By Steven Weldon
Continuing around the league for the next twelve days leading up to the draft: I cover the NFC North!
Here are the Lions, another year of cellar dwelling and wasting Matt Stafford's career. After consecutive 9-7 years not being good enough for the front office, Matt Patricia took over the head coach reigns. It's on to year two, and he'll need a lot more help to get the team into even the wild card.
As with many mediocre-to-bad teams, defense is a point of improvement. LSU's Devin White is a great option for a weak linebacker corps, and may be available at the #8 draft pick. Another solid pick would be edge rusher/linebacker Josh Allen, provided he falls that far. It's unlikely but could happen. The Lions just picked up Trey Flowers, so they addressed one of the defensive line issues.
The Lions will also want to look toward help in the secondary and receivers. Julian Love, of Notre Dame, could be a reasonable option for their cornerback depth. He is a little short, but that hasn't stopped many top quality corners.
NEED: Consistency, especially on defense.
WANT: Consistency, everywhere.
QUESTIONS: Jim Caldwell had the team middling, but can Patricia get them back to the playoffs and win a wild-card game?
GREEN BAY PACKERS
Aaron Rodgers is one of the best quarterbacks in NFL history, but he can't carry a team on his own. It's also even harder to carry a team with a bad knee. Now that he'll have a full year removed from his knee injury, it's time to improve with a new head coach as well. One of the main things the Packers struggled with was defense, as a common theme with teams sitting under .500. Fortunately, two first rounders await for the Pack.
With their #12 pick, Green Bay needs to take the best available defensive player. With how low that is, it could be Ed Oliver, Montez Sweat, Zach Allen or Brian Burns. All of those linemen/edge rushers should be in the target zone.
Their second selection should be used to shore up their offensive line, as they'll need to protect Rodgers in his waning years to stay competitive. Greg Little from Ole Miss could be the pick here. Honestly though, if Josh Jacobs, running back from Alabama is there, they need to take him. The running game is suspect and has been for years.
NEED: Better defense! Better running game! Actual weapons for Aaron Rodgers!
WANT: Solid start for the new head coach, Matt LaFleur.
QUESTIONS: Is this not their division to take anymore? What will it take to get back to prominence?
So close, yet so far away. It's strange that a team improving their quarterback regressed. Alas, the Vikings are the clear cut second best team in the division and will look to challenge closer to the Bears next season. They will need to improve on a few things, including their offensive line. Kirk Cousins, Dalvin Cook, Stephon Diggs, and Adam Thielen need it desperately.
Cody Ford, a lineman from Oklahoma could be the pick in the first round. If they choose to do so, Greg Little could be reached for. Considering Ford did not test well at the combine, this could happen. Also, Chris Lindstrom of Boston College is a nice option as well.
NEED: Progression for the offense, continued improvement on the defense.
WANT: Kirk Cousins to look like he sounds on paper.
QUESTIONS: Is this the bounce back year?
The Bears addressed their draft needs last season by trading for Khalil Mack, effectively establishing they had little draft needs this season. Their first pick is in the 3rd round, and will have to be a value pick or player who can develop.
A good target for the pick would be running back. Jordan Howard was traded to Philadelphia this offeseason, and now that Tarik Cohen is the main man, they'll need a development plan. Enter Penn State's Miles Sanders. He ought to be available at that round, and played very well after Saquon Barkley left school.
The Bears will be counting heavily on Mitchell Trubisky to improve and Cohen to be the main man now. 12-4 is nothing to sneeze at, and it's an impressive improvement over the past few years.
NEED: Running back depth, a kicker
WANT: A kicker, but that's not a good idea to draft.
QUESTIONS: Can the Bears stay atop the division, and what will Trubisky do in the staple 3rd year of his career?