So, two days away from the blog at the end of March was long enough to miss out on the conception and some of the execution of an ESPN.com blog network mock draft. I handled the NFC North's first two choices, for the Minnesota Vikings and Chicago Bears. My ESPN.com blog colleagues filled in on the Detroit Lions and Green Bay Packers.
There will be more mock drafts to come from the blog network, in addition to those authored by ESPN's host of draft analysts. So hang on. Below are the NFC North choices from Monday's blog network mock:
3. Vikings: USC offensive tackle Matt Kalil
Comment: There are of course no trades in this mock so we can't really explore what might be the Vikings' top choice here at No. 3. But barring a trade, I'm not prepared to predict they will choose outside the box at this spot. They don't have a left tackle, and Kalil is the consensus choice as the best non-quarterback prospect available. Despite general manager Rick Spielman's posturing, I don't see him getting cute. Yet.
19. Bears: Stanford T Jonathan Martin
Comment: I bet NFC East colleague Dan Graziano will grab Martin in our next mock, considering the newly-revealed Achilles injury of Philadelphia Eagles left tackle Jason Peters. But for now, we get to ponder a Bears future with a more promising left tackle than current starter J'Marcus Webb. Coach Lovie Smith expressed support last week for Webb, but you have to couch such pre-draft statements. I was actually hoping that Stanford guard David DeCastro would be available, but AFC North colleague Jamison Hensley grabbed him for the Cincinnati Bengals at No. 17. DeCastro is a beast.
23. Lions: South Carolina cornerback Stephon Gilmore
Comment: This is a perfectly logical and reasonable choice by my colleagues, addressing a need with an appropriately-ranked player. Gilmore would give the Lions an immediate alternative to Aaron Berry and/or Jacob Lacey at cornerback, and would certainly give them depth at a position that contributed to their defensive collapse in 2011. We all know that general manager Martin Mayhew doesn't make decisions based on need, especially at the top of the draft, but this might be a fortuitous combination of talent and need.
28. Packers: Wisconsin center Peter Konz
Comment: Again, I see where my colleagues were coming from. Scott Wells departed via free agency and replacement Jeff Saturday is a year-to-year proposition. But I wonder if there is enough urgency to draft a center in the first round. Often you can find a development center in the later rounds, and the Packers have a total of 11 picks after the first. Unless general manager Ted Thompson thinks Konz is so far beyond the rest of the class, I'm not sure he would pull the trigger on this one.
Related: Two other mock-related features posted during my short time away from the blog. ESPN.com's Todd McShay offered a two-round mock that, among other things, got the Vikings a receiver (South Carolina's Alshon Jeffery) and the Bears a tight end (Clemson's Dwayne Allen) in the second round. Meanwhile, ESPN.com debuted a "Draft Machine" that allows you to conduct your own mock and compare it to your friends'. By all means, go at it.