Cleat Geeks

2018 NFL Drafting Needs; NFC North

NFL.com

Nothing beats a bit of draft speculation straight after one of the best Superbowls of all time, right? I’ll be going through the draft needs of every NFL franchise, and now I’m 75% done with this, the NFC North edition!

Minnesota Vikings – CB, DT, C

The ‘nearly-men’ of the NFL last season, following a death-defying, last-second touchdown, and then a soul-destroying defeat a week later to the eventual Champions; the Vikings must be feeling like they’re very close to making it to the big game, and possibly even winning it. Dalvin Cook will hope to be ready in time to start week one, money to spend on a quarterback and only Joe Berger and Tom Johnson considered urgent contract situations, the future is bright in Minnesota.

Potential picks:

30 – Josh Jackson, CB, Iowa

2017 was an insane year for Jackson, with a ridiculous playmaking rate, allowing a lowly 41% completion rate when defending the pass. Elite instinctive player with good height and arm length. He’s drawn to the ball rather than the man with fantastic handling skills, which figures given his history as a receiver. Loves the attention that comes with the big plays but works hard at the same time in order to improve. There is however, a huge concern for me. He’s started 14 games. What’s to say 2017 isn’t an outlier. If you look at the stats, which will be below this paragraph, it has to be considered his absolute ceiling. An experienced quarterback will be able to manipulate him into a route misread. Tackling isn’t a strength either making Josh Jackson a low floor, high ceiling prospect but very alluring based on upside.

2017 stats – 13 games; 48 combined tackles (0.5 for loss); 18 passes deflected; 1 forced fumble; 8 interceptions (2 for TDs); 1 kick blocked

62 – BJ Hill, DT, NC State

Athletic guy who plays mostly inside. Good burst and anticipation. Uses his instincts well and is able to notice pre-snap movement and adjust accordingly. Stamina is above-average so BJ Hill may be able to play more snaps than most within a DL rotation. Solid tackle production in his college career so far. Has shown a tendency to get caught out by double-teams. He’ll need to work on his body control and balance on contact. More strength will be required at the point of attack in order to make it at the next level.

2017 stats – 13 games; 57 combined tackles (5.5 for loss); 3 passes deflected; 1 forced fumble; 3 sacks; 1 blocked kick

94 – Austin Corbett, C, Nevada

An intelligent and strong player; Corbett plays with good awareness and instincts, combined with technical ability. Only played at tackle in college so will have to adapt in order to play center. Leg drive isn’t the strongest and his allows defenders through too often due to poor hand placement. This may be another reason to bring him in as a center. I highly doubt he’ll be an NFL tackle or even guard, but the Vikings could sure use him in the middle.

Detroit Lions – RB, DT, LB

I can’t be the only person anticipating a busy off-season in Detroit? I’m also highly intrigued to see how highly-coveted HC Matt Patricia does in his new role – a role he fully deserves. At the time of writing, They have Travis Swanson, Darren Fells, Tahir Whitehead, Paul Worrilow, Tavon Wilson and Nevin Lawson out of contract, as well as several other areas of need. It looks like Frank Gore may sign, and between us, my bold prediction is that Gary Barnidge makes a return to the NFL at tight end.

Potential picks:

20 – Sony Michel, RB, Georgia

One of my favourite prospects in this year’s draft, Sony Michel is the better of the two highly-promising running backs coming out of Georgia. He’s decisive and has the intelligence to make decisions quickly, avoiding taking unnecessary risks and finding the most efficient path. Huge home-run potential. His ability to burst through linebackers quickly gives him a huge advantage and his vision will allow him to get extra yardage regularly. He also happens to be a very competent blocker as well which will always go down well with NFL coaches. He may need to work on his catching technique – he hasn’t had any real issues with drops but could catch the ball more cleanly, especially under NFL level pressure.

2017 stats – 14 games; 1,227 yards on 156 touches (7.87 YPC); 16 TDs

96 yards and 1 TD on 9 receptions

51 – Maurice Hurst, DT, Michigan

Now, before I start…yes, I am aware that before ANY of the prophecy below can come true, Maurice Hurst will need to be medically cleared. For the purposes of my article, I am assuming that Detroit luck out and get a first round talent at 51 overall because of the fear in relation to the heart irregularities which came out of the combine. Hurst has good initial quickness and aggression. He manages to find a way to sneak through the blockers and toward the quarterback or ball. His speed is accompanied by good footwork and this allows him to adjust his positioning and angles well. He’s a little small compared to other defensive linemen, at college and NFL level and so will have to close the gap on stronger blockers to avoid trouble. He would definitely be more effective in a 4-3 defence, but let’s just say Matt Patricia knows how to run a good defence.

2017 stats – 13 games; 61 combined tackles (14.5 for loss); 2 passes deflected; 5 sacks; 1 forced fumble; 1 blocked kick

82 – Shaquem Griffen, LB, Central Florida

My new favourite linebacker? Who wasn’t entirely awestruck with Shaquem’s combine performance? Incredible. Matt Patricia will love his character and the fact he is capable. Good athleticism, great intelligence and clearly, the ability to adapt. He’s a punishing hitter and disruptive in several ways across the field. Will be a very good fantasy football player as he fills up the box score. Good technique. He’ll need coaching to improve his tackling technique as he can go in a little high and this may allow tackles to be broken. He will be somewhat limited by his physical limitation (for those who don’t know, he doesn’t have a left hand) but I think he is fully deserving of a place on an NFL roster.

