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NFC North: Pre-Draft Guide

By: Cody Manning

Chicago Bears

Team Record in 2017: 5–11 Number of Selections in 2018 Draft: 7 Overall Pick #s: 8, 39, 105, 115, 145, 181, 224

Summary: The Chicago Bears struggled throughout the 2017 season as they failed to find any type of consistency. They entered the season with a plan for Mike Glennon to lead the way while their top pick from the 2017 draft, Mitch Trubisky, would sit on the bench and learn how to be a professional quarterback. After stumbling out of the gates, they decided to scrap the plan and hand the keys over to their young quarterback. While he struggled at times, he did show promise and gave Bears fans something to look forward too.

Chicago understood entering the offseason that they needed to surround their talented quarterback with weapons. They did that by going out and getting players in free agency like Allen Robinson, Taylor Gabriel, and Trey Burton. The only thing they need to address in the draft on this side of the ball is finding players that will keep Trubisky standing upright. While they did bring in some new defensive guys, that unit still needs some work done by finding faster players at the linebacker position and depth on their defensive line.

Top 5 Positions of Need:

  1. Offensive Guard- The Bears decided to decline Josh Sitton’s 2018 option and let him walk in free agency. This move created a big hole on their offensive line that they need to address. Chicago needs a player to help protect Trubisky and open holes for their two stud running backs.

  2. Outside Linebacker- Chicago needs to find a reliable starter opposite of Leonard Floyd. Not only would a starter help, but depth at the position would too since Floyd has yet to play all 16 games since coming into the NFL.

  3. Cornerback- Outside their starting cornerbacks, they lack the depth at this position and Vic Fangio likes to use the nickel package quite a bit. Plus, they will face Aaron Rodgers, Kirk Cousins, and Matt Stafford twice throughout the season. They need as much help as they can get in the secondary.

  4. Defensive Line (NT and DE)- The Bears need overall depth on their defensive line. They lost Mitch Unrein this offseason and could use help at each spot on the line for their 3–4 defense.

  5. Inside Linebacker- Danny Trevathan has a history of injuries and suspensions, and the Bears lost Christian Jones this offseason. They need depth and speed at this position.

Prospect Fits:

  1. OG Quenton Nelson (Notre Dame)- He would fill an immediate need and Chicago shouldn’t think twice if he is still on the board. He will play in the league for a long time and is viewed by some experts as the best player in the draft. It also helps that their offensive line coach, Harry Hiestand, coached Nelson at Notre Dame.

  2. LB Tremaine Edmunds (Virginia Tech)- Edmunds is the most versatile linebacker in the draft. He could help with both needs at inside and outside linebacker, and has tremendous upside as he will only be 19 years old on draft night. If they can’t land Nelson at #8 they should be happy with a player of his caliber.

  3. CB Mike Hughes (UCF)- Hughes has 1st round talent, but due to off-field concerns, one year of production, and his size, some analysts think he could fall into the 2nd round. He has the talent to be an elite slot corner then eventually working his way outside. He is an electrifying returner, so they could stick him there as well.

  4. DT P.J. Hall (Sam Houston St.)- Hall is a player that can come in and provide depth on their defensive line He has the quickness and strength that Fangio could use in their rotation. He is projected to go in the 3–4th round, but I think the Bears could land him with one of their 4th round picks.

  5. ILB Micah Kiser (Virginia)- Kiser was a very productive linebacker in college and should be able to come in to provide much needed depth at the position. He has a relentless motor and has a knack for finding his way to the ball. Chicago could target him in the 4th round.

Detroit Lions

Team Record in 2017: 9–7

Number of Selections in 2018 Draft: 6 Overall Pick #s: 20, 51, 82, 117, 153, 237

Summary: The Detroit Lions had an up and down season in 2017 as they finished with a record over .500 but failed to make the playoffs. Due to the inconsistent play head coach Jim Caldwell was fired, and they brought in their new coach Matt Patricia. Detroit is hoping he can be the one that can help fix the holes in their defense and bring them back to the playoffs. Besides the defense the biggest problem is their running game, where they averaged 76.3 YPG which was last in the league. They also have no 100-yard rushers for the fourth year in a row.

During free agency they did address this position of need by signing LaGarrette Blount, but he isn’t a viable long-term solution. Lions fans should expect them to target one at some point in the draft. They also released former 1st round pick Eric Ebron but replaced him with two viable options in Levine Toilolo and Luke Wilson. While some positions still needing upgrades, Detroit is in position to draft the best player available when they are on the clock.

