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April 16, 2008

NFC North: Vikings must continue to build

Rivals.com has partnered with NFL scout and draft expert Frank Coyle of draftinsiders.com to analyze the five biggest needs of each NFL team. Today, we look at the NFC North.

The rivals of the NFC North should place a premium on finding defensive help in the 2008 NFL Draft. Particular areas of concern include defensive back and offensive tackle.

NFC North: Chicago Bears | Detroit Lions | Green Bay Packers | Minnesota Vikings

Chicago (7-9 in 2007)
Head coach: Lovie Smith (5th year)
Key needs: 1. Offensive tackle 2. Quarterback 3. Running back
1. Offensive tackle - The Bears have veterans John Tait and Fred Miller. They love Vanderbilt's Chris Williams and, to a lesser degree, Pitt's Jeff Otah. They like USC's Sam Baker, Toledo's John Greco and Nebraska's Carl Nicks in the second or third rounds.
2. Quarterback - The Bears re-signed struggling starter Rex Grossman to a short-term contract. They hope to address this position early and will consider Louisville's Brian Brohm in the first round. They like Michigan's Chad Henne and Delaware's Joe Flacco in the second round, and will look to add one of those three prospects to compete for the starting job.
3. Running back - The Bears are more concerned about this position than they want people to know. Cedric Benson has not stepped up and claimed the feature-back role. The Bears have little depth at the position and could surprise and select Illinois' Rashard Mendenhall, if he is available, at No. 14 overall. They have targeted runners Felix Jones (Arkansas) and Ray Rice (Rutgers) in the second round. They also like Tulane's Matt Forte and UCF's Kevin Smith, and will consider them in the top 75 picks.
4. Wide receiver - The Bears lost starters Bernard Berrian and Muhsin Muhammad during the offseason. They added veterans Marty Booker and Brandon Lloyd but hope to add a playmaker early in the draft. They love Indiana's James Hardy and Michigan State's Devin Thomas in the early second round and Florida's Andre Caldwell and Vanderbilt's Earl Bennett in the third round. Thomas may be the player they covet the most in the early rounds.
5. Linebacker - They re-signed veteran Lance Briggs but still have marginal depth and talent behind their starting trio. They like Tennessee's Jerod Mayo in the second round. They also like Georgia Tech's Philip Wheeler, Miami's Tavares Gooden and Purdue's Stanford Keglar in the third round.
Detroit (7-9 in 2007)
Head coach: Rod Marinelli (3rd year)
Key needs: 1. Defensive end 2. Linebacker 3. Cornerback
1. Defensive end - The Lions let disappointing Kalimba Edwards leave via free agency. They love Florida's Derrick Harvey with their top pick, though he most likely will be off the board at No. 15 overall. Later in the first round, they like Miami's Calais Campbell and Clemson's Phillip Merling. With their second pick, they could opt for USC's Lawrence Jackson or Virginia Tech's Chris Ellis. Eastern Michigan's Jason Jones and Wake Forest's Jeremy Thompson could be available in the third round.
2. Linebacker - The Lions have addressed this area early in recent years with the addition of Pro Bowler Ernie Sims. They lost starters Teddy Lehman and Boss Bailey in free agency, and could draft both a middle man and weakside 'backer fairly early. G.M. Matt Millen would love to land Penn State's Dan Connor for the inside in second round. They also like Vanderbilt's Jonathan Goff and Colorado's Jordon Dizon in the top 100 picks. On the outside, they like Virginia Tech's Xavier Adibi and Georgia Tech's Philip Wheeler in the second round. They like Michigan's Shawn Crable in the third round for the strongside spot.
3. Cornerback - The Lions have only marginal talent here and most likely will address this position at least once early in the process. They love Tennessee State's Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and USF's Mike Jenkins in the first round. With their second-round selection, they could look at Virginia Tech's Brandon Flowers, Auburn's Pat Lee, Penn State's Justin King, LSU's Chevis Jackson or Iowa's Charles Godfrey, though the latter three should be available in the third round. The Lions probably will address the secondary twice in the early rounds and possibly in the first round.
4. Offensive tackle - The Lions have savvy veteran Jeff Backus at left tackle with young Jon Scott penciled in as the projected starter on the right side. They may address the position with their No. 1 pick if Vanderbilt's Chris Williams is available with the 15th overall selection. Millen also likes Pitt's Jeff Otah and Nebraska's Carl Nicks for the right side.
5. Tight end - The Lions hope to add a quality receiving tight end to get into the deep seam and provide more opportunities for their talented young wide receivers. Notre Dame's John Carlson or Purdue's Dustin Keller could be a surprise No. 2 pick, though this isn't the highest need area on this non-playoff club. Coach Rod Marinelli likes Michigan State's Kellen Davis and Texas A&M's Martellus Bennett in the third round.
Green Bay (13-3 in 2007)
Head coach: Mike McCarthy (3rd year)
Key needs: 1. Cornerback 2. Offensive Tackle 3. Wide receiver
