The 2016 NFL Draft has come to a close, and with it a new season begins. The Packers made the playoffs last year, but the Vikings overthrew their reign as NFC North Champions in Mike Zimmer's second year as head coach. The Lion's started off the 2015 season 1-7 only to respond with a 5-2 record over the final 8 weeks, and the Bears showed improvement in John Fox's first season as head coach. Let's take a look at how the draft classes of our rivals balance the power in the NFC North.
1 (23) — Laquon Treadwell, WR, Ole Miss
2 (54) — Mackensie Alexander, CB, Clemson
4 (121) — Willie Beavers, G, Western Michigan
5 (160) — Kentrell Brothers, ILB, Missouri
6 (180) — Moritz Boehringer, WR, GFL
6 (188) — David Morgan, WR, Texas-San Antonio
7 (227) — Stephen Weatherly, OLB, Vanderbilt
7 (244) — Jayron Kearse, S, Clemson
Are the Vikings set to hold the North?
The key to defending their title as NFC North champions continues to rely on Adrian Peterson. The Vikings' draft reflects the organization's commitment to Teddy Bridgewater as Rick Spielman selected 3 wide receivers to aid in the quarterback's development. Laquon Treadwell was many analysts' top wideout, while Boehringer is an interesting storyline being the first German Football League player drafted in the NFL.
The Vikings also found great value in the young defensive players they selected. Throughout the pre-draft process, Mackensie Alexander, Kentrell Brothers, and Jayron Kearse were all viewed in the top-5 of their respected positions. The Vikings have at least two impact starters from their rookie class in Treadwell and Alexander, and many players to groom for their already young, impressive defense.
Treadwell. Whereas I believe Mackensie Alexander to be one of the best corners in this class, Mike Zimmer can be stubborn about starting rookies in the secondary. Thus, I believe Treadwell is the safest pick to be an immediate threat in his first year. Bridgewater misses the days of throwing jump balls to Devante Parker at Louisville. Treadwell has an impressive ability to highpoint the ball in traffic. His speed won't dazzle and he has had problems with drops in the past, but he provides a large catch radius and redzone target for Bridgewater.
Possible late-round sleeper
Jayron Kearse is intriguing to me both because of his measurables (6'4'', 4.48 40yd) and because Harrison Smith hasn't had a consistent partner at the strong safety position. Kearse played for one of the best defenses in college football last season, and I had him ranked much higher than the 7th round. He needs to be more consistent in coverage and Zimmer will have to motive him, but Kearse has the height, weight, speed combinations that could lead to a larger role early in his career.
1 (16) — Taylor Decker, OT, Ohio State
2 (46) — A'Shawn Robinson, DT, Alabama
3 (72) — Graham Glasbow, C, Michigan
4 (111) — Miles Killebrew, S, Southern Utah
5 (151) — Joe Dahl, OT, Washington State
5 (169) — Antwione Williams, OLB, Georgia Southern
6 (191) — Jake Rudock, QB, Michigan
6 (202) — Anthony Zettel, DE, Penn State
6 (202) — Jimmy Landes, LS, Baylor
7 (236) — Dwayne Washington, RB, Washington
Which Lions Team Will Suit Up This Year?
New Lion's general manager Bob Quinn wanted to upgrade the trenches in his first draft. He may have netted Week 1 starters with each of his first three picks. Taylor Decker will most likely play on the right side and Glasbow will compete with Travis Swanson at center. A'Shawn Robinson and Haloti Ngata will be huge forces on the interior of Detroit's line.
The offensive line was a major issue for Detroit last season, but Quinn did little to address the sudden retirement of Calvin Johnson. Even more pressure resides on Marvin Jones to live up to his huge contract. The running game was inconsistent, at best, last year, so the Lion's better hope these linemen develop quickly and prove to be more important than the men catching the passes.
Robinson may prove to be one of the best picks in the entire draft. He is a big, strong man with decent short-area quickness, but he lacks refinement. Almost impossible to move, Robinson should at least provide stout run-stopping ability in year one.
Possible late-round sleeper
Miles Killebrew has good size at 6'2'' and 217 lbs and is a physical in-the-box safety that could compete for a starting job in year one. He looks to fill the hybrid linebacker-safety role that so many teams covet today. He's not exceptionally fast but he hits hard and is strong for a defensive back.
1 (9) — Leonard Floyd, OLB, Geogia
2 (56) — Cody Whitehair, G, Kansas State
3 (72) — Jonathan Bullard, DE, Florida
4 (113) — Nick Kwiatkoski, ILB, West Virginia
4 (124) — Deon Bush, S, Miami
4 (127) — Deiondre' Hall, CB, Northern Iowa
5 (150) — Jordan Howard, RB, Indiana
6 (185) — DeAndre Houston-Carson, S, William & Mary
7 (230) — Daniel Braverman, WR, Western Michigan
Have the Bears Bridged the Gap?
Jay Cutler had a surprisingly strong year in Adam Gase's offense. Well, Adam Gase is conducting background checks in Miami, so the Bears focused mainly on Vic Fangio's unit. Leonard Floyd was one of the most polarizing players in the draft, never shocasing consistent ability as a sack artist but born with incredible length and explosion. Jonathan Bullard could prove to be a disruptive 3-techniquqe in the Bears defense.
On offense, Cody Whitehair instantly upgrades the entire offensive line, showcasing the versatility to play across the line. Jordan Howard could be a steal and instantly competes with Jeremy Langford for carries. The Bears will also be showcasing last year's 1st round pick Kevin White on offense. The Bears are building this team in John Fox's image: a tough, pressure defense with a strong ground game. Their offense should be tougher and their defense will be faster in 2015.
The Bears traded up to grab Floyd, knowing he was a boom or bust pick. For now, I'll take boom. I think Fangio is the perfect coordinator to utilize Floyd's athletic ability off the edge. Playing opposite Pernell McPhee, Floyd shouldn't garner many double teams. Floyd and McPhee, along with free agent signees Danny Trevathan and Jerrell Freeman, give Fangio a linebacking core that rivals any in the league.
Possible late-round sleeper
Jordan Howard in the 5th round was an absolute steal. I expect him to have an immediate impact in the running back rotation. He trudges through defenders like a bowling ball and is a true north-south runner. He reminds me of C. J. Anderson or Michael Turner.
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