Top 5 Positions of Need:

  1. Edge Rusher- The Lions have needed an edge rusher for awhile now to help complement Ziggy Ansah. It is a position that needs some depth behind him, and with Ansah being on the franchise tag there is no guarantee he will be back after this season.

  2. Running Back- Detroit needs to find an answer at this position. While they have Blount, Abdullah, and Reddick, neither are a long-term solution. Plus, Matt Patricia could go the Patriots route by having a stable of running backs that they could use.

  3. Offensive Guard- Besides having questions at the running back position, their interior line play could also be blamed for their rushing woes. This should be addressed in the address to help fix that issue on that unit.

  4. Defensive Tackle- The Lions need to find someone to help compliment A’Shawn Robinson on the interior defensive line. They don’t have someone that can rush the passer from the inside so if they can’t find an edge to do it, then they should look here to find a way to get pressure on the quarterback.

  5. Tight End- I know I mentioned they have found viable options in Wilson and Toilolo, but both are on 1-year deals. They could find someone in the later rounds to develop for their 2019 season.

Prospect Fits:

  1. DE/OLB Harold Landry (Boston College)- Landry is considered by some as the 2nd best edge rusher in this class. He would help fill a need while potentially creating a deadly duo between himself and Ansah. He has Pro Bowl potential later in his career.

  2. RB Derrius Guice (LSU)- Guice is ranked by most analysts as the 2nd best running back in this draft class. He has the potential to be the answer that Detroit is looking for. They could use their #20 pick on him if the top edge rushers get selected before they are on the clock.

  3. OG Braden Smith (Auburn)- Smith has the potential to come in and start right away for the Lions. He has the right frame for the NFL and should be able to elevate the running woes in their offense. He could be a target with their 2nd round pick.

  4. DT Harrison Phillips (Stanford)- Phillips is a very productive player and could make an immediate impact on the interior of their defensive line. He has a knack for finding a way to make a play on the ball. He is projected to go in the 2nd-3rd round, so they could target him with one of those picks.

  5. TE Troy Fumagalli (Wisconsin)- Fumagalli isn’t the flashiest tight end but he gets the job done. He can be effective in two-tight end sets and could develop into their starter for the 2019 season. Detroit could use their 5th round pick to target him.

Green Bay Packers

Team Record in 2017: 7–9

Number of Selections in 2018 Draft: 12 Overall Pick #s: 14, 45, 76, 101, 133, 138, 172, 174, 186, 207, 232, 239

Summary: The Green Bay Packers started the 2017 season with a great start, 5–1, but then their star QB Aaron Rodgers broke his collarbone. That injury completely derailed their season as they lost the next three games and could never get back on track as the Vikings took control of the division. They will be looking to bounce back in 2018 as they have made some changes throughout the organization.

Typically they like to stay quiet in free agency, but under new General Manager Brian Gutekunst they were players this time around. While they lost Rodgers’ favorite target Jordy Nelson, they did go out and get him a new weapon in Jimmy Graham. They also helped their interior defensive line by signing Muhammad Wilkerson. While they were players in free agency, they still have plenty of needs that they should address in this year’s draft.

Top 5 Positions of Need:

  1. Edge Rusher- The Packers need to find a younger option to help get pressure on the quarterback. Clay Matthews will be 32 at the beginning of the season and he is in the final year of his contract. This needs to be addressed in this draft.

  2. Cornerback- Green Bay knows they need help at this position and they showed that when they went after Kyle Fuller. They play in a division that features Kirk Cousins, Matt Stafford, and Mitch Trubisky. They need as much depth as they can get.

  3. Offensive Guard- The Packers have a hole at their right guard spot that needs to be addressed. Jahri Evans wants to return but he would be 35 at the beginning of the season so they need to find a younger potential long-term option.

  4. Strong Safety- They traded away Damarious Randall and lost Morgan Burnett in free agency. If the front office doesn’t feel comfortable with Josh Jones, then this should looked at with one of their 12 picks.

  5. Wide Receiver- They do have Davante Adams but Randall Cobb’s production has been declining. Plus he is in the slot, so they need to find a reliable player on the outside to help compliment Adams.

