The NFC North should be a very competitive division next season based on the results of this year’s draft.
The Chicago Bears added two players in rounds one and two, filling their teams’ biggest needs. The Vikings shocked everyone by taking Florida State QB Christian Ponder in round one, but they also grabbed a lot of talented players throughout the rest of the draft. The reigning Super Bowl champion Green Bay Packers added depth at a lot of positions, and their offense could be very scary next season.
The best draft of the division has to go to the Detroit Lions, who, with their first pick, added a dynamic defensive lineman out of Auburn in Nick Fairley. The picks of Boise State WR Titus Young and Illinois RB Mikel Leshoure were excellent choices, and they will make their offense very dangerous.
Here is my pick by pick analysis of every pick by the four NFC North franchises, as well as overall grades for each team.
1. (29) OT Gabe Carimi, Wisconsin: This was an excellent pick by the Bears, and it fills their biggest need. Carimi has the ability to play either left or right tackle, but I think his best position is on the right side.
2. (53) DT Stephen Paea, Oregon State: The Bears traded up to get Paea, and I loved the pick for them. He will start right away for the Bears, and I think that he will make a big impact next season.
3. (93) S Chris Conte, California: I thought this was a huge reach for Conte. I had him rated as a sixth-round pick, and I don’t see him making a big impact next season.
5. (160) QB Nathan Enderle, Idaho: Enderle is a solid developmental quarterback, but I think the Bears had bigger needs than this position.
6. (195) LB James Thomas, West Virginia: I think Thomas will make a nice backup in Chicago, but once again, there were more talented players they could’ve taken here.
Final Grade: C+
The Bears began the draft with two great picks in the first couple of rounds. Carimi will be a huge help to their offensive line next season. Stephen Paea is a perfect fit for the Bears, and he will step right in and upgrade the spot formerly held by Tommie Harris. The draft went downhill from there, as they reached on three players that won’t make much of an immediate impact. Chris Conte was a particularly questionable pick, as he was a huge reach in my opinion. They failed to address a huge need, as they didn’t draft a wide receiver.
1. (13) DT Nick Fairley, Auburn: I absolutely loved this pick, as Nick Fairley is a steal here. He will create an incredible tandem at defensive tackle for a long time. His addition gives the Lions arguably the best defensive line in the NFL.
2. (44) WR Titus Young, Boise State: This is another great pick by the Lions, as they grab a number two receiver to pair with Calvin Johnson. Young will be a solid weapon in the slot for Matthew Stafford.
2. (57) RB Mikel Leshoure, Illinois: Wow, another incredible pick by the Lions. He will give the Lions an awesome one-two punch at running back with Jahvid Best.
5. (157) OLB Doug Hogue, Syracuse: This was one of the Lions bigger needs, but I don’t see Hogue starting right away. He is a solid developmental player though.
7. (209) OT Johnny Culbreath, South Carolina State: Culbreath is a nice developmental player who could work his way into a very nice backup for the Lions.
Final Grade: A
The Lions had their second consecutive draft that left me very impressed with the future of the team. Fairley will improve the defense, and I don’t see how teams will be able to guard both him and Ndamukong Suh in a couple of years. Both Titus Young and Mikel Leshoure were unexpected picks, but I think they both will give the offense a boost. They failed to upgrade their outside linebacker spot until Doug Hogue, so that is my only criticism of this draft class.
1. (32) OT Derek Sherrod, Mississippi State: This is a very good pick for the Packers, as Sherrod will combine with Bryan Bulaga to create a great offensive tackle combo for the next ten years. He may not start next season, but he’ll be ready to take over if Chad Clifton is injured in 2011.
2. (64) WR Randall Cobb, Kentucky: I keep thinking about this pick, and I continue to like it more and more. Cobb is a Percy Harvin type talent who can do a ton of things for the Packers. He also gives them their first serious threat at kick returner in a long time.
