NFL Draft Grades: NFC North

Detroit Lions

Best pick: DT Nick Fairley, Auburn (1st round, 13th pick)

Defensive tackle wasn’t really a need, what with them having that Suh guy there.  Even so, this was a fantastic value pick.  Most experts had Fairley in their top 5 and some had him as the top player on their board.  He and Suh will form an absolutely dominant tandem in the middle.  And don’t forget about Corey Williams.  Those three are going to give offensive lines headaches.

Questionable move(s): WR Titus Young, Boise State (2nd round, 12th pick) and RB Mikel Leshoure, Illinois (2nd round, 25th pick)

Both are talented players, but odds are neither will be a major contributor.  Young will probably play the slot, and he should be very dangerous there.  However because of his size he’s probably not a starter.  Leshoure will partner with 2nd year back Jahvid Best to form a solid power/speed combination.  Again, both solid players, but there were potential starters at positions of need (CB, OL, LB) on the board.

Third-day gem: OLB Doug Hogue, Syracuse (5th round, 26th pick)

He’s undersized and raw, but the speed and athleticism is undeniable.  He’ll probably play special teams his first year or two, but if he can add some weight and hone his technique, he could be a starter down the road.

Overall: The Lions picked up some solid players with their first three picks and hit a home run with Fairley.  However, I have to question the amount of need they had at running back and wide receiver.  There were much needed offensive linemen and corners there for the taking that they passed on.

Grade: B

Chicago Bears

Best pick: OT Gabe Carimi, Wisconsin (1st round, 29th pick)

The Bears badly needed offensive line help and Carimi should bring that.  He’s a big, bruising blocker who should immediately solidify the right side of the line.  A great drive blocker, expect to see the Bears run behind him quite a bit.

Questionable move: Not taking a LEFT tackle

Carimi has the potential to be an excellent right tackle.  But if the Bears think they are going to plug him in on the left side, as some of the experts have said they should, they will quickly regret that decision.  He’s not quite Tony Mandarich, but he’s got heavy feet and lacks great athleticism.  They could have had Derek Sherrod, who could have played on the left side, at this spot, but chose Carimi instead.

Third-day gem: QB Nathan Enderle, Idaho (5th round, 29th pick)

He’s big, has good accuracy, solid arm strength and played in what was basically a pro-style offense.  Don’t expect him to step in any time soon, but he’s a good developmental prospect to groom behind Jay Cutler.

Overall: I liked what they did with the picks they had, but they didn’t have enough.  Carimi and Paea should be solid starters, assuming Paea is healthy.  However there’s still holes along the offensive line.  There’s really no excuse for not coming out of this draft with at least two linemen.

Grade: B-

Minnesota Vikings

Best pick: DL Christian Ballard, Iowa (4th round, 9th pick)

A second round prospect on most boards, Ballard dropped a few rounds because of an alleged failed drug test.  He might be a bit of a tweener in their 4-3, but he’s big, long and athletic.  The Vikes will need help at tackle with Pat Williams probably hanging up his spurs soon.

Questionable move: QB Christian Ponder, Florida State (1st round, 12th pick)

Spin this however you want, it’s still a reach.  Ponder was a 2nd round grade on most boards, maybe a late first rounder at best.  He’s often injured and has average arm strength at best.  He’s an ok athlete and he’s pretty accurate, but when your ceiling is Chad Pennington, you shouldn’t be taken 12th overall.

Third-day gem: CB Brandon Burton, Utah (5th round, 8th pick)

A position of need for the Vikes and an excellent value at this point in the draft.  Burton has good size (6′, 188 lbs) and can play both man and zone well.  He tends to guess a bit too much, but he has the potential to be a solid starting corner in the NFL.  In the fifth round, that’s a good find.

Overall: I actually like a lot of their later picks much better than their first two.  Ponder was clearly a reach and TE Kyle Rudolph, while talented, was really a luxury pick.  Still, Ballard, Burton, OL DeMarcus Love and C Brandon Fusco were all nice picks.  If Ponder somehow turns into a franchise quarterback this is an very good draft.  If not, it’s just ok.

Grade: B

Green Bay Packers

Best pick: OT Derek Sherrod, Mississippi State (1st round, 32nd pick)

An excellent pick.  The Packers don’t really have any immediate needs and could afford to draft for depth.  In Sherrod they pick up a possible starting left tackle.  With Chad Clifton getting a bit long in the tooth and Bryan Bulaga better suited for the right side, he will be needed sooner rather than later.  He’s not outstanding in the run game or the pass game, but he’s very solid in both.

Questionable move: RB Alex Green, Hawaii (3rd round, 32nd pick)

I’m really nitpicking here, but there were better backs on the board at this point than Green.  Yes, they needed a back, but they could have picked up a better one 2 rounds later.  An uncharacteristic reach by GM Ted Thompson.

Third-day gem: TE D.J. Williams, Arkansas (5th round, 10th pick)

Great value in the 5th round.  He might be more of an H-back, but he’s a great receiver and they will find ways to use him.  Most had him as a 3rd round grade.

Overall: Great value at almost every pick.  It’s amazing how easy it is to draft the best talent on the board when you have virtually no holes.  The only pick I really have a problem with is Green in the third, but the mid-level runningbacks are all so similar talent-wise it’s hard to differentiate them.

Grade: A-

Next up: AFC North

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