Commentary

Summer Audits: NFC North

Taking stock of the situations in Chicago, Minnesota, Green Bay and Detroit

Updated: July 20, 2010, 7:34 AM ET
By Mel Kiper Jr. | ESPN Insider
Ndamukong Suh/Toby GerhartUS Presswire/AP PhotoSuh and Gerhart could have immediate impacts for their respective teams this year.

The draft is obviously the focal point of the NFL offseason for me, but it certainly doesn't end there. The picks are only half of the equation. How they fit is where the draft is really made. And part of that has to factor in the personnel that teams have added around them.

So with the draft clearly in mind, let's do a quick summer audit on the situations of the teams in the AFC North. So far I've done the AFC West, NFC West, AFC South, NFC South and AFC North. (You can find all the pieces together in one place by going here.) I'll hit three things:

1. A crucial influx, such as an impact player or position group.
2. A question mark that still lingers.
3. If the team had a chance to pick anyone from the 2011 draft class right now to address a hole, who it would be. (Whether a team has an early pick in next year's draft isn't the issue -- it's just a hypothetical involving top college talent and current needs.)

So call it a checkup and a look-ahead wrapped together -- part deep projection, part current need.

Chicago Bears

Crucial influx: First of all, I realize the Bears were the team most would grade "incomplete" for the draft. If you get a good starter or two out of a draft where you have five total picks and none before No. 75 overall, you've done extremely well. But I think the Bears have a chance. Major Wright was a solid value pick at a position where they needed him -- he can compete to start early on in an admittedly thin secondary. The Bears did their damage in free agency, of course. Let me say this: There's been a knock on Julius Peppers about his consistency. The guy's been in the league eight years and has 10.5 sacks or more in six of them! Is he worth the money they threw at him? You know what they say about past results and guarantees, but no evaluator in the world would tell you he's anything less than one of the best defensive ends in the league when he's 100 percent. At worst, he's an upgrade; at best, he can change the opposition's game plan.


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Mel Kiper Jr.

Football analyst