While the Bears were addressing their offensive line with guard Kyle Long, the rest of the NFL North was going in very different directions, although the Bears were not alone in taking gambles on first-rounders with relatively little experience at high levels.
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The Minnesota Vikings had two No. 1 picks last year. They upped that to three this draft, going into the draft with picks 23 and 25, then supplementing that with a late jump up into the first round in a deal that brought them the New England Patriots’ pick at No. 29 in exchange for their second-, third-, fourth- and seventh-round picks.
Based on multiple draft evaluators, and potentially worrisome for the Bears, the Vikings used their picks on players at very high-impact positions. Minnesota grabbed Florida defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd at No. 23; Floyd was projected as a top-10 pick by many evaluators.
“Look for him to get a minimum six to eight sacks as a rookie in the NFL,” said NFL Network draft analyst Mike Mayock.
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They followed that with Florida State cornerback Xavier Rhodes at No. 25. Rhodes had grades in the mid-first round and immediately upgrades the Vikings secondary with a corner who is 6-2 in a division dominated by big receivers.
Minnesota general manager Rick Spielman then spent much of his draft to select Tennessee wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson, who amassed 29 touchdown catches in just three seasons.
What makes Patterson interesting is that 24 of his TD catches were at Hutchinson (Kan.) J.C., meaning that like Long, he has just one year of major-college experience.
The Detroit Lions lost defensive ends Cliff Avril and Kyle Vanden Bosch this offseason. To address that, they elected to reinforce their defensive line in the person of BYU defensive end Ezekial Ansah at No. 5 overall.
Ansah, 6-5, 267 pounds, is 24, like Long. And he has just one season as a starter on the major-college level, with nine starts in 13 games last season. A former track athlete, he had zero sacks in his two previous seasons as a pass rusher.
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“The reason he is playing football is because the BYU basketball team cut him – twice,” Mayock said. “He is a boom or bust. Three years from now he is either an All-Pro or on the street.”
The move mirrors what the Bears and Green Bay Packers did in the 2012 draft, when Chicago took Shea McClellin and the Packers selected USC edge rusher Nick Perry.
Green Bay went for a different style of player with this year’s first pick but stayed the course with a force in their 3-4 front.
Defensive end Datone Jones started 43 of 51 games at UCLA and gives the Packers a 280-pounder with a history of pass-rush ability (6.5 sacks in 2012).
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The Bears will be able to evaluate their pick of Long against other players they passed on to take the Oregon offensive lineman.
Right after the Bears picked Long at No. 20, the Cincinnati Bengals chose Notre Dame tight end Tyler Eifert. The Bengals open the Bears' 2013 schedule on Sept. 8. The Vikings bring Floyd, Rhodes and Patterson to Soldier Field the next weekend.