The NFC North got people’s attention on Thursday night.
Two of the more notable picks in the middle of the first round were made by division rivals Minnesota and Detroit, but they were notable for different reasons.
First, the Vikings took Florida State quarterback Christian Ponder at No. 12. That immediately drew inquisitive responses from draft analysts, who didn’t see Ponder going that high.
Three quarterbacks – Cam Newton at No. 1 to Carolina, Jake Locker at No. 8 to Tennessee and Blaine Gabbert at No. 10 to Jacksonville – had already come off the board, though, and the Vikings were thought to be looking for their quarterback of the future in this draft.
Whether they reached for Ponder, time will tell. It is interesting that no other quarterbacks were taken over the final 20 picks of the first round.
Then right after the Vikings picked, the Lions grabbed defensive tackle Nick Fairley from Auburn, a player thought to be rated higher than No. 13 overall but who kept sliding during the mini-QB run.
Last year the Lions used their first-round pick on a big defensive tackle, as well, Ndamukong Suh with the second overall pick. The pairing of Suh and Fairley in the middle of Detroit’s defensive line for the next several years is an intimidating thought. It could be the second coming of the Pat Williams-Kevin Williams wall that has been so successful in Minnesota.
As for the defending division champs, the Bears took Wisconsin offensive tackle Gabe Carimi at No. 29, though Chicago was rumored to be in trade discussions with Baltimore to move up to No. 26, which led to Baltimore not finalizing the deal or getting its pick in on time. Kansas City ended up sliding ahead to select Pitt receiver Jonathan Baldwin at No. 26, the third and last receiver taken in the first round, with Baltimore then taking Colorado cornerback Jimmy Smith at No. 27, the third and final corner to go.
Whether the Bears were targeting Carimi and ended up getting him at their regular spot anyway, or if they had their eye on another player for awhile, is tough to say.
Considering the protection problems the Bears had on offense last season, an offensive lineman makes a lot of sense for them.
Other notes from Thursday’s first round, which started at a rather snappy pace but then dragged a bit through the second half of the round as teams seemed to be exploring trade options throughout their allotted time:
Four trades were made, with New Orleans the lone team to end Thursday night with two picks. The Saints drafted Cal defensive end Cameron Jordan at No. 24 and then traded for New England’s pick at No. 28 to get Alabama running back Mark Ingram, the only running back taken in the first round.
Former Packers head coach Mike Holmgren was swinging deals while running Cleveland’s draft, making two of the four trades on the night. First, he got a king’s ransom for the No. 6 overall pick from Atlanta – getting the Falcons’ first (No. 27), second (No. 59) and fourth-round (No. 124) picks this year, plus a first and fourth next year, as Atlanta took receiver Julio Jones from Alabama. Then, Holmgren traded up from that 27th spot to get Kansas City’s 21st slot and take Baylor defensive tackle Phil Taylor.
Not surprisingly, defensive linemen were the most popular in this first round. If you count the Big Ten’s J.J. Watt and Ryan Kerrigan as defensive linemen (they’re projected to convert to outside linebacker), then a dozen defensive linemen were chosen. Offensive line was next with eight picks, six of them tackles.