The Chicago Bears made plenty of splashes on their own in this weekend’s NFL Draft, but the three other teams in their division each made moves that will surely have an impact on the playoff race in the 2014 season.
With the draft now complete, here are our grades for each of the Bears’ divisional rivals.
Detroit Lions: C+
It’s hard to hate the Lions’ draft too much from an offensive perspective, with tight end Eric Ebron adding to an already stacked receiving corps that Matthew Stafford will surely love throwing the ball to. The Lions also took wide receiver T.J. Jones in the sixth round of the draft, and they may have gotten a steal with him. He led the Notre Dame Fighting Irish in receptions, yards, and touchdowns during the 2013 season.
Even though the team improved its offense, their inattention to their defensive deficiencies was a surprising development. The team waited until the fourth round of the draft to do anything about a secondary that was woefully lacking from a talent perspective last season, and with teams like the Bears and Packers running potent offenses, it seems silly to completely cede that battle without at least trying for upgrades.
Green Bay Packers: B
The Packers started out the draft with a bang, taking safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix in the first round. A fierce defender with tremendous speed and a knack for great coverage skills, Clinton-Dix is going to be a thorn in the side of opposing offenses in this division for years to come.
After that pick however, the Packers made a couple of questionable choices. Khyri Thornton, a defensive tackle, was drafted in the third round, and has several flaws that turned scouts off. He has short arms and has difficulty in shedding blocks at the line, making him fairly useless on the pass rush. The Packers may intend to use him as a short-yardage player, but even then his weaknesses may end up becoming too burdensome.
The Packers’ two picks at wide receiver were both solid selections, with Devante Adams and Jared Abbrederis both looking to help replace the departed James Jones. Overall, the Packers’ draft was solid, but with guys like Thornton as part of the haul, there were other moves that the team could have made to improve their group of players.
Minnesota Vikings: B+
A lot of the attention on the Vikings’ draft haul this year will be focused on their decision to trade back into the first round to grab quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, but that’s only part of the story in a draft that was one of the best the team has executed in recent years.
For instance, the decision to take linebacker Anthony Barr in the first round was a savvy one. He is capable of making plays both in the open field and in the backfield as a pass rusher, racking up 13.5 sacks last season with UCLA, and his awesome speed is a terrifying sight in the secondary. The Vikings also managed to somehow get guard David Yankey in the fifth round of the draft, and he could be an absolute steal as the team looks to bolster its offensive line.
The Vikings did make a few picks that were off the beaten path, including taking Jerick McKinnon as a running back, but overall the team did an excellent job of making smart offensive picks to bolster the team in that area, and they could be a much-improved club as they head toward the start of the regular season.