June 17, 2016 - Danny Shimon
Class Sleepers – NFC North
With most NFL draft’s it’s usually the first round picks who receive much of the attention and attract most of the spotlight. Yet over the years when you go back and review successful draft classes it’s typically the “sleepers” or day three selections that make a good class turn into a great class. With that in mind we reviewed each NFL teams draft class, per division, and attempted to point out who potentially could turn out to be that groups “sleeper” NFC North Chicago Bears – Jordan Howard, RB Indiana 5th rd. 11th pick (#150 overall) After not resigning veteran Matt Forte the Bears were looking to add both depth and talent to the running back position. By selecting Howard in the fifth round the Bears added a bruising north south downhill runner who will be a perfect complement to last year’s fourth round selection Jeremy Langford. Howard, who played only one season for the Hoosiers after Alabama-Birmingham shutdown their football program, rushed for over 1,200 yards and nine touchdowns in just nine games. Late in the season on consecutive weeks Howard rushed for 174 yards versus Iowa and followed that up with 238 yards against Michigan’s eighth ranked (nationally) defense the following week. The 238 yards were the second most an opponent has ever gained against a wolverine defense. Howard is a big back who runs behinds his pads and who can deliver jarring hits on opposing defenders. Howard has good vision and balance. Easily running through arm tackles, and requiring multiple defenders to bring him down. Look for Chicago to throw him in the mix at running back early on in the season complimenting Langford’s quickness and shiftiness with Howard’s power and physical style giving the Bears a capable one two punch. With head coach John Fox’s affinity for big powerful runners it would also not surprise me if Howard ended up starting for the Bears next season. Detroit Lions – Anthony Zettel, DT Penn State 6th rd. 27th pick (#202 overall) Armed with three sixth-round picks the Lions used the second of those picks on Michigan native (West Branch) and former Penn State Nittany Lion Anthony Zettel. An All-Big Ten performer in 2015 Zettel finished his career at Penn State among the programs top-15 for career sacks and tackles for loss. In four seasons Zettel netted 38 tackles for loss and 20 sacks. Zettel has good instincts and can quickly locate the football. He possesses good lateral agility and will chase down the line of scrimmage hustling on every snap. He is tough and physical, playing with high energy and a non-stop motor. If Zettel was twenty-pounds heavier with longer arms he may have been a second-round pick. He is a better athlete than given credit for, and comes with high football character. Detroit plans on using him to backup both the defensive end and defensive tackle positions as Zettel is quick and athletic enough to pressure off the edge. While strong and tough inside to compete at defensive tackle in sub-packages. Green Bay Packers – Trevor Davis, WR, California 5th rd. 26th pick (#163 overall) When the Packers lost wide receiver Jordy Nelson last season not only did they lose a starting wide out they also lost the element of speed, that Nelson possesses, which restricted a lot of what Green Bay likes to do on offense. Which is one of the reasons why General Manager Ted Thompson invested a fifth round pick on California receiver Trevor Davis. At 6’1” 188 pounds Davis was one of the fastest timed receivers at the combine running a 4.42 forty-yard dash to go along with a 38.5 inch vertical, and a 6.60 seconds in the three-cone drill. Davis times were tops among the entire wide receiver group invited to the combine. Davis, who transferred to California after playing two seasons for the University of Hawaii, has terrific straight-line speed to go along with his ability to track down the deep ball and reel it in with his big hands (10 inch). He is also a weapon on special teams averaging 32.6 and 21.4 the last two seasons respectively, with two touchdowns. Although Davis is still not a polished receiver, he has already impressed Packer coaches with his ability on special teams. Look for Davis to initially make a name for himself on kick-off returns with the Packers, before rounding into form as a receiver and supplying Green Bay with another weapon who can threaten to take the top off a defense. Minnesota Vikings – Kentrell Brothers, OLB Missouri 5th rd. 23th pick (#160 overall) With Anthony Barr, Eric Kendrick’s, and a resigned Chad Greenway it would appear that the Vikings are set at linebacker for 2016. However, that didn’t stop Minnesota from drafting Missouri’s Kentrell Brothers in the fifth round. Brothers is a tackling machine having led the NCAA and SEC conference in tackles with 152 in 2015. The first team All-SEC linebacker finished his collegiate career with seven straight games with ten or more tackles to finish with 357 in four seasons. Brothers has terrific instincts for the position, and is able to make up for some of his physical shortcomings by simply knowing where to go and getting a jump on his opponents in getting there. He is a very good run defender able to quickly locate the ball while also capable of taking on blockers and being able to shed them in order to make the tackle. Brothers is also a very good special team’s player as he blocked three kicks last season for the Tigers. Although he played outside linebacker (Will) at Missouri Brothers projects better inside at middle linebacker in the NFL. Playing on the inside would help mask some of his coverage issues as he would be asked to cover less ground playing in the middle. With 2016 likely being Chad Greenway’s final season with the Vikings, Brothers could take over the middle linebacker spot from Kendrick’s, pushing the 2015 second-round pick outside to the weak-side position helping to replace Greenway. In the meantime, expect to see Brothers make his presence felt on special teams, as a rookie next season, for Mike Zimmer’s team.