NFC North Draft Preview

by David Syvertsen

How They Finished in 2012:

Green Bay Packers (11-5)
Minnesota Vikings (10-6)
Chicago Bears (10-6)
Detroit Lions (4-12)

DETROIT LIONS

#5 (1st)
#36 (2nd)
#65 (3rd)
#132 (4th) Comp
#137 (4th)
#171 (6th)
#211 (7th)
#245 (7th)

2013 Offseason: Where They Stand

Detroit finished as one of the biggest disappointments in the league last year, ending the year with 8 straight losses.  They were involved in a lot of close games but repeatedly struggled to keep the opposition out of the end zone.  They forked up a lot of points, forcing Matthew Stafford and his offense in to a pass-heavy game plan that was exploited by a lack of top tier pass protection.  They’ve lost two starters from that sub-par unit up front, and have yet to add any new pieces.  Their skill position players are some of the most explosive in the game, and that was before they signed Reggie Bush to a long term deal.  If they can control the line of scrimmage, Detroit will be nearly impossible to stop on offense.  Defensively they lost their top pass rusher in Cliff Avril, replacing him with the versatile but unspectacular Jason Jones.  The secondary struggles seem to be on the horizon yet again, as the only addition to this point is Glover Quin at free safety.  He is not a game changer and won’t be able to hide the gaping holes they have back in their back four.

1 – Left Tackle

Stafford spent too much time on the ground in 2012 and they need to do a better job of protecting him from the outside rush.  2012 first rounder Riley Reiff is an option, but he could play inside.  He is not a guy you base your draft around at all.  They could be in position to grab one of the two big time left tackles early.

2 – Defensive End

The pass defense woes will never improve without a better outside rush to help balance the performance they currently have from the top 1-2 defensive tackle punch on football.  There is a lack of credible talent among both the starters and backups.

3 – Defensive Back

The corners and safeties could use an upgrade in talent.  They did spend 3 picks on corners last year, but none of these guys should alter any draft day plans.  This secondary is average at best.

The Plan:

The offense is good enough to cause any opposing coach to lose sleep for the week leading up to their matchup.  Stafford is on the brink of becoming an elite quarterback and he has the top receiver in the game to throw to with plenty of solid secondary options.  The addition of Bush adds another dynamic that will laterally stretch the field, creating enormous matchup problems across the board.  But as we’ve seen several times, talent at the skill positions will never shine without solid play from the offensive line.  Once the opportunity is there for the Lions to bring in a talent in the trenches, they must pounce.

If the pass rush continues to underwhelm more often than not, the lack of talent in the Lions back seven is going to force the Lions in to lot of shootouts.  That has never and will never be the approach that Super Bowl teams can take.  There is a lot of potential for the Lions to control the point of attack against the run, but the outside rush needs a couple upgrades.  The Lions aren’t far away at all but a lack of talent in both trenches will make their ascent that much more difficult.

3 Round Mock:

#5 – Eric Fisher – OT – Central Michigan
#36 – Johnthan Banks – CB – Mississippi State
#65 – Cornelius Washington – DE – Georgia   

CHICAGO BEARS

#20 (1st)
#50 (2nd)
#117 (4th)
#153 (5th)
#188 (6th)

2013 Offseason: Where They Stand

The Bears have, since the acquisition of Cutler in 2009, been a solid but unspectacular team that always seemed to be a player or two away from Super Bowl contention.  Not on the same level as the elite franchises, but far better than the bottom feeders.  With that in the rear view mirror, I can now say that I think the Bears are set up for a run at the NFC Championship after one of the best offseasons in the entire league.  The biggest moves towards the future were the firing of Head Coach Lovie Smith and the lack of interest in bringing back Linebacker Brian Urlacher.  The offensive minded Marc Trestman has been brought in from Canadian Football League.  It is a great hire that will help bring this offense to another level, one that has been knocking on the door for years.  The talent has been there at every position, but the offensive line has been a roller coaster ever since Cutler put on the Bears uniform.  Enter established veterans Jermon Bushrod and Matt Slauson to control the left side.  Mel Tucker comes in from Chicago to lead a revamped defense full of versatile and productive personnel.  The free agent period has been a great one for Chicago defensively, as the signings of linebackers DJ Williams and James Anderson give them a potentially dominant front seven.  The veterans that departed for other teams will not be missed on either side of the ball, as their replacements are either upgrades or lateral.  Chicago is primed for a huge season as they enter draft weekend.

1 – Defensive Tackle

If the Bears want to maximize the strength of their top tier linebacker group, they will have to add a body inside that can occupy lineman.  This is a very important component to Tucker’s scheme.

2 – Defensive Back

There are a couple age concerns at cornerback and the depth at safety lacks athleticism and coverage ability.

3 – Offensive Line

This will be the best starting group Cutler has played behind since coming to Chicago.  But there is a lack of quality depth inside and out.

The Plan:

With just 5 picks in this entire draft, it was important that the Bears re-tooled their squad via free agency.  The one glaring hole that remains is at defensive tackle, a vital spot for this scheme that will rely heavily on the linebackers.  If there is a good enough value early to bring in a run stuffer, they have to bring him in.  This team can be tough to score on because of the speed they possess on all three levels of the defense but if they are consistently getting beat up against the inside run, it could be a long season.

