Three And Out
With the draft just eight days away, many people are becoming anxious about what will transpire, myself included. I’m particularly stumped as to what the Lions will do in the first round. We find ourselves in a precarious position again at 16th in the draft order, and with all of our needs, it’s a huge wildcard. At this point, it almost seems easier to predict what our divisional rivals will do come draft day. So, that’s exactly what I’m going to do. In today’s column, I’m going to project how the first three rounds will shake out for the Bears, the Vikings, and the Packers. Their respective pick sets are as follows:
Chicago: Rd. 1, Pick 11 (11); Rd. 2, Pick 10 (41); Rd. 3, Pick 9 (72)
Minnesota: Rd. 1, Pick 23 (23); Rd. 2, Pick 23 (54); Rd. 3, Pick 23 (86)
Green Bay: Rd. 1, Pick 27 (27); Rd. 2, Pick 26 (57); Rd. 3, Pick 25 (88)
I understand that some people aren’t as concerned with what our divisional rivals might do, but I believe in keeping your friends close, and your enemies closer.
At 6-10, the Bears held the worst record in the NFC North, so it makes sense that we start with them.
You could make the case for several positions as their biggest need, but I think the scarcity of immediate-impact talents at the offensive tackle position will make them go that route in the first. I have Notre Dame OT Ronnie Stanley falling out of the top ten after the Rams-Titans blockbuster, so I think him being available at no. 11 is a no-brainer for Chicago (we all know that Chicago is full of no-brainers – Ed.).
The Bears ranked 18th in the league in team sacks last season, so they need to boost their pass rush. Noah Spence has been called a top ten talent by evaluators, but some character concerns will likely cause him to fall out of the first. The pass-rusher would be a great fit in the new 3-4 defense Chicago is installing, and he’s a great value in the second.
The loss of Matt Forte will hurt their offense a lot, so I think finding a replacement has to be a priority for them. Kenneth Dixon is an every-down back who can provide a pass-catching threat out of the backfield, which is something Chicago would otherwise miss with the absence of Forte.
OT Ronnie Stanley, Notre Dame
DE/OLB Noah Spence, Eastern Kentucky
RB Kenneth Dixon, Louisiana Tech
Having gone 11-5 and dethroned the Packers as NFC North, the Vikings are next up on the list. It’s almost become consensus that Minnesota will take a wide receiver. Houston, who picks one spot before them, needs a speedster, so I think they’ll go for Corey Coleman. This leaves the Vikings to take Laquon Treadwell at 23rd overall. The addition of a second receiver across from Stefon Diggs could prove to be a boon for third-year quarterback Teddy Bridgewater.
Despite the addition of Alex Boone, there’s still room for improvement along the offensive line in Minnesota. I have them picking up the versatile Cody Whitehair, who can play both tackle and guard, in the second. Depending on what the verdict on Matt Kalil is, they could slide him around accordingly. Whitehair is athletic and projects as a good fit in Minnesota’s power-running attack.
The hometown pick is cliched, but linebacker is a position of need for them, and former Gopher Devondre Campbell is somebody the Vikings have shown interest in. He’s played both inside and outside linebacker, and he has the athleticism to play in the NFL. Scouts have questions about his linebacker instincts, but learning behind two-time Pro Bowler and ten-year NFL veteran Chad Greenway could benefit him greatly.
WR Laquon Treadwell, Ole Miss
OT/OG Cody Whitehair, Kansas State
OLB Devondre Campbell, Minnesota
It’s been an uneventful offseason for the great scourge of the NFC North, with Ted Thompson being characteristically quiet in free agency. The Packers were also blindsided by the departure of BJ Raji. They also need an inside linebacker, but I foresee Reggie Ragland being off the board by pick no. 27, and Andrew Billings would be a great replacement for Raji in their 3-4 system. He’s arguably the strongest defensive tackle in a deep class, and he’ll command double teams even at the NFL level.
I think they’ll get their inside linebacker in the second round. Kentrell Brothers might not have eye-popping athleticism, but he had high-impact tackling production in college. He could thrive in Green Bay’s defense, where he won’t have to take on a coverage role as often as he would in a 4-3 system. This pick would also allow Clay Matthews to move back outside, where he’s the most effective.
I think the trend of defense will continue into the third round. Julius Peppers’ best years are behind him, and the Packers will need a pass-rushing outside linebacker to take his place in a few seasons. Jordan Jenkins played in a 3-4 defense at Georgia and has experience playing standing up with a hand in the ground. He could contribute immediately before eventually succeeding Peppers.
NT Andrew Billings, Baylor
ILB Kentrell Brothers, Missouri
DE/OLB Jordan Jenkins, Georgia
Hopefully none of this shakes out, because I think all three of these scenarios are favorable for our rivals. I like – or dislike, depending on how you want to look at it – the Chicago mock the most, because I think Spence is a great fit and a huge steal, and Dixon could be a threat for years to come. Green Bay’s is good too, but I have questions about how Brothers’ athleticism will translate to the next level. I’m not as concerned about Minnesota’s, because I personally wouldn’t take Treadwell in the first round. But, I’m also not employed by an NFL personnel department. With any luck, the ideal scenario will play out for Bob Quinn, while our rivals have draft classes that will haunt them for years to come.