NFC North: The Best and Worst Draft Picks for Each Team
While the NFC North teams and their fans were focused mainly on their own draft boards, it's hard not to peek over and see what their rivals are doing.
The 2013 draft brought an influx of new—but raw—talent in the NFC North. The Bears, Lions and Vikings all drafted players who can be described as projects in the first round. Each could pan out and terrorize the division for years, or they can end up as colossal busts.
Only time will tell how each will pan out, but, in a draft that didn't have a lot of star power, it's hard to blame them for taking chances.
As expected, the Packers used the draft to try and get more physical. They spent their first four picks on players who should help them in that area, including two offensive linemen and a defensive end.
Here, you will find a break down of each teams picks, as well as their best and worst picks, including questionable decisions.
The Bears added a lot of physical talent to their roster. If every player works hard and they receive quality coaching, every player drafted has a chance to make a big impact.
With their first round pick, the Bears added offensive guard Kyle Long. It was a surprise pick to most, but it wasn't quite the reach some think—at least not according to what his father told the Chicago Sun-Times.
Bears general manager Phil Emery noted his athleticism and said they expect Long to start right away in the press conference announcing the pick.
The Bears followed that pick with linebackers Jonathan Bostic of Florida and Khaseem Greene of Rutgers. They went back to the offensive line in the fifth round with Jordan Mills of Louisiana Tech before selecting defensive end Cornelius Washington of Georgia and receiver Marquess Wilson of Washington State in the sixth and seventh rounds.
Best pick: Washington
Playing defense in the NFL is about getting to the quarterback, and there's no reason to think Washington can't do that at an elite level in the NFL.
At Georgia, he didn't produce the way his physical skills suggest he should have. If he had, he would've been a first round pick. A player with his physical talent is rare, and to get that in the sixth round is even more unique.
Worst pick: Mills
Nothing against Mills, but one has to wonder if the Bears will regret not taking slot receiver Ryan Swope from Texas A&M. Slot receiver Earl Bennett is good when healthy, but that has been a struggle. Swope would've provided a solid insurance.
Biggest question: In a passing league, why did they spend two of their first three picks on linebackers?
I can't knock the value of the picks—particularly with Greene—but they could still use a second tight end, help in the secondary and depth at receiver.
According to Pro Football Focus (subscription required), starting outside linebacker Nick Roach only played 55.3 percent of the team's snaps before Brian Urlacher was injured. Meanwhile, PFF (subscription required) credited third cornerback Kelvin Hayden with 50.2 percent of their snaps.
The positions receive similar playing time, but with two linebackers already signed to replace Roach (who left as a free agent) and Brian Urlacher, drafting two more in the first four rounds, while not adding any cornerbacks in neither the draft or free agency, was a curious decision.
The Bears must be banking on Hayden to improve from 2012, where he allowed a passer rating of 93.2 on passes thrown his way, according to PFF (subscription required).
The word that pops into my head when I look at the Lions draft is raw.
Ezekiel Ansah and Darius Slay are both talented players, but neither started a game for the teams they departed before 2012.
As Bleacher Report's Dan Hope detailed, Ansah's story is interesting. He is possibly the scariest prospect for both general managers and offensive linemen.
In the third round, they drafted guard Larry Warford, followed by defensive end Devin Taylor in the fourth and punter Sam Martin in the fifth round.
They had two choices in both the sixth and seventh rounds, where they took receiver Corey Fuller, running back Theo Riddick, tight end Michael Williams and linebacker Brandon Hepburn.
Much like with the Bears, the Lions' draft could go down as a great draft or a complete bust.
Best pick: Warford
Maybe I'm old school, but I like big, ugly guards, and that's what Warford is. The Lions had a pretty good line already, but Warford should add toughness to the Lions' offense.
Detroit needs to be able to do more than chuck the ball down the field. Warford should help the Lions run the ball up the middle and keep Matthew Stafford clean again next season.
Worst pick: Martin
After going 4-12, I would think a team would have more pressing needs than a punter in the fifth round.
This is not to say the Lions didn't need to upgrade their punting situation, but they could have added help in the secondary, offensive line or defensive line.
I know special teams are important, but even the best punter in the world wouldn't help a 4-12 team make the playoffs.
Biggest question: Will the Lions' coaches have enough time to develop their new talent?
Jim Schwartz has had success with defensive linemen as both a defensive coordinator with the Titans and head coach of the Lions. However, if he doesn't get immediate dividends from Ansah and Taylor, he might not get to enjoy it if and when they do max out on their potential.
In four seasons, Schwartz has just 22 wins with nearly half of those game coming in 2011 when they went 10-6. If you take out 2011, he's averaging just four wins per season. By comparison, Steve Mariucci won 15 games in under three seasons, and Rod Marinelli won 10 in three as well, just two fewer than Schwartz's total in 2009, 2010 and 2012.
In a make-or-break year, one would think the Lions would invest in a sure thing.
Green Bay Packers
The team that won the division also had the most picks, as the Packers had 11 picks, including nine on the fourth day.
The Packers wanted to get tougher in the off-season, and they did just that in the draft.
UCLA's Datone Jones should be a starter from the first day of training camp, and he could be the best defensive end they've had since Cullen Jenkins. They traded back in the second round, grabbing Alabama ground-pounder Eddie Lacy.
