NFC North draft grades: Lions continue inspired rebuild; Bears failing Justin Fields?

Why provide instant grades on the selections of prospects who have yet to take an NFL snap? Well, you’re reading this, aren’t you? Considering the makeup of every roster and the factors surrounding each pick, Gennaro Filice and Dan Parr attempt a division-by-division assessment of the 2022 NFL Draft. Keep in mind that these grades are based on draft hauls alone — picks traded for veteran players were not taken into account. Below is Gennaro’s NFC North report card.

NOTE: Draft classes are displayed from best to worst within the division.

Detroit Lions

Round 1:

Round 2:

Round 3:

Round 5:

Round 6:

Round 7:

When it comes to drafting, Brad Holmes is a man of conviction. Serious conviction. Remember last year, after he took Penei Sewell with his first pick as a general manager? The guy joyfully rampaged across the Lions’ draft room like a kid in a candy store possessed by a bull in a china shop. One year later, after Jacksonville turned in the card to officially make Travon Walker the No. 1 overall pick and put Detroit on the clock for the first time, Holmes was champing at the bit once again. In fact, the Lions GM got the pick in so quickly that he was already on the phone with Hutchinson when Roger Goodell took the podium to announce the Walker selection. Holmes simply couldn’t contain himself. And who could blame him? Hutchinson’s a local product who fills a serious Lions need and fits Dan Campbell’s culture to a T. Oh, and he just so happened to be the top overall prospect on many, many boards, including those of NFL Media draftniks Daniel Jeremiah and Bucky Brooks. Just a slam-dunk pick for the Lions. Then Holmes poured it on with a long-range bomb 11 picks later, dispensing a completely tolerable amount of draft currency to move up 20 slots and pounce on the most electric receiver in this draft class. Williams averaged a whopping 19.9 yards per catch last season. Shoot, he averaged 47.6 yards per touchdown — and the man scored 15 times! Also, with the franchise in the midst of a true rebuild, Detroit can allow Williams all the time he needs to fully recover from his ACL tear in the national title game. On Day 2 of the draft, the Lions continued to fortify their pass rush with a versatile power player (Paschal) and then nabbed a deep safety with great ball skills (Joseph). Don’t be surprised if both contribute immediately, especially Joseph, who could seriously push for the starting safety spot opposite Tracy Walker.

Green Bay Packers

Round 1:

Round 2:

Round 3:

Round 4:

Round 5:

Round 7:

The Packers just extended their run of not drafting a first-round receiver to 20 years, but who’s counting? Oh, that’s right: E.V.E.R.Y.O.N.E. Despite entering the draft with a pair of first-round picks and a serious need at the position in the wake of Davante Adams and Marquez Valdes-Scantling‘s exits, Green Bay didn’t trade up, missed out on a receiver run and exited Round 1 with this notorious streak intact. All hail Bucky Brooks, who predicted this inconceivable outcome in March and then doubled down in April. So, how did Aaron Rodgers react? Well, he struck a Zen tone while watching the draft live as a guest on — what else? — The Pat McAfee Show, revealing that he’d been in contact with team execs throughout the night. And the Pack did trade up in Round 2 to take a buzzy size/speed YAC monster (Watson), then grabbed a downfield playmaker (Doubs) in Round 4. Will this ultimately pacify — and sufficiently support — the two-time reigning MVP? That’ll depend on how quickly the newbies can get up to speed, with Rodgers having little patience for rookie mistakes. On the plus side, GM Brian Gutekunst gave Rodgers two more blockers — Rhyan and Tom — who provide the kind of positional versatility Green Bay covets on the offensive front. But at the moment, the happiest man in Titletown could be defensive coordinator Joe Barry. Not only did he get a pair of disruptive, athletic specimens (Walker and Wyatt) from the vaunted Georgia defense in Round 1, but he also scored a fifth-rounder in Enagbare who’s routinely comped to offseason departure Za’Darius Smith. Quite fitting that the South Carolina edge defender — who led all Power Five players with 16 QB hits last season, per Pro Football Focus — has adopted Z’s No. 55.

Minnesota Vikings

Round 1:

Round 2:

Round 3:

Round 4:

Round 5:

Round 6:

Round 7:

First-year Vikings GM Kwesi Adofo-Mensah is a former Wall Street trader with economics degrees from Princeton and Stanford, so you had to figure he’d be a wheeler-dealer in the draft. That certainly was the case last week, as Minnesota executed six trades, bouncing up and down the draft board with noticeable chutzpah. But your loyal draft grader — who admittedly has zero economics degrees and has never even seen the movie Wall Street — had serious trouble understanding the rationale behind Adofo-Mensah’s opening salvo, a rare intradivisional deal with the Lions:

  • Detroit received: Pick Nos. 12 and 46.
  • Minnesota received: Pick Nos. 32, 34 and 66.

I know the various trade charts spit out various judgments on the move, but let’s get down to brass tacks here: Essentially, for the price of the No. 34 overall pick, the Lions got to move up 20 spots on Day 1 and 20 spots on Day 2. I’ll take the Detroit side of that trade all day long. Odd. Putting this procedural gripe aside, though, the Vikings did address a series of needs, starting with a serious infusion of talent into the secondary. Cine never got the pre-draft love he truly deserved because A) he played on the most loaded college defense in memory and B) Kyle Hamilton sucked up all the air in the safety room. But the speedy, instinctual deep-half defender is a heat-seeking missile against the run and a savvy zone processor against the pass. Booth’s a highly pedigreed cornerback with the physical tools to excel in press-man coverage; he could’ve been a first-round pick if not for core muscle surgery in March. Ingram could be a Day 1 starter at guard, a position that’s befuddled the Vikings for years. And Asamoah’s a rangy modern linebacker who should benefit greatly from serving an apprenticeship under Eric Kendricks

Chicago Bears

Round 2:

Round 3:

Round 5:

Round 6:

Round 7:

Does this new Bears regime want Justin Fields to succeed? OK, that’s a flippant question. Of course the answer is yes. But Chicago’s offseason activity (or lack thereof) definitely raises an eyebrow. After the No. 11 overall pick’s uneven rookie campaign — in an admittedly unfavorable environment — Fields lost his No. 1 receiver (Allen Robinson), his best young offensive lineman (James Daniels) and the veteran tackle who competently protected his blind side (Jason Peters). In free agency, the Bears went the contemporary Texans route, signing a bunch of low-wattage vets on short-term deals. And then in the draft, Chicago used its top two picks on defense before adding a soon-to-be 25-year-old wideout with one year of solid college production and tossing a series of Day 3 darts at a depleted O-line board. First-year GM Ryan Poles says he’s not done improving the roster, but at this point, how many impact guys remain available to help foster Fields’ development? Now, it must be noted that Poles inherited a roster with serious shortcomings. And it also must be noted that Gordon and Brisker feel like fine pieces for Matt Eberflus’ defense. “They bring playmaking ability into your secondary, and that’s huge,” the first-time head coach said, via the Chicago Sun-Times. “Big, long players create takeaways, and they do a great job of playing the ball. And that’s what we’re excited about. Those guys will fit right in.” But still, the expectations for young quarterbacks on rookie contracts have never been higher. Does Fields have the supporting cast to make serious strides in Year 2? What happens if he struggles? In today’s NFL, when it comes to the game’s most important position, patience is not a virtue.

Read More

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.