We have spent a lot of time (and rightfully so, mind you) dissecting the Chicago Bears’ impressive draft haul, but I regret to inform you that the rest of the NFC North hasn’t simply sat on its collective hands this offseason.
Let’s round up all the information we can about how the Bears’ rivals fared on draft weekend and see how much better the rest of the division will be in 2018.
First, the picks.
GREEN BAY PACKERS
- Louisville CB Jaire Alexander, Iowa CB Josh Jackson, Vanderbilt LB Oren Burks, Missouri WR J’Mon Moore, Washington State G Cole Madison, Alabama P JK Scott, South Florida WR Marques Valdez-Scantling, Notre Dame WR Equanimeous St. Brown, California DE James Looney, Mississippi State LS Hunter Bradley, Southeast Missouri State LB Kendall Donnerson
- Arkansas C Frank Ragnow, Auburn RB Kerryon Johnson, Lafayette S Tracy Walker, Alabama DE Da’Shawn Hand, Oregon OL Tyrell Crosby, San Diego State RB Nick Bawden
- UCF CB Mike Hughes, Pittsburgh OT Brian O’Neill, Ohio State DE Jalyn Holmes, Auburn K Daniel Carlson, Appalachian State G Colby Gossett, Tulane DE Ade Aruna, Cal LB Devante Downs
Moving on to some of the most informed breakdown from around the league.
- Andy Benoit of SI.com’s The MMQB gives the Lions a “B” grade for their efforts in the draft, primarily for their attempts to improve on a rushing attack that ranked last in yards per rush last season. The team added center Frank Ragnow, who should start immediately and provide an upgrade to their interior offensive line. And because Detroit hasn’t had much of a ground game since Barry Sanders called it a career, the team drafted Auburn standout Kerryon Johnson to bolster the bunch. Ont he other side of the line, Alabama’s Da’Shawn Hand was a fourth-round choice who should bulk up their rush defense.
- Few teams had a draft that was as widely praised as the one Packers GM Brian Gutekunst was able to pull of in his first year as the team’s top decision maker. Top-tier cornerbacks Jaire Alexander and Josh Jackson are headliners, while receivers J’Mon Moore, Marquez Valdes-Scantling, and Equanimeous St. Brown round out what should be a competitive receiver group for Aaron Rodgers to throw too. SI.com’s Benoit gives the Packers an “A” grade, just like the Bears.
- The Vikings came away with the lowest grade handed out to an NFC North team by SI.com, but was still a passing grade. It’s not like the Vikings had a bunch of pressing needs, but the team was able to add some talented players in cornerback Mike Hughes, offensive lineman Brian O’Neill, and defensive end Jalyn Holmes. Minnesota even added placekicker Daniel Carlson with eyes on curing their long-lasting kicking woes.
- Nate Davis of USA Today saw the Lions’ draft being worthy of a “C-plus” grade, with the strengths of it coming with the picks that strengthen both sides of the line of scrimmage. But we might be able to add Davis to the list of pundits who aren’t totally sold on Detroit’s choice at running back.
- The USA Today handed out one of its lowest grades to Minnesota, as the Vikings’ “C-minus” grade isn’t as optimistic as others. Davis doesn’t see much immediate help coming from picks outside of the first-round cornerback.
- It’s a “B-plus” grade from Davis and the USA Today, as Davis notes the Packers were able to swindle the New Orleans Saints out of their 2019 first-round pick for the right to move up to draft UTSA edge defender Marcus Davenport. I imagine this grade would be higher had Davis felt the tam’s need to draft a punter and a longer snapper were higher.
- The roughest assessment of the Lions’ draft comes from Vinnie Iyer, who hands Detroit a “C-minus” grade, with the harsh criticism coming from what he believed to be questionable decision making. “Trading up for Johnson was questionable for the backfield, and (safety Tracy) Walker was a reach for the secondary,” Iyer writes. “The Lions ignoring linebacker and tight end was not good.”
- On the other end of the spectrum, the Packers received an “A” from Iyer as the team added a “dynamic cornerback duo” in Alexander and Johnson to go along with last year’s second-round standout Kevin King. More praise for the wide receivers Green Bay added in the draft gives me pause and makes me wonder if the Bears would have been wise to use some of their picks on bolstering the secondary.
- The general consensus is that the Vikings didn’t need much in the draft, especially after adding Kirk Cousins and Sheldon Richardson in free agency. So Minnesota earning a “B” grade in the draft on top of a solid turn in free agency suggests they will once again be the team to beat in the NFC North.
- More praise for the Packers draft comes from long-time draft guru Mel Kiper Jr. of ESPN, whose “A-minus” grade is one of the best he handed out in the wake of the draft. There is obviously a ton of love for their cornerback tandem, which are necessary additions after the Bears made upgrades throughout their receiving corps. But that the team was able to add weapons to its passing game and a first-round pick in next year’s draft probably makes Green Bay the biggest winner of draft weekend.
- The same really can’t be said about the Lions, whose grades vary from one pundit to another. Kiper sent a “B-minus” grade to Detroit, as he noted the team’s second-round pick of Johnson might not have been the best choice. Kiper said he had higher players on his board (ones with fewer injury concerns) than Johnson, who was his ninth-ranked running back.
- Minnesota fared better than Detroit, but not as good as Green Bay when it comes to Kiper’s draft grades. The Vikings earned a “B” grade because Kiper believes each of the team’s first three picks could fill contributing roles as rookies. Not all of the pundits agree on this, but at this point there is no doubt Minnesota excels in player development and that could be very valuable in 2018.