Packers still class of NFC North

"I really think it's a decent group of players that got a bad rap," the assistant director of pro personnel said.

Defensive lines

1. Lions (20); 2. Vikings (13); 3. Bears (12); 4. Packers (5).

Voters were split between the Vikings and Bears as to which team was second best, but each of the front office men had praise for the top three lines.

"If Chicago's young guy (Shea McClellin) comes through, the Bears can give Detroit a run," one pro personnel man said.

Another cited the need for Bears defensive linemen other than Julius Peppers to step up and make plays.

Linebackers

1. Bears (18); 2. Packers (15); 3. Lions (10); 4. Vikings (7).

Of the nine area graded (excluding special teams and coaching), the Bears scored highest here, and it was the only position in which the Bears were ranked first.

There were mixed opinions, however. The Packers and Lions linebackers each received a first place vote.

"Given the age of Brian Urlacher and Lance Briggs, I'm not quite sure how to judge them," a personnel director said. "It's close between them and the Packers."

Safeties

1. Packers (19); 2. Lions (15); 3. Bears (11); 4. Vikings (5).

There is more uncertainty here in the NFC North than at any other position. One front office man said he wouldn't be surprised if the rankings completely flipped during the season.

The Packers likely will use cornerback Charles Woodson at safety more this year, and the Vikings hope to start rookie Harrison Smith.

"Chris Conte and Major Wright are solid players for the Bears," one pro personnel man said. "They are smart, tough and can run. They might be limited in some areas of the passing game, but Chicago uses them well."

Cornerbacks

1. Packers (19); 2. Bears (15); 3. Vikings (11); 4. Lions (5).

The Packers came in first place even though Woodson likely will spend more time at safety and the team finished 32nd in pass defense last year, which does not say much about cornerback talent in the division. None of the NFC North teams were in the top 21 of pass defense.

The Bears received one first place vote.

CHICAGO