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NFL Draft Grades: NFC North

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Grading an NFL Draft immediately after it occurs is akin to giving your compliments to the chef based on the menu. It will take at least three years before we can truly assess how the 32 NFL teams fared over the three-day event. But waiting is no fun, so let’s take a take at which teams appear to have done the best job of filling needs and building for the future.

NFC NORTH

Chicago Bears: Given the trade of Brandon Marshall, adding a dynamic receiver like Kevin White certainly makes sense for the Bears. White comes with some questions considering that he was only a dominant player for one season at West Virginia, but his size, strength, speed and ability to win contested passes could make him a favorite of Jay Cutler’s immediately and a verifiable NFL star. Defensive-minded head coach John Fox nabbed the two-gapping defensive lineman to help Chicago’s adjustment to the 3-4 scheme with Eddie Goldman in the second round and after hitting a home run with former Oregon Duck Kyle Long a few years ago, the Bears could win big again with highly dependable center Hroniss Grasu in the third round. Safety Adrian Amos flashed at Penn State and may be able to bring some consistency to a trouble spot for the Bears. Chicago improved in this draft, but where will the pass rush come from?

Grade: C+

Detroit Lions: I anticipated that Detroit would land an interior lineman in the first round, but thought it would come on the defensive side of the ball rather than guard Laken Tomlinson. His powerful game and dependability fit in well with what Jim Caldwell is trying to build in Detroit and gives the Lions as solid a 1-2 punch at guard (with Larry Warford) as there is in the league. The defensive tackle came a little later with former Auburn standout Gabe Wright, who Lions fans hope will provide more consistency than fellow former Tiger (and Lion) Nick Fairley. The star of this class will be running back Ameer Abdullah, a verifiable star who will provide the sizzle to complement the more powerful Joique Bell and Theo Riddick. Corners Alex Carter and Quandre Diggs have talent, but never made as many plays at the collegiate level as their hype would indicate.

Grade: B-

Green Bay Packers: Though I did project Damarious Randall to go in the first round (one pick earlier to Indianapolis), I was initially surprised by the Packers’ selection of him – until it was made clear that Green Bay envisions the former ASU standout handling nickel duties. Given the dynamic passing attacks in the NFC North, the move makes sense, though it is rare that a collegiate safety is capable of making the transition to cornerback in the NFL. Perhaps due to the difficulty of the transition, the Packers doubled down on the position, nabbing intriguing athlete Quinten Rollins in the second round. Talented but inconsistent wideout (and return extraordinaire) Ty Montgomery could develop into a star with Aaron Rodgers throwing to him, as could quarterback Brett Hundley, who has plenty of time to harness his undeniable talent behind the league’s reigning MVP. The Packers didn’t invest in an inside linebacker as early as expected but in the heady Jake Ryan, Green Bay may have found a starting candidate with a Day Three pick.

Grade: B+

Minnesota Vikings: Trae Waynes had been linked to the Vikings for weeks before the draft, but that is only a reflection of how well his agility, speed and ballskills translate into Mike Zimmer’s scheme. Playing opposite another long, physical corner in Xavier Rhodes, Waynes gives Minnesota the best 1-2 punch at cornerback in a division full of frightening passing attacks. Waynes, however, was just the start with Eric Kendricks — the most athletic inside linebacker of the draft (and a former UCLA teammate of 2014 star rookie Anthony Barr) – and “tool-sy” edge hunter Danielle Hunter coming off the board in the third round. Given Zimmer’s track record for developing defenders, this is a trio that could pay big dividends in Minnesota soon. The Vikings made similarly smart gambles on players on the other side of the ball throughout the middle and later rounds, stopping the slide of gifted tackle T.J. Clemmings with the 110th overall pick and nabbing playmakers in tight end MyCole Pruitt and wideout/returner Stefon Diggs.

Grade: A-

–Rob Rang is a Senior Analyst for www.NFLDraftScout.com, a property of The Sports Xchange distributed in partnership with CBSSports.com.


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