Editor's note: Anyone in the NFL will tell you it takes three years to judge a draft. With that in mind, we asked analyst Bucky Brooks to take a look at how every NFL team fared over the last three years. In the third of a four-day series, he examines the AFC and NFC North divisions:
Analysis: The Vikings have quietly assembled a roster that is as talented as any in the league. The Vikings have put together their Pro Bowl-laden lineup by repeatedly plucking impact players in the draft's early rounds. Adrian Peterson, Sidney Rice and Percy Harvin have emerged as some of the best players at their respective positions, and the Vikings wisely selected them by adhering to the "take the best player available" premise that is frequently uttered by scouts. Though the team had more pressing needs at those selections, the team's brass opted to take the top talent on the board regardless of position. In doing so, the Vikings fortified positions of strength and upgraded their overall talent base. Given the team's ability to routinely come up with impact players in the draft's early stages while avoiding big mistakes, the Vikings deserve high praise for their outstanding success on draft day.
Analysis: The Packers' recent draft haul has been a mixed bag, as several of the team's top picks have failed to perform to expectations. Justin Harrell, Brian Brohm and Aaron Rouse are a few of the Packers' early-round disappointments, and their failures have resulted in the team lacking quality depth in key areas. Though the team hit it big with the additions of Clay Matthews and Jermichael Finley, the inconsistent contributions of their top picks (B.J. Raji, Brandon Jackson, James Jones and Jordy Nelson) weighs down their overall grade when evaluating the overall impact of their recent drafts. The Packers unquestionably have a very talented roster, but their most recent draftees have delivered more promise than production at this point.
Analysis: The Lions ushered out the Matt Millen era after seven dismal seasons, and much of their ineptitude can be tied directly to the team's poor drafts during that period. Although Millen correctly nailed Calvin Johnson as an elite talent, the majority of the team's picks have been unproductive in a Lions uniform. However, the tide may be changing under the direction of Martin Mayhew. The team identified its quarterback of the future with the selection of Matthew Stafford last season. In addition, the team picked up an impact safety (Louis Delmas) and tight end (Brandon Pettigrew) in the draft's early rounds. While those picks are enough to erase several years of incompetence, the Lions appear to be on the road to respectability behind a refocused approach to the draft.
Analysis: The Bears have been aggressive with their approach to the draft and free agency, but the dicey moves have not delivered positive results. Although the jettisoning of a first- and third-round pick landed the team a Pro Bowl quarterback (Jay Cutler), his first season in the Windy City left a lot to be desired, and without a bevy of early-round selections the team was unable to surround him with the requisite playmakers. While Greg Olsen and Matt Forte have justified their lofty draft status with solid production, the team's other top picks have repeatedly fallen short of expectation. Michael Okwo and Dan Bazuin are a few of the Bears' selections that can be considered busts. Additionally, the team is patiently waiting for contributions from its top picks (Jarron Gilbert and Juaquin Iglesias) from a season ago. The Bears have been bold and daring in attempting to upgrade their roster, but the result has been more sizzle than substance at this point.