We are nearing the end of March. That means that the excitement of the 83rd NFL draft is only a month away! Who will go number #1 overall? Top betting sites have odds that will indicative the draft order Saquon Barkley has passed Sam Darnold as the most likely to go first. Enough about Cleveland, the land where #1 prospects go to die … let’s focus on the NFC North today.
Competition in the NFC North tightened up really quickly with the fall of Aaron Rodgers last season and I have a feeling that even with A-Rodg’ back and healthy, the gap in the NFC North is closing.
Let’s look at some of the NFC North’s biggest draft needs and who seem to be the teams’ top prospects. We’ll keep it simple by going by the order in which each team will draft in the first round.
The Chicago Bears
The Bears need help on the edge more than anything, in my opinion. They have a good chunk of their defensive secondary worked out with their primary corners in place, but they can’t really lean on those guys and forego the pass rush with any success like some other teams. This brings up the fact that they probably need more talent in the Corner department, but their primary concern should be putting pressure on opposing QBs.
It’s been reported that Bradley Chubb has visited the Bears. But unless Ryan Pace can really do some fantastic finagling, I don’t think they’ll be able to land Chubb. Based on the needs of the teams ahead of them, they would most-likely be able to grab up Marcus Davenport.
Davenport would be coming into the league (probably) less raw than Jadeveon Clowney. He has speed, power, and technique. His long-arm move is already a tool that he’ll be able to use to beat blockers at the next level and get after the QB.
The Green Bay Packers
The Packers are an interesting case this season. Many of the official channels list their biggest needs as Safety, OT, and EDGE … and I am not disagreeing with that, but regarding their placement in the draft, I really think they should go after Leighton Vander Esch. They can fill out the rest later in the draft and via trades.
Vander Esch has an incredibly high ceiling. With recent changes at the linebacker core, Clay Matthews could go back to his natural OLB role and add that extra pressure on the QB. A guy like Leighton Vander Esch who has very long arms and is quick as hell for his size would make an immediate impact in the middle of the field.
He has some work to do to be able to take blocks better, but he would be a great franchise decision for the Packers. Play him in a limited fashion in 2018 and let him finish filling out his frame while he also works on his hands and technique … and in 2019 he could be part of a scary LB duo, where Mathews is attacking, and Esch is covering the passes in the middle and mopping up the run.
The Detroit Lions
Calvin Johnson has left the building, ladies and gentlemen … So, this should be addressed fairly early. They do really need help up front defensively … all the teams in the NFC North do. But I think they would be well served in getting their top-dollar gunslinger another pair of strong, agile hands to shoot the ball to. This could wait until the second round, where they could pick up a guy like Auden Tate from Florida State.
Auden Tate is 6’5 and strong. He isn’t super fast, but he could fill that mismatch hole that will be left by Johnson and become a red zone nightmare for opposing secondaries. Stafford would still have Golden Tate and TJ Jones for quickness. But a big body like Auden’s would really flesh out the receiving core, and they might be able to get him fairly cheap.
The Minnesota Vikings
Some of the mock drafts that I have seen have the Vikings taking OL, Billy Price in the first round. But unlike the Lions where they really need a good receiver by round three, the Vikings need one desperately.
Either they do take an OT in round one, then try to move hell and earth to get a good receiver through trades or in the second round, or they do the opposite and try to get a top-rated receiver in the draft and move hell and earth to get veteran help in protecting newly acquired, Captain Kirk.
The last time the Vikings has a 1000-yard receiver was back in 2009 … They do have Stefon Diggs. But let’s be honest … he hasn’t been earning his high salary. The other reason why I think they should make a young receiver the priority is because they really do need immediate help protecting Cousins.
Unless they land a guy like Quentin Nelson way back at #30 —not going to happen— they would be better served to make moves for a veteran to fill that role.I’m just not sure that there will be any OL prospects at #30 that will make an immediate impact.