NFC NORTH

NFC North: What the Vikings, Bears and Packers may do in round one

Posted Apr 24, 2012

The top two picks in the NFL Draft have already been decided and it's just a matter of formality at this point. The Colts are ready to make Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck the No. 1 pick in the draft and the Redskins traded up earlier this month so they could select Baylor quarterback Robert Griffin III.

That leaves the drama of the draft to start when the Vikings get on the clock with the No. 3 pick.

They have a tough decision to make because they have so many needs following a 3-13 season. The Vikings have three days to decide between USC tackle Matt Kalil, LSU cornerback Morris Claiborne, Oklahoma State receiver Justin Blackmon, or take offers to trade the pick.

One thing is for certain; the Vikings control the early portion of the 2012 draft

Here's a look at three possible picks in the first round for Vikings, Bears and Packers.

3. Minnesota Vikings

Pick #1: USC offensive tackle Matt Kalil

Pick #2: LSU cornerback Morris Claiborne

Pick #3: Oklahoma State receiver Justin Blackmon

A case for all three: The Vikings took quarterback Christian Ponder with the 12th overall pick last year. It only makes sense that Kalil follows one year later to protect that investment. The Vikings have a huge hole at left tackle and Kalil looks like a Pro Bowl-caliber talent.

The Vikings play quarterbacks Aaron Rodgers, Matthew Stafford and Jay Cutler twice every season. The Vikings ranked 26th against the pass last season and gave up 13 plays of more than 40 yards. Claiborne is the best cornerback available.

The Vikings don't have a serious receiving threat outside of Percy Harvin. Harvin led the team with 970 receiving yards last season. Michael Jenkins was second with 466 yards.

Final decision: I think in the end, the Vikings make the smart move and select their left tackle for the next 10-12 years in Kalil.

19. Chicago Bears

Pick #1: Illinois defensive end Whitney Mercilus

Pick #2: Syracuse defensive end Chandler Jones

Pick #3: South Carolina CB Stephon Gilmore

A case for all three: Julius Peppers isn't getting any younger and Mercilus is a pretty good insurance plan in the middle of the first round. Mercilus is a natural pass rusher who burst onto the scene last year with 16 sacks. The Bears have taken a very close look at Mercilus, according to reports.

Jones has good size and speed but is a little raw. He could end up being the draft's best pass rusher in time and could benefit initially playing opposite Peppers.

Most analysts have Gilmore pegged as the draft's second-best corner behind Claiborne. The Bears ranked 28th against the pass last year and Gilmore is great value in the middle of the first round.

Final decision: It will be very hard to pass on Mercilus.

28. Green Bay Packers

Pick #1: Boise State outside linebacker Shea McClellin

Pick #2: Clemson defensive end/outside linebacker Andrew Branch

Pick #3: Notre Dame safety Harrison Smith

A case for all three: McClellin has been skyrocketing up draft boards of late. He has an extremely high motor – much like Clay Matthews – with the ability to play both inside and outside.

The Packers utilize a number of schemes both offensively and defensively and Branch would fit at both defensive end and outside linebacker. Branch was a terror at Clemson last year and the Packers are looking for that kind of disruption opposite Matthews.

The Packers are still waiting to see is safety Nick Collins can return from neck fusion surgery. Smith would be a pretty good insurance policy to Collins and would also add depth to the league's worst pass defense a season ago.

Final decision: McClellin looks to be the closest thing to Clay Matthews in this draft.

Around the NFC North:

Bears finalize deal with guard Rachal
Dan Pompei - Tribune

Bears looking to avoid players with injury risk
Brad Biggs - Tribune

GM Emery won't rule out 'Hard Knocks'
Melissa Isaacson - ESPNChicago.com

Ex-Illini Whitney Mercilus the definition of 'gamble' for Bears
Mark Potash - Sun Times

Bears entering draft with flexibility
Larry Mayer - Chicagobears.com

Drafting Kalil a tough call to tackle
Dan Wiederer - Star Tribune

Vikings digging into Jerome Simpson's checkered past
Tom Pelissero - 1500ESPN

Packers release tackle Chad Clifton
Rob Demovsky - Press Gazette

Packers draft preview
Pete Dougherty - Press Gazette

Defensive needs may rule Packers' draft day
Bob McGinn - Journal Sentinel