Draft Grades  

 

NFC North draft grades: Vikes begin comeback; Packers reload

NFL.com analysts Chad Reuter and Bucky Brooks are handing out grades for every team following the 2012 NFL Draft. Click the team name to see each team's entire class.

Chicago Bears: B-

Draft Grades & Team Holes
NFL.com analysts Bucky Brooks and Chad Reuter graded the draft classes for each team from the 2012 NFL Draft, and analyst Elliot Harrison addressed what holes remain.

NFC East: 2012 Draft Grades | Remaining Holes
AFC East: 2012 Draft Grades | Remaining Holes
NFC North: 2012 Draft Grades | Remaining Holes
AFC North: 2012 Draft Grades | Remaining Holes
NFC South: 2012 Draft Grades | Remaining Holes
AFC South: 2012 Draft Grades | Remaining Holes
NFC West: 2012 Draft Grades | Remaining Holes
AFC West: 2012 Draft Grades | Remaining Holes

The Bears fell behind Detroit in the NFC North last year and needed a strong offseason to catch up. Trading for Brandon Marshall and then trading up to draft South Carolina receiver Alshon Jeffery shows how much new general manager Phil Emery wanted to help quarterback Jay Cutler utilize his strong arm in the passing game. Pass rush was another area of concern with Aaron Rodgers and Matthew Stafford lighting up defenses in the division. First-round pick Shea McClellin should offer consistent hustle off the edge across from Julius Peppers, but he'll need to prove he was a better value than Chandler Jones and Whitney Mercilus.

Best pick: Alshon Jeffery, WR, South Carolina (Round 2, 45th overall pick).
Trading a fifth-round pick to St. Louis to secure Jeffery made a lot of sense. Despite average speed, Jeffery's height, length and large hands give him the ability to win jump-ball situations downfield.

Questionable pick: Evan Rodriguez, TE, Temple (Round 4, 111). 
Rodriguez is an intriguing prospect with good hands, but off-field concerns were an issue for some teams. Ignoring offensive tackle Bobby Massie and multiple cornerbacks of good value at that pick also meant the Bears passed up on opportunities to shore up those need areas.

Sleeper pick: Brandon Hardin, FS, Oregon State (Round 3, 79). 
He didn't play in 2011 due to a fractured shoulder, but look for Hardin to make an immediate impact on special teams and to transition nicely from cornerback to safety over the next two seasons. He might also be used outside against bigger receivers as a rookie if he can handle Marshall and Jeffery in training camp.

Detroit Lions: B

General manager Martin Mayhew and head coach Jim Schwartz did a nice job hitting the team's major needs during the draft, finding offensive and defensive line help and using three picks to help a desperate secondary (cornerbacks Dwight Bentley and Chris Greenwood will compete for playing time over the next two years). They might have waited a bit longer than most anticipated to address those needs at cornerback and at defensive end, but expect some solid contributors from this group for years to come.

Best pick: Riley Reiff, OT, Iowa (Round 1, 23).
Reiff fell down boards to the same exact draft slot as former Iowa teammate Bryan Bulaga dropped to in 2010 because of similar concerns about his ability to stay with elite pass rushers on the left side. But the Lions couldn't pass up his value at 23, especially with Jeff Backus reaching the end of his career and Gosder Cherilus a scheduled free agent in 2013.

Questionable pick: Ryan Broyles, WR, Oklahoma (Round 2, 54).
Don't get me wrong -- I expect the NCAA's all-time receptions leader to be a fine pro receiver. But if forced to label one of Detroit's picks as "questionable," I have to mention that the Lions passed on future starters like linebacker Lavonte David and defensive end Vinny Curry at need positions to take the sort of receiver that they could have found a bit later in the draft.

Sleeper pick: Travis Lewis, LB, Oklahoma (Round 7, 223).
I don't care if Lewis has average size and average athleticism. He's just too productive and instinctual to fail in the NFL. Look for him to upgrade an ordinary linebacker group in Detroit in 2012. His teammate at Oklahoma, Ronnell Lewis, will also be a nice special teams player and pass rush specialist as a fourth-round pick for the Lions.

Green Bay Packers: B+

It's hard to believe that a 15-1 team might consider its season a disappointment, but the defense's inconsistency stopping the run and rushing the passer cost the Packers dearly in the playoffs. General manager Ted Thompson paid close attention to those needs early in the draft, starting with the selection of USC defensive end Nick Perry to make the switch to 3-4 rush linebacker. He also found talent at cornerback and safety, as well as a potential backup quarterback in strong-armed B.J. Coleman. Finding starters at the end of each round is more difficult than doing so early, so the team deserves kudos for snagging some impact players.

Best pick: Jerel Worthy, DT, Michigan State (Round 2, 51).
Worthy's inconsistency cost him a first-round grade, but in the middle of the second round he presents good value as a starting five-technique and inside pass rusher in sub packages. He'll need to be a starter to justify the trade up, as Philadelphia selected two good players (DE Vinny Curry, CB Brandon Boykin) with the picks the Packers sent away.

Questionable pick: Jerron McMillian, SS, Maine (Round 4, 133).
None of the Packers' picks were true head scratchers. Packers fans will pay close attention to the career of McMillian, however, to see if it matches that of potential starting free safety DeQuan Menzie from Alabama (whom the Chiefs picked 13 spots later).

Sleeper pick: Terrell Manning, LB, North Carolina State (Round 5, 163).
Perry is the more hyped prospect, but look for Manning to make an impact on special teams and defense in his first season. He could play inside or outside for the Packers, using his explosiveness to attack the ball between the tackles and on the edge.

Minnesota Vikings: B

It's going to be tough for the Vikings to compete in what looks to be a very difficult division in 2012. But switching spots with the Browns in the top four to help build some depth at receiver in the middle rounds (Razorbacks Greg Childs and Jarius Wright), making a bold move into the first round to secure the draft's second-best safety (Notre Dame's Harrison Smith) and getting a good value at cornerback to start rebuilding that position (UCF's Josh Robinson in the third round) all helped their cause.

Best pick: Matt Kalil, OT, USC (Round 1, 4).
Despite the team's pre-draft banter and the importance of the cornerback position, the only "franchise left tackle" in the draft class got the call. Protecting 2011 first-round pick Christian Ponder is crucial for the quarterback's development.

Questionable pick: Rhett Ellison, TE, USC (Round 4, 128). 
The team used a second-round pick on Kyle Rudolph last year, signed veteran free agent John Carlson and has other similar players on the roster. Ellison is a versatile talent, but finding depth in the front seven might have been advisable.

Sleeper pick: Audie Cole, ILB, North Carolina State (Round 7, 210).
Cole played outside and in the middle for the Wolfpack, flashing the ability to stop the run and rush the passer. Minnesota's linebacker group is mediocre, so Cole should get a shot to get onto the field right away.

Follow Chad Reuter on Twitter @ChadReuter

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