NFC North: If This Guy's Still Available...

OT Derek Sherrod (US Presswire)

In the NFC North, the Bears, Lions and Vikings all need great choices in Round 1 if they are going to catch the Packers. Here are some prospects they have to consider if still on the board.

Chicago Bears


OT Derek Sherrod
Derick E. Hingle/US Presswire

If he's still available at No. 29 overall in Round 1, then the Bears have to take Derek Sherrod.

The Monsters of the Midway traded away two first-round picks for Jay Cutler and handed him a lucrative contract extension seemingly an hour later, so he's the face of the franchise now no matter what Brian Urlacher does on the defensive side of the ball. Cutler played much better his second year in the Windy City than he did his first, improving his touchdown-to-interception ratio from 27-to-26 to 23-to-16 and his passer rating from 76.8 to 86.3, but he has been sacked 87 times in 31 games with an orange C on his helmet. While Frank Omiyale may have been the best left tackle in town last year once it was confirmed that former first rounder Chris Williams couldn't get the job done, it doesn't mean Omiyale is a long-term solution on the blind side.

Sherrod, a 6-5, 321-pounder out of Mississippi State, has a nastiness about him that Williams never did, and with the coaching staff high on 2010 second-round selection J'Marcus Webb, perhaps Cutler's jersey will be a little cleaner this season.

Detroit Lions


CB Prince Amukamara
Tim Heltman/US Presswire

If he's still available at No. 13 overall in Round 1, then the Lions have to take Prince Amukamara.

From 2009 to 2010, Detroit made just a remarkable improvement in its pass defense, going from 32nd in the league (265.6 yards allowed per game) to 16th (218.6). However, the majority of that progress was the result of Defensive Rookie of the Year Ndamukong Suh and the rest of what turned out to be a very productive front four, not because the coverage was actually any good in the secondary. Chris Houston and Nathan Vasher ended up in the Motor City's starting lineup at cornerback by the end of the season, and seeing how safety Louis Delmas may not be as great as originally advertised, this team needs a lockdown corner in the worst way.

Amukamara, a 6-0, 206-pounder out of Nebraska, would be the No. 1 prospect at his position in most drafts but is No. 2 this year because LSU's Patrick Peterson might be a once-in-a-decade talent -- he's unquestionably a starter from Day 1, though.

Green Bay Packers


DE Cameron Heyward
Matthew Emmons/US Presswire

If he's still available at No. 32 overall in Round 1, then the Packers have to take Cameron Heyward.

Green Bay won Super Bowl XLV despite a M*A*S*H unit on both sides of the ball, particularly at linebacker after Nick Barnett, Brandon Chillar, Brad Jones and also Brady Poppinga all ended the season prematurely on injured reserve. But since Clay Matthews made a strong case for Defensive Player of the Year from his outside linebacker position, an argument can be made that the Pack have a much greater need along the defensive line heading into the draft, especially at end. Cullen Jenkins is ready to take off in free agency, Johnny Jolly is in trouble with the law, former first rounder Justin Harrell is officially a bust and 2010 second rounder Mike Neal was a part of the IR crowd as a rookie.

Heyward, a 6-5, 294-pounder out of Ohio State and the son of late former NFL running back Craig "Ironhead" Heyward, has the size necessary to play five technique and will benefit right away from getting to line up next to behemoth nose tackle B.J. Raji.

Minnesota Vikings


DE Da'Quan Bowers
Dale Zanine/US Presswire

If he's still available at No. 12 overall in Round 1, then the Vikings have to take Da'Quan Bowers.

In addition to Brett Favre playing out of his mind on offense, the Vikings were a failed overtime period against the Saints away from a Super Bowl appearance in 2009 because of their dominant defensive line. But this past season, not only did Favre's deal with The Devil expire, but end Jared Allen wasn't in the enemy backfield as often -- end Ray Edwards and tackle Pat Williams are also set to depart once free agency commences. While Allen remains one of the premier players at his position and tackle Kevin Williams did make his fifth straight Pro Bowl, Minnesota needs another pass rusher off the edge since Brian Robison is nothing more than a role player and 2010 fourth-round pick Everson Griffen may never live up to his potential.

Bowers, a 6-3, 280-pounder out of Clemson, is tumbling down draft boards because of a knee injury and didn't impress at his Pro Day, but he was in contention for No. 1 overall not long ago and -- he's a risk, yes -- may be too talented to bypass at 12th.

Of course, if the team doctors checking out Bowers feel he needs microfracture surgery on his knee, then scratch him off Minnesota's list completely.


John Crist is an NFL analyst for Scout.com, a voter for the Heisman Trophy and a member of the Professional Football Writers of America.

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