Mel Kiper’s latest mock draft is up and running over on ESPN.com’s draft preview page. It’s available to Insider subscribers, so I can’t give you Mel’s full list or his analysis. But I can preview Mel’s choices for each of the three NFC North teams with first-round draft picks.
So let’s take a look:
Mel’s pick: Oklahoma defensive tackle Gerald McCoy
My analysis: In this version, Nebraska’s Ndamukong Suh went No. 1 overall to St. Louis. Based on the latest chatter about McCoy, this scenario would be an awfully nice consolation pick for the Lions. McCoy and Suh appear to be No. 1 and No. 1a on the pre-combine draft boards of most media analysts. I’m at a bit of a loss to explain the difference between the two, other than the fact that McCoy’s game is said to be based more on quickness while Suh relies on strength. One distinction I’ve heard: Their differences are similar to the differences between Warren Sapp (quickness) and Kevin Williams (strength).
Mel’s pick: Iowa offensive tackle Bryan Bulaga
Analysis: He has the frame (6-foot-6) and mentality to play left tackle in the NFL, making him a long-term replacement for pending free agent Chad Clifton. You’re always nervous about starting a rookie left tackle, and it’s possible Bulaga would get some grooming time if Clifton is re-signed. But there’s no doubt that offensive tackle is the Packers’ top need in this draft.
Mel’s pick: Florida guard/center Maurkice Pouncey
Analysis: When you get to the end of the first round, smart teams choose value over need. I wouldn’t say the Vikings are in desperate need of an upgrade at guard, but a player like Pouncey would put some pressure on center John Sullivan and right guard Anthony Herrera to continue developing. Left guard Steve Hutchinson struggled with back pain last season but has many years left in his career. I’m on record suggesting the Vikings should target a quarterback high in this draft, but Kiper has only two quarterbacks -- Notre Dame’s Jimmy Clausen and Oklahoma’s Sam Bradford -- with first-round grades.