- Mel Kiper Jr., Football analyst
Let's pretend for a moment that the NFL hasn't ground to a halt like a train rusted to the tracks. Let's pretend as well that the season will start on time, that free agency will at some point get under way and that all these roster voids can be addressed at some point. Got it? Well, with those rose-colored glasses on, let's audit all the divisions in the NFL. Like last year, I'll hit on three things:
• Help added: What has the team done so far this offseason to improve its prospects? (Obviously, minus free agency, this is mainly limited to the draft.)
• Questions that remain: Consider it a guide to free agency (when it happens). What must still be addressed?
• Next year's help now: With an eye toward next year's draft class, which player from 2012 seemingly could help the team in 2011? This is meant to be extremely hypothetical.
Here is the version for the NFC North:
Help added: When Wisconsin tackle Gabe Carimi was still available in the late first round, the Bears were anxious to bring him into the fold. They thought enough of the former Badger to have agreed in principle to a trade with the Ravens, sending Baltimore a fourth-round pick in order to swap No. 1s and move up three spots to secure Carimi's rights. But the trade didn't happen; the Bears remained at No. 29, and as luck would have it, they were still able to get their guy. While Carimi held up quite well at left tackle during his college career, there are some concerns as to whether that will be the case in the NFL. In my opinion, he's best-suited to be a right tackle, where I think he could be very good. While the Bears lack a top-flight starter at both positions, the more pressing need is at left tackle, and my guess is he'll be given a chance to earn a starting job.
The Bears' focus in the second round was on their biggest need on the defensive side of the football. Oregon State defensive tackle Stephen Paea came into the season with a late first-round grade. But he failed to dominate on a consistent basis the way you would expect and ended up falling to pick No. 53. At that point, I thought he was a great value. Along with having tremendous weight-room strength, he also has the quickness to chase down plays in pursuit. The Bears are currently unsettled at both DT spots. Right now, it appears Paea will line up at the 3-technique and move over to the nose in certain situations.
The Bears nailed the value aspect of the first two rounds of the draft, and while they added some other pieces -- notably, another quarterback in Nathan Enderle -- they hit their top two needs and should see some early dividends, given the experience of the guys they added.