NFC North Team Needs

Story posted April 18, 2018 in Sports, CommRadio, NFL Draft by Joe Murphy

NFC North Draft Needs
The NFC North is normally the division that is dominated by the Green Bay Packers, but the Minnesota Vikings dominated the competition to win the division by four games over the second place Detroit Lions. Aaron Rodgers missed more than half the season with a fractured collarbone as the Packers struggled to win games with backup Brett Hundley. The Chicago Bears have not made the playoffs since 2010, where they made the NFC Championship and lost to the Packers.

Every team in the NFC North struggled at times and need some reinforcements in the draft. Here’s a look at the top five draft needs for each team.

Chicago Bears:

The Bears made a big splash in last year’s draft by trading up one spot to select Mitchell Trubisky. The rookie quarterback had his ups and downs throughout the season as Chicago went 5-11. The Bears have needs across the board, but here are the top five.

1. Offensive Line
Every team with a young quarterback needs an offensive line that can protect him from the pass rush. The Bears finished 23rd in pass protection last season, struggling to keep Trubisky upright throughout his rookie campaign.
Losing Josh Sitton on the interior leaves a massive hole on the line that needs to be filled.

2. Wide Receiver
In an ideal world, Kevin White would be an emerging star on the outside that pairs perfectly with Trubisky in the pocket. Unfortunately, White has struggled with injuries since he got drafted, and the Bears lost their leading receiver in Kendall Wright to free agency along with Cameron Meredith. Even with the addition of Allen Robinson in free agency, a secondary receiver is needed for Chicago to compete in the NFC North.

3. Cornerback
Secondary depth is needed in a division with Aaron Rodgers, Matt Stafford and now Kirk Cousins. The re-signing of Prince Amukamara is a step in the right direction, but the Bears only intercepted eight passes last season.
Kyle Fuller finished tied for second in pass deflections with 22 but needs additional help with the quarterback and receiver talent in the division.

4. EDGE Rusher
A need for a pass rusher might seem crazy for a team that finished the year with 42 sacks, but the Bears lack a consistent player to create havoc on the edge. Akiem Hicks led the team with 8.5 sacks, but no else had more than five last year as Leonard Floyd has struggled to develop as a pass rusher.

5. Defensive Line Depth
The Bears have a solid defensive line capable of taking over games but are not that deep. The team currently has only seven defensive linemen on the team, a number that needs to increase before the start of next season.

Green Bay Packers:

The injury to Aaron Rodgers early in the season derailed any hope for the Packers to win the division again at 7-9. His injury only emphasized the draft needs for a Packers team looking to make noise in the division again.

1. Secondary
The Packers’ pass defense struggled throughout the season as they gave up more than 4,000 yards. Second-round pick Kevin King struggled to stay healthy, while the overall corner depth on the team needs revamping.

2. Offensive Line
If Rodgers is going to play in all 16 games this season, he needs a good line to protect him. The unit up front allowed 51 sacks this season, fifth-most in the NFL. David Bakhtiari is a good tackle when healthy, but the Packers will need more than him to keep their quarterbacks upright.

3. Wide Receiver
Jordy Nelson's departure in the offseason creates a hole that was not always there. Davante Adams and Randall Cobb are both solid options, but a third receiver is needed and Cobb’s salary might be too much for the Packers to hold onto for much longer.

4. Linebacker
Clay Matthews and Nick Perry have been a good outside linebacker duo for Green Bay, but the pair seem to get injured during the season. Even without them, the Packers have been unable to generate a pass rush from the edge.
Blake Martinez is a solid inside linebacker, but he lacks the athleticism to keep up in coverage.

5. Backup Quarterback
Brett Hundley did the best he could with what he was given but looked over his head for most of the year. Deshone Kizer was just brought over in a trade, but an additional quarterback to battle these two might not be a bad option with Rodgers’ injury history.

Detroit Lions:

The Lions just finished outside the playoffs with a record of 9-7. Here are a couple of needs for a team that is looking to win a playoff game for the first time since 1991.

1. Defensive Line
The Lions put a franchise tag on Ezekial Ansah but lost Haloti Ngata to free agency. Even with the All-Pro back for another year, the team lacks another pass rusher off the edge to create pressure consistently.

2. Linebacker
Tahir Whitehead left in free agency, creating a hole in the middle of the field. Last year’s first-round draft pick Jarrad Davis should be the starter in the middle but struggled in coverage during the season. Devon Kennard was a good signing, but he is more of a pass rusher than a coverage guy.

3. Running back
The Lions finished dead last in rushing yards and lack a dynamic back capable of making plays out of the backfield. Two-time Super Bowl winner LeGarrette Blount signed in the offseason, but he is not the type of player to control the game from the backfield.

4. Tight End
Eric Ebron did not live up to expectations in Detroit, but he was still the team’s third-leading receiver in 2017. Luke Willson and Michael Roberts are better at blocking than pass catching, so the addition of a playmaker at the tight end position is a big need.

5. Corner depth
Darius Slay is one of the best corners in the league but does not have a full supporting cast to help him on the boundary. Teez Tabor is a talented young corner but needs to be pushed by someone else to unleash his full potential.

Minnesota Vikings:

The Vikings made it all the way to the NFC Championship Game, where they got pummeled by the Philadelphia Eagles. Kirk Cousins signed in the offseason, but the team still has a few more needs to take care of.

1. Offensive Line
The addition of a high price quarterback means the team will have to protect him as the Eagles lived in the backfield throughout the championship game. The guard position might need the most help with the loss of Joe Berger and little starting experience between the two guards on the roster.

2. Cornerback
Xavier Rhodes has proven to be one of the league’s best shutdown corners but needs help in a division filled with good talent in the passing game. Trae Waynes is a solid number two corner, but Mackensie Alexander has struggled in the slot. Even if Terrance Newman re-signed, the Vikings would still need help in the slot as the veteran will turn 40 around the start of the new season.

3. Defensive End
Danielle Hunter and Everson Griffen are one of the best pass-rushing duos in the NFL, but the Vikings struggled to sack the quarterback in 2017. The team only accumulated 37 sacks on the year and need a third pass rusher to put them over the top. Brian Robison will be 35 on the second day of the draft, so a replacement for him would be ideal.

4. Second Tight End
Kyle Rudolph has cemented his status as a starting-caliber player, but he does not have a good backup. In today’s game, the presence of a second tight end is needed to stretch the field or create a mismatch in the red zone.

5. Backup Quarterback
The Vikings acquired Trevor Siemian in a trade with Denver, but he is not their answer to the backup job. His play in Denver was shaky and a solid backup is needed just in case Cousins gets injured during the season.

 

 

Joseph Esquivel-Murphy is a senior majoring in broadcast journalism and Spanish. To contact him, email jje5139@psu.edu.