NFC North biggest needs in the 2017 NFL Draft
All four teams in the division have serious holes that could be filled in the draft
Thanks to what could only be called “widespread mediocrity” across the NFC, the NFC North got two teams into the playoffs this past season. Be that as it may, the division — outside of Green Bay with Aaron Rodgers under center — is full of question marks and teams looking for direction and identities. The Packers remain the team to beat heading into the draft, but the Lions and Vikings are only a piece or two away from dethroning them. The Bears, on the other hand, appear to be in rebuilding mode. Luckily for all four teams, the 2017 NFL Draft has enough quality prospects at every position help them improve immediately. It’s just a matter of making the right choices once the clock starts on April 27th.
It wasn’t good for the Bears last season. Four different quarterbacks took snaps for the team en route to a three-win season. As a result — and to the delight of many Bears fans — Jay Cutler is no longer on the roster. Unfortunately, Alshon Jeffery — arguably the team’s best player over the last couple of seasons — now plays for the Philadelphia Eagles. The lone bright spot heading into 2017 appears to be running back Jordan Howard. The rookie out of Indiana topped 1,300 yards on the ground and found the end zone seven times. Even though they signed Mike Glennon, the Bears are still in need of a long-term option at the quarterback position. Additionally, help is needed at both offensive tackle spots. On defense, they have no real pass-rushing threats.
First-round pick: No. 3 overall
Potential picks: The are whispers here and there that Chicago really likes North Carolina quarterback Mitchell Trubisky. He’d likely sit behind Glennon most, if not all, of the year if selected. If the Bears don’t pull the trigger on a quarterback and hold onto the pick, they’ll likely go with the best player on the board. In that case, you’re looking at Stanford defensive end Solomon Thomas, LSU safety Jamal Adams or Alabama defensive tackle Jonathan Allen.
The Lions had a bit of a up-and-down season, losing their last four games and backing into the playoffs before getting bounced on wild card weekend by the Seahawks. The good news was that Matthew Stafford seemed to have gotten his groove back, and the offense is only a piece or two away from being one of the most dangerous in the league. As much as they need more big-time weapons on offense, the Lions need even more help on defense — particularly at linebacker. Once they address that need, they could use an upgrade at running back and a bigger receiver for Stafford to target in the red zone.
First-round pick: No. 21 overall
Potential picks: This first-round pick is probably going to be a linebacker. If that’s the case, you’re looking at Temple’s Haason Reddick, Vanderbilt’s Zach Cunningham and Wisconsin’s T.J. Watt as possible options. Don’t be shocked, however, if they try to drop the bomb by landing Stanford running back Christian McCaffrey.
Green Bay Packers
The Packers battled through injuries and a mid-season slump to win the division and come within a game of playing in the Super Bowl. In the NFC Championship Game against Atlanta, Green Bay’s defense was exposed. The offense proved it has enough pieces in place to score with anyone as long as the defense holds up its end of the bargain. That tells you the direction the Packers are likely to go during the draft. The Packers need help at cornerback, thanks to the departure of Micah Hyde. They also are desperately in need of more depth at inside linebacker and lack consistency in their pass rush.
First-round pick: No. 29 overall
Potential picks: Wisconsin’s T.J. Watt would be a perfect fit in so many ways if he’s still around when the Packers are on the clock. If not, you are likely going to see them take a cornerback first. Look for Washington’s Kevin King or USC’s Adoree’ Jackson to be in the mix.
The season started off shaky for the Vikings, as quarterback Teddy Bridgewater was lost for the year dropping back during a practice in the preseason. Sam Bradford stepped in and kept the ship afloat as long as he could, but was eventually done in by one of the worst collective offensive line performances in the league. The end result was a .500 season where four mid-season losses by a combined 17 points cost Minnesota a division title. The guard and center positions on the offensive line need to be addressed. Additionally, some depth and youth is needed at the safety position. It would also be a possibleto see the Vikings draft a quarterback early as a long-term insurance policy to Bridgewater’s serious injury situation.
First-round pick: none
First pick: No. 48 overall
Potential picks: It’ll be hard to avoid drafting a guard or center with the 48th pick. If he’s still on the board, Ohio State center Pat Elflein makes a lot of sense, as does Indiana guard Dan Feeney. If Minnesota decides to gamble at quarterback, Patrick Mahomes II out of Texas Tech could also be in play.
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