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Draft Review: NFC North

How did the division fare this weekend? Greg Gabriel

May 12, 2014
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Like every team in the NFL, the four clubs in the NFC North had needs. While you hope to get most of that accomplished during the draft, you seldom get every need taken care of. With that said, let’s take a look at how the NFC North clubs did in the draft.

Chicago Bears

The Bears had the worst defense in the division in 2013, and since the beginning of free agency, the focus of General Manager Phil Emery has been on strengthening that unit. Part of the puzzle was solved in free agency with the signings of players like Jared Allen, Lamar Houston, and Willie Young.

Going into the draft, the Bears still had holes to fill in the secondary and interior defensive line. While free agency brought some youth to the defense, there still needed to be an influx of good, young defensive talent. After three days of drafting, that goal was accomplished.

In Kyle Fuller, the Bears got one of the top two corners in the draft. Fuller has size, length, and athleticism. He is proficient in man and zone coverage and is a physical run support player. With the Bears top three corners all being on the wrong side of 30, this was an excellent pick.

In the second and third rounds, the Bears got two very good and complimentary defensive tackles. Ego Ferguson is a big athletic run defender who gives the Bears some inside size they haven’t had in a while. In Will Sutton they got a quick, active three-technique who had excellent sack production in college.

The Bears got the safety they needed with fourth round selection Brock Vereen from Minnesota. Vereen has corner type cover skills, excellent athleticism and good run support ability. The Bears other fourth round selection was running back Ka’Deem Carey, an instinctive between the tackles runner with great production while at Arizona. Carey is a quicker-than-fast type who only times 4.7 but plays 4.58.

The two bonus picks for the Bears were quarterback Davis Fales and punter Pat O’Donnell. Fales could become the primary backup to Jay Cutler, and O’Donnell may very well become the Bears punter. Chicago felt O’Donnell was the best punter in the draft. 

There is no doubt in my mind, Chicago got better over the weekend.

Minnesota Vikings

There is no question, the Vikings had to get a quarterback in this draft. The problem was, with a pick in the top 10, there wasn’t a quarterback who was worth using that high a pick on. Having lost Jared Allen in free agency, the Vikings needed to find an edge rusher, also. They used their first pick on UCLA’s Anthony Barr who has natural pass rush skills. Though he has only played on defense two years, he still recorded 23 sacks in that period. He has a knack that few have.

The Vikings traded back into the first round to get their quarterback. Two months ago, Teddy Bridgewater was the odds on favorite to be the top pick in the draft by many analysts. Though his stock slipped some, the Vikings drafted him where his value was much better. Bridgewater still needs some development, but he has the tools to be a successful NFL quarterback.

In Scott Crichton, the Vikings got an active competitive defensive end who is also very productive. Crichton has the skills to come in and be a starter. The other pick I really like is Stanford guard David Yankey. While there are other linemen who may test out better than Yankey, few get the results. Yankey is highly competitive and very physical. I would be surprised if he wasn’t a starter on opening day.

Detroit Lions

Going into the draft, word was the Lions wanted to trade up for Sammy Watkins, the best receiver in the draft. That turned out to be false, and while their top pick was not a wide receiver per say, he gives the Lions another huge offensive weapon.

Eric Ebron was by far the top “tight end” in this draft. He really is another jumbo receiver who can play split out and create mismatch problems for the defense. At 6044- 250, he has the speed and athleticism of a wide receiver.

Second round pick Kyle Van Noy is an instinctive, competitive outside linebacker who also has very good pass rush skills. He can step in and start at a position of need. While I thought the third round was a little rich for Travis Swanson, he will be a starter by his second year.

Nevin Lawson is a quick, aggressive cover corner who would have been drafted higher if he was taller. He compares to the Bears' Tim Jennings when he came out of college. He can be the Lions nickel corner right from the start. Princeton defensive tackle Caraun Reid is raw but has the physical traits to be an eventual starter in a year or two.

I felt the Lions got a steal in T.J. Jones in the sixth round. Jones was a four-year starter at receiver for Notre Dame and got better every year. He is also capable of being a good NFL return man.

Green Bay Packers

There are a lot of Chicago Bears' fans who felt the Bears should have selected Alabama Safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix over Kyle Fuller. I’m not sure I agree with that, but Clinton-Dix was the best safety in this draft on my board.

Clinton-Dix was a valuable performer on a top Alabama defense. He has the cover skills of a corner to go along with top instincts and range. The Packers needed an upgrade at safety and Clinton-Dix does just that.

Fresno State receiver Davante Adams is a quality performer with size, speed and production. He is raw in that he didn’t run a sophisticated NFL route tree at Fresno, but his talent is obvious. He has great hands and is a competitive red zone receiver. He fits what the Packers are looking for at the receiver position.

I didn’t have defensive tackle Khyri Thorton as a third round value, but he is a perfect fit for what Green Bay does on defense. He is another highly competitive player who makes plays.

As they usually do, the Pack got some late round steals. Arizona State linebacker Carl Bradford is a little undersized to play OLB in a 3-4 scheme, but he is an excellent pass rusher to go along with top instincts. He will turn out to be very good pick.

The only thing wrong with Ohio State center Corey Linsley is his short arms. Linsley is tough and technically sound. It wouldn't surprise me if he starts as a rookie.

What can you say about Jared Abbrederis that hasn’t already been said. He could be Jordy Nelson II! He has size, speed, and is a top competitor. He also is a very good route runner with excellent hands. Two to three years down the road, this is going to be looked at as a very good draft for Green Bay. 

Follow Greg on Twitter @greggabe

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