Draft Needs: NFC North

| May 2, 2014

2014-draft-needs-NFCNAt PFF we’re not big on telling you things we don’t know about first hand, so saying who a team should draft is not something you’ll see here. However, giving you our view on areas of need, is another matter. With free agency essentially in the books, we thought this might be a good opportunity to give you a pre-draft look at the areas they should look to address either via the draft or otherwise .

You know how much we like colour-coding everything and this set of articles (one for each division) is no exception. Before you dig in we’d highly recommend you check out the legend – these are not player grades as in our projected line-ups series, we are grading need. Obviously, to some degree, they are related but not always.  Let’s be clear, the fact that in the AFC East Review we have the Patriots QB situation as a slightly higher need than that of the Jets does not mean we are saying Geno Smith is a better QB than Tom Brady; just that Smith has shown enough to say he deserves a decent shot and with Michael Vick backing him up there is no immediate need to draft another QB while in New England it may be time for them to consider a successor to the great man particularly given Ryan Mallett is a free agent next year and shown very little in recent preseasons.

In some of the grades we are also considering the depth behind the player listed so, for example, with Buffalo’s slot corner position the fact they have Nickell Robey as well as Corey Graham ensures this is a straight dark green. However, where this is the case, I’ll mention it in the text below relating to each team.

draft needs NFCN

(^click to enlarge)

Chicago

For the most part the offense looks set, although they will have to think about replacing Roberto Garza soon. The center is such a crucial part of the O-line as the Ravens found out to their cost last year when Matt Birk retired. It’s just as well because almost every part of the defense needs work. They could probably leave DE for another time, but finding interior help on the line, replacing Chris Conte and linebacker are all priorities. In addition, the corner cupboard is emptying quickly – it’s definitely a rags and riches situation for the Bears.

Detroit

Things are similar for the Lions who are equally stacked on offense but don’t have quite as bad a scenario as the Bears on D. That said, cornerback seems to have been a need in Detroit for some time and the situation is regressing not improving. On the defensive line Ziggy Ansah was a good start at end, but they need more. Devin Taylor may step up but three edge rushers are essential in today’s NFL and can anyone trust that Jason Jones will not only come back, but be good enough to thrive?

Finally it may be gilding the lily but after the smart move to grab Golden Tate, how good could the offense be with another quality wide-out in 11 personnel?  Surely it would make it the “no excuses” season for Matthew Stafford.

Green Bay

We have tight end down as a key need (and let’s be honest here it is a big hole) but how important is the position in Green Bay’s offense anyway? The key difference between the Super Bowl team and this one wasn’t at TE but in the good play they got from their D-line. It’s almost as if they know this but keep swinging and missing in the draft. A first-rounder and two second-rounders at DL aren’t even on the chart above so will they return again?

Another factor in that 2010 season was a superior season from Desmond Bishop at ILB. Is it time to replace A.J. Hawk and finally admit he’s been one of the more extended busts in draft history?

Minnesota

Many years ago now it appeared Chad Greenway was going to be one of the best 4-3 linebackers we’d see but as his reputation grew his production fell – such is the beauty of the NFL. If last season with its 21 missed tackles (third-worst at his position) wasn’t the final bell it likely only because his contract is so onerous and as a result he now looks set to complete a group of linebackers that vies for the worst in the league. In a system where quality play from that position group is so vital, it has to be upgraded.

However, the position at QB is equally dire and that will take precedence – redshirt or not – it has to be addressed.

 

See the draft needs for the other divisions:
AFC East | NFC East
AFC North | NFC North
AFC South | NFC South
AFC West | NFC West

 

Follow Neil on Twitter: @PFF_Neil

Comments (20)

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  1. mutzki says:

    As much as people criticize AJ Hawk, he is an integral part to the Packers defense. Be it as a leader and communicator on the field, his calm presence in the locker room or simply his ability to stay healthy. Let’s be honest the Packers have been quite unlucky when it comes to injuries and Hawk gives them a safety net they can’t yet replace. They have to consider it for the future, though.

    • Jacob Basson says:

      yeah ‘extended bust’ seems harsh for a guy who has started virtually every game of his career. not the playmaker you hope for at #6 but there’s a lot of wiggle room between that and ‘bust’

  2. ItsJustWerner says:

    I’m surprised you have Jordan Mills dark green with how poor he did in your grades.

    • Kev says:

      I was also thinking this as well. Wasn’t he the worst graded tackle last season by PFF? I would have thought it would be in the red for sure.

