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NFL Draft: Team Needs - NFC North
John Tuvey
March 31, 2008
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Chicago Bears

Primary Needs
The freefall from NFC champ to 7-9 exposed plenty of needs in the Windy City—so many it’s tough to figure which ones they’ll address first. The Bears’ defense remains relatively stout with Lance Briggs back in the fold, though a little help up front is likely on the docket at some point on Draft Day. Expect the Bears to focus their early attention on an offense that has been their Achilles’ heel for quite some time. It may be time to cut their losses on former first-rounder Cedric Benson, especially with such a talented crop of running backs at their disposal. The same can be said for Rex Grossman and the quarterback position. Chicago’s offensive line, long one of the strengths of the team, began showing its age last season; one or two early picks could very easily be dedicated to the front line.

Fantasy Impact
One way or another the running back position will feel the impact of Draft Day 2008. It might be Benson running wild behind an upgraded offensive line, or it might be a fresh face siphoning carries and fantasy value. An early pick spent on Chicago’s quarterback of the future could undermine Grossman’s psyche but in the long run give the Bears a fantasy factor at the position—okay, one fantasy folks are more willing to trust than Rex. 

Potential Targets
You’d expect the Bears to eschew skill position players early on in favor of offensive line upgrades, and if Jeff Otah or Chris Williams are still on the board when they select at No. 14 that’s likely what they’ll do. But Rashard Mendenhall or Jonathan Stewart may be too tempting to resist, leaving Chicago to target UTEP’s Oneil Cousins or Chilo Rachal of USC in a later round. Da Bears will also be looking for a value pick at quarterback; if Michigan’s Chad Henne, Deleware’s Joe Flacco, or Kentucky’s Andre Woodson are available in Round Two they’ll be tough to pass on. Chicago could still wait on a quarterback until after addressing line and running back needs, but it would mean settling for John David Booty of USC or Tennessee’s Erik Ainge.

Detroit Lions

Primary Needs
It’s a time-honored tradition for the Lions to take the best wide receiver available. However, the departure of Mike Martz and his aerial circus—not to mention the glut of pass catchers left in his wake—should render this year’s draft wideout-free. Kevin Jones’ release signals the need for a new runner to plug into Jim Colletto’s offense, but the bigger need may be widebodies to plug in front of him. And with both o-line and running backs relatively deep in this year’s draft, Rod Marinelli will likely prioritize his squad’s numerous defensive needs first. A pass rusher sits atop the list, along with help at linebacker. Marinelli added several former Buc d-backs to his stable but the Lions’ secondary should receive draft-day attention as well.

Fantasy Impact
As with the Bears, in one way or another Detroit’s ground game will be reshaped by the 2008 draft. There will almost certainly be a running back added along the way, and his blockers should receive an upgrade as well. If these needs are addressed in the first two or three rounds you could be looking at a legit fantasy sleeper; if the Lions go defensive first and wait until the middle rounds to address the offense you’ll be best served letting sleeping Lions lie. 

Potential Targets
If the Bears don’t take Rashard Mendenhall or Jonathan Stewart with the 14th overall selection, the Lions will pounce with the following pick. Or maybe they’ll zig where the Bears zag and draft Jeff Otah or Chris Williams if Chicago takes a back. Marinelli might also opt for the best pass rusher on the board, especially if said pass rusher is Derrick Harvey. With backs like Central Florida’s Kevin Smith and Ray Rice of Rutgers or linemen such as UTEP’s Oneil Cousins and Virginia Tech’s Duane Brown likely available in Round Two, the Lions may play the position scarcity card and snap up Harvey or Phillip Merling early on.

Green Bay Packers

Primary Needs
Funny, you don’t hear a clamoring for Aaron Rodgers to receive an upgrade in his offensive arsenal; it helps that third-round pick James Jones and scrap heap find Ryan Grant emerged as viable weapons. With Bubba Franks gone, however, the one skill position Green Bay may choose to address is tight end. Expect the Pack to focus primarily on their defense, even though last year’s edition wasn’t all that bad. With no glaring needs Green Bay could look for help in the secondary and depth at linebacker. Offensively expect the Packers to take advantage of a class deep in offensive linemen to augment their front line; they could start grooming tackles behind Chad Clifton and Mark Tauscher or take another shot at upgrading their interior with mid-round picks—a tact that hasn’t worked quite as well as hoped with 2006 picks Daryn Colledge and Jason Spitz.

Fantasy Impact
While first-round tight ends rarely contribute in their rookie campaign, it will be difficult for fantasy folks to resist the siren call of a first- or second-round pass catcher added to a tight end-friendly offense like that of the Packers. Between Grant and last year’s second-rounder, Brandon Jackson, the Packers won’t likely draft a runner of consequence; however, any upgrades to the interior of their line would certainly help stave off any expectations of a sophomore slump for Grant.

Potential Targets
With an emphasis on quick feet and the zone blocking system the Packers generally have the luxury of waiting on offensive linemen. That said, if Branden Albert or Sam Baker slipped to the end of the first round they may adjust that thinking. Nimble-footed linemen such as Virginia Tech’s Duane Brown and Connecticut’s Donald Thomas could be mid-round selections. More than a handful of mock drafts have the Packers taking USC tight end Fred Davis in Round One, but with Donald Lee still in the fold they may be more inclined to wait and “settle” for Notre Dame’s John Carlson or Purdue’s Dustin Keller a round or two later.

Minnesota Vikings

Primary Needs
The Vikings’ foray into free agency has addressed the bulk of their most urgent needs, with one glaring exception: a pass-rushing defensive end. Barring a pre-draft trade Minnesota has all but locked themselves into using the 17th overall selection to fill that void—which could present a real conundrum if an elite quarterback remains on the board when the Vikings go on the clock. Minnesota is also on the lookout for depth behind the Williams wall on their defensive line and some Cover-2 help in the secondary. While the Vikings paid handsomely for Bernard Berrian and drafted two receivers with upside last year they could still address that position in 2008. More likely, however, is a relatively early selection directed at a tight end who can help in the running game but still make the occasional play downfield.

Fantasy Impact
There’s no Adrian Peterson here this year—though if you’re in an IDP league you have to love the chances of a pass rusher lining up next to Kevin and Pat Williams and facing a steady diet of one-on-one blocking. This draft class contains several talented tight ends who could push Visanthe Shiancoe for looks. And there’s still a possibility that Tavares Jackson isn’t the Vikings’ quarterback of the future, but someone in the 2008 draft is.

Potential Targets
The Vikings’ selection is expected to boil down to Florida’s Derrick Harvey and Clemson’s Phillip Merling; Harvey may not be available and Merling recently underwent hernia surgery. Miami’s Calais Campbell and Auburn’s Quentin Groves would be consolation prizes. Imagine the flurry of activity in Minnesota’s war room if Brian Brohm is still on the board at No. 17; is he enough of an upgrade over Jackson for the Vikings to take a step back and plug in another rookie at quarterback? Combo tight ends such as Notre Dame’s John Carlson—a Minnesota native—or Tennessee’s Brad Cottam are likely mid-round options. And if Bryant McKinnie’s off-the-field transgressions have pushed Brad Childress over the edge, Virginia Tech’s Duane Brown or Anthony Collins of Kansas could find themselves in purple before draft day is done.


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