NFC North projected starters: Bears on the rise?

*With the NFL draft in the rearview mirror, Around the NFL will project starting lineups with tasty position battle nuggets for all 32 teams. The NFC North is below. *

Minnesota Vikings

» First-round pick Laquon Treadwell should replace the departed Mike Wallace as a starter, but the rest of the receiver group remains mostly unchanged. That's why we don't expect Cordarrelle Patterson to get cut. He is still helpful on special teams. Charles Johnson lingers on the fringes.

» This exercise is a prediction of what will happen, not a snapshot of the current depth chart. Last year's No. 11 overall pick Trae Waynes is definitely behind Terence Newman at the moment, but Newman is 38 years old. Waynes came along slowly last year but this isn't out of the ordinary for coach Mike Zimmer and cornerbacks. It's time for Waynes to play.

» Zimmer's history of slow-playing rookies is why I kept second-round cornerback Mackensie Alexander behind Captain Munnerlyn at the nickel cornerback role.

» Zimmer entered the offseason wanting competition on the offensive line and he's got it. Second year pro T.J. Clemmings will challenge Matt Kalil at left tackle. Andre Smith and Phil Loadholt will battle at right tackle. We give Smith the edge because Loadholt is coming off a serious injury.

» We moved Danielle Hunter into a starting job over incumbent Brian Robison. Hunter flashed serious skills as a rookie and Robinson could be more effective in a situational role at 33 years old.

» Long a problem spot for the Vikings, the team is suddenly looking good at linebacker. Anthony Barr is an ascendent top 100 player. Chad Greenway and Emmanuel Lamur figure to battle for snaps, but won't play every down. Eric Kendricks played well at middle linebacker but could also move outside. The return of Audie Cole and the drafting of Kentrell Brothers in the fifth round gives Minnesota great depth.

Green Bay Packers

» Leaving Jeff Janis on the bench is a mistake coach Mike McCarthy won't keep making -- we think. Jordy Nelson's return and Janis' ascent could leave Davante Adams struggling for snaps and possibly a roster spot. The Packers also have Ty Montgomery returning at a crowded position.

» Second-round pick Jason Spriggs looks like a swing tackle, but it wouldn't be a shock if he challenged David Bakhtiari for a starting job eventually.

» Rookie linebacker Blake Martinez might wind up earning starter snaps replacing Barrington on passing downs. The fourth-round pick has more of a passing down skill set than Jake Ryan or Sam Barrington.

» The Packers plan to move Clay Matthews back to the outside, certainly on passing downs. That doesn't mean he'll be just lining up at the same spot every play -- that's wasting his impressive versatility.

» Drafting Kenny Clark in the first round was a huge need for general manager Ted Thompson. After B.J. Raji's retirement and Mike Pennel's suspension, they needed someone who could play right away.

Detroit Lions

» The more I looked at this roster, the worse it looked. There's an easy argument for none of the position groups being above league average. There are some great star players (Ezekiel Ansah, Golden Tate, DeAndre Levy, Darius Slay) but there are huge roster roles. Defensive end is very thin. Cornerback and safety are worse; each position has one reliable player. There are big questions at offensive tackle and running back.

» The Lions' brass likes Nevin Lawson, a fourth-round pick from 2014 who filled in with nine starts last season. But it was still surprising to see the position so ignored this offseason. Rafael Bush has been injury prone and one dimensional in his career and is on his third team in as many years. Fourth-round rookie Miles Killebrew could wind up starting.

» First-round pick Taylor Decker and Riley Reiff should start at the two offensive tackle spots. It's up to Decker to show he is a better option on the blind side, which would push Reiff to the right.

» T.J. Jones and Jeremy Kerley will battle for the No. 3 receiver spot. Even at receiver, where the Lions have two quality starters, there are a lot of question marks.

Chicago Bears

» Jeremy Langford is a solid bet to start at running back, but he doesn't have the profile of a primary running back. Fifth-round pick Jordan Howard is a sleeper to get a lot of snaps.

» The Bears were the anti-Lions in this exercise. The more I looked at their roster, the more I liked it. If Kevin White is healthy, the Bears have a terrific wideout corps. The offensive line makes more sense with Kyle Long at guard and the team added pieces on the interior with a key draft pick (Cody Whitehair) and free-agent pickups for depth.

» The defense was among the league's youngest last year and looks much deeper now. No. 9 overall pick Leonard Floyd isn't pegged as a starter, but he should play a ton on passing downs. Lamarr Houston can move inside on those downs for flexibility. Third-round pick Jonathan Bullard could also get in the pass-rushing mix. Eddie Goldman and Danny Trevathan are underrated starters. Pernell McPhee is a quiet star.

» If the Bears have a fatal flaw, it would be their secondary. They are relying too much on Tracy Porter to repeat a surprising 2015 season and the safety position is very inexperienced.

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