2015 Draft Needs: NFC North
The 2015 NFL draft is finally at hand and here at PFF we are more prepared for it than we’ve ever been. In tallying a full season of FBS data we’ve been able to present you with tons of info at our College Football Focus home page on the soon-to-be NFL rookies that will soon be appearing at training camps across the league.
Armed with this information we’re suggesting viable targets at key positions of need for all the teams, here for the NFC North:
Early Round Target: Leonard Williams, USC
The Bears are in the midst of transitioning from a 4-3 to 3-4 defense. Most of their current personnel is still 4-3 but what makes Williams a good pick is that he’s a natural 3-4 end. Williams might not fall there, but it would be a no-brainer if he does. He had a 13.4% Run Stop Percentage, best for 3-4 ends.
Early Round Target: Ereck Flowers, Miami
Matt Slauson coming back from injury and adding Will Montgomery to replace Roberto Garza will help the interior line, but the tackle position needs work. Flowers could easily be an upgrade over Jordan Mills on the right side. He’s a big, powerful guy who faced and had success neutralizing both Randy Gregory and Lorenzo Mauldin this year. Flowers did not allow a sack all season.
Early Round Target: Jake Ryan, Michigan
The entire Bears’ front seven needs work so in addition to Pernell McPhee and Sam Acho joining the edge/linebacking core, the Bears could use this lower pick to get a young linebacker. Ryan had 44 run stops, second-most for MLB/ILBs.
Early Round Target: DeVante Parker, Louisville
Bridgewater was the highest-graded quarterback in the second half of the season so the Vikings have to look to give their young quarterback some help. While Amari Cooper and Kevin White have been the more-publicized receivers, Parker could be just as good. He had a 4.21 YPRR, ahead of Cooper and White, despite only playing six games.
Early Round Target: Markus Golden, Missouri
The defensive interior is really solid with Floyd and Joseph, it’s the edge rushers that need upgrading. Griffen had a good year but Robison and Wootton were weak links. Golden might not be the most explosive rusher, but his production was off the charts. Last season, he had 48 total pressures, third-most for 4-3 DEs.
Early Round Target: T.J. Yeldon, Alabama
The Adrian Peterson situation is a huge question mark so the Vikings need a backup plan. No need to overreach for a running back in the first, but they could target Yeldon on day two. The smooth runner from Alabama forced 54 missed tackles, third-most among running backs.
Early Round Target: Grady Jarrett, Clemson
With Suh leaving for Miami and Fairley heading to St. Louis, the Lions need someone on the inside next to Haloti Ngata. Jarrett might not have Suh’s size, but he turns that into his advantage. Pair that with his explosiveness and he’s the perfect running mate with Ngata. Jarrett had a 13.2% Run Stop Percentage which was the best for all defensive tackles.
Early Round Target: Arik Armstead, Oregon
The long-term prospects at defensive tackle are bleak with Haloti Ngata and Tyrunn walker aren’t signed past this season. Taking a second defensive tackle could ensure there is no dropoff in 2016. Armstead has shown that he does have power, but his problem is applying himself on a consistent basis. Last season he had a 6.7 Run Stop Percentage, 10th-best for 3-4 ends.
Early Round Target: A.J. Cann, South Carolina
Travis Swanson will likely go back to his more natural center position leaving the left guard position wide open with Rob Sims on the open market. Cann has all the tools you look for in an NFL guard. He’s better at run blocking than pass at this point, grading above-average in that area in 12 of his 14 games.
Green Bay Packers
Early Round Target: Malcom Brown, Texas
Only one defensive lineman for the Packers finished with a positive run defense grade last year (Mike Daniels). The front office might look to pick Brown because of his ability to stop the run and his size to play nose tackle. He had 31 run stops last year, the most for all defensive tackles and five clear of the next player.
Early Round Target: Eric Kendricks, UCLA
Three linebackers from the Packers’ 2014 roster left for different teams via free agency. Dom Capers would relish having a solid, all-around player like Kendricks who can stay on the field all three downs. Kendricks led the country last year with 28 coverage stops.
Early Round Target: Jeff Heuerman, Ohio State
Offensively, if there is a “weak spot” for the Packers it’s at tight end. Andrew Quarless and Richard Rodgers both ended the year well in the negative so McCarthy could use a player like Heuerman. Heuerman is a true inline run-blocker and graded as the second-best tight end run-blocker after Week 7. While he’s not the best route runner, he did have a perfect Catch Rate last year with 17 catches and zero drops.