The NFC North was won by the Green Bay Packers last season, but the other three teams have all made strides this offseason as they try to chase down the defending champions.
That process continued on Thursday at the NFL Draft in Chicago, with the Detroit Lions moving back in the first round and securing a couple more draft picks for their war chest and the Minnesota Vikings and Chicago Bears each selecting high-end talent in the top half of the draft.
The question after day one of the proceedings is this: which team improved most on the day, and which team made a questionable move? To answer that, we’ll dole out some grades for the moves the teams made on Day 1, and what they could tell us about where they’re heading after this point.
Chicago Bears: B
The Bears have a ton of needs on their roster, with several defensive positions in need of upgrades and a question about which player will end up being the running back of the future for the organization, but they did well for themselves on Day 1 of the draft.
Kevin White was the second-rated wide receiver in this class, and even though he doesn’t have the polish of Amari Cooper, he still fills a huge need for the team. Last season they were stuck with two guys who preferred the vertical passing game with Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery, but the White pick gives the Bears a speedster that can stretch offenses and line up in several spots. That should not only benefit Jay Cutler, but Jeffery as well.
Detroit Lions: B+
The Lions had the best night out of anyone in the NFC North as they not only were able to bolster their offensive line with Manny Ramirez and Laken Tomlinson, but they also grabbed a couple more draft picks in the process as they made a swap with the Denver Broncos to move down five spots in the first round.
Sure, the Lions have some holes that they still need to fill (defensive tackle immediately springs to mind), but giving Matthew Stafford more time in the pocket was worth the sacrifice. Ramirez is an excellent player that is sure to fit in well on that line, and Tomlinson is one of the smartest and most adaptable linemen in this draft class.
The Lions could’ve potentially gone for Malcolm Brown instead in the draft, but Tomlinson also makes sense, so we won’t ding them for that choice.
Green Bay Packers: C
The Packers don’t have a lot of gaping needs, but their decision to go with an undersized safety at the end of the first round was a bit of a head-scratcher. Damarious Randall isn’t a bad player by any stretch of the imagination, but with needs at linebacker, it’s odd that the Packers would go in this direction.
A player that could have potentially been a good one to secure for the Packers would have been Stephone Anthony out of Clemson, who was likely the top-rated interior linebacker in this year’s draft class. Eric Kendricks out of UCLA could have also been a target in that spot, and he would’ve filled the gap left by AJ Hawk’s departure nicely.
Minnesota Vikings: B-
There were some scouts that were really high on Trae Waynes heading into the draft, but there are also others that question different elements of his game. He allows far too many catches for the taste of some, and he struggles in terms of following the ball downfield and isn’t very physical at the line of scrimmage.
Some will criticize him for his lack of tackling ability, but tackling isn’t exactly a prerequisite of a good cornerback. He is incredibly quick and has great balance when he’s out in coverage, keeping his feet underneath him and rarely getting burned on quick cuts by receivers.
Even still, the Vikings could have potentially gone in another direction with this pick, with players like Kevin Johnson and Devante Parker both potentially being solid additions.