NFL Draft Preview: NFC North
The NFC North contains some of the NFL's more iconic teams as well as some of the stiffest competition. With the Bears, Packers, and Vikings each winning 10 or more games last season and the Lions impossible to take lightly with Matthew Stafford and Calvin Johnson in the fold, this draft could go a long way in determining the ultimate pecking order in the division for the upcoming season.
Detroit Lions (4-12 in 2012)
Picks: #5 (1), #36 (2), #65 (3), #132 (4), #137 (5), #171 (6), #211 (7), #245 (7)
Needs: WR, OT, OG, DE, CB
Outlook: The Lions could go a number of different directions, and their selection at #5 could develop into an interesting trading destination if the team would like to move down. Teams looking to move up to grab one of the three elite tackles, Dee Milliner, a quarterback, or maybe even Tavon Austin could find the #5 spot intriguing. For the Lions, it looks like offensive tackle may be the need they fill taking the best available of Eric Fisher, Luke Joeckel, or Lane Johnason with Dee Milliner or Ezekiel Ansah also likely to have advocates in the War Room. In later rounds, the Lions will likely look for an elite edge rusher, perhaps Texas A&M’s Damontre Moore in Round 2, some additional pieces along the offensive line, and help in the secondary. Additionally, the Lions would like to get Calvin Johnson someone who can take the heat off. For that role, the Lions could find NFL ready Robert Woods from USC or Quinton Patton from Lousiana Tech available in Rounds 2 and 3. Michael Sudds, the Detroit Lions Analyst from DraftTek.com also adds “The Lions have addressed several roster spots in free agency but will seek help in the trenches during the draft. Look for the Lions to draft the best OT at pick #5, and go for an edge rusher in Round 2. This will be a best available draft with emphasis on maneuvering themselves into position to fill several holes.”
Chicago Bears (10-6 in 2012)
Picks: #20 (1), #50 (2), #117 (4), #153 (5), #188 (6)
Needs: QB, TE, OG, C, DE, LB, CB
Outlook: “Going into the free agency period, left tackle and tight end were gaping holes that GM Phil Emery was expected to fill in the draft,” said Thomas Gersey, DraftTek.com’s Bears Analyst. “However, with the additions of Pro Bowler LT Jermon Bushrod and TE Martellus Bennett, it has become highly unlikely that either position will be addressed on April 25th.”The biggest need for the Bears is to fill the void at linebacker created by the departures of Brian Urlacher and Nick Roach. In turn, “pick 20 could be used on athletic Georgia MLB Alec Ogletree, Notre Dame MLB Manti Te’o, or Kansas State LB Arthur Brown.” LSU’s Kevin Minter will be in the mix there as well or “Khaseem Greene of Rutgers or UCONN’s Sio Moore could be the pick in the second round,” Gersey added. He also noted a need in the interior offensive line and said “Wisconsin’s Travis Frederick will get 2nd round consideration.” Gersey also pointed to the secondary as in need of a major upgrade, and he pointed to Desmond Trufant of Washington, Florida State’s Xavier Rhodes, and Mississippi State’s Johnthan Banks who could be on the Bears’ radar in either the first or second round.
Minnesota Vikings (10-6 in 2012)
Picks: #23 (1), #25 (1), #52 (2), #83 (3), #102 (4), #120 (4), #155 (5), #189 (6), #213 (7), #214 (7), #229 (7)
Needs: WR, DT, LB, CB
Outlook: With two first round picks, the Vikings could be one of the more intriguing teams to watch on the first day of the draft. Due to the Percy Harvin trade, the Vikings could be inclined to take a similar prospect in West Virginia’s Tavon Austin. If they set their sights on Austin, the Vikings would likely need to move up, and they could need to settle for DeAndre Hopkins of Clemson or Justin Hunter of Tennessee if they hold pat. With the other pick in Round 1, it looks like Minnesota could take a linebacker or defensive tackle with Manti Te’o of Notre Dame and Sylvester Williams of UNC garnering the most attention at each respective position. In rounds 2-4, the Vikings could look to add another receiver, which is a significant need, some secondary help, or a quarterback to bring in to compete with Christian Ponder who has been underwhelming in his tenure. The Vikings could find signal callers like USC’s Matt Barkley, Arkansas’ Tyler Wilson, Miami-Ohio’s Zac Dysert, or North Carolina State’s Mike Glennon in rounds 3 or 4.
Green Bay Packers (11-5 in 2012)
Picks: #26 (1), #55 (2), #88 (3), #122 (4), #159 (5), #167 (6), #193 (6), #232 (7)
Needs: QB, RB, OT, DT, LB
Outlook: While most have the Packers going in a different direction in Round 1, I continue to believe that Alabama’s Eddie Lacy would be the smart pick for a Green Bay franchise that has struggled to identify a feature back. If they pass on Lacy in Round 1, Wisconsin’s Montee Ball could be a target in Round 2. With a need at offensive tackle and defensive tackle, the Packers could also target Johnathan Jenkins of Georgia or Jonathan Hankins of Ohio State on defense or Florida State’s Meleik Watson to fill the offensive voids. Watson could be available at #55 as could Oregon’s Kyle Long and North Carolina’s Brennan Williams if the Packers go that route. At some point in this draft, the Packers could look to take a quarterback to back up Aaron Rodgers. Oklahoma’s Landry Jones could be one to watch if he falls and Green Bay sees him available.