NFL Draft Grades: NFC North

NFL Draft Pick Darnell Wright at his opening press conference
Nam Y. Huh/AP

The 2023 NFL Draft is now in the books, so it’s time for the annual NFL Draft Grades by Simon Shortt. Today we will be discussing the: NFC North.

Chicago Bears – B+

Team Needs: OL, DL

I really liked what the Bears did here. In addition to their original trade back from 1 to 9, they traded back again to 10 and still had their pick of offensive linemen. They chose Darnell Wright who I had a high grade on, but is ultimately the cleaner pick than Skoronski. Skoronski played on the left side of the line most recently in college, whereas Wright was on the right. Now Chicago can keep Braxton Jones at left tackle where he played find last year.

On Day 2 Chicago addressed their defense with DT Gervon Dexter and CB Tyrique Stevenson in round two, and DT Zacch Pickens in round three. Dexter and Pickens will hope to start a foundation of the new defensive line, while Stevenson joins a young and competitive DB room.

On Day 3 they went back to the offense with RB Roschon Johnson and WR Tyler Scott. I like Johnson as a player, and they don’t have any heavy investments in the position – BUT I still have questions about their interior offensive line. That said, they had lot of picks, so a swing here doesn’t knock them too bad.

Going back to the defense with the final four picks was also a good move, including LB Noah Sewell.

Had Chicago gone with an IOL instead of Johnson or even Stevenson this might’ve gotten into the A-/A category. Still, a good draft overall.

Detroit Lions – C+

Team Needs: DT, LB, DB

The Lions had a real chance to help themselves in this draft. With five picks in the top 81 they could have plugged holes on both sides of the ball and taken a potential QB of the future.

But things didn’t start off too well with the trade back and selection of RB Jahmyr Gibbs at 12 overall. If Detroit was planning on drafting a first round running back, why did they pay David Montgomery more money than Jamaal Williams got from New Orleans?

Their next three picks helped them quite a bit taking LB Jack Campbell at 18, then TE Sam LaPorta and DB Brian Branch in the second round. If in your head you rearrange some of those selections, you can talk yourself into feeling better about the Gibbs pick. Campbell, LaPorta and Branch all will have a day one impact, fill a need, and were at/near the top of their position in the draft.

In round three the Lions took QB Hendon Hooker and DT Brodric Martin. Hooker I’m skeptical on because of the age and scheme he played in in college. At least in regards to being a future franchise QB. But he’ll have a long career as a very good backup – part time starter in the NFL. Brodric Martin can have a role as a nose tackle certainly, but was a guy I thought would go late Day 3, not in the third round.

Green Bay Packers – A-

Team Needs: WR, TE

Coming out of Day 1, I didn’t know how I would feel about this Packers draft class. Continuing to invest high draft capital in a defense that has never turned the corner seemed like a waste. And especially because so much of DE Lukas Van Ness is a projection still.

That being said, Green Bay had a great Day 2 and 3. First on Day 2 they had an unbelievable run on pass catchers. TE Luke Musgrave and WR Jayden Reed in the second round, plus TE Tucker Kraft in the third round. All three players could see real time as rookies, and help Jordan Love immensely in his first year as the starter.

If Green Bay knew they wanted to come out of the first two days of the draft with one potentially impact defender, and a handful of pass catching options, this maybe was the best way to do it. Sure Musgrave and Kraft might be 70-80% of Michael Mayer or Dalton Kincaid, but that drop off I think will be smaller than the potential of Van Ness to some of the defenders on Day 2.

On Day 3 the Packers continue their run of 1) a large number of picks, and 2) great value in the players that fall there. They’ve experienced both the last couple of years. For their Day 3 picks I like the defensive lineman Colby Wooden and Karl Brooks and DB Anthony Johnson Jr. With 13 picks I don’t even mind the backup QB Sean Clifford in the fifth round or K Anders Carlson in the sixth. Although the Clifford selection is objectively funny.

Minnesota Vikings – C+

Team Needs: DL, DB, WR

The Vikings were sort of a weird one. Once again there was a flurry of trades up and down that are difficult to keep up with. When it was all said and done Minnesota made just six selections over the weekend.

It’s hard to accumulate draft capital when trading down from a third round pick. I thought pick 23 was in play to maybe add a third and fifth. And maybe it was and it just didn’t happen. We’ll never know.

That said things started out OK for the Vikings. WR Jordan Addison should be a difference maker in a trio including Justin Jefferson and K.J. Osborn. And let’s not forget T.J. Hockenson which MIN acquired for the second rounder from this year’s draft.

My only concern here is how much did they like Addison, truly. He was the fourth receiver taking in a 1-2-3-4 affair. Was Minnesota high on him? Or did they just not want to miss on a first round receiver?

The Vikings made a pick at the end of the third round for CB Mekhi Blackmon. Blackmon will be a welcomed addition for Vikings fans who saw their DBs struggle with injuries and play last season.

I however, am hopeful for the young group this year (assuming health). Andrew Booth Jr., Akayleb Evans and Lewis Cine were all rookies who were hurt last year. Add free agent signing Byron Murphy and that’s a fun core to check out.

Instead MIN added to it in the third and fourth rounds with Blackmon and Jay Ward. Electing to not address the defensive line, which I saw as a bigger need, until the fifth round with Jaquelin Roy.

With Aaron Rodgers gone, the North is officially up for grabs. And how will the draft picks help out the young QBs like Love and Justin Fields? We’ll be tracking it all here at Fantom Sports Industries!

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