First Round Projections for NFC North Teams
With the NFL draft less than a week away, teams are starting to narrow down the players they really want, players they'd be happy with and players they'd merely be satisfied with.
Chicago Bears general manager Phil Emery put it well in his pre-draft press conference when he described the classes of players as players they "would trade up for", players they "feel will be available" and players they would be "looking for in a trade back." Emery noted that they'll have five or six players they'd be comfortable with, two or three that may drop and four or five they'd look for in a trade down.
Three teams in the NFC North have picks in the 20s, making it hard to project. The fourth, Detroit, is once again at the top of the draft, picking fifth. The Lions, obviously, have bigger needs than the other three teams and a better idea of who they could get.
The Vikings traded Percy Harvin for another first-round pick and could be on the move again, as NFL.com's Ian Rapoport reported. The Bears and Packers are in a position where they could do any number of things and could be good bets to trade back.
In his pre-draft press conference, Emery admitted to contacting teams about trading back and said "moving back is more attractive than moving forward." Although he also said he'd "pull the trigger" on a trade up to get a guy who they know can make an impact.
In a story on the team's website, Green Bay's Ted Thompson cited his mentor, Ron Wolf, when discussing the possibility of trading back.
“It’s like Ron always said, it’s like baseball, you’re not going to get a hit every time you go to the plate, but if you have more swings, you have a better chance of getting a hit,” Thompson said. “I think in a general philosophy, I’d rather have more than less, yes, but at the end of the day I’d rather have more quality than anything. Quality and quantity both is a nice thing.”
While teams may want to trade back, they might not be able to. Since trade backs are nearly impossible to predict, I didn't include it in this slideshow. Every team has to stay where they're at and deal with the breaks that come their way.
So, as the draft nears, here is a list for all four teams. I've included three scenarios, players they'd love to fall for them, players they'd be happy with and players they'd merely be satisfied with.
Love: Eric Fisher, OT, Central Michigan
If Scouts Inc.'s (subscription required) second overall player dropped to them, the Lions would have to be thrilled.
Jeff Backus was a solid anchor for the Lions line for many years, but he retired and they lost Gosder Cherilus to free agency. That mean's Pro Football Focus' seventh-ranked offensive line is in need of a new pair of bookends.
The Lions have a lot invested in Matthew Stafford and Calvin Johnson, Fischer would make it easier for them to do their jobs.
Happy: Dee Milliner, CB, Alabama
By happy, I should say ecstatic. In a division with Brandon Marshall, Jordy Nelson, Randall Cobb, James Jones and Greg Jennings, the Lions should use the player widely regarded as the draft's top cornerback.
Detroit had the ninth-worst pass defense in terms of opponent quarterback ratings. That needs to improve somehow. They may choose to go with a pass-rusher, but Milliner would be hard to pass up. Scouts seem split on Milliner, but if he's as good as some project, the Lions secondary should be solid next season.
Satisfied: Ezekial Ansah, DE, BYU
Ansah is raw, but teaming him with Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairly could help him develop without having to face double teams.
The best way to beat an elite quarterback is to get pressure on him. In a division with quarterbacks like Aaron Rodgers, Jay Cutler and Matthew Stafford and a running back like Adrian Peterson, it's important to have a strong front seven.
Ansah has major boom or bust potential. If he reaches his ceiling the Lions are going to be a team nobody wants to play.
Love: Chance Warmack, G, Alabama
Since 2000, only nine guards have been drafted in the first round and only three—Steve Hutchinson (2001), Shawn Andrew (2004) and Mike Iupati (2012)—have been taken in the top 20. With two highly regarded guards available this season—Warmack and Jonathan Cooper of North Carolina—it seems possible one will drop to the Bears.
Warmack is considered a mauler in the run game, something the Bears desperately need on inside of their offensive line. He's also considered a very good pass protector and would anchor the Bears' line for the next decade.
Happy: Desmond Trufant, CB, Washington
Trufant would make an impact in nickel packages next season and could develop into an eventual replacement for Charles Tillman.
