NFC North draft needs: Bears look to rebuild ailing pass rush
2013 record: 8-8
Key player departures: CB Zack Bowman, KR Devin Hester, QB Josh McCown, DT Henry Melton, DE Julius Peppers, P Adam Podlesh, DE Corey Wootton, S Major Wright
Free-agent signings: CB Kelvin Hayden, DE Lamarr Houston, S Ryan Mundy, LB D.J. Williams, S Danny McCray, WR Domenik Hixon, C Brian de la Puente, DE Jared Allen, DE Willie Young
Positions of need: Defensive tackle, defensive end, safety, offensive guard
Analysis: Injuries and ineptitude riddled the Bears’ rush defense a season ago. Jared Allen steps in for Julius Peppers, and Lamarr Houston should help solidify the interior, but I don’t think Chicago’s done with the position just yet. I’d look at Minnesota DT Ra’Shede Hageman and Florida State’s Timmy Jernigan as possibilities in the first round, with a guy like Kony Ealy as an option if they’re looking to solidify the pass rush.
2013 record: 7-9
Key player departures: WR Nate Burleson, S Louis Delmas, OT Jason Fox, QB Shaun Hill, DE Israel Idonije, DE Willie Young
Free-agent signings: DT Vaughn Martin, DT Corvey Irvin, WR Kevin Ogletree, WR Golden Tate, S James Ihedigbo, DE Darryl Tapp, DB Rashean Mathis
Positions of need: Cornerback, inside linebacker, defensive end, wide receiver
Analysis: The Lions missed the playoffs for the second straight season and did so in rather disappointing fashion over the campaign’s final weeks. Jim Schwartz is out; Jim Caldwell is in. Nate Burleson is out; Golden Tate is in. James Ihedigbo and Rashean Mathis could help solidify the secondary. With the 10th pick, I’d look for the Lions to select a cornerback, a need that continues to hamper them in the pass-happy NFC North. Names to consider include Darqueze Dennard, Kyle Fuller, Justin Gilbert and rising prospect Bradley Roby.
Green Bay Packers
2013 record: 8-7-1
Key player departures: C Evan Dietrich-Smith, WR James Jones, OT Marshall Newhouse, DE CJ Wilson
Free-agent signings: DE Julius Peppers, DT Letroy Guion, CB Sam Shields, DT B.J. Raji, DE Mike Neal, RB James Starks, TE Andrew Quarless
Positions of Need: Outside linebacker, defensive tackle, cornerback, tight end
Analysis: The Packers were down to their fourth- and fifth-string outside linebacker across from Clay Matthews in their playoff loss to the 49ers. Nick Perry still is the name they’re talking up in Green Bay, but I wouldn’t be shocked if a pass rusher was scooped up at No. 21 overall. If Anthony Barr slips to the back half of the first round, Green Bay could be the destination. Other names to watch are Ryan Shazier out of Ohio State and Kyle Van Noy out of BYU.
2013 record: 5-10-1
Key player departures: DE Jared Allen, TE John Carlson, CB Chris Cook, RB Toby Gerhart, DT Letroy Guion, WR Joe Webb
Free-agent signings: S Kurt Coleman, G Vladimir Ducasse, DE Corey Wootton, CB Derek Cox, CB Captain Munnerlyn, DT Linval Joseph, DT Tom Johnson
Positions of need: Defensive end, quarterback, safety, inside linebacker
Analysis: The Vikings could turn to Matt Cassel or Christian Ponder at quarterback, or they could go ahead and draft one with the eighth pick. I’d think Norv Turner would see a Blake Bortles-, Derek Carr- or Tom Savage-sized quarterback being the guy and not a Bridgewater or Manziel. If the Vikings address the pass rush with their first-round pick, I could see either Khalil Mack or Anthony Barr being high on their list.