2013 NFL Draft: NFC North grades
The aggression of the Minnesota Vikings earns an A, but so does the patience of the Green Bay Packers.
Grading a draft immediately after it concludes is akin to giving your compliments to the chef before the meal has been served. Sure, the food might sound good (or bad) based on the ingredients listed on the menu, but the true evaluation won't come until after the product has been tested.
It will take at least three years before we can truly assess how the 32 NFL teams fared over the weekend. But what is readily apparent is the different approaches that were taken, from going for the best available talent to focusing on team needs to gambling on character concerns and long-term potential.
New head coach Marc Trestman's dynamic offense calls for athletic linemen. Kyle Long has the length, mobility and bloodlines to excite ... but with just one season as a starter at Oregon, he's certainly a project and, frankly, was a reach. I have similar reservations about linebacker Jon Bostic in the second. Bostic is a highly athletic thumper inside who will perform his job capably, but I thought there were better players available, including at linebacker. While I didn't love the Bears' picks over the first two days, I do like the selections on the third day. Khaseem Greene doesn't play with the physicality that scouts would prefer, but he's a playmaker (19 career turnovers) as is seventh-round selection Marquess Wilson , who lasted that long due to an ugly spat with Washington State head coach Mike Leach that ultimately led the former Pac-12 all-conference selection to abruptly quit the team. Tackle Jordan Mills is athletic as is defensive end Cornelius Washington , who could surprise as an edge rusher in the Bears' 4-3 scheme after proving a poor fit at defensive end in the 3-4 alignment in which he played at Georgia. Grade: C+
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Jim Schwartz and his staff coached Ziggy Ansah at the Senior Bowl and, as such, know him as well as anyone. The BYU product has a terrific upside, especially considering he'll have the defensive tackles in Detroit to complement him. I liked Detroit's second day, as well. While not flashy, highly athletic cover corner Darius Slay and earth-mover Larry Warford could compete for starting roles immediately. I wasn't as high on the Lions' third-day selections, however. Devin Taylor has the length and motor to earn a role but lacks flexibility. Similarly, wide receiver Corey Fuller (vertical threat) and tight end Michael Williams (blocker) were viewed as one-trick ponies who might have to find niche roles as specialists. Grade: C+
Green Bay Packers
Anyone who watched the Packers get dismantled by San Francisco in the playoffs anticipated that general manager Ted Thompson would focus on defense early. He did so, nabbing productive defensive end Datone Jones from UCLA in the first round. Jones was terrific this past season and carried that over to the Senior Bowl. The Packers only had one selection on Day Two, but he could prove a steal, nabbing running back Eddie Lacy , a player whom many (including myself) projected them to take a round earlier. Lacy has drawn comparisons to Steven Jackson for his blend of power and agility. Considering the red-zone opportunities that he could get with Aaron Rodgers throwing the football, Lacy could be an offensive rookie of the year candidate -- if he beats out fourth-round selection Jonathan Franklin, who left UCLA as the team's all-time rushing leader and also turned heads at the Senior Bowl. Franklin was the headliner but was just one of the standouts from the Packers' impressive haul on Day Three. Frankly, no team got better value in rounds four and five than Green Bay. David Bakhtiari and JC Tretter are future contributors to an offensive line that needed reinforcements, and defenders Micah Hyde and Josh Boyd are good football players who didn't get enough national attention after being overshadowed by more high profile teams in their power conferences. Grade: A
Having traded away wide receiver Percy Harvin and losing cornerback Antoine Winfield via free agency (both to Seattle), the Vikings needed to make a splash in the draft to settle an angry fan base. That's precisely what they did, using their first two picks in the first round (No. 25 overall acquired in the Harvin trade) and then aggressively moving back up in the round to nab a dynamic playmaker to fill his role. Defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd was an absolute steal at No. 23 overall who fell, it seems, simply because he possesses shorter-than-ideal arms. This didn't stop him from terrorizing the SEC, and it won't stop him from proving a standout early in his career with the Vikings. Xavier Rhodes , selected two picks later, has the length and athleticism to help cover the terrific receivers in this division, including Cordarrelle Patterson , whom the Vikings took with their third pick of the first round. Much bigger but just as athletic as Harvin, expect Patterson to serve in a similar multi-purpose capacity as the former Vikings standout. Due to their trade up for the SEC's all-purpose yardage leader, the Vikings didn't have a pick in the second or third rounds but used their selections on Day Three to great success, nabbing two underrated linebackers out of Penn State in Gerald Hodges and Michael Mauti as well as versatile UCLA offensive lineman Jeff Baca . Don't be surprised if all three wind up competing for starting jobs early in their careers. I expect as many as six of the Vikings' 2013 selections to ultimately play significant roles for this club, which makes Minnesota one of the big winners this year. Grade: A
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