(Photo courtesy of sampson.washcoll.edu)
Let me get this straight, first Brett Favre betrays the Packers and joins the Evil Empire in Minnesota, then Jared Allen betrays the Vikings and signs with the Bears. This division seems very divided with a ton of traitors. It is also the hardest division to predict season to season, as any of the four teams could take the division any given year. Many teams left the draft with the same needs they entered the draft with. With that said, I love some of the running backs and receivers drafted in this division (Carey and Adams). My biggest questions with the division are the state of the Lions secondary post-draft, and the impact of Barr on a Vikes D-Line that just lost sack machine Jared Allen.
Best Pick: Ha’Sean ‘Ha Ha’ Clinton-Dix (S) - The Packers needed secondary help with major questions at safety, and Clinton-Dix will help shore the safety core up. A top 3 safety from the draft, Ha Ha is a ballhawk who gets downfield quickly, delivers, and finishes tackles. He will instantly make an impact on a Packers team that had a mere 11 interceptions last season, and had no one solid opposite heavy-hitting Morgan Burnett. Dix will surely give all fantasy owners a solid return for investment. (Photo courtesy of the Huffington Post)
Worst Pick: Richard Rodgers (TE) - This pick left me and a lot of others scratching their heads. Yes, the Packers need a tight end with Jermichael Finley looking increasingly lost on the field, but Rodgers isn’t going to be a threat. He is new to the position, needs to learn to block better, and has major ball drop issues. He is going to be a project and has upside, but the Packers also signed undrafted free agent Colt Lyerla (11 TDs in his first two seasons at Oregon). It makes one wonder if Rodgers struggles, was he worth a third round pick? I’d gamble on Lyerla before I take Rodgers, as Rodgers has too many immediate questions, and it is unclear if he can become a starting tight end.
Sleeper Fantasy Contributor: Davante Adams (WR) - Adams will be the Packers’s slot receiver by season’s end. Forget Boykin. The Packers spent their 2nd round pick on Adams for a reason: they don’t have a true slot guy. With James Jones gone and Jarrett Boykin all “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde,” Adams is poised for a big rookie season in Lambeau land. He didn’t have 38 scores in 2 seasons at Fresno State for naught. Invest while you still can.
Best Pick: Teddy Bridgewater (QB) - Christian Ponder left the Vikings pondering why they ever drafted him in the first place. With a 38:34 TD:INT ratio and a Total QBR of 45.3, Minny realized it was time to move on. Matt Cassel is a game-manager, not a true QB, with his best season in 2010 (27:7 TD:INT ratio) clearly behind him. Cassel is on the decline with a 27:30 TD: INT ratio and 8 fumbles the last 2 season. While Bridgewater may not quite have the touch on the deep pass, if he doesn’t start, the sub-par play by Cassel will leave the Vikings fans clamoring for Bridgewater by week 4. I have Bridgewater, the most mobile and accurate QB on the Vikings squad, starting week 1. Dynasty leagues should target him, as once he takes the reigns with AP and Patterson in his arsenal, he won’t look back. (Photo courtesy of standingosports.com)
Worst PIck: Jerick McKinnon (RB) - Taking a running back to groom wasn’t a bad idea for the Vikings, except the fact that Devonta Freeman, Ka’Deem Carey, and Andre Williams were all still on the board and more proven in the college ranks than Georgia Southern’s McKinnon. The Vikings see him as a future Darren Sproles, but don’t kid yourself. McKinnon is still learning the halfback position, and is more suited for a 3rd string backer role. With a 4.41/40, he should be utilized in the return game, but he doesn’t have the experience nor pedigree to be a full-time back should AP go down (unlikely). This is one of the few picks the Vikings made that left me scratching my head. The Vikings see him as a better version of Joe Webb (McKinnon played QB, RB, and CB at GA Southern), but how did Webb turn out for the Vikings again?
Sleeper Fantasy Contributor: Anthony Barr (OLB) - Hello quarterback! No Jared Allen; enter Barr who figures to wreak havoc on the outside of the Vikings defense at OLB. Barr has Defensive Rookie of the Year potential, and given he had 23.5 sacks and 5 forced fumbles his last 2 seasons at UCLA, it’s not out of the question he could be the best defensive rookie this season. It might be a stretch, but I see 8 sacks, 80 tackles, and 3 forced fumbles, to go with a handful of stuffs this season for Barr. Invest early in this DE/LB hybrid, as he’ll lead the Vikings in sacks this season.
