2

May

Around the NFC North: 2013 NFL Draft Edition

Vikings first-round draft pick Shariff Floyd.

Vikings first-round draft pick Shariff Floyd.

The Packers used the 2013 NFL Draft to finally address the running back position and add a much-needed player on the defensive line. What were the Packers division opponents up to in the draft?

Well, two of them used fifth-round selections to take punters and another drafted an offensive lineman in the first round that most analysts pegged as a second or third rounder.

Those were a few of the moves that made people scratch their heads. But it wasn’t all bad in Vikings/Lions/Bears land. Let’s take a trip around the NFC North to see how the Packers’ rivals used the draft to (maybe) close the gap and challenge Green Bay for a division title in 2013.

Minnesota Vikings

The Picks:

1 — Sharrif Floyd, DT Florida
1 — Xaveir Rhodes, CB Florida State
1 — Cordarelle Patterson, WR Tennessee
4 — Gerald Hodges, LB Penn State
5 — Jeff Locke, P UCLA
6 — Jeff Baca, G UCLA
7 — Michael Mauti, LB Penn State
7 — Travis Bond, OG North Carolina
7 — Everett Dawkins, DT Floriday State

The Breakdown:

Just when it looked like the Vikings might be on the right track, they draft a punter in the fifth round. A punter! In the fifth round!

Ok, a fifth-round pick isn’t going to make or break a draft, but c’mon. A punter! In the fifth round!

Until that happened, the Vikings were doing some good things. At first glance, the trade to get a third first-round pick seemed like a horrible idea. Minnesota gave up a lot to move up and pick a receiver, a position you can usually fill later in the draft.

But the more I thought about it, the more I liked it. How often do you have a chance to pick three players in the first round? Rarely. General manager Rick Spielman had some extra picks to work with so he was able to make the deal. When the draft was over, the Vikings still ended up with nine players, even after the trade. That’s a fair balance of using several picks to build depth and making a move that is risky, but could pay off.

Despite making the playoffs last season, the Vikings still need to be thinking long-term. I don’t think the trade altered that long-term mindset at all.

6

April

The NFL Draft and the NFC North

Packers QB Aaron Rodgers

Packers QB Aaron Rodgers is the NFC North's, and probably the NFL's, best draft choice since 2005.Introduction

Introduction
As Packers fans, we hear a lot about building through the draft and developing young players. I thought it would be interesting to examine each team in the NFC North to get a better idea of how drafted players impact current rosters.

So as baseball season gets underway, I decided to celebrate by writing over 2,000 words about the NFL draft.

I came up with a baseball theme (sort of) to accomplish this task. I break down each team’s drafts from 2005-11 by putting draftees in the below categories. I chose 2005-11 because it encompasses Ted Thompson’s time as Packers general manager. Here are the categories and an explanation of each:

Current Starters
This one should be obvious. Which players drafted from 2005-11 are current-day starters with the team that drafted them?

Home Runs
Players who have turned into pro-bowl caliber players or superstars.

Strikeouts
Players drafted in the first or second round that never did much of anything. I limited this category to absolute busts. For example, Justin Harrell was a wasted pick. He’s a strikeout. A.J. Hawk, while failing to meet expectations, remains a starter, wasn’t a complete bust, and shouldn’t be considered a strikeout. In baseball terms, Hawk is probably a walk. Walks are useful and better than striking out, but nothing to get too excited about.

Value Picks
Players taken in rounds five through seven that exceeded the typical expectations for a player drafted that low. I was fairly liberal with this category. If a guy played regularly as a starter or reserve, I counted him as a value pick. For example, I consider Packers LB Brad Jones a value pick. No, he’s nothing special, but he’s played in 35 games over three seasons, starting 13 times. That’s decent value for a seventh-round pick in my opinion.

I realize that third- and fourth-round selections are left in no-man’s land with my system. They’re neither strikeouts nor value picks. The third and fourth round is a gray area for me. It’s not high enough to label someone a bust if they’re bad, but not low enough to call it a value pick if they’re good. I left the third and fourth rounders out in no-man’s land and just counted them in my totals for batting average (see below).

29

March

Around the NFC North: Offseason Moves and Views on the Vikings, Bears and Lions

Vikings stadium

An artists's rendering of the proposed new Vikings stadium. Yes, it's another crappy dome.

What have the teams in the NFC North not named the Green Bay Packers been up to this offseason? Read on and find out.

