Draft Needs: NFC North
At 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.
(^click to enlarge)
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.
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.
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?
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.
Follow Neil on Twitter: @PFF_Neil