The NFC North (otherwise known as the black and blue division) has a storied tradition in the NFL, with the Green Bay Packers and the Chicago Bears having arguably one of the oldest rivalries in American football history, dating all the way back to 1919. Along side these two teams we have the Minnesota Vikings who have actually won the division championship almost twice as often (18 times to 10) as that of the Bears and the Packers [Superbowl era only]. However the Vikings are currently in a rebuilding phase after going 3-13 last season and will look to the draft to help them accomplish this. The perennial underdogs, the Detroit Lions who until last season went 11 years without making the playoffs are the fourth team to make up this division and are proof that rebuilding through the draft works. With the 2012 draft just around the corner all these teams are out to strengthen there squads, below you will see what I believe are each of the teams needs and who their potential draft picks could be.
Chicago Bears (8-8)Draft Picks: 19th, 50th, 79th, 111th, 150th, 184th and 220th. Team Needs:Defensive End, Offensive Line, Wide Receiver, Linebacker, Cornerback. [caption id="" align="alignright" width="206" caption="Julius Peppers might be getting some help rushing the passer this season."][/caption] A Pass rushing Defensive End to compliment Julius Peppers and make the most of the double teams Peppers sees is the highest requirement. Defensive line also makes sense with the releasing of Anthony Adams (Nose Tackle) and losing Amobi Okoye (3 Technique) in free agency to the Tampa Bay Bucaneers. Drafting a DE would help bolster the Defensive line and potentially allow re-signed defensive end Israel Idonije to rotate at both End and Tackle as he has done previously. The Bears have arguably had the worst offensive line in the NFL the past two seasons giving up over 100 sacks during that time which is unacceptable no matter how crazy your offensive coordinator is (Mad Mike Martz). J'Marcus Webb (left tackle) is the weak link according to the Bears fan base but the coaches are all saying the right things and are saying they are confident with the Oline going forward. Hopefully this is a smoke screen and they will look to pick up a tackle if one is available in the first round or a Guard/centre in the 2nd and 3rd rounds. While the trade for Brandon Marshall from the Miami Dolphins for a pair of 3rd round picks was huge and finally gave the Bears a true number 1 receiver, the receiving corp can still be upgraded. The Bears have added depth with Eric Weems and Devin Thomas but they are mostly special teams players. While Devin Hester and Earl Bennett are adequate wide recievers and with the chances of Johnny Knox returning to full health before the start of the season seeming slim, if the opportunity presents itself to the Bears, to get a high quality wide out, they should take it. Later rounds in the draft should be used by the Bears to bolster depth in their defence. Primarily with the linebackers as Brian Urlacher and Lance Briggs aren't getting any younger and there are few options available behind them. The same goes at corner with Charles (Peanut) Tillman holding down one spot but the other will be up to Tim Jennings to hold onto come training camp.
Detroit Lions (10 - 6)Draft Picks: 23rd, 54th, 85th, 117th, 158th, 219th, and 230th. Team Needs: Cornerback, Offensive Line, Linebacker, Runningback. [caption id="" align="alignleft" width="246" caption="The Lions are looking to improve their secondary and OL"][/caption] Martin Mayhew (the Lions general manager) has commonly stated that his NFL Draft philosophy was to take the best player available. He clarified this further recently stating his goal during a draft is to not reach for a player as this is when mistakes are made. While Cornerback Jacob Lacey was added in free agency and Eric Wright was allowed to leave the fact is Chris Houston and that entire secondary is ordinary. The lions need an impact corner and it's a position they really should be looking to take with their first round pick. This is made even more abundantly clear considering they have to play the Packers' receiving corp which includes Greg Jennings and now the Bears' Brandon Marshall twice a year. They need corners good enough to keep up with these receivers. The OL is also a major concern, Jeff Backus is not getting any younger at left tackle. Linebacker is also a potential draft target. The Lions with very little LB depth behind there three starters. Could they draft depth at Running Back? I think so. Injury concerns surround there current troupe of running backs and they should look to strengthen through mid round picks in the draft. Draft Possibilities: Dre Kirkpatrick (CB), Stephon Gilmore (CB), Mike Adams (OT), Jonathan Martin (OT)
Green Bay Packers (15 - 1)Draft Picks: 28th, 59th, 90th, 123rd, 132nd, 133rd, 163rd, 197th, 224th, 235th, 241st, and 243rd. Team Needs:Saftey, OLB/DE, Running Back, Cornerback. [caption id="" align="alignright" width="265" caption="The Packers are also looking to improve their secondary."][/caption] With Nick Collins' status unknown after he had neck fusion surgery the safety position is a big concern for the Packers. There is very little depth behind Collins and while the Packers were amazing in offence last season there were ranked dead last in defending the pass. Luckily the Packers have a swag of draft picks this year and should be able to pick up a week one starter at safety or at the very least someone to cover if Collins is re-injured/can't start during the season. The Packers got very little production out of their pass rushers last year even though BJ Raji and Clay Matthews were double teamed constantly. Considering their worst defence in the league last season some further pass rushing pressure is needed to help turn this around. Running back is a must in the early to mid rounds. With Ryan Grant a free agent and no one else of note behind him, the Packers must find someone to take the ball up the middle. The Packers are a pass happy team so we won't see them use a first or second round pick on a guy but I think in the third they will target the best tailback available, most likely one with good hands for catching out of the backfield. Depth at Cornerback should also be looked at as Packers' number one Charles Woodson is creeping closer to 40 and Tramon Williams and Sam Shields have not really shown enough. There is a great opportunity here to strengthen the secondary with some youth and talent in the middle rounds. Fan Opinion: Josh Hunt believes the Packers will go after a pass-rusher, "The Packers are lacking on the pass rush, something which seems bizarre to say with the linebackers at their disposal, but their first round pick is almost guaranteed to be used on a DE - someone like Melvin Ingram, Fletcher Cox or Courtney Upshaw." Draft possibilities: Andre Branch (DE), Nick Perry (DE), Michael Brockers (DT), Kendall Reyes (DT), Shea McClellin (LB), Harrison Smith (S)
Minnesota Vikings (3 - 13)Draft Picks: 3rd, 25th, 66th, 98th, 128th, 134th, 138th, 175th, 210th, and 223rd. Team Needs: Offensive Line, Wide Receiver, Cornerback, Linebacker. [caption id="" align="alignleft" width="223" caption="Percy Harvin and Adrian Peterson could find some help in the draft."][/caption] Charlie Johnson was not the answer on the OL last year and with 49 sacks allowed in the season the Vikings will be looking to upgrade this position in the draft, with most expecting the Vikings to use there 3rd pick in round one to do so with the selection of Matt Kalil from USC. This should move Johnson into Guard, a position he has previously had success at with the Indianapolis Colts. Christian Ponder (the Vikings rookie quarterback) was hit too many times last season, for him to progress successfully to the next level he will need to know his blind side is well protected. Percy Harvin is the only receiver on the Vikings teams of much note, below him sits a bevy of unknowns and journeyman 3rd string receivers. Harvin recently came out saying he was to have surgroy on his shoulder which must have the Viking front office in a tissy (It has now been delayed potentially impacting his ability in later mandatory training sessions). Minnesota have a great need to get a wide out in the early rounds of the draft for this reason alone. There is a chance they look to trade with the Browns or the Dolphins and move back out of the 3rd round spot and potentially grab Justin Blackmon the number 1 receiver in the draft. If this does not occur this is a must position to target in the second and third rounds. Cornerback going into the offseason was definitely a position of need. However, after signing of Bowman and Carr they might no longer consider the position a priority. Drafting for depth seems most likely. They should look for more depth at the linebacker position as well. Fan Opinion: Daryl Isles appears to agree with us, "Vikings are just trying to add talent everywhere while avoiding another failure at QB. They desperately need an outside threat for Ponder, and to fix our famously bad secondary. Spielman is shopping around the 3rd pick but theres no way they're gonna pass on Matt Kalil. Kalil will finally give Ponder some time in the pocket, and allows the struggling Charlie Johnson to move inside to LG, fixing two needs with one pick." Draft possibilities: Almost definitely Matt Kalil (OT) but a possibility of Justin Blackmon (WR) or Morris Claiborne (CB). Expect the Vikings to look to later rounds to add some depth to their offence.
That's it! Have any questions or comments? Please let us know!