By Leo Silbert
It is getting to the point of the year that fans are trying to figure out who their team needs to draft or what position needs the most help. Some teams like the Patriots don’t have a glaring need so they are able to pick for desire and are allowed greater risks. Other teams like the Browns have needs all over the map so they are best suited to just take the best available player. I’m going to sort this out by division and within the divisions I’ll sort them by 2016 records.
Next up, the NFC North:
- Green Bay Packers- The Packers started the season out very slow at 4-6 and there were rumblings of how they should fire Mike McCarthy and that Aaron Rodgers might be done. Then Rodgers made his now famous “we just have to run the table” comment and he proceeded to do that for the rest of the regular season while putting together one of the best 6 game stretches of quarterback play ever with 18 touchdowns to only 3 interceptions. His great play over the closing weeks of the season and through the first two playoff games helped to mask some severe deficiencies on the rest of the team. They were down to using wide receiver Ty Montgomery as their starting running back while they were moving safeties to corner back due to all the injuries suffered there. The latter of those two is their biggest need because Ty Montgomery didn’t look too bad as a running back and they may be able to get away with him and a healthy Eddy Lacy is he is resigned. Their corner backs on the other hand were Micah Hyde and a bunch of warm bodies, and Micah Hyde was a safety. Sure, they’ll be getting Sam Shields off of injury, but before his injury he wasn’t looking that good. If Green Bay can start building their corner back depth chart with some real corners, then their defense can start to complement Aaron Rodgers’ ability to play incredible even when he is at a talent disadvantage.
- Detroit Lions- The Lions are a team that has to think “if only Matt Stafford didn’t injure his throwing hand in the last month of the season.” Before Stafford’s injury, he had the Lions looking like the comeback kids of the league and he had an outside shot at being named the MVP. That was when the Lions were 9-4 and Stafford had engineered 8 fourth quarter comebacks. After he injured his hand though, the team finished with 3 regular season losses and a wildcard round exit in the playoffs. It sucks when an injury causes a meltdown for a team but now they need to focus on what they can do next year to help the team if Stafford ends up dealing with another injury? Something that would really help them is a good running game. The Lions have a stable of running backs who are all primarily talented at receiving the ball, but aren’t much of a threat to run the ball which is their primary job. They have an offensive line that can create holes and move on pull blocks so the blame really does go back to the running backs. If the Lions can get a true running back instead of what basically amounts to a short yardage receiver, then maybe Stafford won’t have to make so many comebacks and the team’s fortunes won’t solely be tied to his ability to stay healthy.
- Minnesota Vikings- During the early part of training camp and the preseason, the Vikings were a trendy Superbowl pick. They had a great defense some people thought could be as good as the 2015 Broncos defense, a legendary running back in Adrian Peterson, and a quarterback in Teddy Bridgewater who was able to do enough to get his offense to score more than the defense would allow. Then about a week before the season, Bridgewater went down with a horrific injury which prompted the Vikings to trade a first round pick and a future fourth round pick to the Eagles in exchange for Sam Bradford. They started the season out 5-0, showing that the Superbowl predictions may have been well warranted, but after that hot start, they finished a disappointing 8-8. Losing eight of your final 11 games shows that they had the same old Sam Bradford as he has always been (inconsistent qb who can show flashed of brilliance, but flashes of “why is this guy an NFL qb”). That also shows that they had more deeply entrenched deficiencies throughout the team. The biggest need for this team is the same as many other teams I have done this for (and likely will again), offensive line. Matt Kalil when healthy is one of the biggest draft busts of the last 10 years while his replacement TJ Clemmings was somehow even worse. When you have some of the worst tackle play in the league, the rest of your offense suffers. They also had some of the worst play in the league of any center in the league. Nick Easton was below average in pass blocking and in run blocking he struggled to create any push. The Vikings had okay play from their guards, but when they are surrounded by bad play, it is hard to see their impact. If the Vikings can fix their offensive line, they may be able to prove that they could deserve Superbowl talk next season.
- Chicago Bears- The Bears are a team of many needs at many positions. They went into the season with many people having low expectations for their team and they definitely lived up to those lowly expectations. They made some good draft picks with Leonard Floyd and Cody Whitehair, but there is a position that they need more than any other, and it is one of the positions they are most highly invested in. Jay Cutler is done as a starting caliber NFL quarterback. If the Bears want to compete in this league, they need a quarterback who can lead them there. They have the pieces to have at least an average offensive line. They have a good running back tandem, good receivers, a good tight end and a bunch of pieces on defense. This team needs a quarterback probably more than any other team in the league and if they get a good one, then the Bears can finally be relevant again in today’s NFL.
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