led the offensive linemen in the 40-yard dash (4.89 seconds), the 20-yard shuttle (4.34) and three-cone drill (7.06). He ranked second in the vertical jump (35 inches) and tied for second in the broad jump (9-feet-2). But he was less impressive in college. He is tall and lanky, and he hasn't displayed strength and power. He also has struggled to stay healthy.

Round 7/235 — Zack Follett, LB, 6-2, 236, California

Follett is a hard-nosed, competitive guy who found a way to make plays in college, with 13 career forced fumbles. But he lacks ideal size and has a history of injuries. He'll have to use his grit and toughness to overcome his athleticism and durability issues.

Round 7/255 — Dan Gronkowski, TE, 6-5, 255, Maryland

Gronkowski had good size. He's tough, smart and hardworking. But he isn't known for athleticism. He will compete with Michael Gaines, Casey Fitzsimmons and Will Heller for one of two roster spots.


BEST PICK: Boston College NT B.J. Raji was a no-brainer for the Packers' top selection when he was available at No. 9 overall, although dynamic wideout Michael Crabtree of Texas Tech had general manager Ted Thompson mulling his enviable options. Addressing glaring needs in the revamped 3-4 defensive front took precedence, and landing Raji was a coup for fortifying the trenches. Raji is a beast at 6-foot-2 and 337 pounds. The Packers haven't possessed such a feared, game-changing nose tackle since Gilbert Brown was digging graves in the backfield for upended opponents during the team's dominant run in the 1990s. Raji's uncanny ability to take on double teams and shed blockers should pay immediate dividends for a defense that ranked 26th against the run, allowing an average of 131.6 yards per game, and generated only 27 sacks last season.

COULD SURPRISE: OT T.J. Lang of Eastern Michigan is a player to watch as the Packers approach a transition at the position. Chad Clifton and Mark Tauscher have been the starting bookends at left and right tackle, respectively, since they were rookies in 2000. While Clifton will be back for another season but has chronic knee problems, Tauscher apparently won't be re-signed as a free agent after undergoing reconstructive knee surgery in January. That leaves a huge void, which could be filled by the promising Lang, a fourth-round choice. He made his mark the last two years of college at left tackle, but Lang also has starting experience at right tackle. Wherever he lined up, Lang shut down explosive Northern Illinois defensive end Larry English (No. 16 overall pick of the San Diego Chargers) in their Mid-American Conference matchups. The Packers like the 6-foot-4, 316-pound Lang's athleticism and feistiness.

A closer look at the Packers' picks:

Round 1/9 — B.J. Raji, DT, 6-2, 337, Boston College

Pound for pound, the Packers might have acquired the best defensive player in the draft. Raji is extraordinarily gifted and athletic for his size. The every-down enforcer solidifies the interior of the defensive line for Green Bay, which had only aging starter Ryan Pickett to anchor the critical nose tackle position in its big switch to a 3-4 alignment up front. Work ethic and yo-yo weight control exhibited by Raji in college are blemishes that can't be brushed aside, however.

Round 1/26 — Clay Matthews, LB, 6-3, 245, Southern California

As tickled as Ted Thompson was to have Raji slide to the Packers early in Round 1, the general manager eagerly wanted Matthews to fill another missing piece in the new defensive scheme. Hence, Thompson mortgaged the rest of Green Bay's first half of the draft — a second-round pick (No. 41) and two third-round choices (Nos. 73 and 83) — to go up to get the all-around playmaker that is Matthews. More than having strong NFL bloodlines, Matthews is a ready-made starter at right outside linebacker with his combination of tenacious run defense, unbridled pass rush off the edge and improving coverage skills.

Round 4/109 — T.J. Lang, OT, 6-4, 316, Eastern Michigan

With uncertainty at both bookend spots — right tackle Mark Tauscher is unsigned as he recovers from major knee surgery in January, and left tackle Chad Clifton has endured knee problems the last few years and is entering the last year of his contract — Lang was drafted as an insurance policy. He started 36 straight games, 10 at right tackle and the last 26 at left tackle, in a zone-blocking scheme that jibes with the Packers'. The converted defensive tackle, regarded for his physicality and drive blocking, also has center-guard material.

Round 5/145 — Quinn Johnson, FB, 6-1, 250, Louisiana State

The addition of Johnson gives the Packers a competitive mix at fullback, where incumbents Korey Hall and John Kuhn are no slouches. Like Hall, Johnson is a converted linebacker who thrives on contact and punishing defenders — he paved the way for 11 touchdowns by LSU ball carriers last season. Johnson had few touches of the football but has potential to develop into a short-yardage back.

Round 5/162 — Jamon Meredith, OT, 6-5, 304, South Carolina

Meredith brings even more versatility to the offensive line than Lang does, having started at right tackle, left tackle and left guard in his four-year stint with the Gamecocks. Left tackle is his natural position, but Meredith, who has quickness off the ball, figures to be part of the deep mix of young candidates to fill the void at right tackle if Tauscher isn't re-signed. Lapses in toughness have been a concern with Meredith.

Round 6/182 — Jarius Wynn, DE, 6-5, 273, Georgia

Wynn's underwhelming two-year career at Georgia — after he started in the junior-college ranks — ended with a bang with two sacks in the Capital One Bowl against Michigan State. He has good size and length to fit in as an end in the Packers' 3-4 scheme. Wynn is a better run stopper than pass rusher.

Round 6/187 — Brandon Underwood, CB/S, 6-1, 198, Cincinnati

Underwood made the most of his one season at Cincinnati after transferring from Ohio State, where his three years were marred by academic and injury issues. Starting at both free safety and his natural spot of cornerback, Underwood was a playmaker for Cincinnati. He broke up six passes, intercepted three and forced two fumbles. His best recorded 40 time was 4.36.

Round 7/218 — Brad Jones, LB, 6-3, 232, Colorado

The Packers feel they came away with tremendous value with their final draft pick. Jones was a three-year starter, primarily at strong-side linebacker, in a 3-4 scheme. Colorado played to his athletic and playmaking strengths, liberally moving him around. He occasionally lined up as a hand-down pass rusher on the edge, registering seven sacks in 2008. Coverage skills are solid.

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