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NFC North rookie grades: Chicago Bears did a lot with a little

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  • By Jeremy Bergman NFL.com
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With the 2017 NFL campaign in the rearview, draft season's about to kick into high gear. But before we completely shift over to the Class of 2018, let's review the returns from this past season's crop of rookies. Division-by-division, we're providing grades on each team's 2017 draft class, as well as identifying areas that must be upgraded this offseason. Jeremy Bergman examines the NFC North below.

Chicago Bears

Round 1: (No. 2 overall) Mitchell Trubisky, QB, 12 games/12 starts.
Round 2: (45) Adam Shaheen, TE, 13 games/7 starts.
Round 4: (112) Eddie Jackson, S, 16 games/16 starts; (119) Tarik Cohen, RB, 16 games/4 starts.
Round 5: (147) Jordan Morgan, OG, 0 games/0 starts.
Notable rookie FA signings: Tanner Gentry, WR, 4 games/3 starts.

Trading up one spot to draft Trubisky -- and letting go of three mid-round picks in the process -- was a risk, but one worth taking in retrospect. Trubisky is a work in progress, but under the tutelage of Matt Nagy and Mark Helfrich, the QB can aspire to a sophomore surge, a la Jared Goff in L.A. Chicago made the most of the few other selections it possessed, hauling two great athletes in Jackson and Cohen, the latter of whom was an immediate game-breaker. Jackson and Adrian Amos will give the Windy City a top-five safety tandem in years to come. Chicago needs to utilize Shaheen more to justify a higher draft grade; the tight end caught just 12 passes in 13 games despite Zach Miller missing half the season. GRADE: B+

Combine/free agency focus: The first step was drafting a QB of the future. The second one is giving him some capable humans to throw to. No offense to Josh Bellamy and Markus Wheaton, but Chicago needs to go hard after a proven receiver to join Cameron Meredith (who tore his ACL last August) and Kevin White (who has played in just five games in his first three NFL seasons), and to aid in Trubisky's development. Third? Protect your man. The Bears must invest in young offensive linemen for depth purposes. On defense, Chicago has to pay close attention to the cornerback market, as Prince Amukamara and Kyle Fuller (1,866 combined snaps in 2017) are both free agents.

Detroit Lions

Round 1: (21) Jarrad Davis, LB, 14 games/14 starts.
Round 2: (53) Teez Tabor, CB, 10 games/1 start.
Round 3: (96) Kenny Golladay, WR, 11 games/5 starts.
Round 4: (124) Jalen Reeves-Maybin, 14 games/0 starts; (127) Michael Roberts, TE, 15 games/3 starts.
Round 5: (165) Jamal Agnew, KR/PR/CB, 13 games/0 starts.
Round 6: (205) Jeremiah Ledbetter, DE, 16 games/0 starts; (215) Brad Kaaya, QB, 0 games/0 starts.
Round 7: (250) Pat O'Connor, DE, 3 games/0 starts (for Tampa Bay).
Notable rookie FA signings: Tion Green, RB, 5 games/0 starts.

Boasting two Pro Football Writers of America All-Rookie Team members (Davis and Agnew), Detroit's 2017 draft class is chock-full of potential. Pro Football Focus wasn't a big fan of the first-round pick (62nd among 86 qualified LBs), highlighting his poor coverage abilities, but Davis improved over the season and tallied the fourth-most snaps on the defense. The jury's out on his college teammate, Tabor, who was more underwhelming in his limited appearances. Agnew was immediately a top-tier returner, while Golladay flashed plenty of promise when healthy. Lastly, Green was a nice UDFA addition who could play a role next season. GRADE: B

Combine/free agency focus: Detroit's issues don't change: The Lions are still seeing anemic production from the running back position, they still prefer to play from behind, and they're still heavily reliant on Matthew Stafford. Can new head coach Matt Patricia flip the script? In his first two months on the job, the Bill Belichick disciple will have to decide how to proceed with a pair of free agents: DE Ezekiel Ansah and LB Tahir Whitehead. The Lions must also draft a young running back of the future -- and offensive linemen for him -- after missing out on last year's boffo class. 

