In a division that has seen only one team unseat the Green Bay Packers as the division champs in the last six years, the NFC North will be up for grabs this season with some new key players in the fold. The Bears, Lions, Packers, and Vikings are vying for a spot in the NFC’s coldest division with a slew of new talent set to take the field for the first time in NFL uniforms this preseason. These teams are well known for building through the draft, so let’s take a look at how NFC North teams fared in this year’s NFL draft.
CHICAGO BEARS: C-
Round 1: Mitchell Trubisky (QB), North Carolina
Round 2: Adam Shaheen (TE), Ashland
Round 4: Eddie Jackson (S), Alabama
Round 4: Tarik Cohen (RB), North Carolina A&T
Round 5: Jordan Morgan (OL), Kutztown University
General Manager Ryan Pace and his crew in Chicago took risky pick after risky pick in this class. Starting with the blockbuster trade of the draft, they moved up to number 2 overall to pick quarterback Mitchell Trubisky after signing free agent Mike Glennon to a three-year deal with nearly $19 million in guarantees only a few weeks earlier.
Then, they went on a run of FCS and Division II players with plenty of athletic talent and performances that were certainly notable among their peers – Adam Shaheen (Round 2), Tarik Cohen (Round 4), and Jordan Morgan (Round 5) will have a lot of work to do before they will have the opportunity to compete for a starting job. Adam Shaheen is a physical freak, with speed and agility that should not be physically possible for a man of his size (6’6”, 278 lbs.), and he is posted at TE2 as of now.
The money they dropped on Mike Glennon saw NFL fans everywhere shaking their heads in humored sympathy. On face value, there isn’t much rhyme or reason to their picks, but there is certainly star potential in the Shaheen and Trubisky. They would have done well to add depth at wide receiver as Cameron Meredith is hardly a franchise pass-catcher.
DETROIT LIONS: B
Round 1: Jarrad Davis (LB), Florida
Round 2: Jalen (Teez) Tabor (CB), Florida
Round 3: Kenny Golladay (WR), Northern Illinois
Round 4: Jalen Reeves-Maybin (LB), Tennessee
Round 4: Michael Roberts (TE), Toledo
Round 5: Jamal Agnew (CB), San Diego
Round 6: Jeremiah Ledbetter (DL), Arkansas
Round 6: Brad Kaaya (DL), Miami
Round 7: Pat O’Connor (DL), Eastern Michigan
The Detroit Lions 2017 draft class has been a hot topic in the NFC North this year, with some critics considering it among the bottom two or three classes of the year. However, Lions insiders feel confident in the high round talent they picked, and the depth they added in later rounds. Though being a middle linebacker picked before Reuben Foster certainly adds pressure, Jarrad Davis is poised to take over the starting job in Detroit and plug into a front seven ranked 30th in the league this past season by Pro Football Focus.
Teez Tabor was in consideration for the top cornerback spot in the draft class with back to back 1st-Team All SEC appearances during his sophomore and junior seasons, but fell after a terrible performance in his senior season. Golladay, Reeves-Maybin, and Roberts all look poised to compete for starting spots this offseason as well. Fifth-round pick Jamal Agnew has shown promise in recent workouts as well, per David Birkett (DFP). The Lions got a few good players – not many potential stars, though, especially in the late rounds.
GREEN BAY PACKERS: A-
Round 2: Kevin King (CB), Washington
Round 2: Josh Jones (S), NC State
Round 3: Montravius Adams (DL), Auburn
Round 4: Vince Biegel (LB), Wisconsin
Round 4: Jamaal Williams (RB), BYU
Round 5: DeAngelo Yancey (WR), Purdue
Round 5: Aaron Jones (RB), UTEP
Round 6: Kofi Amichia (C), USF
Round 7: Devante Mays (RB), Utah State
Round 7: Malachi Dupre (WR), LSU
Where the Lions drew criticisms, the Green Bay Packers found praise, taking the best players available in their pivotal top few picks and addressing a sharp point of need in the secondary early on. Kevin King is was one of the great successes of the draft process this year, showing up well at the combine and in team interviews, with a lanky 6’3” frame that made plays all year alongside Washington defensive back standouts Sidney Jones and Budda Baker.
The Packers also worked to address their backfield, building a squad of standouts including bruising four-year BYU starter Jamaal Williams and miniature All-Conference USA speed back Aaron Jones from the University of Texas – El Paso. Ted Thompson and crew capped the draft off with a late-round gem in Malachi Dupre, former five-star high school prospect with huge jump-ball ability upside and a third/fourth round grade per Lance Zierlein. Was it really necessary to take three running backs though?
MINNESOTA VIKINGS: B+
Round 2: Dalvin Cook (RB), Florida State
Round 3: Pat Elflein (C), Ohio State
Round 4: Jaleel Johnson (DL), Iowa
Round 4: Ben Gedeon (LB), Michigan
Round 5: Rodney Adams (WR), South Florida
Round 5: Danny Isidora (OL), Miami
Round 6: Bucky Hodges (TE), Virginia Tech
Round 7: Stacy Coley (WR), Miami
Ruond 7: Ifeadi Odenigbo (DL), Northwestern
Round 7: Elijah Lee (LB), Kansas State
Round 7: Jack Tohco (CB), NC State
The Minnesota Vikings traded their 2017 first round pick to the Eagles early before the season for Sam Bradford, who has so far proven himself to be a sustainable option at quarterback, leading all starting quarterbacks this year in passer rating. The Vikings stocked up on late round picks, with a pick in the sixth round and four in the seventh. They used these picks to acquire solid depth players with the potential to perform on the practice squad.
Their night started well, with the acquisition of a player with top-20 talent falling to them at pick 41 – possibly the best value pick of the entire night: Dalvin Cook. Many analysts had Dalvin Cook higher on draft boards than #4 overall pick Leonard Fournette and #8 overall pick Christian McCaffrey. Cook at #41 is a genuine steal for GM Rick Spielman and the Vikings.
Average athleticism but strong technique and performances were the story of Ben Gedeon and Pat Elflein’s tapes – Gedeon will likely be a strong special teams performer early on, while Elflein has the opportunity to compete for the starting spot with veteran Joe Berger. Athletic receiving tight end Bucky Hodges had the skills and explosiveness to go as early as the third round, but Spielman and crew were able to scoop him up in the sixth – another great value pick. The Vikings made very strong picks in Cook, Elflein, Johnson, Hodges, and Tohco; however, most agree that reaches were made for Isidora and especially Gedeon. Grade: B+