Minnesota Vikings

Players Released: G Steve Hutchinson, G Anthony Herrera, CB Cedric Griffin, NT Remi Ayodele, TE Jim Kleinsasser (retired)

Free Agents Signed: TE John Carlson, FB Jerome Felton, RB Lex Hilliard, OL Geoff Schwartz, CB Zack Bowman

Re-Signings: DT Fred Evans, QB Sage Rosenfels, DL Letroy Guion, WR Devin Aromashodu

Holes on Roster: CB, S, LT, LG and WR

The Vikings ditched the Triangle of Authority and named Rick Spielman sole general manager not long after their 2011 season (mercifully) ended. Naturally, many Vikings fans expected Spielman to start signing free agents as soon as possible, anything to erase the memories of a 3-13 season that saw the Vikings take several steps backward while the Packers, Lions and Bears got better.

Those marquee free-agent signings never came. Instead, Spielman appears to be doing his best Ted Thompson impersonation by signing no-name free agents and talking about building through the draft. The one exception was signing TE John Carlson to a five-year, $25 million deal.

The Vikings are in a weird spot. They have a young QB that may or may not be a long-term solution. Their best offensive player tore his ACL at the end of last season. Their coach has no personality and is unproven. And their defense keeps getting older.

They’re not only rebuilding, they’re in the infant stages of rebuilding.

On top of all that, owner Zygi Wilf is in the fight of his life trying to get taxpayer funding to build a new stadium. I suppose there is a chance that 2012 may be the last season the Packers play the Vikings, the Minnesota Vikings, anyway. If had to take an educated guess, though, I’d say that Wilf eventually gets his stadium and the Vikings will blow their horns in Minnesota for many years to come.

But a new stadium might be the only good news for Vikings fans in the near future. This team is rebuilding, and it’s going to take a while before they contend in the NFC North again.

Chicago Bears

Players Released: DT Anthony Adams, OL Frank Omiyale, RB Marion Barber (retired)

Free Agents Signed: KR-PR Eric Weems, RB Michael Bush, OB Jason Campbell, LB Blake Costanzo, QB Josh McCown,

24

December

Around the NFC North: Rating Recent Draft Classes

Packers GM Ted Thompson

Packers GM Ted Thompson

At this point of the season, it’s safe to say most readers of this site probably know where every team in the NFC North stands and why they’re in the position that they’re in. So instead of updating everyone with information they probably already know, we’ll take a different approach by examining recent NFC North draft classes.

I went back and listed every team’s draft choices from 2008-11 and broke down each team by examining their picks in the following categories:

Current starters: How many players drafted since 2008 are currently starting? I was fairly liberal in labeling players as “starters.” For example, Jordy Nelson does not “start” for the Packers (until Jennings got hurt, anyway), but for all intents and purposes, he’s a starter.

Home runs: These players are absolute studs, already pro bowlers or force other teams to game-plan specifically for them.

Future stars?: These players are already good, but haven’t reached their ceiling. A pro bowl or more could realisticially be in their future.

Late-round discoveries: Players drafted in rounds 4-7 that contribute and play much better than a typical player drafted in rounds 4-7.

Early-round flops: Players drafted in the first two rounds that did next to nothing.

*Note: I realize I left third-round picks out of both the late-round and early-round categories. Third rounders are sort of no-man’s land for me. I don’t feel comfortable labeling third rounders as either a discovery or a flop.

Green Bay Packers

2008

2. Jordy Nelson, WR
2. Brian Brohm, QB
2. Pat Lee, CB
3. Jermichael Finley, TE
4. Jeremy Thompson, TE
4. Josh Sitton, G
5. Breno Giacomini, T
7. Matt Flynn, QB
7. Brett Swain, WR

2009

1. B.J. Raji, NT
2. Clay Matthews, LB
4. T.J. Lang, T
5. Quinn Johnson, RB
5. Jamon Meredit, T
6. Jarius Wynn, DE
6. Brandon Underwood, DB
7. Brad Jones, LB

2010

1. Bryan Bulaga, T
2. Mike Neal, DE
3. Morgan Burnett, SS
5. Andrew Quarless, TE
5. Marshall Newhouse, T
6. James Starks, RB
7. C.J. Wilson, TE

2011

1. Derek Sherrod, T
2. Randall Cobb, WR
3. Alex Green, RB
4. Davon House, CB
5. D.J. Williams, TE
6. Caleb Sclauderaff, G
6. D.J. Smith, LB
6. Ricky Elmore, LB
7. Ryan Taylor, TE
7. Lawrence Guy, DT