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A thorough assessment of a team’s draft can’t truly be reached for another three years or so. That said, with tighter rosters and larger rookie contracts, a successful draft must yield at least some immediate help. With that in mind, here’s a look at how NFC North teams fared over the weekend—both from a big-picture NFL standpoint as well as a fantasy perspective—taking into account how key needs were (or weren’t) addressed and the impact potential of the players acquired.
With their first-round pick used to acquire Jay Cutler, the Bears spent day one in hibernation—waking up just long enough to trade their second-round pick. The pace picked up on Sunday with two picks in each round except the sixth, and Chicago had plenty of talent fall into its laps. A pair of athletic defensive ends, Jarron Gilbert and Henry Melton, addressed needs along the defensive front; more importantly, Juaquin Iglesias and Johnny Knox were finds in the third and fifth rounds, respectively, and could contend immediately for spots in Cutler’s receiver rotation. CB D.J. Moore and S Al Afalava shore up the secondary, while LB Marcus Freeman was another Bear draftee expected to go off the board earlier than Chicago was able to select him. About the only area of true need the Bears didn’t address was their offensive line, using only a seventh-round pick on OG Lance Louis to add depth; however, the signing of Orlando Pace at least buys them some time in that area.
Fantasy nugget: Devin Hester isn’t a true No. 1, and while Earl Bennett is a popular sleeper given his experience catching passes from Cutler there’s no question Iglesias and Knox could contribute right away in Chicago. Neither projects to be an immediate No. 1, but Iglesias is a great fit for the slot and to work the middle of the field while Hester and Knox run fly patterns.
The Lions had three of the first 33 picks and eight over the two-day span; they also had so many needs to address that despite acquiring some talent it feels like just a drop in the bucket. Matthew Stafford is the new face of the franchise, much to the chagrin of the shockingly large contingent of Lion fans clamoring for Aaron Curry. The follow-up selection of TE Brandon Pettigrew was a little surprising because of other more pressing needs, but young quarterbacks tend to lean on the tight end so giving Stafford a good one certainly can’t be faulted. S Louis Delmas addresses a need in the secondary, but neither LB the Lions drafted—DeAndre Levy and Zack Follett—is big enough to project as a successful MLB and fourth-round DT Sammie Lee Hill was the only move to address the defensive line. Offensively, WR Derrick Williams won’t have to crack the rotation immediately and Aaron Brown is no significant threat to Kevin Smith’s workload; however, both should contribute in the return game. The only move to upgrade the offensive line in front of their $41 million investment at quarterback was developmental OT Lydon Murtha in Round Seven.
Fantasy nugget: The Lions’ amalgamation of quarterbacks threw 18 touchdown passes last year, and they’ve upgraded their receiving corps around Calvin Johnson; of course, they were also sacked 52 times, and the Lions essentially ignored their offensive line this offseason. In other words, Stafford most decidedly does not equal Matt Ryan or Joe Flacco.
Green Bay Packers
This draft played out a bit differently than Packer backers are used to; instead of trading down and amassing mid-round picks, Green Bay held firm at 9 and anchored their new 3-4 defense with NT B.J. Raji, then traded back into the first round for OLB Clay Matthews. The Pack also found potential solutions to their aging offensive tackles in T.J. Lang and Jamon Meredith and used remaining picks for players who don’t need to contribute right away but could help down the road and on special teams: DE Jarius Wynn, versatile CB/S Brandon Underwood, and speedy OLB Brad Jones.
Fantasy nugget: FB Quinn Johnson, the Pack’s fifth-round pick, is a 246-pound load as a lead blocker. But Green Bay is also impressed with his hands—always a plus for a West Coast offense fullback; think Tom Rathman from the 49ers dynasty—and may be willing to use him as a short-yardage (read: goal line) hammer as well.
The Vikings’ draft-day mantra appeared to be “Go big or go home”—in more ways than one. The pick of heavily red-flagged WR Percy Harvin in round one ignored OT Michael Oher and veered sharply from head coach Brad Childress’ post-Love Boat “Code of Conduct”; it also provided Minnesota’s static offense with another dynamic playmaker and pandered to a fan base that nearly failed to sell out a home playoff game. A glaring need at RT was addressed when Phil Loadholt fell into the Vikings’ laps (which, given Loadholt’s 332 pounds, had to hurt) in the second round; he should start sooner rather than later and help pave the right side of the road for Adrian Peterson. CB Asher Allen may be the nickel back from Day One if Charles Gordon’s broken ankle is slow to heal, while ILB Jasper Brinkley and S Jamarca Sanford provide depth and may help out on special teams—a huge area of weakness for the Vikings last year. Undrafted free agent RB Ian Johnson could stick as a developmental back with Chester Taylor in the last year of his contract, and the Vikings appear to be banking heavily on a positive outcome to the Starcaps situation because they completely ignored the defensive line, both in the draft and when signing undrafted free agents. At least the Vikings saved on scouting costs; four of the five picks came from the SEC, with Oklahoma’s Loadholt the only non-SEC player. Aren’t all those games on national TV?
Fantasy nugget: In theory, Harvin gives the Vikings a downfield threat that will spread the defense and make both Peterson and Bernard Berrian more effective. Here’s the question: are either Childress or offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell creative enough to find ways to put Harvin’s skills to good use? The vast majority of Minnesota’s “big plays” came when Peterson broke off a long run; the Lions, Chiefs, Raiders, and 22 other teams had more passing plays of 25 or more yards, and ask any Vikings fan about their propensity to run a five-yard pattern on third-and-seven.