Best Pick: Kyle Van Noy (OLB) - Overlooked due to the shear names ahead of him (Jadeveon Clowney, Khalil Mack, and Anthony Barr), Van Noy held his own at BYU with 13 sacks in 2012. KVN joins a depleted Lions defensive line, and will step in immediately and bolster a suspect pass rush (28th last season). He gets off the line quickly, pressures the pocket, and can range from side to side. More than capable of handling tight ends, Van Noy should get his share of licks on the QB. Those looking for a 4th LB/IDP slot man, KVN could be your guy. (Photo courtesy of rantsports.com)
Worst PIck: Nevin Lawson (CB) - The Lions neglected their secondary for the first 3 rounds of the draft and let Darqueze Dennard, Justin Gilbert, Kyle Fuller, and Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, all pass them by, and they may pay for it. The Lions pass defense ranked 23rd last season, and with no true cover corner, the Lions desperately needed one. Lawson is not the answer, as he tends to take poor angles on tackles, doesn’t recover well, uses his hands too much (which results in him drawing flags), and although he can stay with receivers, can be beaten to the ball. He is a project for the Lions, but their secondary is still going to be bottoms this season.
Sleeper Fantasy Contributor: Eric Ebron (TE) - On one hand, the Lions seem poised to continue utilizing Brandon Pettigrew as their TE1; on the other hand, you don’t spend a top 10 pick on a tight end, and then not feature him. Detroit will run two tight ends more this season in hopes of creating a tight end duo that looks like Gronkowski-Hernandez back in New England years ago (look at the present state of the Patriots TEs. My, how times have changed). Ebron was the best pure tight end in the draft class and will get his share of looks from Stafford. However, he will also be relied upon to help block in the run game, which could be rough going early, as he sometimes has trouble against defensive ends and doesn’t always lock out. He is a great seam runner and route runner, but his run blocking and pass protection skills could ultimately decide how much playing time he sees this season. He’s the vastly superior TE to Pettigrew, he just needs to prove himself. Good name to grab as your TE2 to start the season and see if he blossoms. I’ll say 6 scores and 560 yards, conservatively.
Best Pick: Kyle Fuller (CB) - When the Bears drafted Kyle Fuller, they had him as the top rated corner on the Board (I concur). Initially it seemed as if they would play him at the nickel, with Tim Jennings and Chris Tillman manning the corners. Apparently plans changed, and now Fuller will play left corner and Tillman right corner, moving Jennings to nickel. I like the move. Fuller is very good in pass protection, aids in the run game, and uses his quick hands to pick off the ball. Add in great route reads and field awareness, and the ingredients are there for Fuller to have a solid rookie campaign. The only concerns with him is he can get burned on double moves and can slip off tackles. Regardless, I’d be targeting him as my DB slot if I need some extra secondary help. (Photo courtesy of nbcprofootballtalk.com)
Worst PIck: Ego Ferguson (DT) - The pick isn’t a bad one due to the player, it’s a bad pick considering the names that were taken after him (Ealy, Nix III, Crichton). The Bears need defensive line help after finishing 31st in sacks and dead last in rushing defense (Jared Allen will help in both regards). If the bears were looking for a run-stopper, they would have been better off going with Louis Nix III or Ealy, as they were more disruptive on the defensive line in college than Ferguson, who was a one-year starter at LSU with limited production on the line, and still very raw. Ferguson will be a project for the Bears, as he will need to become quicker with his hands on blocks and improve his ability to take tackles one-on-one. The Bears and Trestman could turn him into a viable starter at tackle, but they would have been better served going with a more proven college starter.
Sleeper Fantasy Contributor: Ka’Deem Carey (RB) - There’s a ton of RBBC talk in the NFL, but I don’t see it occurring in Chi-Town. A least not immediately, as Carey will be more of a change of pace/3rd down/short yardage back to Forte’s Batman. Forte will get almost all the touches between the 20s and most on the goal line, but Carey will see some time when Forte needs a breather and the Bears are looking for the home run play. Carey has a good frame for a running back, good hands, and keeps the feet moving after contact, but he has a tendency to run high, has a lot of miles on his legs, and has some off-field issues. He’s a worthy handcuff for all Forte owners and may see some time in the return game. A solid rookie season for him could be in line with 445 rushing yards and 3 touchdowns, with upside for a tad more if he proves himself in camp or Forte gets injured.
The Vikings had the best draft overall, as they did the best job of addressing their needs, and grabbed their QB of the future (Bridgewater) with the last pick of the first round. This will allow the Vikings to hopefully take some pressure off him initially, as he wasn’t taken with a high draft pick (Bortles – Jags, Manziel – Browns). The division is up for grabs, but the Pack are the early favorites as they are the most complete team. However, I could potentially see the division getting 2 playoff teams, depending on the races in the NFC South and West. I know Vikings fans aren’t gonna be happy with me saying the Packers will win the division, but I speak the truth. Cold hard facts. Let the smack talk begin.
Next week I shall begin the AFC Draft recaps. In the mean time, like us on Facebook, recommend us to your buds and co-workers, and enjoy the quality content of the other writers on this site. Peace out!