After first tackling the AFC North, I venture over to the NFC North – where there is no longer an Aaron Rodgers terrorizing the division, and the Lions are a team in ascension mode. These four teams are amongst the best in the NFC routinely, and several teams will likely make the playoffs.
Which teams in the NFC North roared, and which teams limp away from the Draft whimpering?
1.10: Darnell Wright, OT, Tennessee
2.53: Gervon Dexter Sr., DT, Florida
2.56: Tyrique Stevenson, CB, Miami
3.64: Zacch Pickens, DT, South Carolina
4.115: Roschon Johnson, RB, Texas
4.133: Tyler Scott, WR, Cincinnati
5.148: Noah Sewell, LB, Oregon
5.165: Terell Smith, CB, Minnesota
7.218: Travis Bell, DT, Kennesaw State
7.258: Kendall Williamson, CB, Stanford
Da Bears beefed up the trenches in a big way, starting with Tennessee’s Wright at pick ten. Wright famously shut down Will Anderson Jr. and has been steadily climbing up draft boards. He’ll start at right tackle in 2023 and has the size and power to fit in quickly. Johnson is a great back to add to Chicago’s system, giving some power and reliability to complement new starters D’Onta Foreman and/or Khalil Herbert. Johnson is consistent, a reliable pass-catcher, and could fit in the RB rotation right away. Scott could push for playing time if Chase Claypool doesn’t show growth. I like Scott’s long-term outlook, and he’s a rookie stash for me.
Dexter will likely see time on the defensive line early, but I don’t see much value in him for IDP, and it’s the same with Pickens. Both guys provide depth, but I’m not loving them for fantasy. Stevenson should be in the cornerback rotation from day one and gives Chicago a physical corner with good recovery speed and ball skills. Sewell is interesting to me, but Tremaine Edmunds fills the best role that Sewell would have. For now, I can see him filling in and getting on the field in situations as he learns the game. He could be a stash but has little value today.
This grade could go up to a + or down to a – depending on the next few years. Wright isn’t perfect but is a massive upgrade. Stevenson projects to be impactful too, but if Johnson and Scott don’t find offensive roles, I would knock this grade down. It’s a draft that may also be more impactful on the field and have little value for fantasy.
1.12: Jahmyr Gibbs, RB, Alabama
1.18: Jack Campbell, LB, Iowa
2.34: Sam LaPorta, TE, Iowa
2.45: Brian Branch, DB, Alabama
3.68: Hendon Hooker, QB, Tennessee
3.96: Brodric Martin, DT, Western Kentucky
5.152: Colby Sorsdal, OT, William & Mary
7.219: Antoine Green, WR, North Carolina
The Lions became one of the franchises talked about most during the draft with questionable picks. The team moved around, got players they wanted, and gained picks next draft too. They started off with a bang, taking Alabama back Gibbs at pick 12, signaling the end of the D’Andre Swift era in Motown. Gibbs is undersized to handle a three-down workload but is a phenomenal, electric back who can score any time he has green in front of him. He should work well with the newly signed David Montgomery. LaPorta is a solid TE; he can block and is a good receiver, also dangerous after the catch. I would have rather had Mayer, but LaPorta isn’t a slouch. Grabbing Hooker in the third to groom behind Jared Goff is a savvy move.
Defensively, Campbell went earlier than most expected, but he’s a player the Lions will love. He’s my top linebacker for IDP and should quickly end the Alex Anzalone experience. Campbell is a three-down rangy linebacker, he’s going to rake in tackles in droves, and Dan Campbell will love his playing style. Branch was projected to go in the first round, and the Lions got a steal by selecting him in the second. He’s versatile and will allow the Lions flexibility on the back end after building an incredibly formidable front seven.
Say what you want about where and who they drafted; the Lions made moves and got players they wanted. They improved the offense, shipped off Swift, and added impact players in positions of need on the defense. I would have loved to see them add a corner, but they immensely improved.
Green Bay Packers
1.13: Lukas Van Ness, DL, Iowa
2.42: Luke Musgrave, TE, Oregon State
2.50: Jayden Reed, WR, Michigan State
3.78: Tucker Kraft, TE, South Dakota State
4.116: Colby Wooden, DT, Auburn
5.149: Sean Clifford, QB, Penn State
5.159: Dontayvion Wicks, WR, Virginia
6.179: Karl Brooks, DE, Bowling Green
6.207: Anders Carlson, K, Auburn
7.232: Carrington Valentine, CB, Kentucky
7.235: Lewis Nichols III, RB, Central Michigan
7.242: Anthony Johnson Jr., S, Iowa State
7.256: Grant DuBose, WR, Charlotte
The Packers took a predictable path, adding weapons for their new quarterback and a defensive guy to put pressure on opposing offenses. That was the first need addressed, as the Packers selected Iowa’s Van Ness with the thirteenth selection. He will give them a nasty pass-rushing trio, and he won’t be forced into massive amounts of work. The Pack can give him time to learn the NFL game and develop while in a rotation. Wooden and Brooks are solid line pieces, but I don’t see either being huge factors for on-the-field production and definitely not for IDP.
The offense needed weapons, with the duo of Aaron Jones and AJ Dillon leading the way on the ground and second-year phenom Christian Watson as the primary (almost only) pass-catching option. Tight End was a popular pick in mocks, and they grabbed two good options in Musgrave and Kraft. Musgrave is a phenomenal pass-catcher and a true move TE, but he played in only 20 games over four years in college due to injuries and time to get on the field. Kraft is a great pass-catcher and blocker, a phenomenal athlete who played against lower-level competition. I wouldn’t be surprised if Kraft ends up as a better pro and fantasy option than Musgrave.
Finally, they surprised almost everyone by taking Reed in the second round, a weapon from Michigan State but an older receiver. Reed has great hands and speed to create big plays but was criminally underused in East Lansing.
Draft Grade: B
Okay, they addressed a lot of needs but made some curious picks at the point they were in the draft. I love Reed, but I’m not sure he will go on the second day without the Packers taking him. Taking two tight ends so early seemed odd, although they may complement each other well. Seventh-rounders Nichols and Dubose are good depth picks who could also stick around the league for a while.
1.24: Jordan Addison, WR, USC
3.102: Mekhi Blackmon, CB, USC
4.134: Jay Ward, S, LSU
5.141: Jaquelin Roy, DT, LSU
5.164: Jaren Hall, QB, BYU
7.222: DeWayne McBride, RB, UAB
The Vikings didn’t have as many picks as their division mates but addressed a big need with their first-rounder. Addison is a phenomenal complement to Justin Jefferson and gives them another big-time playmaker at receiver. Addison will work out of the slot primarily, and he’s a great route runner and slippery after the catch. I love the addition of Jaren Hall in the fifth as a project quarterback. Hall has some interesting tools and could develop into a starter, I love the spot and draft capital for him. McBride is a good depth back too. He’s good as a runner and could spell Dalvin Cook/Alexander Mattison if needed.
The Vikings needed defensive help but didn’t add enough. Blackmon is a physical corner, perhaps too much so, and could develop into a starter, but he’s not very fluid, and I don’t see it. Ward is a good pick, and he’s a versatile defensive back that loves to hit. He’s good in run support and off-man coverage but isn’t as big as he plays. Roy could work into being an impactful player – he plays tough and can generate a pass rush from the interior. The guy never stops either and has shown continued improvement every year.
I think they could have attacked it differently, but I love the addition of Addison, and the new guys in the secondary could push for playing time. Roy and Hall have the potential to be starters, which is all you can ask for in the fifth round or later.