3. (96) RB Alexander Green, Hawaii: Green is an underrated back, but I still think that they could’ve gotten a more talented ball carrier here. I also think this was too early for them to take a running back.
4. (131) CB Davon House, New Mexico State: A very nice pick in my opinion, as I had House as an early third round pick. He should develop nicely over the next few seasons behind Charles Woodson.
5. (141) TE D.J. Williams, Arkansas: This wasn’t a huge need for the Packers, but I really like this pick. He is a great receiver, who will give the Packers very good depth at the tight end position.
6. (179) OG Caleb Schlauderaff, Utah: This is a pretty solid pick for the Packers, as he will provide good depth for them next season at guard.
6. (186) OLB D.J. Smith, Appalachian State: They finally take an outside linebacker, but they passed on Jeremy Beal and Mark Herzlich for an unproven talent.
6. (197) OLB Rick Elmore, Arizona: Elmore is a very good pick for Green Bay. He could challenge for snaps at the outside linebacker position.
7. (218) TE Ryan Taylor, North Carolina: Really? What a complete waste of a pick, as Taylor doesn’t have a chance to make the team next season.
7. (233) DE Lawrence Guy, Arizona State: Another late round pick who should be a nice contributor next season in the defensive line rotation.
Final Grade: B+
I liked what the Packers did with this draft overall. Sherrod is a future bookend, and I like how they are dedicated to keeping Aaron Rodgers upright. Cobb is the best pick in this class for Green Bay, as he adds so much to the Packer offense. House and Williams are solid developmental players who could make big impacts in a few seasons. I really applaud two of the later round picks, as Elmore and Guy were good values at their respective spots.
1. (12) QB Christian Ponder, Florida State: I’m not a fan of this pick at this spot, but I understand why they did it. They needed to find a franchise quarterback, but I think that they majorly reached for Ponder here. I just hope that the Vikings don’t start him before he is ready, as that could really screw up his development.
2. (43) TE Kyle Rudolph, Notre Dame: Rudolph is an excellent pick here, and he has very good value. I don’t think that this position was the biggest need for the Vikings, but they added a new dimension to their offense.
4. (106) DT Christian Ballard, Iowa: I loved this pick for the Vikings. I had rated Ballard very highly, and I think he’s a perfect fit for the Vikings defense. He should be a nice replacement for Pat Williams at defensive tackle.
5. (139) CB Brandon Burton, Utah: This is another excellent value pick for the Vikings, and it gives them good depth at cornerback. Burton was rated as a late second-rounder by me, and he should be a good addition to the Vikings’ defense.
6. (168) OT Demarcus Love, Arkansas: This is three picks in a row where the Vikings have received excellent value. Love could challenge for a starting offensive guard spot right away in 2011.
6. (170) CB Mistral Raymond, South Florida: This gives the Vikings even more depth in the secondary, but I don’t see Raymond as the best corner available here.
6. (172) C Brandon Fusco, Slippery Rock: This is a solid pick, as Fusco can develop into a solid starting center for the Vikings in a few seasons.
6. (200) OLB Ross Homan, Ohio State: Homan is a good player who will be a solid backup next season. He could eventually become a starter.
7. (215) DE D’Aundre Reed, Arizona: I can’t believe that they waited this long to take a defensive end. Reed was stuck behind Brooks Reed and Rick Elmore in college, so he doesn’t have a lot of experience.
7. (236) WR Stephen Burton, West Texas A&M: This is another position that I thought they’d address before now. Burton will struggle to make the roster.
Final Grade: B
The Vikings shocked a lot of people when they selected Christian Ponder so early in the first round. He becomes their franchise quarterback who may get thrown into the fire too early next season. I loved the next four picks the Vikings made, as they got excellent value in Rudolph, Ballard, Burton, and Love. All three of them could be starters in the future. The rest of their draft picks were uneventful, but they could add some depth to multiple positions.