Commentary

NFC North: Bears hope to breathe life into struggling offense

Chicago worked on improving its offense early, the Lions moved around the draft board and the Packers gave Aaron Rodgers two QBs to breath on his neck.

Originally Published: April 27, 2008
By Bill Williamson | ESPN.com

The big draft noise out of the NFC North occurred four days before the opening round, when Minnesota shipped three picks to Kansas City for defensive end Jared Allen.

DRAFT DIVISIONAL REVIEWS
• Walker: NFC East draft review
• Sando: NFC West draft review
• Willamson: NFC North draft review
• Yasinskas: NFC South draft review
• Sando: AFC East draft review
• Williamson: AFC West draft review
• Walker: AFC North draft review
• Yasinskas: AFC South draft review
Once the proceedings started Saturday, Chicago worked on improving its offense early, the Lions moved around the draft board, trying to help their offense and the Packers gave Aaron Rodgers two quarterbacks to look at over his shoulder.

Here is a breakdown of this weekend's draft within the NFC North:

Best move


[+] EnlargeMatt Forte
Aaron M. Sprecher/Icon SMIMatt Forte, the Bears' second-round pick, rushed for 2,127 yards and 23 touchdowns as a senior at Tulane.
The Bears addressed their biggest issue, and focused on offensive help with their top three picks. It is startling how far Chicago has fallen. Remember, this team was in the Super Bowl less than 15 months ago. Now, the Bears seem 15 years away from their next trip. While there are problems as well on the defensive side of the ball, the Bears had to breathe some life into their offense.

This weekend, the Bears' offense made some progress. In the first three rounds they nabbed Vanderbilt left tackle Chris Williams, Tulane running back Matt Forte and Vanderbilt wide receiver Earl Bennett. These are high-value picks who should all step right in and get the chance to contribute. It is time for Chicago to finally put an NFL-level offense on the field, and these picks will certainly help.

Riskiest move


While it appears the Vikings took a chance in trading three picks for Allen, this was not a bad move at all. Allen is a superstar in his prime. Anytime you can get a player who led the NFL in sacks at the age of 25, you make that deal. Add Allen with Pro Bowl defensive tackles Kevin Williams and Pat Williams and the Vikings now have the best defensive line in the NFL.

But Allen does come with risks. He is one violation away from being suspended for a year under the NFL's substance abuse policy. Also, by giving up a first-rounder and two third-rounders for Allen, this move could put a dent in the Vikings' future.

So if Allen has an off-field issue and takes a step back in his development on the field, Minnesota -- which gave Allen more than $31 million in guaranteed money -- will suffer. But this move was well worth the risk. Allen can be a difference-maker for Minnesota.

Most surprising move


The Packers turned some heads when they drafted quarterback Brian Brohm in the second round. There were whispers prior to the draft that Green Bay could take Delaware quarterback Joe Flacco in the first round, but it seemed unlikely, despite the fact Brett Favre is retired. Rodgers is young and appears ready, but is going to face enough pressure with the threat of Favre coming out of retirement. So when Green Bay chose Brohm, it provided some shockwaves.

Green Bay general manager Ted Thompson has tried to play down the situation by saying Brohm was brought in as a backup. That may be true, but if he performs well in practices and in the preseason, there could be a quarterback controversy in Green Bay. There is nothing wrong with competition, Rodgers doesn't need any right now.

File it away


Kevin Smith will be a star for the Lions, who traded up to get the running back with the first pick of the third round Sunday. Essentially, the Lions spent all of Saturday night and early Sunday trying to figure out a way to get the player they considered the best on the board after the first two rounds. This was time well spent.

The Central Florida product is a strong runner who will be a difference-maker in the NFL. Detroit desperately needs a strong running back, and Smith has a chance to be a consistent 1,000-yard rusher. This was a significant pickup by Detroit.

Bill Williamson covers the NFL for ESPN.com

Bill Williamson | email

ESPN Oakland Raiders reporter