2017 stats – 13 games; 74 combined tackles (13.5 for loss); 3 passes deflected; 7 sacks; 1 interception;2 forced fumbles; 1 fumble return (for a 20 yard TD

Green Bay Packers – CB, WR, DE

In 2017, Packers fans had to endure the majority of the season without Aaron Rodgers. From 2018, they will have to watch their team sans Jordy Nelson. They have signed Jimmy Graham who will certainly provide a red-zone threat; and generally they don’t have too many contracts to extend, with Jahri Evans, Davon House and Morgan Burnett the only guys out of contract. It remains to be seen whether the Packers will look to build for the future or go ‘win now’, but the below picks will help them achieve either.

Potential picks:

14 – Denzel Ward, CB, Ohio State

Elite athletic ability, with the patience and technique to make him an instant starter in the NFL. True ‘lockdown’ corner. In fact, over the last two years, he has allowed a completed pass less than one-third of the time he is the targeted cornerback. Excellent disruptive ability and can keep up with the receiver in most situations. Reminds me a lot of Chris Harris at Denver, so that is the level we’re dealing with here. His build is a bit smaller than average and visually at least, he appears small in coverage against bigger receivers. He would immediately start as a slot cornerback with a view to moving him outside after some NFL experience and coaching, but a solid pre-season could see him go outside straight away.

2017 stats – 13 games; 37 combined tackles (2 for loss); 15 passes deflected; 2 interceptions; 2 blocked kicks

45 – DJ Moore, WR, Maryland

Size, speed, and a good teammate. These are three ringing endorsements from coaching staff for whom DJ Moore played at Maryland. He was the go-to guy there, using his quick feet and acceleration to great effect. He can be trusted by a quarterback to make plays. Lethal on screen plays and took on punt return duties in 2017. He will need some coaching to ensure he’s as competitive as a route runner as he is after the catch as he fails to gain enough separation at times. On 50-50 balls he loses more often than he wins. I think he has it in him to really focus once drafted, work on the areas his coaches ask him too and confidently play his play into the hearts of the Green Bay fans.

2017 stats – 12 games; 80 receptions for 1,033 yards and 8 TDs;

61 rushing yards and 1 TD on 5 touches (12.2 YPC);

15 punt returns for 153 yards

76 – Rasheem Green, DE, USC

It may be optimistic to think Rasheem Green will; still be available at this point but you never know. Green is tall and once he bulks up, will have a very intimidating frame to work with. Explosive bursts at point of attack with violent, aggressive tendencies against the blockers initial contact. His overall strength and body control needs work, but this is normal when going for early draft eligibility. Can be slow to find the ball on occasion. Needs to learn how to trick his opponent as he is easy to read at times. With the right coaching, Green will be a top defensive end in the NFL, but patience may be required initially.

2017 stats – 14 games; 43 combined tackles (12.5 for loss); 4 passes deflected; 10 sacks; 1 forced fumble

Chicago Bears – CB, WR, G

Definite signs of improvement already for Chicago. Allen Robinson, Trey Burton and Taylor Gabriel are significant upgrades on Kendall Wright, Dion Sims and Kevin White. They have an ever-improving, young defence as well as a solid coaching setup. Mitchell Trubisky should have much more fun out on the field in 2018, but let’s see what else the Bears could achieve via the draft…

Potential picks:

8 – Minkah Fitzpatrick, CB/S, Alabama


Arguably the best defensive back in this year’s class. Eats, sleeps and breathes football. A big-game player with the utmost competitiveness, Minkah Fitzpatrick is a franchise player. Can play all over the secondary and even in nickel linebacker roles. Excellent blitzer, and home run ability if he makes an interception. Also elite playmaker on special teams. An NFL coaches dream. He’s not the finished article just yet, but there really isn’t much to work on. Think Jamal Adams or Budda Baker.

2017 stats – 13 games; 60 combined tackles (8 for loss); 1.5 sacks; 8 passes deflected; 1 interception; 1 forced fumble; 1 blocked kick

39 – Christian Kirk, WR, Texas A&M

Chicago improved their offensive weapons on the outside in free agency; now they get their slot guy. Christian Kirk is well-built and strong. He has a fantastic work ethic and runs slant and whip routes excellently. Great hands and able to catch the passes which aren’t 100% accurate. Good after-catch ability which translates into punt/kickoff return skill. He isn’t the quickest but I think he fits well in a Nagy system as a pure slot guy.

2017 stats – 13 games; 71 receptions for 919 yards and 10 TDs;

31 rushing yards on 4 touches (7.75 YPC);

10 punt returns for 191 yards and a TD;

22 kickoff returns for 490 yards and a TD

105 – Will Clapp, C, LSU

Will Clapp is the right build for an NFL center and also has experience playing guard in college so if needed he could handle reps there in the NFL. He’s competent when it comes to blocking. Very intelligent and has good awareness of space particularly in pass protection. He may not start right away as he will need to work on his technique but eventually he could become a good addition to Trubisky’s protective unit.

 

 

 

*2017 stats from www.cfbstats.com

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