The NFL Draft is one day away and NFC North teams are finalizing their strategies for the three-day event. Official coverage will be starting with Thursday’s first round in Kansas City. As Detroit Lions’ general manager Brad Holmes gears up for his third draft, the Vikings, Packers, and Bears are also planning their moves to secure impact players.
Here’s an overview of the NFC North teams and their draft prospects:
Chicago Bears: Return from Hibernation
2022 finish: 3-14
Key stats: Total offense (28th), Rushing (1st), Passing (32nd), Total defense (29th), Rush defense (31st), Pass defense (17th)
Impact rookie: Safety Jaquan Brisker (Penn State) made an instant impact, amassing 104 tackles, 4.0 sacks, an interception, a forced fumble, and a fumble recovery in 15 games.
Top draft needs: DL, OL, CB 2023 draft picks: 10 picks, including two each in Rounds 1, 2, and 5
Top round one fits: The Bears have a prime opportunity at No. 9 to grab one of the top offensive tackles. This could include Peter Skoronski (Northwestern), Paris Johnson Jr. (Ohio State), or Darnell Wright (Tennessee). If for some reason Jalen Carter falls to the Bears at No. 9, they would be thrilled.
My thoughts: With a significant boost in free agency, the Bears are poised for a more competitive 2023 season. Committing so much money to their linebacker room means that the Bears must hit early and often in the upcoming draft. Otherwise, it will be a second straight year at the bottom of the conference.
Green Bay Packers: Love Takes Time
2022 finish: 8-9
Key stats: Total offense (17th), Rushing (15th), Passing (17th), Total defense (17th), Rush defense (26th), Pass defense (6th)
Impact rookie: Linebacker Quay Walker (Georgia) led the defense with 121 tackles, 1.5 sacks, five tackles for loss, three forced fumbles, and seven passes defended.
Top draft needs: TE, S, DL 2023 draft picks: 11 picks, with two in Round 2
Top round one fits: At the mid-first round, the Packers can choose a top tight end like Michael Mayer (Notre Dame) or Dalton Kincaid (Utah). Safety Brian Branch (Alabama) is also in play, as the Packers could use a versatile safety to stabilize their defensive back play.
My thoughts: With Jordan Love now leading the team, Green Bay has a chance to add valuable players through the draft. Particularly following the Aaron Rodgers trade. While it may also be viewed as a petty dig at their former quarterback, adding some offensive firepower early in the draft is the most sensible option to help Love transition into stable starting QB.
Minnesota Vikings: No Money, Mo Problems
2022 finish: 13-4 (won division)
Key stats: Total offense (7th), Rushing (27th), Passing (6th), Total defense (31st), Rush defense (20th), Pass defense (31st)
Impact rookie: Guard Ed Ingram (LSU) started all 17 games, allowing 33 hurries, 19 quarterback hits, and 11 sacks.
Top draft needs: CB, DT, LB 2023 draft picks: 5 picks, one in each round except Round 2
Top round one fits: At No. 23, the Vikings could select a quality cornerback like Deonte Banks (Maryland) or Emmanuel Forbes (Mississippi State).
My thoughts: The Vikings must balance their short-term success with long-term planning. They will be looking at adding draft capital AND building for the future with strategic selections. They are in cap hell at the moment. Vikings brass will need to re-tool their roster with a massive contract headed the way of Justin Jefferson in the very near future. A strong draft is an absolute must.
Detroit Lions: Trusting the Draft Board
2022 finish: 9-8
Key stats: Total offense (4th), Rushing (11th), Passing (8th), Total defense (32nd), Rush defense (29th), Pass defense (30th)
Impact Rookie: Aidan Hutchinson. The runner-up for Defensive Rookie of the Year, tallying 52 tackles, 9.5 sacks, three interceptions, and two fumble recoveries.
Top draft needs: DT, CB, EDGE 2023 draft picks: 9 picks, including two each in Rounds 1, 2, and 6
Top round one fits: If Alabama’s Will Anderson Jr. falls to the Lions at No. 6, they could secure a top pass rusher for the second consecutive year. Jalen Carter would also fill a need at the defensive tackle position. The Georgia stud would beef up the middle on defense alongside Alim McNeill and Isaiah Buggs.
My thoughts: Holmes holds a strong position in the draft, having addressed major defensive needs in free agency and boasting five of the top 81 picks. With options, Holmes can trust his draft board and aim to select the best overall defensive player at No. 6. He can then follow that up with the best overall player available at No. 18.
For more from our Detroit Lions beat writer, Matt Broder, check him out on Twitter here: @mattbro21
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