The Packers' fourth round was interesting, as they added tackle David Bakhiari of Colorado, guard J.C. Tretter of Cornell and then went back to the running back position with Jonathan Franklin of UCLA.
In the fifth round, the Packers came away with cornerback Micah Hyde and defensive end/tackle Josh Boyd. They spent two of their last four picks on linebackers, as they selected Nathan Palmer of Illinois State with the 193rd overall selection and Samuel Barrington of South Florida at 232. Between those two picks were receivers Charles Johnson from Grand Valley State and Kevin Dorsey from Maryland.
Best pick: Jones
Jones seems to be one of the safest bets in the draft, and he landed in the ideal spot.
Although Scouts Inc. (subscription required) only rated him as "average" in run defense, he was above average in pass rush, which is what the Packers will need most from him.
Green Bay has badly needed someone to compliment Clay Matthews since Jenkins left, and Jones should give them that.
Worst pick: Lacy
If the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel's Bob McGinn is right, the Packers front office probably agrees with me on this one.
Lacy has talent, but he's been beaten up and ran behind a great line in college. It's hard to figure out how he's going to succeed behind a line that was ranked 27th in run blocking by Pro Football Focus.
The Packers obviously aren't convinced he's the answer either. If they were, they wouldn't have traded up for Franklin.
Biggest question: Why two running backs instead of a receiver?
When the Packers offense is successful, it's because they're getting great play from their receivers. In coach Mike McCarthy's first year, they were ranked 22nd in points scored and had just one receiver with over 45 catches. The next season, Greg Jennings developed, they drafted James Jones in the third round and their offense jumped to fourth, as Brett Favre's passer rating was about 27 points higher.
According to Spotrac, James Jones and Jermichael Finley are in contract years, while Randall Cobb and Jordy Nelson have just two years left on their deals. The Packers could've passed on Lacy or traded back again to bring in a number of solid receivers to develop.
Maybe they think guys like Jarrett Boykin or Jeremy Ross will step up, but they've used high draft picks on receivers in the past. That strategy helped lead to a Super Bowl victory when Nelson—taken in the second round when they already had Donald Driver, Jennings and Jones—caught nine passes for 140 yards. Their starting running back in that game was a sixth-round pick.
The Vikings were the major headliners of the first day. They started the day with two picks, then traded back into the first round for a third to add more talent to their roster.
The Vikings needed front line talent. By trading Percy Harvin and releasing Antoine Winfield, they let arguably two of their five best players go. It was a roster that didn't have a lot of talent to begin with. If not for a superhuman effort from Adrian Peterson, they would have been picking much higher in the draft.
Things fell their way.
Florida defensive tackle Shariff Floyd was projected by many to go in the top five, but fell all the way to 23. They got good value at 25 with cornerback Xavier Rhodes, then they traded multiple picks to get back in the first round and draft Tennessee wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson.
The rest of their draft was a little boring, but they added a few possible starters and solid depth. Linebacker Gerald Hodges from Penn State, a fourth round pick, might be forced into a starting spot this season.
In the fifth round, they added punter Jeff Locke from UCLA then went back to the same school for guard Jeff Baca in the sixth round.
They selected their second Penn State linebacker by using their first pick of the seventh round on Michael Mauti. Their last two picks were North Carolina guard Travis Bond and Florida State defensive tackle Everett Dawkins.
Best pick: Floyd
When you can get a guy who was supposed to go in the top five with the 23rd pick, you do it.
Floyd was not only great value, but he fit a position of need. Fred Evans only has one year left on his contract, and Kevin Williams is 32-years-old. The Vikings' other defensive tackles received a combined performance grade of negative-10.5 from Pro Football Focus (subscription required).
Floyd can rotate in this year and move into the starting spot by next season. Playing between Williams and Jared Allen isn't a bad place to be.
Worst pick: Locke
As with the Lions, are the Vikings really that set with their roster that they thought a punter was their best option in a deep draft? They could've used more competition at receiver, linebacker and in the secondary, and they passed on some pretty good options.
Chris Kluwe had a bit of an off year last year, but he's been a solid punter for a while and a guy they can win with. I just don't think a fifth-round punter is going to translate to more wins next year.
There is a really good chance he won't even make the team, if they give Kluwe a fair shot.
Biggest question: Do the Vikings have what it takes to get the most out of Patterson?
If teams drafted solely on talent, Patterson would have been a top 10 pick. However, there are a lot of questions about his route running and ability to read defenses. It doesn't matter how athletic a player is, because he can't just line up and automatically be a productive receiver. If that were the case, Devin Hester would be great.
Who do the Vikings have that is going to help Patterson reach his potential? Receiver's coach George Stewart has had some success with Harvin and Sidney Rice. He also coached Terrell Owens from 1996-2002.
There have also been some failures when Stewart was with Atlanta from 2003-2006 and Roddy White only caught a combined 59 passes. In 2007, White caught 83 passes, starting a streak of six straight years with 80 or more catches.
All of those projects took time to develop, and the thought is Patterson will, too.
The next question is: Where will they put him? He's projected to be best used as a slot receiver early in his career—the same spot Jarius Wright and Greg Jennings are at their best.
Lastly, is Christian Ponder good enough to get the most out of him?
Those are three big questions for a player they invested so much in.