LIONS INSIDER

NFC North: 2014 Draft primer

Posted Apr 29, 2014

Senior writer Tim Twentyman takes a look at needs for all four teams in the NFC North

With less than two weeks remaining before the NFL Draft gets under way, let's update where the rosters stand with the four teams in the NFC North and some potential needs that might be addressed.

GREEN BAY

2013 record: 8-7-1

Draft picks: Rd 1 (21); Rd 2 (53); Rd 3 (85); Rd 3 (98, compensatory); Rd 4 (121); Rd 5 (161); Rd 5 (176, compensatory); Rd 6 (197); Rd 7 (236)

Jermichael FinleyTE Jermichael Finley (Photo: AP Images)

Key free agent signings: DE Julius Peppers; CB Sam Shields; DT B.J. Raji; DE/OLB Mike Neal

Key free agent losses: WR James Jones; C Evan Dietrich-Smith; CB M.D. Jennings

Biggest draft needs: Safety and tight end

The Packers didn’t draft a safety last year and failed to bring one in during the free agency period. It’s about time the Packers address the weakest part of their defense, but it’s worth noting Packers general manager Ted Thompson has never taken a safety in the first round.

Green Bay has a similarly large need at tight end if Jermichael Finley isn’t able to return from a serious neck injury. Neither Andrew Quarles or Brandon Bostick are a true No. 1 tight end.

Mike Mayock’s top 5 at position of need:

Safety

1. Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, Alabama
2. Calvin Pryor, Louisville
3. Jimmie Ward, Northern Illinois
4. Deone Bucannon, Washington State
5. Lamarcus Joyner, Florida State

Tight end

1. Eric Ebron, North Carolina
2. Jace Amaro, Texas Tech
3. Austin Seferian-Jenkins, Washington
4. Troy Niklas, Notre Dame
5. C.J. Fiedorowicz, Iowa

Quotable: "We don't necessarily try to attack the draft looking at needs," Thompson told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel recently. "We try to attack the draft trying to find players who can be with us for a number of years and build strength and add value to our organization."

CHICAGO

2013 record: 8-8

Draft picks: Rd 1 (14); Rd 2 (51); Rd 3 (82); Rd 4 (117); Rd 5 (144); Rd 6 (167); Rd 6 (175)

Key free agent signings: DE Jared Allen; DE Lamarr Houston; CB Charles Tillman; S Ryan Mundy; DE Willie Young

Key free agent losses: DT Henry Melton; DE Julius Peppers; QB Josh McCown; DT Corey Wootten; WR Devin Hester

Biggest draft need: Defensive tackle

The Bears need at least one defensive tackle after losing Henry Melton and Corey Wootten via free agency. The need is even more important when you consider the team spent $34.5 million in guaranteed money to defensive ends Jared Allen, Lamarr Houston and Willie Young. Those players coming off the edge need to be protected by more than Jeremiah Ratliff, Nate Collins and Stephen Paea inside.

Mike Mayock’s top 5 at position of need:

Defensive tackle

1. Aaron Donald, Pittsburgh
2. Ra'Shede Hageman, Minnesota
3. Timmy Jernigan, Florida State
4. Louis Nix, Notre Dame
5. Dominique Easley, Florida

Quotable: “Obviously the most important part of this offseason is rebuilding our defense to a stature that’s expected of us at Halas Hall, in our community and our fan base,” Bears head coach Marc Trestman said at the NFL Scouting Combine

DETROIT

2013 record: 7-9

Draft picks: Rd 1 (10); Rd 2 (45); Rd 3 (76); Rd 4 (111); Rd 4 (133, compensatory); Rd 4 (136, compensatory); Rd 6 (189); Rd 7 (227)

Key free agent signings: WR Golden Tate; S James Ihedigbo; TE Brandon Pettigrew; RB Joique Bell; CB Rashean Mathis; DE/LB Darryl Tapp

Key free agent losses: S Louis Delmas; QB Shaun Hill; DE Willie Young; WR Nate Burleson

Biggest draft need: Defensive playmaker, receiver

This is somewhat vague, I know, but it fits. Hear me out.

When the Lions defense had two or more takeaways in a game last year they were 5-2. When they had one or less they were just 2-7.

The Lions need more impact players on defense. They need players who can get to the quarterback and cause havoc, players who have a knack for the football on defense.

That includes the secondary, no doubt, but it’s harder to identify how cornerbacks project to the NFL than it is pass rushers, in most cases. Basically, it’s easier to miss on cornerbacks.

The Lions have two veteran starting safeties and a mix of veteran and young cornerbacks who should benefit from a shift in philosophy in Teryl Austin's new defensive scheme.

The top five teams in total defense last season – Seattle, Carolina, Cincinnati, New Orleans and San Francisco – all made the playoffs and all won at least 11 games.

An impact player in the front seven could have the most immediate impact on that side of the ball.

The Lions are also revamping their receiver corps and need at least one more playmaker in that unit, too.

Mike Mayock’s top 5 at position of need:

Defensive end

1. Jadeveon Clowney, South Carolina
2. Kony Ealy, Missouri
3. Dee Ford, Auburn
4. Scott Crichton, Oregon State
5. Stephon Tuitt, Notre Dame

Linebacker

1. Khalil Mack, Buffalo
2. Anthony Barr, UCLA
3. Ryan Shazier, Ohio State
4. Demarcus Lawrence, Boise St.
5. Kyle Van Noy, BYU

Receiver

1. Sammy Watkins, Clemson
2. Mike Evans, Texas A&M
3. Odell Beckham Jr., LSU
4. Brandin Cooks, Oregon State
T-5. Kelvin Benjamin, Florida State
T-5. Marqise Lee, USC

Quotable: “I think bigger than individual players that play a particular position, I think we have to get better at being a football team, playing team football,” Lions general manager Martin Mayhew said at the Combine. “Playing smart football, being able to be aggressive but also playing smart, minimizing the penalties and turnovers and mistakes. Just playing solid football as a group is as important as adding any particular players.”

MINNESOTA

2013 record: 5-10-1

Draft picks: Rd 1 (8); Rd 2 (40); Rd 3 (72); Rd 3 (96); Rd 4 (104); Rd 5 (136); Rd 6 (168); Rd 7 (200)

Key free agent signings: CB Captain Munnerlyn; DE Everson Griffen; QB Matt Cassel; WR Jerome Simpson

Key free agent losses: DE Jared Allen; RB Toby Gerhart; WR Joe Webb

Biggest draft need: Quarterback

The most important position on the football field was a major area of concern for the Vikings last season. The team’s 2011 first-round pick, Christian Ponder, hasn’t developed like they’d hoped. Mid-season acquisition Josh Freeman turned out to be a terrible move. Veteran Matt Cassel was the best of the bunch, and does give them a bit of consistency after re-upping with the team this offseason, but he’s not a long-term solution.

Mike Mayock’s top 5 at position of need:

Quarterback

1. Johnny Manziel, Texas A&M
2. Blake Bortles, Central Florida
3. Derek Carr, Fresno State
4. Jimmy Garoppolo, Eastern Illinois
T-5. Zach Mettenberger, LSU
T-5. Teddy Bridgewater, Louisville

Quotable: "Like I said, the quarterback, I think there's a lot of different caliber,” Vikings general manager Rick Spielman said at the Combine. “I really do believe this is a deep class. Now, I don't know what the answer is on who's the No. 1 quarterback. I think everyone's going to have different theories on that. We'll have different theories as well. But we'll sit there, we'll analyze it and we'll go through our process."