NFC North projected starters: Packers on track; Bears fascinate


Gregg Rosenthal will project post-draft starting lineups for all 32 teams -- because that's his idea of fun.

Chicago Bears

QB: Mitchell Trubisky
RB: Jordan Howard
WR: Allen Robinson
WR: Taylor Gabriel
WR: Anthony Miller
TE: Trey Burton
LT: Charles Leno Jr.
LG: James Daniels
C: Cody Whitehair
RG: Kyle Long
RT: Bobby Massie

DE: Akiem Hicks
DT: Eddie Goldman
DE: Jonathan Bullard
OLB: Leonard Floyd
ILB: Danny Trevathan
ILB: Roquan Smith
CB: Kyle Fuller
CB: Prince Amukamara
CB: Bryce Callahan
S: Eddie Jackson
S: Adrian Amos

» This skill-position group is fascinating. The Bears should go from one of the sleepiest Sunday afternoon options to one of the most exciting young groups in football. Only Jordan Howard was a Week 1 starter last year for Chicago out of the group. Their skill sets all complement each other well, at least on paper.

» Rookie receiver Anthony Miller (Round 2, No. 51 overall) could earn most of his time playing out of the slot, although his flexibility to move around the formation makes him a nice partner for Taylor Gabriel. While the 5-foot-8 Gabriel is automatically labeled a slot receiver because of his size, he has lined up on the outside for most of his career. Backup running back Tarik Cohen (second on the team with 53 catches last season) will also be a huge part of the Bears' passing game.

» The offensive line should be a strength, with second-round pick James Daniels (No. 39) expected to move from center to left guard to start his career.

» I listed Leonard Floyd as the only starting edge rusher, partly to point out the team's weakness at that position. Sam Acho and Aaron Lynch are options to play opposite Floyd. Defensive coordinator Vic Fangio will need to create pressure with blitzes, and he has a potential All-Pro talent in Akiem Hicks up front.

» Roquan Smith (drafted eighth overall) is the type of inside linebacker who can change the character -- and team speed -- of an entire defense on Day 1.

» As exciting as the Bears' offense should be to watch, the defense should be ahead of that unit. This is Fangio's fourth year in Chicago, and it's safe to say he's got "his guys" in place. If cornerback Kyle Fuller backs up his career season from a year ago, this should be a top-10 group.

Detroit Lions

QB: Matthew Stafford
RB: Kerryon Johnson
WR: Marvin Jones
WR: Kenny Golladay
WR: Golden Tate
TE: Luke Willson
LT: Taylor Decker
LG: Frank Ragnow
C: Graham Glasgow
RG: T.J. Lang
RT: Ricky Wagner

DE: Ezekiel Ansah
DT: A'Shawn Robinson
DE: Anthony Zettel
OLB: Devon Kennard
MLB: Jarrad Davis
OLB: Christian Jones
CB: Darius Slay
CB: Nevin Lawson
CB: Quandre Diggs
S: Glover Quin
S: Tavon Wilson

» LeGarrette Blount may wind up taking the first snap most weeks, but rookie Kerryon Johnson (Round 2, No. 43) and Theo Riddick are candidates to lead the backfield in snaps. There's also a scenario in which 2015 preseason hero Ameer Abdullah shows up to training camp to earn a role or even push Riddick off the roster. Having too many running backs would be a great problem for this franchise to deal with.

» Kenny Golladay's snap percentage (68.6 percent) as a rookie was not too different from Golden Tate's (76.1 percent) a season ago. Golladay's time on the field should only go up if he develops as the Lions hope.

» The Lions need Golladay to step up as a receiver because they are unlikely to get great production out of the tight end position, with former first-round pick Eric Ebron being released in March. Former Seahawk Luke Willson is the slight favorite to start, although the team would love for Michael Roberts, taken in the fourth round last year, to step up.

» I'm putting Frank Ragnow, the team's first-round pick (No. 20), at guard because he saw snaps there during the team's rookie minicamp. Ragnow and last year's starter at center, Graham Glasgow, have the flexibility to play guard or center.

» The Lions will be more multiple on defense under coach Matt Patricia, switching between looks with three or four linemen. A perusal of the roster shows far better depth on the defensive line than at linebacker. Patricia's track record as defensive coordinator in New England was to get his best players on the field and not stay attached to any particular formation.

» The overall talent level on defense still needs a lot of work. General manager Bob Quinn has focused a great deal on fixing the offensive line and needs his solid defensive picks -- like defensive tackle A'Shawn Robinson (Round 2 in 2016) and linebacker Jarrad Davis (Round 1 in 2017) -- to make big leaps in their development.

» Quandre Diggs showed he can play safety and line up as a slot cornerback, which gives him extra value and a likely starter's role. Nevin Lawson will compete with Teez Tabor and DeShawn Shead at cornerback.

