Grading the 2014 NFL Draft: Improvements aplenty in NFC North
NFLDraftScout.com takes a division-by-division look at which teams fared best in the 2014 NFL Draft.
Grading an NFL Draft immediately after it occurs is akin to giving your compliments to the chef based on the menu rather than actually waiting to taste the food. It will take at least three years before we can truly assess how the 32 NFL teams fared over the weekend. But waiting is no fun. As such, let's take a take at which teams appear to have done the best job of filling needs and building for the future via the seven rounds of the 2014 draft.
For a team that once prided itself for its defense, the Bears were toothless in 2013. General manager Phil Emery did a nice job of patching holes throughout the draft, however, adding a pro-ready corner in Kyle Fuller at No. 14 overall, a talented 1-2 punch at defensive tackle in run-stuffer Ego Ferguson and one of the top penetrators in Will Sutton and one of the more intriguing safeties in the class in Brock Vereen in the fourth. The Bears added insurance behind star Matt Forte with Ka'Deem Carey, who plays faster than he timed and is a strong, determined runner. Watch out for Day Three developmental prospects in quarterback David Fales and offensive lineman Charles Leno, each of whom could surprise in Marc Trestman's scheme. Fuller and Ferguson come with some medical nicks and Sutton allowed himself to get out of shape in 2013. On paper, though, this ranks as one of the year's best groups. Grade: A-
Playmaking tight end Eric Ebron was a surprise selection at No. 10 overall given the Lions' already explosive offense but it is hard to fault the team for adding playmakers given the point-scoring capabilities of NFC North opponents. Ebron has the athleticism to take the top off the defense but will drop an occasional pass. Most of the rest of Detroit's selections were rightly spent on the defensive side of the ball with underrated linebacker Kyle Van Noy coming in to supplement last year's project Ziggy Ansah (also from BYU) and high-effort defensive tackle Caraun Reid, whose motor could help push Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley to reach their awesome potential. The surprise of the draft could very well wind up being cornerback Nevin Lawson, a highly athletic and competitive cover corner who could push for playing time immediately. Grade: B+
Green Bay Packers
It is tougher to find players who will stick on a roster as talented as the Packers' but GM Ted Thompson may have pulled it off with yet another very solid crop. Ha Ha Clinton-Dix certainly made sense as the rangy centerfielder to help Green Bay's lack of ideal speed and fluidity in the deep patrol. The Packers also added high motor front seven defenders in defensive tackle Khyri Thornton and Carl Bradford. The addition of wideout Davante Adams and tight end Richard Rodgers give the Packers potential replacements for James Jones and Jermichael Finley and Thompson didn't stop there, adding arguably the draft's best route-runner in Jared Abbrederis in the fifth and developmental prospect Jeff Janis in the seventh to protect against another injury-shortened season from either Jordy Nelson or Randall Cobb. The Packers added athleticism, physicality and intensity each day of the draft, making it one of the NFL's clear winners in this year's draft. Grade: A
Despite all of the knocks on his slight frame and poor Pro Day workout, Teddy Bridgewater remained my top-rated quarterback. He doesn't possess the ideal accuracy on the deep ball to be a perfect match in Norv Turner's offense but given the presence of Adrian Peterson, steady route-runners Greg Jennings and Kyle Rudolph and burgeoning playmaker Cordarrelle Patterson, he enters a nice situation and will eventually overtake Matt Cassel. As a quarterback, Bridgewater will, of course, earn most of the attention from this class but the Vikings led things off with pass rusher Anthony Barr, whose speed off the edge will be utilized well by defensive-minded head coach Mike Zimmer. Blue-collar defensive end Scott Crichton also is a quality addition. Watch out for middle round selections Jerick McKinnon (a phenomenal athlete who could play any number of roles), David Yankey and Antone Exum to also make this roster. This was an especially strong draft for the Vikings considering that it is general manager Rick Spielman and Zimmer's first year working together. Grade: A
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