Cutler has been set up for success in 2013.  He is in a much better system under Trestman and the offensive line will provide the protection he’s missed for a couple years now.  There is room for depth in the trenches and they could bring in another wide receiver if that value fits.  Without any glaring holes on this side of the ball, they can trust their board and let value fall in to their laps.

3 Round Mock:

#20 – Sylvester Williams – DT – North Carolina
#50 – Kevin Minter – LB  – LSU

MINNESOTA VIKINGS

#23 (1st)
#25 (1st) f/SEA
#52 (2nd)
#83 (3rd)
#102 (4th) f/DET
#120 (4th)
#155 (5th)
#189 (6th)
#213 (7th) f/ARI
#224 (7th) f/BUF via SEA
#229 (7th)

2013 Offseason: Where They Stand

It has been a relatively stagnant offseason for the Vikings with minimal turnover, returning most of their 10-win team on both sides of the ball.  They did however trade their top wide receiver, Percy Harvin, to Seattle for a 1st round pick and replacing him with the established Greg Jennings.  The offense lost an explosive dynamic weapon, but gained a savvy well rounded veteran that Christian Ponder could have used in 2012 throughout his up and down season.  Speaking of the quarterback, his new backup is a veteran with plenty of starting experience and may push for playing time should the inconsistent play continue.  Matt Cassel was brought in after being cut by the new regime in Kansas City decided to move forward without him.  Defensively the Vikings lost a starting linebacker and cornerback, leaving both groups very thin.  They’ve drafted well over the past few years, giving the defense as a whole a very well balanced unit that has been tough to score for a few years running.  As long as Adrian Peterson can stay on the field, this team has enough talent to contend for the playoffs.

1 – Middle Linebacker

Jasper Brinkley left for Arizona, leaving the Vikings defense without a starting caliber linebacker inside.

2 – Defensive Tackle

There is a need for a better run defending body inside, especially with what currently stands at middle linebacker.  Kevin Williams is nearing the end of his career as well.

3 – Cornerback

There is some intriguing young talent at the position already, but the lost of Winfield makes this a susceptible unit as it currently stands.  Fresh talent is always sought after in the offseason in a division with Rodgers, Stafford, and Cutler-led passing attacks

The Plan:

The Vikings will only go as far as Peterson will take them.  There should always be steps taken to ensure they get the most out of him such as beefing up the offensive line and improving the passing game by adding wide receiver talent.  While the greatest needs reside on the defensive side of the ball, Minnesota should look to use a few of their 11 selections on their lack of depth on offense.

Replacements at linebacker and cornerback will need to be drafted at some point throughout the weekend.  With 11 picks, Minnesota can be patient and grab the right value instead of reaching for lower graded players.  The don’t have a lot of holes to fill, therefore they could try to trade up a couple times if they feel the right fit is available.

3 Round Mock:

#23 – Manti Te’o – LB – Notre Dame
#25 (f/SEA) – Keenan Allen – WR – California
#52 – Kawann Short – DT – Purdue
#83 – Dwayne Gratz – CB – Connecticut

GREEN BAY PACKERS

#26 (1st)
#55 (2nd)
#88 (3rd)
#122 (4th)
#159 (5th)
#167 (5th) comp
#193 (6th)
#232 (7th)

2013 Offseason: Where They Stand

After an injury-riddled season, the Packers were still able to take home the NFC North crown.  They have lost the dominance that most thought was on the way because of a top tier passing attack along with a productive and deep defensive unit.  Injuries hurt their chances more than anything in 2012 and if everyone can remain healthy this year, look for Green Bay to be in the thick of things next January.  It has been a very quiet offseason in Green Bay with minimal additions and subtractions from their 11 win squad in 2012.  Veterans Greg Jennings, Donald Driver, and Charles Woodson are no longer in the picture.  Their lack of presence in the locker room will hurt more than their level of performance on the field because of what currently resides on the depth chart and old age catching up to them.  This is a team that has drafted exceptionally well over the years and it shows with how deep their roster is on both sides of the ball with quality young talent.  Not much needs to change for this team to sustain a high level of success.

1 – Offensive Line

There isn’t a glaring hole anywhere up front.  But this is a group that could be much better over the next season or two.  The run blocking was abysmal in 2012 and Rodgers spent too much time scrambling away from outside pressure.

2 – Safety

There is enough talent in this secondary to succeed in 2013 but  they could use a better strong safety against the pass.

3 – Wide Receiver

Potentially paying Aaron Rodgers $25 million per year will make it tough to keep highly paid receivers around, thus the position needs to be stocked with up and coming talent ready to contribute over the next year or two.  Need to solve this issue before it arises.

The Plan:

The Packers are in a good spot here, returning most of the team’s top talent on both sides of the ball after a division-winning season.  The Packers underachieved in 2012 and they are primed for a big year in 2013 if they can stay healthy.  This draft is all about the future, a great spot to be in.  They can trust their board early on and simply take the top graded players available.

There are a couple spots for developmental players along the offensive line to ensure they protect their number one asset in Rodgers for the duration of his career.  If they can find a spot to bring in a high upside pass blocker, they should not hesitate to select him.  Same goes for a wide receiver that needs to be coached up.  Defensively they could look to beef up their pass rush and add talent to the middle of the secondary that, again, can take a year or two to develop in to starter-quality.

3 Round Mock:

#26 – Menelik Watson – OT – Florida State
#55 – Quinton Patton – WR – Louisiana Tech
#88 – Sanders Commings – CB/S – Georgia

This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *