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posted: 4/26/2010 12:01 AM

Draft success earns these winners top grade

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  • Look for Ndamukong Suh -- now a Detroit Lion -- to play opening day against the Bears.

    Look for Ndamukong Suh -- now a Detroit Lion -- to play opening day against the Bears.
    Associated Press file


While no one will be able to say definitively for three or four years how well each NFL team drafted during the league's first foray into prime time, it's never too soon for first impressions. Based on player projections and meeting their existing needs, several teams appear to have come away as winners, several of them in the NFC North.

Top five

Detroit Lions - They came away with three players who are likely to start on opening day against the Bears. DT Ndamukong Suh (2) fills an area of extreme need and could be a stud for the next decade. They traded up for RB Jahvid Best (30), a big play waiting to happen and insurance for oft-injured Kevin Smith. CB Amari Spievey (66) addresses another glaring need. Grade: A.

Kansas City Chiefs - S Eric Berry came at No. 5 to fill their biggest need. Some considered him the best player in the draft. They went small with a pair of 5-foot-9 big-play threats, RB Dexter McCluster (36) and CB Javier Arenas, who has great value as a returner. OG Jon Asamoah was a decent value at 68, as were TE Tony Moeaki (93) and LB Cameron Sheffield (142). Grade: A-minus

Baltimore Ravens - Linebacker wasn't their most pressing need, but when LB Sergio Kindle falls into your lap at No. 43, you take him. They added the massive NT they need for their 3-4 defense with Terrence Cody (57th overall). Looking for more offensive firepower they got a fine pair of pass-catching TEs in Ed Dickson (70) and Dennis Pitta (114). Grade: B-plus.

Carolina Panthers - There are a lot of opinions on Jimmy Clausen, but getting him at No. 48 could be a huge steal, especially for a team with quarterback needs. They also need complements for WR Steve Smith, and they addressed that with Brandon LaFell (78) and Armanti Edwards (89), who will have to be converted from QB but is a special athlete. DE-OLB Eric Norwood (124) won't replace Julius Peppers, but he's a great value pick. Grade: B-plus.

Oakland Raiders - Shockingly they didn't screw it up. LB Rolando McClain (8) should replace released Kirk Morrison, DE Lamarr Houston (44) is a solid pick, and they got great value with OTs Jared Veldheer (69) and Bruce Campbell (106), who has first-round talent but brings some character baggage. Grade: B-plus.

NFC North

Bears - They didn't get any immediate starters, which isn't surprising when your first pick is at No. 75, where they addressed their biggest need with S Major Wright. DE Corey Wooton was a huge steal at 109 if he regains his pre-knee-surgery form. QB Dan LeFevour lacks a big arm, but at No. 181, he's another steal. Didn't address mediocre OL situation until Round 7. Grade: B.

Detroit Lions - See above.

Green Bay Packers - They were fortunate that stud OT Bryan Bulaga fell to them at No. 23 in their greatest area of need. DE Mike Neal was a reach at 56. They needed a pass rusher, and he's not it. SS Morgan Burnett was a decent value at 71, but they needed a corner more. Grade: C.

Minnesota Vikings - DB Chris Cook was a reach at No. 34, but that's where they have the greatest need, and he's versatile. RB Toby Gerhart (51) should take the sting out of losing Chester Taylor to the Bears. DE Everson Griffen at No. 100 could be the steal of the draft if he ever plays up to his physical capabilities. Grade: B.

• The Bears have agreed to terms with the following 12 undrafted rookie free agents: Bowling Green wide receiver Freddie Barnes, Texas-El Paso cornerback Cornelius Brown, Montana offensive tackle Levi Horn, Michigan wide receiver Greg Mathews, Indiana linebacker Matt Mayberry, Michigan running back Brandon Minor, Nicholls State wide receiver Antonio Robinson, Texas A&M Kingsville defensive tackle Jimmy Saddler-McQueen, Northern Iowa safety Quentin Scott, Nebraska defensive end Barry Turner, Colorado State center Tim Walter and Ohio State defensive end Lawrence Wilson.