NFL Draft Preview: NFC North

Read our complete 2006 NFL Draft Coverage!

Chicago Bears
Current 1st Round Draft Position: 26th
Top Team Needs: LB, TE, CB, OT

LB: The Bears at set at two of the three starting positions with Lance Briggs and Brian Urlacher, but while it’s likely the team re-signs Hunter Hillenmeyer to play on the strong side, they could use another LB who will either push Hillenmeyer for a starting job now, or be groomed to take over for Briggs (an unrestricted free agent after this year) if an extension can’t be worked out with him. The current crew of backups is mediocre.

TE: The Bears haven’t had an effective pass catching TE in years (decades?). Desmond Clark is the current starter, and while decent, he isn’t fast or consistent enough to be a real threat at the position. It will be a surprise if Chicago passes on a TE on day one.

CB: Nathan Vasher and Charles Tillman are good young CB’s, but Tillman’s coming off shoulder surgery and had lapses in coverage last season. The Bears signed Dante Wesley from the Carolina Panthers, and have recently signed restricted free agent Ricky Manning Jr. (also from the Panthers), and it’s unknown if the Panthers will match the offer sheet as of this writing. Both provide good depth, but there’s always a premium put on the CB position and since there is some concern about Tillman, the Bears may look at this position even if they get Manning.

OT: There’s nothing wrong at all with John Tait and Fred Miller as the starters. But both are over 30 years old and there is a lack of quality depth behind them. Drafting an athletic OT who provides immediate depth and can be developed for a few years down the road would be a smart move.

Detroit Lions
Current 1st Round Draft Position: 9th
Top Team Needs: LB, CB, OT, DE

LB: Earl Holmes (if he’s re-signed) or Teddy Lehman will man the ILB spot. If it’s Holmes, than Lehman moves back outside opposite Boss Bailey. Big problem is that all 3 had injury issues last year and there’s a lack of talent on the bench behind them. LB is a day one area of concern for Detroit.

CB: When healthy, Dre Bly is an outstanding cover corner. Fernando Bryant opposite him hasn’t a played a full 16 game season in 2 years as a Lion. R.W McQuarters and Andre Goodman are both gone leaving a gaping hole in depth. CB will likely be the position the Lions target with their first pick.

OT: It’s a foregone conclusion that the team will have franchise free agent Jeff Backus back in 2006, but the Lions took a hit when Kyle Kosier signed with the Dallas Cowboys, leaving mediocre Kelly Butler and a cast of underwhelming names to compete for the other starting spot, not to mention provide depth. The Lions have drafted OT’s in the first round 3 of the last 6 years, so it’s unlikely they’ll do so again, but they’ll definitely look at the position some time during the draft.

DE: The Lions have decent guys at the position, but nobody that stands out as a pass rusher. James Hall has 22 sacks in the last 3 seasons, but he really isn’t a speed rusher on the end. Kalimba Edwards is looked at as a guy who should be able to provide that type of rush, but hasn’t yet in his career. Cory Redding is a solid run stuffer, and Jared DeVries provides quality depth, but none of these guys is the impact pass rusher the team needs.

Green Bay Packers
Current 1st Round Draft Position: 5th
Top Team Needs: OG, C, LB, DE

OG: A big part of the reason for the struggles of the Packers both running the ball and protecting Brett Favre in 2005 was because of the lack of talent on the interior of the OL. 2005 7th round draft pick Will Whitticker ended up starting most of the season and may eventually develop, but he was clearly outclassed last year. Adrian Klemm never made the impact hoped for. While the Packers won’t use the 5th overall pick on this position, they are likely to draft at least G on day one, and probably a second on day 2.

C: Scott Wells takes over for departed Mike Flanagan and while Wells is okay, he at the very least needs some competition for the starting gig. The interior of the Packers OL is a big question mark and it’s very likely the Packers draft 3 offensive linemen who are versatile enough to be shuffled around to all 3 interior positions.

LB: Signing Ben Taylor was a good move for Green Bay, but they lost Na’il Diggs to free agency and there are depth concerns. Between Nick Barnett and Ben Taylor they have 2 starting positions locked up, but it remains to be seen if the team feels Brady Poppinga or Robert Thomas can effectively man the other OLB spot.

DE: Re-signing Aaron Kampmann prevented this from being a position of dire need. But it’s still a position in need of a run stuffer opposite Kampmann. Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila is an excellent pass rusher, but isn’t much against the run. A more complete DE who can start and make KGB into a pass rush specialist would help.

Minnesota Vikings
Current 1st Round Draft Position: 17th
Top Team Needs: LB, QB, CB, C

LB: Ben Leber comes over from San Diego and provides another talented LB who has yet to show he is a complete LB. The Vikings have guys like that in E.J. Henderson, Dontarrious Thomas, and Napoleon Harris. All 3 starting spots at LB are up for grabs in Minnesota and it’s clear the Vikings will draft at least 1, and possibly 2 to compete for them.

QB: Brad Johnson will be 38 in September so there’s a definite need to be thinking about the future. Mike McMahon followed Brad Childress from Philadelphia but he’s not the answer. QB should be a position the Vikings address during the draft.

CB: The starting spots are secure with Antoine Winfield and Fred Smoot, but depth is clearly a concern. Brian Williams signed with Jacksonville and there is no proven backup should anything happen to either Winfield or Smoot. A quality CB who could play as the nickel back is needed.

C: Matt Birk is expected to return after missing all of 2005 with a hip injury. Birk’s one of the best when healthy, but whether he will stand up for the whole season is in question. An insurance policy should be something the Vikings consider on draft day.

See Russ's other 2006 NFL Draft articles:

Russ Bliss is FantasyFootballStarters.com's exclusive fantasy football expert, a member of the Fantasy Sports Writers Association, and for 10 years has been the radio host of "The Red Zone, Talking Fantasy Football and the NFL," in Phoenix, Arizona.

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