According to Pro Football Focus (subscription required), opposing quarterbacks had a rating of 93.2 when throwing in the direction of Bears nickelback Kelvin Hayden last season. In the modern-day NFL, teams need three cornerbacks and Hayden was not good enough last year.
With starting cornerbacks Charles Tillman and Tim Jennings both in contract years, the Bears would also be able to groom Trufant as a starter for the 2014 season.
Satisfied: Arthur Brown, LB, Kansas St.
Everyone seems to have their own preferences when it comes to the linebackers in this year's draft class, but Brown is my favorite and I suspect he may be the Bears'.
What stands out about Brown to me is his pursuit. Even if he takes the wrong angle, he gives maximum effort every second of every play and nearly always ends up around the ball. That has been a trademark of the Bears defense in recent years so he should fit right in.
Ed Zurga/Getty Images
Love: Sheldon Richardson, DT, Missouri and Desmond Trufant, CB, Washington
I thought about putting Tavon Austin or Cordarrelle Patterson here, but they are going to be slot receivers in their first season, at least. The Vikings have that spot filled with Greg Jennings, who has done his best work in that area in recent seasons.
Richardson is ranked ninth overall by Miller and would make the Vikings' defensive line scary.
When the Vikings were at their best, Kevin Williams and Pat Williams dominated the middle, allowing Jared Allen to sell out for sacks.
With Antoine Winfield leaving as a free agent, the Vikings are dangerously thin in the secondary in a division with Nelson, Cobb, Jones, Marshall and Calvin Johnson.
Happy: Sylvester Williams, DT, North Carolina and Justin Hunter, WR, Tennessee
Unlike Austin or Patterson, Hunter would give the Vikings someone who can make plays down the field, a major need with Adrian Peterson in the backfield and Jennings and Kyle Rudolph working the middle.
Williams would give the Vikings a new "Williams Wall" and provide many of the things Richardson would. He isn't rated quite as highly as Richardson, but has been rising in recent weeks and would be a good pick for the Vikings.
Satisfied: Manti Te'o, LB, Notre Dame and Xavier Rhodes, CB, Florida State
It's been widely assumed Vikings' general manager Rick Spielman is a fan of Te'o after he reportedly dined with him, but a third linebacker isn't necessarily a need.
The Vikings have Chad Greenway and Erin Henderson, although the latter isn't necessarily considered great in coverage. Te'o would help their pass defense, but one would think a cornerback would be a bigger need.
That is where Rhodes comes in.
Scouts seem split on the top cornerbacks in the draft, but Rhodes has good size and speed. If he's going to match up with Nelson, Johnson and Marshall, those two traits will be necessary.
Green Bay Packers
Love: D.J. Fluker, OT, Alabama
Fluker seems to have gained a lot of steam lately with many teams figuring he can also play guard. That makes it unlikely that he'll drop this far; however, right tackles seem to drop further than expected every year.
Furthermore, right tackles seemed to be undervalued this offseason as highly regarded free agents Andre Smith, Eric Winston and Tyson Clabo are still available.
Pro Football Focus ranked the Packers' offensive line 27th in run blocking. Fluker would give the Packers a dominant run blocker on the right side with Bryan Bulaga moving to left tackle.
Happy: Datone Jones, DE, UCLA
Letting Cullen Jenkins go as a free agent after the 2010 season was one of the few mistakes Ted Thompson has made and one he hasn't recovered from.
The Packers have spent draft picks on potential replacements, but none have been able to fill the void. Jones seems like an ideal fit who would give the Packers a physical run defender that can still get after the quarterback.
There have been reports that the Packers are trying to get more physical this season and Jones would go a long way toward that goal.
Satisfied: John Cyprien, S, Florida International
This is considered a strong safety class and Cyprien is thought to be one of the best.
He has the size to play in the box, but can also get back in coverage. The Packers could use him in the role they tried for Charles Woodson last season.
Cyprien is the Packers' consolation prize; he wouldn't be a bad player for them to end up with. In addition to not being able to replace Jenkins from their Super Bowl team, the Packers have struggled to replace Nick Collins.