1. Cornerback - The Packers must address this key area after a subpar performance in recent years. Starting corners Charles Woodson and Al Harris are entering their 12th seasons. They like Kansas' Aqib Talib, Arizona's Antoine Cason and Virginia Tech's Brandon Flowers in the late first round. They probably could address this position again later among the top-100 selections. Auburn's Pat Lee and Iowa's Charles Godfrey are second-round possibilities. They are considering Wisconsin's Jack Ikegwuonu in the middle rounds with an eye on the future.
2. Offensive tackle - Both starting tackles are over 31, and there is only marginal backup talent on the roster. They will most likely use one of their top-100 selections here and possibly their top pick if Boston College's Gosder Cherilus is available. They could select a prospect such as Nebraska's Carl Nicks, Ohio State's Kirk Barton, Kansas' Anthony Collins and Toledo's John Greco in the second or third rounds.
3. Wide receiver - The Packers have little depth behind starters Donald Driver and Greg Jennings. They probably will have a chance at a few of the top receivers, such as Indiana's James Hardy, LSU's Early Doucet and Michigan State's Devin Thomas late in the first round. They could look at Florida's Andre Caldwell or Vandy's Earl Bennett in the second round. They also like prospects such as Michigan's Mario Manningham and Kansas State's Jordy Nelson in the third round.
4. Tight end - The Packers received marginal production from former starter Bubba Franks, who left via free agency. They should address this position with a top-100 selection, and they like Notre Dame's John Carlson and Purdue's Dustin Keller with their No. 2 pick. They also like Michigan State's Kellen Davis and California's Craig Stevens in the middle rounds.
5. Running back - The Packers were pleased with Ryan Grant, who was acquired in a trade last season. They have two young backs in Brandon Jackson and DeShawn Wynn, and hope at least one can step up in camp to become the clear-cut No. 2 back. Still, they most likely will use a selection at this position and possibly their top pick if Arkansas' Felix Jones is available. They could go with Rutgers' Ray Rice and UCF's Kevin Smith, who have starting potential, in the second or third rounds.
Minnesota (8-8 in 2007)
Head coach: Brad Childress (3rd year)
Key needs: 1. Quarterback 2. Wide receiver 3. Defensive end
1. Quarterback - The Vikings are hoping young starter Tarvaris Jackson steps up and establishes himself as a bona-fide NFL regular. They also are hoping Louisville's Brian Brohm falls to the 17th overall selection, and could look to trade up in the second round for Michigan's Chad Henne or Delaware's Joe Flacco. They also are considering adding a veteran such as J.P. Losman if the price is right.
2. Wide receiver - While former top pick Troy Williamson has been a total bust for the most part, rookie Sidney Rice did a solid job last season. The Vikings signed veteran Bernard Berrian and he should give them a legitimate deep threat. With their No. 1 pick, they will have a shot at any receiver and like Texas' Limas Sweed and California's DeSean Jackson. They could trade down and still land a solid prospect late in the first round. They like Houston's Donnie Avery and Florida's Andre Caldwell in the second round. The Vikings are expected to address this position at least once, most likely on the first day.
3. Defensive end - The defense has made many recent changes with minimal improvement. They would like Brian Robison, a rookie last season, to win a starting job. Veteran Kenechi Udeze hopes to continue to play despite a serious illness. They need a playmaker off the edge with former No. 1 pick Erasmus James once again rehabbing a knee injury. They will consider an edge rusher such as Florida's Derrick Harvey, Auburn's Quentin Groves and Miami's Calais Campbell in the middle of the first round. They like USC's Lawrence Jackson and Virginia Tech's Chris Ellis in the second and third rounds.
4. Offensive tackle - The Vikings need a right tackle and they hope one of the top prospects falls to the 17th selection. They love Vanderbilt's Chris Williams, but he most likely will be gone. They will consider Pitt's Jeff Otah and Boston College's Gosder Cherilus with their No. 1 pick. They like Kansas' Anthony Collins and UTEP's Oniel Cousins in the second round.
5. Tight end - The Vikings love Purdue's Dustin Keller and Texas A&M's Martellus Bennett in the second round. They also like Texas' Jermichael Finley, Missouri's Martin Rucker and Michigan State's Kellen Davis in the middle rounds. They lack speed in the middle to stretch the field. They like pass-catching prospects Jacob Tamme (Kentucky) and Gary Barnidge (Louisville) on the second day.

Frank Coyle is a nationally known NFL scout who publishes Draft Insiders' Digest and www.draftinsiders.com. In it's 16th season, Draft Insiders' Digest is dedicated to year-round coverage of NFL and NCAA Football. He covers the NFL Draft and free agency extensively with a veteran scouting staff that provides insightful and unique information on players and team potential in the coming seasons. Draft Insiders' Digest is an extensive publication that produces 15 issues throughout the year and a Draft Yearbook with over 450 in-depth scouting reports.

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