Each NFC North’s Biggest Draft Need

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:

  1. Divisional Playoffs - Green Bay Packers v Atlanta Falcons  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.
  2. matt-staffordDetroit 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.
  3. Xavier RhodesMinnesota 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.
  4. leonard-floydChicago 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.

Previous articles in this series:

AFC East- https://sportselite1.wordpress.com/2017/01/15/each-afc-east-teams-biggest-draft-need/

AFC North- https://sportselite1.wordpress.com/2017/01/15/each-afc-north-teams-biggest-draft-need/

AFC South- https://sportselite1.wordpress.com/2017/01/16/each-afc-south-teams-biggest-draft-need/

AFC West- https://sportselite1.wordpress.com/2017/01/16/each-afc-south-teams-biggest-draft-need-2/

NFC East-

Motor City Revival: 2016 Lions



Sports Elite 

By Dennis Blossom

The 2015 Detroit Lions season was a comparison of triumph and adversity. Finishing 3rd in the in the NFC North with a 7-9 record, and a three game win streak, the Lions overcame their mishaps by firing offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi, team president Tom Lewand, and GM Martin Mayhew, a pillar of the franchise since the 1990s. By making those changes, Detroit finished with a 6-2 record to end the season. What changes were made for that to happen besides the firings? The offense finally found its rhythm and the defense was playing much better than they had in the beginning of the season. It was something to build on coming into the 2016 season, and by hiring Rod Wood as team President, a close confidant of the Ford family, the Lions decided to make the pertinent improvements to be more competitive in the NFC North.

In order for the Lions to be even remotely competitive, they had to address some major needs on offense in a major way. First off, they need a wide receiver. With the sudden retirement of Calvin Johnson, this became an epic need for this team. He lead the team with 88 catches, 1,214 receiving yards, and 9 touchdowns. With the signings of Marvin Jones, Jeremy Kerley, and Anquan Boldin, the Lions will have a dynamic WR corps lead by Golden Tate. These signings along with the emergence of Eric Ebron give Matthew Stafford weapons within the passing game that he desperately needs. As far as Stafford goes, he didn’t have a bad season with 32 TDs and 4262 passing yards. However, with 15 INTs, that’s a stat he wants to improve on. The run game is decent led by second year player Ameer Abdullah and Theo Riddick , who in his own right is a good receiver as well as a runner. The offense was ranked 20th and some of that was due in part to turnovers and erratic decisions made by Stafford.  Jim Bob Cooter, who was promoted after Lombardi’s firing made a difference as far as calling the right plays to help improve the Lions offensive output for the second half of the season.

The defense made some strides during the end of the season despite being ranked 18th, giving Darius Slay an extension will help out the secondary in a big way. Drafting A’shawn Robinson in the second round from Alabama fortifies the defensive tackle position. Being alongside Haloti Ngata, Robinson will learn from one of the best of in the game. Detroit’s biggest strength on defense is the safety position. Former New Orleans Saint Rafael Bush signed a one-year contract with the team. Combined with James Ihedigbo and Glover Quin, this unit is the Lions biggest strength. Teryl Austin, one of the NFL’s rising stars coordinator wise now has the tools needed to improve the defense somewhat. The Lions have taken the New England Patriots approach and drafted talent, instead of signing the sexy free agent name. It shows especially on defense.

Overall, the Lions have their work cut out for them. Jim Caldwell has a roster that is talented enough to win some games. With the Green Bay Packers dominance and the sudden emergence of the Minnesota Vikings, the Lions know that they must surpass one of these teams. To be a top caliber team in the division. Lions should get eight to ten wins, this is not impossible or ludicrous, especially with the acquisitions that they have made. All the Lions have to is limit the turnovers, play rock solid on defense, and start strong. Once that happens, you will be witnessing a wild card team that will give hope for Lions fans.

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