    • PFF_Neil says:

      You know the Bears just love him – absolutely love him. It was this that swayed me and maybe it shouldn’t. If it was purely me I’d go light green (almost every rookie lineman will improve from that base) but I was persuaded higher by Chicago’s man-crush.

  3. Brian Dugan says:

    A.J. Hawk: “….one of the more extended busts in draft history.”

    I agree that you’d like more from a high first round pick, but this sentence is just out-of-pocket. You can find a middle ground between Lawrence Taylor and Brian Bosworth. This is not the kind of rhetoric I’d expect from a site that I respect as much as Pro Football Focus. Also, just to clarify I’m not an A.J. Hawk apologist.

    • PFF_Neil says:

      I guess it depends on your definition of bust and if Hawk had been a second rounder I certainly wouldn’t have used that term. However he was the 5th overall selection with grades that read (from 2007) -4.9, -16.8, -6.2, -10.1, -10.4, -2.2 & -12.8 last year. Who’s to say with that amount of faith Bosworth couldn’t have done similarly?

  4. bobrulz says:

    I think that’s a bit generous for Chicago’s QB position. I know Cutler had his best season in a while in Trestman’s system, and they signed him to a new contract, but they have NO backup and Cutler hasn’t exactly proven himself to be a consistently impressive quarterback. I think a light green would be prudent in that situation.

  5. Kev says:

    Surprised PFF didn’t mention the De La Puente signing. I was always under the impression that they were very high on him, so wouldn’t he be considered the future for Garza?

    • PFF_Neil says:

      He’s only on a one year contract so unfortunately it makes no difference really. I agree if he was signed to a 3 year deal this wouldn’t be much of a need.

  6. Nathan Johan Krause says:

    Rashean Mathis is missing from the depth chart of the Lions.

    • PFF_Neil says:

      That’s a good shout. He may well start in preference to either Houston or Slay. Apologies for missing it.

  7. luca says:

    Sean Richardson is strictly a SS and Burnett is better at SS than at FS. Right now Micah Hyde is probably the starter at FS. So FS is probably the biggest need for Green Bay.

    Moreover you guys are extremely harsh on AJ Hawk. His career his been a big disappointment. But when you play in 124 games for the team that drafted you, you’re not a bust.

  8. Jack Parkman says:

    Here’s what I know about Sean Richardson. When he was finally inserted into the game against Atlanta. The Falcons didn’t score again. When he was in the game against Dallas we were able to stop them, when he wasn’t they scored at will. When he went into the game finally in the 2nd half against the Bears, we got them off the field so Rodgers could get back on the field and he found Cobb for the Winner. I know its not a huge sample size, but sometimes you just have to go with what your eyes see. My eyes see a safety who is 6’2 220 pounds can run, can hit, seems just be in the right places and when he is on the field most importantly. Morgan Burnett actually plays better. In today’s NFL I think the term FS and SS are becoming irrelivant. We need our safeties to cover and tackle. Richardson isn’t Earl Thomas, but he hasn’t done anything so far to show he is a liability in coverage. I think we should be addressing safety in the early rounds of the draft, but I like what Richardson has to offer.

    • PFF_Neil says:

      To be clear I’m a big fan of Sean Richardson. In truth that has a lot to do with his work on ST. I have a gut feel (this isn’t backed by copious research) that being a quality STer (particularly at DB) is an indicator they’ll be pretty good on defense too.
      Jeremy Lane, Corey Graham and Darrel Stuckey have all looked pretty good when promoted and I’m sure I’ll think of a few other examples too.
      If you can think of a great STer that always bombed when on D, let me know.

      • Brian Dugan says:

        Jarrett Bush is the first example that I thought of. He’s pretty consistently bad on defense, although he has had a few brilliant individual defensive moments.

  9. starr 57 says:

    No credibility here. No immediate need behind Mathews? Who is playing when he is standing on the sidelines? Putting Hawk in light Green would make a whole lot more sense. Even the all time leading tackler in Packer history is going to need to be replaced at some point. By the way, you might want to look a closer look at The Packers roster, guy named Barrington, he will be Hawks replacement, might have been this year had he not been injured last year. Calling Hawk “an extended bust” makes this whole article kind of “an extended joke”.

    • Kevin says:

      Hawk has definitely not lived up to his billing as a top 10 pick. As a Packers fan, I find him to be highly overrated by some. He is consistently average at best in every area. Jones playing injured last year basically had 2x as many tackles per snap as Hawk. How is that even possible.

      If I had to choose between the two I’ll take Jones even if he has had injuries in his career while Hawk is always healthy. If it wasn’t for Hawk’s great health, he wouldn’t even be on the roster anymore.