Green Bay Packers

Round 2: (33) Kevin King, CB, 9 games/5 starts; (61) Josh Jones, S, 16 games/7 starts.
Round 3: (93) Montravius Adams, DT, 7 games/0 starts.
Round 4: (108) Vince Biegel, LB, 9 games/0 starts; (134) Jamaal Williams, RB, 16 games/7 starts.
Round 5: (175) DeAngelo Yancey, WR, 0 games/0 starts; (182) Aaron Jones, RB, 12 games/4 starts.
Round 6: (212) Kofi Amichia, C, 0 games/0 starts.
Round 7: (238) Devante Mays, RB, 8 games/0 starts; (247) Malachi Dupre, WR, 0 games/0 starts.
Notable rookie FA signings: Justin Vogel, P, 16 games/0 starts.

In Ted Thompson's final draft as Packers GM, Green Bay singled out the secondary as its most vulnerable area and attacked the weakness with its first two selections. Unfortunately, King and Jones both underperformed in their rookie campaigns. The same cannot be said for Green Bay's late-round pickups at RB. Jones was a welcome surprise in filling in for Ty Montgomery, showcasing a needed change of pace from the hard-running Williams. They are a future pairing to fear. The Pack saw little from their other picks. GRADE: C+

Combine/free agency focus: The return of Aaron Rodgers means Green Bay is still a legit contender, needing only a few pieces to get over the hump. The Packers need new speed at wide receiver, where the ranks are thin and Jordy Nelson showed his age last year. Green Bay shouldn't be afraid to draft more secondary help, either. The Pack's undoing over the years has always been a leaky back four, and new defensive coordinator Mike Pettine will want to develop his own talent, not just those left over by Dom Capers. Green Bay could use a pass-rusher, as well.

Minnesota Vikings

Round 2: (41) Dalvin Cook, RB, 4 games/4 starts.
Round 3: (70) Pat Elflein, C, 14 games/14 starts.
Round 4: (109) Jaleel Johnson, DT, 5 games/0 starts; (120) Ben Gedeon, LB, 16 games/9 starts.
Round 5: (170) Rodney Adams, WR, 0 games/0 starts; (180) Danny Isidora, OG, 7 games/1 starts.
Round 6: (201) Bucky Hodges, TE, 0 games/0 starts.
Round 7: (219) Stacy Coley, WR, 4 games/0 starts; (220) Ifeadi Odenigbo, DL, 0 games/0 starts; (232) Elijah Lee, LB, 14 games/0 starts (for San Francisco); (245) Jack Tocho, CB, 0 games/0 starts.
Notable rookie FA signings: Kyle Sloter, QB, 0 games/0 starts.

North of New Orleans, few teams capitalized on need with their first two picks better than the Vikings. Minnesota shored up its sieve of an offensive line in free agency and then acquired a centerpiece in Elflein, who made the PFWA All-Rookie Team. If not for his season-ending ACL injury in Week 4, Cook very well might have been the top rookie back in a class that featured Kareem Hunt and Alvin Kamara. Cook will re-assume his status as Minnesota's starting back next year, even if Jerick McKinnon wants to "be the guy." Gedeon proved to be a capable plug-and-play starter. Minnesota missed on the wideouts, but the team's depth at that position makes up for it. Oddly, Sloter is currently the only QB under contract for 2018. GRADE: B+

Combine/free agency focus: Choose a quarterback. Case Keenum, Sam Bradford and Teddy Bridgewater are all free agents (unless Bridgewater's contract tolls for next season), and good arguments can be made to re-sign each one of them. Keenum led this roster to a conference title game. Bradford is the most established option. Bridgewater is finally fully healthy and a fan favorite. How Minnesota rebounds from its devastating playoff exit correlates with how it deals with the QB position. For instance, if the Vikings feel their window of opportunity is limited, should they throw cash at a sure-thing, big-money QB, like Kirk Cousins? Minnesota can still use more O-line help surrounding Elflein at guard and tackle.

Follow Jeremy Bergman on Twitter @JABergman.

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