The 2014 NFL Draft represents a prime opportunity for teams to shore up positions of need with an injection of fresh, young talent. As Day 1 in Radio City Music Hall draws closer, Elliot Harrison will be taking a division-by-division look at the draft priorities of all 32 teams in the league, starting with the NFC North below.
Top priority: Safety
I remember watching Chicago Cubs games on WGN in the 1980s and seeing the fans sitting atop the buildings surrounding Wrigley Field, enjoying Mountain Dew and taking in some baseball. It gave new meaning to the idea of shouting from the rooftops. If I were a Chicago sports fan now, with my shirt off and some cheap soda in hand, I'd be hollering just one word, from the rooftops and the third mezzanine of Radio City Music Hall: "SAFETY!!!" Oh, how desperately this team needs a guy who can cover ground and make smart decisions. On that note, let's circle back to the '80s and remind you that a huge reason the Bears were so successful on defense back then was the outstanding play of Gary Fencik and the late Dave Duerson, who both could do it all. While the nature of the position has changed, try telling someone in Chicago who was at the Week 17 loss to Green Bay last season that this isn't a need.
Possible fit: Ha Ha Clinton-Dix (Alabama) -- provided the Rams, who currently have the 13th overall pick, don't scoop him up before the Bears can nab him at No. 14.
Other areas of interest: Defensive tackle, outside linebacker, punter.
Top priority: Cornerback
In a division that features Aaron Rodgers, Jay Cutler and some quarterback who isn'tChristian Ponder or Josh Freeman, Detroit must be able to defend the sideline and stop vertical routes. That's tough to do, with Bears receivers Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery, Packers receivers Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb and Vikings pass-catcher Cordarrelle Patterson all on the docket. Right now, the Lions are rolling with Chris Houston and Rashean Mathis, but that pairing won't be strong enough. The club spent a second-round pick on Darius Slay last year, but if he were the complete answer, we wouldn't be typing this blurb, would we? Slay might develop, but these days, teams need three corners who can play, especially if their safeties are average -- as is the case in Detroit.
Possible fit:Justin Gilbert out of Oklahoma State should be available when the Lions pick 10th overall. #justsayin'
Other areas of interest: Interior offensive line, safety, kicker.
Green Bay Packers
Jeremiah: Team-by-team draft needs
As we approach the draft, Daniel Jeremiah identifies each team's softest spots -- and the prospects who can fill them. **READ**
Top priority: Tight end
As things stand today, the Packers have Andrew Quarless at tight end ... and not much else. Compounding the TE issue: Wideout James Jones is now with the Raiders. Jones caught 59 balls for 817 yards last season -- but more importantly, he also scored 24 touchdowns over the past three seasons. Who is going to replace that production? Jarrett Boykin? Not to disparage the young receiver out of Virginia Tech, but with Nelson and Cobb locked in outside and Eddie Lacy at tailback, tight end is clearly the position that could most afford to be upgraded, as it offers the most room for improvement. Let us also not forget the advantages of going with two tight ends: Either can be a threat up the seam on any given play, putting stress on opposing linebackers. Plus, with a TE on each end of the formation, there's no strong side, which means it's more difficult for the defense to read the run ahead of the snap. Interesting that the 1982 Super Bowl Champion Washington Redskins made the 2TE offense famous; Lacy reminds me so much of John Riggins. Go get a tight end, Ted Thompson.
Possible fit:Austin Seferian-Jenkins (Washington) could very well be there when the Packers select at No. 21. NFL Media's Charles Davis likes ASJ's "big-time hands." That's been a weakness with Packers tight ends in the past.
Other areas of interest: Offensive line, inside linebacker, defensive back.
Top priority: Quarterback
Oh man ... there are so many different directions in which the Vikings can go with the No. 8 overall pick. That's part of what makes the bottom of the top 10 so interesting. Who will fall? The thought here is that the Vikingsmust get a quarterback. Ponder has had three years to show what he can do, and other than when he displays his mobility -- which, mind you, is considerable -- he's been rather mediocre. The Freeman experiment was a disaster (... if you can classify that blip of playing time he got with the Vikes last year as an "experiment"). Call it organizational dabbling. After all the smoke cleared following a lackluster 5-10-1 campaign, it was obvious that Matt Cassel had outplayed everybody else in the QB rotation. He's had success in the NFL, so people should tap the brakes before dismissing the idea that he could be a viable starter. Of course, Cassel is not a kid anymore (he'll turn 32 in May) and he has not proven to be the long-term answer, either. Now, none of this is necessarily to say the Vikings should take a QB in the first round solely for the sake of pacifying a disgruntled fan base. But can the front office afford to wait until the team's second-round pick (40th overall)? Doubt it.
Possible fit: Heck, I'd love to name someone else here, but I think Blake Bortles (Central Florida) is going to be walking out on that stage with a purple jersey.
Other areas of interest: Defensive end, wide receiver, linebacker.