Green Bay Packers

QB: Aaron Rodgers
RB: Aaron Jones
WR: Davante Adams
WR: Randall Cobb
WR: J'Mon Moore
TE: Jimmy Graham
LT: David Bakhtiari
LG: Lane Taylor
C: Corey Linsley
RG: Justin McCray
RT: Bryan Bulaga

DE: Mike Daniels
DT: Kenny Clark
DT: Muhammad Wilkerson
OLB: Clay Matthews
ILB: Blake Martinez
OLB: Nick Perry
CB: Tramon Williams
CB: Kevin King
CB: Jaire Alexander
S: Ha Ha Clinton-Dix
S: Josh Jones

» Aaron Jones and Jamaal Williams are expected to compete for the starting running back spot, with former receiver Ty Montgomery now only a dark horse to win the Week 1 job for a second straight year. Williams proved last year he's tough and probably the most complete back on the team, but Jones' pure pop as a runner gives him an edge.

» The No. 3 receiver spot is similarly wide open, with holdovers like Geronimo Allison and Trevor Davis having a head-start over the team's trio of third-day draft picks. While rookie wideouts usually take a while to make an impact in Green Bay, J'Mon Moore has the skills after the catch to merit watching.

» There are a lot of ifs on this Packers offense, from the boom-or-bust Jimmy Graham signing to whether Randall Cobb can get back to 2014 form. But there is also plenty for Aaron Rodgers to work with, including perhaps the best left tackle in football in David Bakhtiari. The ceiling for this group remains sky-high.

» Ex-Jet Muhammad Wilkerson may not wind up seeing enough snaps to be a true starter, but I listed him over Jake Ryan, a second inside linebacker. New defensive coordinator Mike Pettine, who coached Wilkerson in New York, could get more out of Wilkerson by playing him less, anyhow. Mike Daniels and Kenny Clark are the leaders of a strong line.

» Pettine has an incredible amount of long, athletic defenders in the secondary, with four picks in the first two rounds from the last two drafts alone, including 2018 first-rounder Jaire Alexander. Josh Jackson, the team's second-round pick at cornerback this year, would displace the 35-year-old Tramon Williams, in a perfect world.

» This defense is very dangerous if Nick Perry stays healthy and Clay Matthews provides a consistent pass rush.

» Aaron Rodgers is due for a third MVP season in which no defender is safe. The longer I stare at this roster, the more I like the Packers to get right back to being one of the Super Bowl favorites after a disappointing 7-9 2017 season.

Minnesota Vikings

QB: Kirk Cousins
RB: Dalvin Cook
WR: Stefon Diggs
WR: Adam Thielen
WR: Kendall Wright
TE: Kyle Rudolph
LT: Riley Reiff
LG: Nick Easton
C: Pat Elflein
RG: Mike Remmers
RT: Brian O'Neill

DE: Everson Griffen
DT: Sheldon Richardson
DT: Linval Joseph
DE: Danielle Hunter
OLB: Anthony Barr
MLB: Eric Kendricks
CB: Xavier Rhodes
CB: Trae Waynes
CB: Mackensie Alexander
S: Harrison Smith
S: Andrew Sendejo

» Dalvin Cook was third in the NFL in yards from scrimmage when he tore his ACL as a rookie last October. Look for Latavius Murray to have a bigger share of the offense for much of the season as Cook gets back up to speed.

» Snagging Kendall Wright to play the slot helps to complete this offensive attack. The former first-round pick was Chicago's leading receiver a year ago, and he can get open, unlike 2016 first-round pick Laquon Treadwell. Wright is only the team's fifth-best receiving option, yet another sign that Kirk Cousins chose the right squad with which to sign this offseason.

» This was an optimistic projection for the Vikings' offensive line, with second-round pick Brian O'Neill (No. 62) showing enough in training camp to move Mike Remmers to the inside. Minnesota has to be worried about stopping the defensive lines in Green Bay, Los Angeles and Philadelphia if they want to get to the Super Bowl this season.

» Adding Sheldon Richardson to this front seven almost feels unfair, as he helps to fill out the best defensive starting lineup in football. There's an argument to be made that Richardson is only the eighth-best starter on the team. If there are any nits to pick, there could be a relative lack of defensive depth, other than at cornerback.

» The Vikings want 2016 second-round pick Mackensie Alexander to take over the slot cornerback role, but it won't be a surprise if Terence Newman is lining up in the slot in Week 1 at the age of 40, because Terence Newman is an indestructible force of nature.

» Minnesota's first-round pick this year, cornerback Mike Hughes (No. 30), figures to come off the bench, because coach Mike Zimmer works his young cornerbacks into the lineup slowly.

Follow Gregg Rosenthal on Twitter @greggrosenthal.



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