Prospect Fits:

  1. DE/OLB Marcus Davenport (UTSA)- Davenport has a lot of potential to end up being the best edge rusher in this class. He would be a player who can help set the edge and rush the quarterback. He would be a viable option to replace Matthews as he was a stand-up rusher in college.

  2. CB Josh Jackson (Iowa)- Jackson would be the a great compliment to Kevin King. He is a ball-hawk and has the length that teams are looking for in today’s cornerbacks. This could potentially give Green Bay the best corner-duo down the road.

  3. OG Austin Corbett (Nevada)- Corbett played tackle in college but has the versatility to move inside to the guard position or even center. His versatility could help incase their injury woes on the line were to return. They could target him with their 2nd round pick.

  4. S Marcus Allen (Penn State)- Allen could potentially be a starter at their strong safety position. He is a solid tackler then comes downhill and brings the bang. Green Bay could target him in the 3rd or 4th round.

  5. WR Daesean Hamilton (Penn State)- Hamilton is a big body slot guy who could play on the outside. He is a solid wide receiver that could develop into a weapon for Rodgers. The Packers could target him with their 4th or 5th round picks.

Minnesota Vikings

Team Record in 2017: 13–3

Number of Selections in 2018 Draft: 8 Overall Pick #s: 30, 62, 94, 167, 204, 213, 218, 225

Picture by: Brace Hemmelgarn, USA Today Sports

Summary: The Minnesota Vikings had a great season in 2017, winning the NFC North and reaching the NFC Conference Championship game. Unfortunately for them, they stumbled in that game and their season had an ending they would like to forget. Case Keenum had an unforgettable season for their fans, but since then, he has joined the Broncos, and the Vikings went out to get the top free agent QB, Kirk Cousins.

Overall, the team entered the offseason with few needs to address to help get them over the hump to get to the Super Bowl. They did address their defensive tackle need and went out to get Sheldon Richardson. He is a significant addition, but one a one-year deal, they still may want to look at that position in the draft. They are in position to get the best player available to help round out the team to make another deep playoff run.

Top 5 Positions of Need:

  1. Offensive Guard- The Vikings need significant help in the interior of their line. They also invested guaranteed money into Cousins so they have to make sure they protect their franchise quarterback. There is plenty of talent in the draft to address this.

  2. Cornerback- Trae Waynes has been up and down while Mackensie Alexander hasn’t showed any promise. They do need a nickel corner for 2018 so they should address this position, since they may need to let Waynes walk in the future with money tied up to other players.

  3. Defensive End- Brian Robinson is 35 years old and Danielle Hunter is set to be a free agent after the season if a extension doesn’t get done anytime soon. They should address this position to get some youth and a backup plan if Hunter leaves.

  4. Defensive Tackle- Sheldon Richardson is on a 1-year deal and will be looking to get paid next offseason as long as he proves his worth. Minnesota needs to plan for this while getting a younger player to be in the rotation.

  5. Tight End- Kyle Rudolph is the man, but they need another tight end to help complement him. This would give their new quarterback another option when they are in the Redzone.

Prospect Fits:

  1. OG Isaiah Wynn (Georgia)- Wynn is a perfect fit to help fill the Vikings need at the interior of their line. If he is still on the board they shouldn’t hesitate to select him. He has experience playing left tackle so he can bounce back out to the outside if needed as well.

  2. CB Jaire Alexander (Louisville)- Alexander would give Minnesota much needed upgrade at depth at this position. He would fill that nickel need, and could work his way up the depth chart past Mackensie Alexander. If they were to let Waynes walk in the future then he could fill his role down the road.

  3. DE Rasheem Green (USC)- Green has all the talent in the world to become a disruptive defensive end at the next level. He does need the right coach to tap into his potential and Mike Zimmer could be the one to do it. This offers him a situation to learn and take over as a starter in 2–3 years. They could target him with their 2nd round pick.

  4. DT Derrick Nnadi (Florida St.)- Nnadi has the physical tools to play as a defensive tackle at the next level. He does need to refine some of his game but could be a good rotational player as a rookie and potentially take over Richardson’s spot if he leaves after this season. The Vikings could look at him in the 3rd round.

  5. TE Tyler Conklin (Central Michigan)- Conklin has shown the ability to be a pass catching tight end and can handle blocking duties. He could make that complement to Rudolph and help open things in the red zone. Minnesota could consider him in the 5th or 6th round.

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