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NFC NORTH: 2017 NFL Draft preview

NFL Draft week is here, which means teams are putting the final touches on their draft preparations and finishing up their draft boards.

"I believe in building the team through the draft and then you supplement through free agency," Lions general manager Bob Quinn said this offseason.

This is an exciting time for the fan bases of the Lions, Packers, Vikings and Bears, as their teams will no-doubt be better off by the end of the weekend.

Here's a look at positions of need and prospects that might fit for each of the four teams in the NFC North:


2016 finish: First, NFC North

Record: 10-6 (2-1 playoffs)

Total offense: 368.8 (8th)

Rushing: 106.3 (20th)

Passing: 262.4 (7th)

Total defense: 363.9 (22nd)

Rush defense: 94.7 (8th)

Pass defense: 269.2 (31st)

Most impactful 2016 pick: LB Blake Martinez, a fourth-round pick out of Stanford, ended up starting nine games for the Packers at inside linebacker. Martinez finished the season with 69 tackles with a sack, interception and four defended passes in 13 games.

Top 3 draft needs: CB, OLB, RB

2017 draft picks (8): Round 1 (29), Round 2 (61), Round 3 (93), Round 4 (134), Round 5 (172), Round 5* (182), Round 6 (212), Round 7 (247)

*compensatory pick

Who fits in Round 1 in 2017: T.J. Watt, OLB, Wisconsin

A first-team All-Big Ten selection, Watt recorded 63 tackles (15.5 for loss) and 11.5 sacks for the Badgers last season.

He followed up a strong junior season with a good showing at the combine. He switched from tight end to outside linebacker only two seasons ago, so he has a tremendous ceiling as a pass rusher, which is exactly what the Packers value in their outside linebackers. He played standing up in the Badgers' 3-4 defense, so he won't have to go through the tougher transition of moving from 4-3 defensive end.

Twentyman's take: This seems like a perfect pick for Green Bay, if Watt is on the board at pick 29. They take a local standout, one who has a high ceiling and good bloodlines.

Clay Matthews isn't getting any younger, and they need to figure out what their long-term solution will be at the position opposite Nick Perry.


2016 finish: Second, NFC North

Record: 9-7 (0-1 playoffs)

Total offense: 338.8 (21st)

Rushing: 81.9 (30th)

Passing: 256.9 (11th)

Total defense: 354.8 (18th)

Rush defense: 106.3 (18th)

Pass defense: 248.4 (19th)

Most impactful 2016 pick: Lions GM Bob Quinn had a nice first draft, with eight of his 10 selections having significant contributions. First-round pick Taylor Decker led the way. He started every game and played every snap at left tackle as a rookie, and was named to the Pro Football Writers All-Rookie Team.

Top 3 draft needs: LB, DE, WR

2017 draft picks (8): Round 1 (21), Round 2 (53), Round 3 (85), Round 4 (127), Round 5 (165), Round 6 (205), Round 6 (215), Round 7 (250)

Who fits in Round 1 in 2017: Haason Reddick, LB, Temple

Reddick blew away the competition at the combine and would bring some much-needed athleticism and explosiveness to Detroit's linebacking corps.

Reddick ran the 40 in 4.52 seconds at nearly 240 pounds. He was third in the nation last year with 22.5 tackles for loss, which paired nicely with his 10.5 sacks. He'd be a multi-purpose plug-and-play player in Teryl Austin's attacking defense.

Twentyman's take: Reddick played a hybrid end/linebacker position in college, but when he was asked to be an off-the-ball linebacker at the Senior Bowl, he didn't look out of place at all.

The Lions need more playmakers at linebacker, and it appears as if Reddick would slot in nicely at the WILL in Detroit's defense


2016 finish: Third, NFC North

Record: 8-8

Total offense: 315.1 (28th)

Rushing: 75.3 (31st)

Passing: 239.8 (18th)

Total defense: 314.9 (3rd)

Rush defense: 106.9 (20th)

Pass defense: 207.9 (3rd)

Most impactful 2016 pick: There wasn't a whole lot of impact from Minnesota's 2016 rookie class. Linebacker Kentrell Brothers led the way with nine tackles in 10 games.

Top 3 draft needs: G, DL, TE

2017 draft picks (8): Round 2 (48), Round 3 (79), Round 3 (86), Round 4 (120), Round 4 (128), Round 5 (160), Round 6 (199), Round 7 (232)

Who fits in Round 2 in 2017: Dan Feeney, G, Indiana

Feeney started all 12 games for the Hoosiers at right guard as a freshman. He was an All-Big Ten selection this past season after not allowing a single sack in 2016.

The Vikings don't have a first-round pick because of the Sam Bradford trade. If they are going to establish a new identity on offense post-Adrian Peterson, solidifying the middle of the offensive line isn't a bad place to start with a value pick in round two.

Twentyman's take: Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer told reporters down the NFL's Annual Meetings last month that he still has to "figure out" the right guard spot.

Feeney could be the solution. The Vikings ranked 31st running the ball last year and Bradford was sacked 38 times. With a defense as strong as Minnesota's, fixing their issues on offense should be a big priority entering this draft.


2016 finish: Fourth, NFC North

Record: 3-13

Total offense: 356.5 (15th)

Rushing: 108.4 (17th)

Passing: 248.1 (14th)

Total defense: 346.8 (15th)

Rush defense: 121.9 (27th)

Pass defense: 224.9 (7th)

Most impactful 2016 pick: Fourth-round running back Jordan Howard stormed onto the scene as a rookie, rushing for 1,313 yards (5.2 average) with six touchdowns. He also caught 29 passes for 298 yards and another score.

Howard has a terrific blend of size, speed and vision that should make him a premier back for a long time in the windy city.

Top 3 draft needs: S, DL, QB

2017 draft picks (7): Round 1 (3), Round 2 (36), Round 3 (67), Round 4 (111), Round 4 (117), Round 5 (147), Round 7 (221)

Who fits in Round 1 in 2017: Jamal Adams, S, LSU

Adams can run, cover, play in the box. He seems like a natural leader. He's a do-it-all kind of player in the backend of a defense. The Bears haven't had a true top-flight safety since Mike Brown in the late 2000's.

Twentyman's take: Adams is as safe a pick as there is in this draft. He fits an immediate need and helps boost a secondary the Bears spent considerable resources on improving this offseason via free agency.

A good safety is an invaluable asset for a defense. They do so much and have a huge impact on the game. It's about time the Bears find their next Mike Brown.

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