With the 2015 NFL Draft fast approaching, Bucky Brooks is breaking down the biggest areas of need for every team in the NFL, division by division. Below is his look at the NFC North. (NOTE: Click on tabs to see other divisions; click on team names to see a full list of draft picks.)
Biggest needs: Receiver, outside linebacker, safety.
The Bears could get back to their defense-centric ways under John Fox. The wily head coach traditionally uses his initial picks on blue-chip pass rushers when he takes over a franchise (see: Julius Peppers, who went second overall to the Panthers in 2002, and Von Miller, who went second overall to the Broncos in 2011), and the Bears are in desperate need of a 3-4 edge presence, with new coordinator Vic Fangio heading up the defense. An electric defender like Clemson's Vic Beasley or Missouri's Shane Ray would certainly fit the bill as a rush OLB. The Bears have failed to sufficiently fill their safety need over the past decade, despite expending a number of draft picks on potential candidates. Alabama's Landon Collins is the cream of the current crop; an underrated playmaker like Arizona State's Damarious Randall could be an option on Day 2. If the Bears elect to replace traded-away veteran Brandon Marshall with a blue-chip pass catcher, Alabama's Amari Cooper and West Virginia's Kevin White are the likely candidates. Chicago could look for a value pass catcher on Day 2, which would make USC's Nelson Agholor or ECU's Justin Hardy potential fits.
Biggest needs: Defensive tackle, offensive tackle, cornerback.
Recently acquired veteran Haloti Ngata will be an effective short-term solution, but the Lions still must address the defensive tackle position after losing both Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley during free agency. Detroit could target a dynamic interior defender like Florida State's Eddie Goldman, Texas' Malcom Brown or Oklahoma's Jordan Phillips to fill the void. At cornerback, the Lions would certainly love to find a young ball-hawk to play opposite Darius Slay. Wake Forest's Kevin Johnson, Washington's Marcus Peters and LSU's Jalen Collins would be ideal Day 1 candidates, while Utah's Eric Rowe or Florida State's P.J. Williams could be pinpointed as Day 2 value picks. Offensively, the Lions must identify a developmental edge blocker to build around. Florida's D.J. Humphries, Pittsburgh's T.J. Clemmings and Texas A&M's Cedric Ogbuehi are athletic blockers with the potential to eventually play on the blind side.
Biggest needs: Inside linebacker, nose tackle, cornerback.
General manager Ted Thompson is one of the best in the business on draft day. He routinely snags solid players with the athleticism and skill to develop into long-term starters. Most importantly, Thompson finds guys who fit the Packers' schemes on both sides of the ball. Defensively, Green Bay needs a rugged inside linebacker with instincts and a strong nose for the ball. Mississippi State's Benardrick McKinney and UCLA's Eric Kendricks make sense; the Packers could also eye Miami's Denzel Perryman or TCU's Paul Dawson on Day 2. Even after re-signing B.J. Raji, Green Bay should be in the market for an athletic nose tackle capable of stopping the run and collapsing the pocket on passing downs -- a role for which Oklahoma's Jordan Phillips and Florida State's Eddie Goldman are prime candidates. The loss of former Pro Bowl CB Tramon Williams in free agency didn't garner many headlines, but the departure could prompt Thompson to target an athletic cover corner like Connecticut's Byron Jones, Stanford's Alex Carter or Ohio State's Doran Grant on Day 2.
Biggest needs: Cornerback, linebacker, running back.
Entering his second year on the job, coach Mike Zimmer has already transformed the Vikings into a gritty, hard-nosed squad that matches his personality, but he needs a few more playmakers on both sides of the ball to compete in the NFC North. Michigan State's Trae Waynes would be a nice complement to Xavier Rhodes at corner. Zimmer could also set his sights on a long, rangy corner with a bit of attitude, like Washington's Marcus Peters or Florida State's P.J. Williams. Minnesota also needs a rugged inside linebacker to fortify the middle: UCLA's Eric Kendricks and Miami's Denzel Perryman are certainly intriguing as borderline Day 1 selections. Depending on how the Adrian Peterson saga plays out, the Vikings could wind up parting ways with the perennial Pro Bowler on draft day, leading them to target a potential replacement. Boise State's Jay Ajayi, South Carolina's Mike Davis and Minnesota's David Cobb are targets as value selections.